Friday, April 23, 2010

New Balance shoe preview

I attended a nifty New Balance event at Zombie Runner on California Ave in Palo Alto yesterday. Anton Krupicka and Erik Skaggs joined a 4-mile group run from the store onto Stanford campus, then New Balance reps showed off shoe prototypes and promoted the MT100, New Balance's recent replacement to the "cult favorite" 790, which is what I wear.

Anton on left, Erik second from right, from Mark Tanaka's report on the 2008 Quad Dipsea

Anton and Erik are the two sponsored runners who were used as the model for the design of the 100MT. A nice review of that shoe is here. New Balance engineers gave Anton and Erik shoes, had them run a bunch, then put more padding where they wore the shoes down, removed padding where they didn't. So if you run like Anton and Erik then these shoes are great for you.

But then then had more shoes directed towards the minimalist aesthetic. Vibram 5-fingers shoes (more like foot gloves) are selling like crazy. New Balance's prototypes are aimed at capturing some of the same market: minimalist uppers with only 4 mm of heal-to-forefoot difference (as opposed to 10 mm in the old 790 and the new 100MT). One model, like the Vibram, was laceless, but a model preferred by Anton and Erik had traditional laces. I'll definitely try some of these when they're available next year: the Vibram toe pockets seem a bit gimmicky to me, especially since I prefer a bit of toe protection as I tend to slam my foot into obstacles on the trail when I'm looking too far ahead.

Then there was also the MT101, an alternate to the MT100. It's a bit heavier, with more support on the side of the foot, and without the "rock plate" on the fore-sole. Anton said he doesn't like limiting himself to a single pair of shoes, but chooses different shoes for different conditions. So New Balance doesn't consider the choice between the 100MT and 101MT to be exclusive.

Good stuff. But the real highlight was the group run. Even only four days out from Skyline to the Sea and having ridden the Noon Ride earlier in the day, I felt fairly good. Anton and Erik ran shirtless, commenting on the heat. Funny: Anton's from Colorado and Erik lives in Oregon. To me it felt cool.

My dinner for the day was three Bonk Breaker Bars, which were being sampled. Really good stuff. Not too sweet at all, with a natural ingredients taste. I'll definitely be buying more of these for long bike rides.

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