Gear Review – Minimalist Trail Shoe Showdown – New Balance MT110 v’s Brooks Pure Grit

Guest reviewers Chris Wight* and Phil “Spud” Murphy**  have teamed up to give us their thoughts on two of the hottest minimalist trail shoes out in the market at the moment.

Over the last month both reviewers have been doing the majority of their running in either the New Balance MT110 or the Brooks Pure Grit. iRunFar has done great reviews of both shoes so we thought a showdown style review was due, so here we go, strap yourselves in.

New Balance MT110 vs Brooks Pure Grit

Firstly by the numbers:

MT110

Pure Grit

Weight (per shoe sz 9)

218g

247g

Midsole Heel/Toe Height (mm)

11/7

15/11

Drop (mm)

4

4

Price

Not in Aus

$199.95

Brooks Puregrit

Upper

Chris Wight: The fit of both shoes is very impressive and until I slipped on a pair of the MT110’s, the Pure Grit’s probably had the best fit of any trail shoe that I’ve ever worn. Both shoes really hug the mid-foot while providing enough room for freedom of movement of the toes, the MT110s however, provide a snugger fit and more support while I found the Pure Grit to be just a touch restrictive across the ball of the foot before widening into an ample toe box.

Running technical trails is where I noticed the biggest difference in the fit of the 2 shoes. When changing direction or running on really rocky/uneven terrain I was amazed at how well the MT110s held my feet in place and that there was practically no movement of my foot within the shoe.  I contrast, while my initial impression of the Pure Grit was that it really hugged the foot, once on the very technical trails I found my foot sliding laterally when changing direction or on very uneven ground. It should be worth noting that unlike the MT110, the Pure Grit has a removable insole, which I feel is partially responsible for the less secure fit, and something that I’d like to see changed when/if the Pure Grit is updated. This probably also leads to greater water retention in the Pure Grit when it gets wet though both shoes do drain very well.

In terms of durability the MT110 so far seems to be superior to the Pure Grit. The MT110 has a unique ‘laser cut’ synthetic upper which has an almost shiny finish. I’ve run this through dirt, rocks, mud and water and still looks as good as when I pulled them out of the box. The synthetic upper also seems to provide no stretch whatsoever as there is no woven material common to most shoes. Another factor that probably leads to such super secure fit mentioned previously.

The Pure Grits have a fine mesh covering the upper which I have already punctured in a few places. At this stage it is purely aesthetic and the holes don’t appear to be getting bigger but I would be concerned if more continue to appear and I have to question whether a more robust material could have been used instead. The Pure Grit is definitely not a fragile shoe and I have subjected them to some pretty harsh conditions (Bogong to Hotham), it’s just that I feel the MT110 is just better.

New Balance MT110

Phil Murphy: Awesome new laser cut material that wraps around the foot rather well, definitely more snug (less lateral movement) than the MT101. Inside lining is super comfortable so you can wear these with or without socks. The laser cut outer also lends itself well to cleaning, coming up looking rather ‘new’ each time. The heel counter is slightly more substantial than the ‘rubberised’ one of the 101 but felt really good around the achilles with no rubbing issues. The Last is the same as the MT10 Minimus so plenty of room in the toe box even in the D fitting but there is also the option of a wider 2E fit. Toe bumper or wrap around provides minimal protection but is adequate. The tongue is similar to the Minimus MT10, very thin and light but lacks a gusset which would be welcome after I collected quite a few stones and sand on my test runs.

Midsole

Chris Wight: While the MT110 has noticeably more cushioning that its predecessors (a huge improvement in my opinion), it is still considerably less cushioned than the Pure Grit. The Pure Grit cushioning is also much softer than the MT110 which has quite firm midsole cushioning that provides great cushioning without giving any indication of a spongy feel.

Brooks Puregrit with the innovative wave trail tread

On shorter runs I much prefer the feel of the MT110 however love having the extra cushioning of the Pure Grit on longer runs and would feel very confident about using the Pure Grits for a 100 miler, whereas I’m curious as to whether the MT110 would have sufficient cushioning for anything in excess of 100km. I should note that I’m quite heavy (Ed’s note: While Chris might weigh in at 90+kg you would be hard pressed to find a sweeter running stride, it’s light effecient and looks effortless not to mention he’s as fast as a bank robber with a bag full of loot), and that lighter runners might find the cushioning in the MT110 plenty for 100 miles on trail.

In terms of protection, I find both shoes to be ample, with the MT110 utilising a forefoot rock plate while the Pure Grit relies on its more substantial cushioning combined with a firm, one-piece outsole.

New Balance midsole, the bottom pair is only 38km old

Phil Murphy: This is where the MT110 let me down. After only 38kms in them at Quarry Rd I was rather surprised to find the midsole had collapsed quite markedly and the lugs on the soft EVA of mid portion of the outer (part of the midsole wrap) were pulverised after only one run!

Outsole

Chris Wight: The first impression when looking at the tread patterns on each shoe is how different they are. The MT110 uses quite a “simple” looking tread of raised square lugs closely spaced over the entire sole of the shoe, where the Pure Grit uses a unique pattern more widely spaced.

NewBalance MT110 with the more traditional trail tread including a rockplate.

On the majority of trails (dirt/rock/gravel) I find it hard to fault either shoe. I’ve had very little slippage going up or down hills and both shoes seem to bite in nicely to softer surfaces, however on the harder surfaces the MT110 definitely has the edge over the Pure Grit. On very hard packed trails and bitumen the first thing that I noticed is that I could feel the individual lugs of the Pure Grit due to the greater spacing between the lugs, where the MT110 felt more akin to a minimally cushioned road shoe. The Pure Grit wasn’t uncomfortable at all and it didn’t bother me too much but it was noticeable and the MT110 was definitely more enjoyable to run in on such surfaces. The big problem I found with the Pure Grit on the hard smooth surfaces (bitumen, slick rock) is that if the surface is wet they really lack traction and I’ve had a couple of close calls with a foot shooting out from under me unexpectedly.

Phil Murphy: The MT110 is a big improvement on the MT101 with bigger stickier lugs. The rubber used seems softer and therefore grippier. I have run on most terrain types and have had no issues with grip. The ‘Rockstop” plate in the forefoot is again adequate at providing relief from most stone bruising but again you won’t smash down a rocky trail in these ‘barefoot’ shoes like you will with more substantial protection.

Overall Thoughts

Chris Wight: Both Brooks and New Balance have produced great shoes in the Pure Grit and the MT110, however in my opinion the New Balance MT110 is just that bit better. The fit through the midfoot is more snug, comfortable and supportive and really inspires confidence in your footing on technical trails. The MT110 fit combined with the super durable synthetic leather makes for an upper that is almost impossible to fault. The MT110 also provides better grip across a full variety of trails and adequate protection thanks to good cushioning and the forefoot rock plate.

Brooks Puregrit - a sweet spongey innovative trail shoe

For me the one area that I feel the Pure Grit really shines over the MT110 is the cushioning, as already mentioned I’m a big guy and having the extra cushioning in a light shoe makes running an absolute joy. Put the Pure Grit cushioning in the MT110 and I think I’d just about have my perfect shoe.

Phil Murphy: I am a big fan of the Minimus last and as soon as I put these shoes on they felt good.

I wanted to really test them out on most trail types so ran on everything from hard packed firetrails to rooty wet and muddy singletrack. As mentioned before there is a definite improvement in the way your foot sits in these with less lateral movement when running cambers or changing direction quickly. Grip is great with the super sticky rubber but less so on muddy trails. The guys at New Balance checked out the wear pattern  on Krupicka’s shoes whilst developing these and as such have beefed up the lateral portion of the forefoot so there is a tendency to roll in as a result of this ‘slant’ from lateral to medial sides. I noticed this only on road and less so on trails where is was not an issue. I’m guessing Tony runs more on the lateral part of his forefoot than most of us do. The ride is nice, you feel fast running in these shoes, with a nice toe off feeling when attacking a hill. The heel on the outer is quite narrow but I had no issue with potential ankle roll/stability with the shoes providing plenty of terrain feedback.

NewBalance - view from above showing the minimus last in all it's glory

I wanted to use these shoes as a 6FT racing shoe but have decided against. I was expecting a slightly more substantial shoe to be honest and will likely only use these as a shorter trail racing/training shoe.  The fact that the midsole broke down so quickly was a big disappointment and I will likely only get 400-500kms or so out of these. At $80 a pair that is still probably ok for some.

An improvement over the MT101 but falls just short of expectations for me. I am looking forward to the MT1010 which will be released in June.

* Chris Wight is a front of pack ultra marathon runner who is best known for winning Melbourne Trailwalker, You Yangs 50 miler and the Mt Macedon 50km, he also has a coveted Western States Silver Buckle.  He’s 6 foot 4 inches and 90+kg with a neutral running style. As with all Ultra168 gear reviews we are upfront about where our product comes from, the shoes Chris reviewed were bought out of his own pocket.

** Phil “Spud” Murphy is a front of pack ultra runner with a decade of experience under his belt both here and in the biggest races overseas you can imagine. Yep, that includes Western States, Hardrock, UTMB and the Aussie Triple Crown record plus he’s an all round nice guy.  Phil is just under 6 foot and around the 65-70kg mark with a neutral foot strike.  Spud’s shoes were also courtesy of his own hard-earned cash.

Andrew Vize
Sydney based Ultra marathon runner.

11 thoughts on “Gear Review – Minimalist Trail Shoe Showdown – New Balance MT110 v’s Brooks Pure Grit

  1. Great review Chris and Spud, both of you have the runs on the board when it comes to front of the field performances in the 100km and 100 miler races. And it is comforting to know that with the right training, adequate transition and a quality shoe, the longer stuff is well within the reach of us mortals who want a more minimal shoe.

  2. Spud, has the soft eva portion continued to break down as quickly with subsequent runs? Mine was showing considerable wear after just one run but then hasnt gotten too much worse since.

  3. Hi Chris, Yeah disappointingly so. I weigh a far bit less than you, mild pronator and the blue eva is all but compressed both on the outer and medial sides. I will add some recent photos to my FB page. That said I still love running short trail runs in them and doing hill reps. They are a fun shoe.
    Cheers.

  4. Thanks for a great review. I think I´ll go for the Puregrit because of the cushioning. I won´t be running very technical trails anyway. I wonder if the MT1010 will unite the best of both worlds?

  5. Good review. I suffered the same sympthoms with my MT110 (I am a 85kg , 190cm runner).
    The midsole mashed only after one run & ±400-500KMs later, the shoe is dead and not really usable.

    I want something more durable & am looking at the Asics Fuji Racers which the guys at runningwarehouse.com recommend.

  6. If you look at the midsole of the NB 110 it has no purpose in terms of grip etc – I have seen another review tih 400kms on a pair of NB110s and they look basically the same.

    NB and Anton Krupicka did it on purpose to cut weight (the hard rubber on an outsole makes up by far the most weight on a shoe)

    Mine did flatten as well but the rubber forefoot and heel are seriously durable.

    1. Hi Andrew,

      thanks for the reply. So the Fuji’s are not comparable to the MT110. Much less minimal.

      I am actually waiting for the MT1010 (Amp) which should be my “ideal” shoe with more sustainable midsole, with low drop (4mm) & light weight.

      The MT110 is a good shoe. I did not find it comfortable for sockless running.
      I also have a problem with the fact that the mid-foot is NOT protected. Cause we don’t all land forefoot like Anton. If you land mid-foot you will shorten the life of the shoe fast.

  7. Hi there !
    First of all, thanks a lot for the great review ! I just have a question regarding the NB MT110 : I am going to run a 100 k trail in June, am really comfortable in these shoes, but have not yet run for more than 40ks in them. I was wondering whether I should take them on this race (I am 1,75 tall and just 64 kilos), or if I should consider looking for another less minimal/beefier pair ?
    Thanks for your answer !

    1. Hey Jerome, the answer to this one is really easy… Go with what feels most comfortable and best for you 🙂 But as you suggest, road test them as much as possible. The fact is that after 60-odd kms… your feet with be tired and hurting no matter what you’re wearing 🙂

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