|Manufacturer||New Balance Inc|
|Sizes available||US 7 – 13 in half sizes, 14, in D, 2E, 4E widths|
|Size supplied||US 10 4E (‘extra wide’)|
|Weight (quoted)||361 g (12.7 oz) for unspecified size and width|
|Weight (measured)||411 g (14.5 oz) for US10 4E|
These come after the MT740TR shoes we reviewed recently, but they have several interesting improvements. Both my wife and I received them in size 10 4E: our preferred sizes. They are just slightly heavier than the 740s, but we think the benefits are worth it.
New Balance says of them: "This all-terrain running shoe has a long history of proven performance, featuring N-ERGY in the heel for advanced cushioning. With its rugged AT Tread outsole and superior fit, the 814 is perfect for rough trails and unpredictable surfaces." Once again, it is not all that easy to separate out spin from value, but the following points seem relevant.
First of all, they are ‘all terrain’, and that can be combined with the ‘rugged AT Tread outsole.’ Yes, they are definitely all-terrain and the sole is rugged enough for ‘rough trails and unpredictable surfaces.’ We get plenty of that off-trail. Actually, I found the sole was just a little more stiff and rugged than on the 740s, so that traversing on soft stuff (mulch, mud) was a bit easier.
Gripping in the rain.
The lug pattern on the sole, visible in the first photo, seems to be pretty good. The photo here shows my wife Sue stepping down a very wet and muddy bit of rock on a rather wet day, with no trouble at all. What is not so obvious to you, although it was very obvious to my wife at the time, was that one slip off the bottom ledge would have taken her over a 20+ metre (60+ feet) sheer cliff. But no worries: excellent grip.
There is some cushioning at the heel, but not a lot. Certainly you get a whole lot more ‘contact’ with the ground than with ‘gel-sole’ shoes, and that is critical to stable footing. That said, these would not suit the barefoot advocates.
The ‘traditional’ molded footbed is made with all sorts of little bits of arch support and heel cup etc, etc. I don’t like the attempts at interfering with my natural action. These footbeds are a long step back towards reality and good engineering: they are little more than a flat slab of good, fabric-covered foam. They fit well inside the shoe. If they get wet (wading a river maybe) you can take them out and squeeze them dry. The surface under them is fairly flat as well. This is good shoe engineering.
The external trim is also an improvement. Yes, it has been designed to have no forward-pointing bits of trim to catch on the scrub, but we expect that now. What is nice is that the rand has been built more lightly. There’s no huge rubber toe cap or bumper weighing down the toes of your feet. These shoes are light at the front, but still quite able to kick through scrub if you must.
The lacing design has no fewer than three sets of holes at the top of the ankle. Frankly, I can’t imagine anyone ever wanting to use the tightest set. I tried it briefly, and found the tension across the arch of my feet quickly caused considerable pain. Most of the time I was happy with using two sets of holes, although Sue preferred to use just one set, laced fairly loosely. Even with that fairly minimal lacing, the shoes showed no inclination to fall off her feet.
The thick cord-like laces are, I think, a backward step.The lumpy ones found on previous models were much better. These thick ones had a bit of a tendency to come loose. A quick retro-fit of some New Balance lumpy laces fixed that easily enough.
One thing the lacing pattern does not do (loud cheers) is to have a lug in the middle of the tongue at the toe end. Some shoes do this, and I find all that extra lug does is to curl the toe up in a undesirable manner. Plus, if the lug is used by the lace, it gets in the way of a gaiter hook.
The tongue is conventional in shape and just wide enough. Another 5 mm width would be nice as I seem to push the tongue sideways a bit when walking fast. But it is well padded, so I am not complaining too much. The rest of the ankle cuff is clear of my ankle bones and soft enough: it didn’t cause any hassles with rubbing.
The body, or fabric, is a multi-layer synthetic mesh. They can do very clever things with mesh construction these days. It ventilates moderately well, lets in only a small amount of dust (it happens), and seems to be very rugged. The reinforcing trim on the surface is light but robust. My wife got the bright orange version: orange mesh and orange trim on the sole face. Rather cute. I got the black fabric with red soles version.
We have worn these in the wet and in the dry, on day walks and long walks. In the second photo, most of the day it was raining and muddy. No problems: we were quite comfortable. Thick wool socks do help of course.
The two photos here were taken 24 hours apart, in our alpine region around Mt. Jagungal. At the left, we were having morning tea in the sun, without a worry in the world. On the right we were heading out enthusiastically. About 100 mm (8 in) of snow had fallen overnight, and we were not really equipped for serious snow travel. Yes, we did have enough gear to survive the day in reasonable comfort, with reserves, but why tempt the weather gods? And yes, the shoes were quite good in the fresh snow. The lug pattern meant we were not slipping at all. They were warm enough.
We think New Balance shoes are getting steadily better and better.
- Light weight
- Excellent torsional rigidity in sole
- Flat footbed with negligable ‘arch support’
- Not much dust or debris penetration
- Good balance, not toe heavy
What’s Not So Good
- Thick laces
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.