Photo courtesy of New Balance.
We recently reviewed the New Balance MT875OR shoes which, while very light (385 g each), proved to have quite good life and performance. These MT910GT shoes go up-market from the MT875s with a more robust sole and a Gore-Tex ‘Extended Comfort Footwear’ lining. There is a weight increase with all this, with the reviewed pair (size 10, 4E) coming in at 424 g each. We will use the MT875s as a comparison point for parts of this review.
The new Gore-Tex ‘Extended Comfort Footwear’ lining appears to be the same old Gore-Tex membrane. The ‘extended comfort’ bit seems to mean that they don’t put a heavy leather cover over the shoe but use a breathable mesh instead. This should let the Gore-Tex membrane breathe a bit more.
New Balance have used a new last for the MT910GT shoes: the PL-1 replaces the SL-1 used in the 875s. According to New Balance: ‘With less forefoot volume and a more contoured fit through the heel and arch, the shoes built on this new performance last provide a comfortable, secure fit to help you be your best.’
Company marketing said the shoes run true to size, but we found that it was necessary to go down half a size to get the right fit. This was checked fairly carefully: the company sent both size 10.5 and size 10 shoes for testing. While I have happily worn size 10.5 and even size 11 with other shoes, I had to wear the size 10s in this model. Otherwise there does not seem to be much difference in the new last.
A small problem we found with the MT875s was that the light sole had widely-spaced shallow lugs, which wore down a bit after two weeks in the Australian Alps and six weeks in the Swiss Alps. The foam layer was not all that thick either. I could feel the stones through the sole a bit by the end of the field testing. The sole on the MT910s is a bit more robust (with an internal hard PU layer) and the lugs are a bit deeper (about 4 mm) and a bit more densely packed. Vibram soles they are not, but they are a bit closer to that design. This means the sole is a bit stiffer too.
The uppers on the MT875 used a light mesh and some plastic strips sewn over the top. The mesh did get damaged after many weeks of rough terrain. The use of mesh and plastic strips has carried over to these NB910s, but the mesh seems more robust and is a double layer in places. The ‘plastic strips’ on the NB875s proved to be extremely tough stuff, and the same material seems to be used on the MT910s. Expect this stuff to last! The toe bumper on the MT910s is a lot more robust than on the MT875s: it is quite a solid construction. Whether that is necessary is debatable: the lighter construction on the MT875s lasted quite well in the field.
The plastic trim on the MT875s had some corners facing forwards. That was a bad idea which caused a problem in the field: the stitching holding the corners was not strong enough, and it broke, with the corners peeling backwards. I had to sew the ‘trim’ back on. The design of the MT910 shoes seems to have partly removed this problem: the only forward-facing corners (see blue lines) are higher off the ground and further back out of the way. Unless you are really bashing through a lot of very rough scrub at foot level, this should be OK.
The inner sole is the standard New Balance ‘Ortholite’ and the laces are the now-standard New Balance lumpy ones. They seem to hold a knot OK. The holes and lugs for the laces are a bit strange at the front: there are tape loops (which seem pretty reliable) and a few holes. Two of the holes have a bar tack around them for reinforcing, while the third hole does not. However, the bar-tacking is so dense that the needle holes through the plastic coating may prove a weak point. The distribution of all these forms is a bit strange.
The top edge of any light jogger usually has a fabric surface rolled over, as shown here. This can be hard to get just right: if the fabric is a shade too tight the corners point in and can poke into your foot. This has been seen at the heel points on quite a few shoes. The MT910GT shoes do not have this problem at the heel, but the corners at the top lacing points do have it slightly. The blue arrow points to the slight bend in the plastic trim which marks the inwards curve. In theory the tongue should buffer your foot from these corners – just.
A serious problem encountered with the New Balance MT1110GT shoes was that the front of the tongue had not been sewn together properly, and there were holes through which sand could enter into the body of the shoes. It could collect between the Gore-Tex lining and the outer shell. This did happen with one pair while river walking, making those shoes immediately unusable. This construction problem has not been completely solved on the MT910GT shoes: one side of the tongue still could allow sand to get in, as may be seen here. However, the flap over the top of the ‘gap’ is more pronounced and this should limit possible ingress.
Both my wife and I have used the MT910s on walks over a wide range of terrain, include wading in some rivers. I have to report that the MT910s have worked very well. The new PL-1 last is not hugely different from the SL-1 last and it fitted me OK – but your feet will be different, so do check! The corners on the trim presented no problems at all, being well out of the way. All the holes and loops for the laces have survived very well, with no signs of stress. The potential leaky hole shown above (where the biro goes) did not seem to let any sand in at all when wading in rivers. The rolled-over top corners yielded to use and (more or less) straightened out enough. My feet still ended up like a wrinkled prune at the end of the day – Gore-Tex is not that breathable!
The soles are a mix of good black rubber and two other materials. The black rubber worked well. The orange arc with the green arrow at the heel seems to be a similar rubber and has not given any problems. However, the bits pointed to by the blue arrows seem to be a hard polyurethane (or a similar composition), and I am less keen on these. I suspect the idea was that being so hard they might act as spikes or grippers (crampons, anyone?), but in reality they are far too small to provide any real benefit this way. However, I did notice that at times on tricky rocks and greasy logs they seemed to interfere with grip a bit. This was especially so in the wet (which is always a problem). So my first conclusion is that letting the orange PU protrude through the sole this way is not a good idea and should not be repeated.
The orange PU can be seen at the sides of the shoe as well, especially around the arch region. I suspect it serves as the stiffening plate for the whole sole. Frankly, I felt that the stiffening was overdone. I would have preferred a slightly more flexible sole. However, the effect is not huge by any means: I am being a bit fussy here. I suspect the stiff sole might go quite well in the snow and on snow shoes.
Govett Ridge, Kuringai Chase National Park, Australia.
While the shoes are very robust, this comes at a cost. I have just mentioned the sole – the sides of the shoe are also a bit stiff. The plastic trim at the sides adds to this stiffness. This did not worry me, but my wife found that the stiffness was a bit noticeable at the sides of the ball of the foot – by the big toe and the little toe, right where there is some of that heavy synthetic reinforcing. Her feet are a bit delicate just there (some old injuries), and she found the stiff side-walls just a bit aggravating at times, even though she was wearing a very wide EEEE fitting. If you don’t have this problem then you probably would not notice anything – if you have the right (i.e. wide enough) fitting.
Over all the rate of wear has been low, so I expect that these shoes will last quite a while.
|Year/Model||MT910GT / 2009|
|Country of Manufacture||China|
|Materials||Synthetic fabrics and rubbers, no leather|
| Sizes Available||7 – 13, 14, 15 in D, and EEEE fittings|
|Weight||Quoted 420 g (14.89 oz) each|
Measured 424 g (14.9 oz) for US size 10 EEEE (BPL measurement)
|Colour||Grey with orange trim: what you see is what you get|
- A lowish weight
- A range of width fittings (including 4E)
- A flat inner sole and footbed (no ‘arch support’)
- Good friction (mostly) and fairly good lugs on the sole
- No leather or suede anywhere
- No air cushioning to destroy ‘ground-feel’
What’s Not So Good
- Sand might get into the shell between the layers
- The orange PU sole layer is too stiff
- The sides of the shoe are also a bit stiff
- The orange protrusions through the sole don’t help traction at all
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.