Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Balance MT10 and MT20 :: A Subjectively Superficial Comparison

New Balance surprised many wearers of the original Minimus Trail in late May or early June when a few photos of the MT20 appeared on ShoeMart's website. Without much of an explanation to accompany this alternative to the MT10, speculations and theories about the Minimus Trail 20 went wild:
  • Was it a replacement for the MT10 in response to perceived complaints about the original model?
  • Was it an update in the product line for the sake of an update? If so, why so soon?
  • Was it the promised zero-drop version that so many of us had been wanting in the initial Minimus?
DISCLAIMER: This post is silly. I have no excuse for spending so much time comparing the aesthetics of two perfectly good shoes. If you are not interested in nerdy shoe stuff, you'll probably want to read someone else's blog before this post takes up anymore of your time.
Answers to these questions have not been readily apparent. But, RunningPundit's stellar investigative skills produced an insightful timeline of inquiry that probed the rationale behind NB's release of the MT20. So, go there to read what one or more NB reps have said about the differences between the MT10 and the MT20.

Stay here to compare the MT10 and MT20 from an artsy-fartsy perspective. As an aesthetically inclined fellow, I appreciate things that look nice, products that exhibit good design. And, I'm more than happy to subject two seemingly similar products to my unfounded opinions. So, let's begin:

MT10 vs. MT20: Profile

New Balance MT10 and MT20 profiles compared

From the first time I saw photos of the MT10 last Fall, I was enamored with it's unique design and ambitiously minimal construction (for a mainstream shoe company). Once released to the general public this past March, the MT10 met my expectations in spades. It looked great right out of the box. And, one of it's most conspicuous physical attributes is the toe spring.

That toe spring really adds some charm and down-to-earth ruggedness to the MT10. You can imagine your feet nimbly traversing rocks and roots on the trail when you look at that toe spring.

The MT20, on the other hand, seems to exhibit a much more minimal (pardon the pun) toe spring. In fact, from the profile, the MT20 resembles a sleek sports car or shark with the way the shoe's nose seems to form a blunt point.

Sports cars are cool. And, I like sharks even more. But, as far as trail running goes, I prefer the rugged, more loosely fashioned toe box profile of the MT10. I mean, yeah, of course, a shoe as light as the MT10 or MT20 should evoke a sense of speed. But, there's just something about the MT10's profile that makes me want to run on the trails more than the MT20's does.

Moreover, comparing the profiles of these companion shoes, I prefer the linear balance (omg another pun!) imposed by the strong lines on the side of the MT10. There's that black line extending from the midsole at the front of the heel up through the back of the "N" to the laces. This line is not present on the MT20, which really emphasizes that curved band running from the back, top of the heel to the midsole at the forefoot. With that black line missing as a counterbalance on the profile of the MT20, there's an impression of front-facing heaviness while the lighter orange color seems to beg for something to weigh it down, something like your heel.

So, if you look at the black lines on the MT10, you see that they appear to emphasize a foot strike towards the midfoot. And, the upward momentum of the toe spring gives a sense of active flow to the design.

But, the MT20's black lines put a lot of emphasis closer to the base of the forefoot, leaving the heel area open and a little incomplete. Plus, the flatter toe box seems to put a stop to the forward momentum that those black lines imply.

MT10 vs. MT20: From the Top

New Balance MT10 and MT20 profiles compared

Once again, the MT10 and MT20 direct our attention to their toe boxes. Each shoe clearly has a wide toe box with ample room for most runners' wiggly piggies (especially true since the Minimus is available in widths). And, while these two photos were obviously taken from entirely different perspectives, it's safe to assume that the lasts of these shoes are the same, thereby promising the toe box widths to be equally spacious.

But, look how the MT20 has that piece of black overlay where the MT10 does not. It covers an otherwise well-ventilated area with some sort of snake-skin-like material. Why would New Balance want to do that? I mean, sure, there are some grey dots on the black toe cover to add some sort of design interest. But, toes need to breathe!

Perhaps this extra bit of covering makes the MT20 look more like a traditional shoe, which would assure New Balance a more promising market share. Maybe not.

Clearly, I prefer the more breathable toe area of the MT10.

I'll also add that the wider black band punctuated by white stitching on the MT10 looks nicer than what we have on the MT20. It just does. I suspect that NB diminished the presence of this band across the top of the metatarsal area on the MT20 due to some complaints by the public about the MT10. There was some pinching, see, pinching that never bothered me.

If I were to complain of pinching, I'd attribute it to the little Vibram wave thingies on the medial and lateral sides of the midsole. These are the elements that exert pressure on my feet. But, it's not a bad pressure. I don't feel pinched. It may be that I bought the correct size for my feet.

MT10 vs. MT20: The Heel

New Balance MT10 and MT20 profiles compared

Ah, now, here we see a design altercation that can truly be labeled as a correction. The tab at the top of the heel seam on the MT10 appears to be sewn over on the MT20, rendering it nonexistent. (Do we really need pull tabs on our shoes? I never use them)

The tab itself is not necessarily a bad thing. But, the inner seam of the MT10's heel cup is problematic, at least for me and a few other runners. It irritates bare heels to the point of blistering. And, this is not a good feature on a shoe that's designed to be worn without socks. So, the MT20 clearly has a bit of seam padding sewn onto it. And, I'd be curious to know if that solves the irritation issue.

This view of the heels also gives us a close look at the MT20's black overlay material. It looks cheaper than the MT10's black overlays. Yet, these shoes are priced the same. So, surely it's not cheaper.

MT10 vs. MT20: Which to Buy?

If I hadn't already purchased two pairs of the MT10, I'd still choose the 10 over the 20 simply because the former looks better. One is clearly the less attractive sibling. Sure, they're both good looking, especially compared to some of their friends. But, the first is better than the second. That's just my opinion. But, I defy you to disagree!

Oh, and I'll leave you with this amusing, if not laughable (in the at-them ["them" being the perpetrators of this ad] rather than with-them sense of the word), new addition to the "Like Barefoot, Only Better" campaign:


  1. I cannot disagree with any of these points. The 20 is clearly the dorky younger sibling. In particular, although the 20's lack of toe spring would likely prove more compatible with my feet, it's absence creates a decided weak-chin effect that doesn't make me think, "Cool shoe!" The faux-snakeskin trim doesn't help either.

    This 20 line is indeed a strange thing. Why does it exist at all? It's the same price, but the shoes look cheap. I'm waiting for the much-touted Minimus Zero in hopes that they look cooler. If not, at least the 10s will probably be on sale.

  2. Iris: "...weak-chin effect..." I like that! Ha!

  3. I recently purchased the Mt20 for under 50 dollars and that price included shipping. That's 32 dollars less than the Mt10's advertised sale price. Obviously since the mt20s are going for less than 50 dollars, the consumers have spoken.

    1. Wow! Yes, $100 to less than $50 speaks volumes! Thanks for the comment, Anonymous (if that's really your name). ;-)

  4. Yes, sierratradingpost.com has the mt20 shoe for 69.95. They were offering 40% off one item and that brought the cost down to $41.97. With the $7.95 shipping, the total I paid was $49.92. The lowest I've seen the mt10 shoe for has been around $82 dollars on sale at EMS. I've been watching these shoes for a while. The first time Sierra had them, they sold out quickly. Again they're selling out, but not a quick this time.

  5. While I can certainly agree that the MT20 is a much less attractive shoe, I will say that I currently have a pair on order in hopes that the unventilated toe will be more durable than my MT10s. The toe on my left shoe of my 10s has torn all the way across - the shoes have not lasted nearly as long as I had hoped they would. I hope I am satisfied with the wearability of the 20s, though they certainly are ugly.

  6. I have had MT10s for two months and today bought a pair of MT20s. Whatever the differences decsribed above in quality of construction etc, I can say for absolute certain that the MT20's have slightly more cushioning in the heel than the MT10s. (Unless it is just 2 months use, but I dont really believe that, I have done very few miles in them). I tried one model on each foot (both ways round) and the difference is very clear. Hope this helps. (I liked it, but then I am just getting used to natural/barefoot and keep overcooking it by doing too much).

  7. I had the MT20's and after 3 weeks I have holes in the toe box. Very shoddy construction. This was my 2nd pairs the first pair I returned for the same issue.

    1. Maybe it's a good idea you should cut your toe nails.



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