New Balance 101 Review
Active Gear Review is supported by its audience. If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Features and Fit
The New Balance 101 includes all our favorite aspects from the original:
- Minimalist feel
- ROCK STOP toe protector and rock plate
- 10 mm drop
- EVA foam collar
- No-sew material application
- Synthetic/mesh upper
The New Balance 101 is a minimalist trail shoe, which incorporates a rock plate to help absorb and disperse impact on rough terrain. The inclusion of the rock plate is one of my favorite aspects of this model, as I prefer a minimalist shoe but can run into issues on technical downhills. The 101 weighs in at 7.5 ounces, so this is not your typical burly trail shoe. There is very little ankle support, and the EVA foam collar is flexible enough that you can slide the shoe on and off without having to untie the laces.
The synthetic mesh upper allows for flexibility as well as breathability. After a stream crossing, water immediately oozes out of the mesh pores. On a hot day, these shoes can go from creek to dry in less than 10 minutes.
The New Balance 101 fits snug against your foot, but does include a large toebox. This shoe is better for those who prefer a little extra room throughout, and a little less padding in the upper. Because of its low weight and comfort, the 101 almost disappears on your foot while running.
Let’s talk about this 10mm heel to toe drop. That in my eyes does not speak to the fact that this is considered a minimal shoe. 12mm is what most of us used to run on, and then the heel started dropping on many a shoe out there. That’s what’s so interesting about this shoe though. It is not lower, yet it promotes a better running form because of its lighter weight and material make-up. And that’s exactly why I believe this is such a great shoe someone looking to go more minimal yet attain some consistency with the drop.
Another great aspect of the 101 is the design of the laces. New Balance’s Sure Lace technology keeps your laces tight due to a weave pattern that creates high and low points in the laces. Not that this is necessary in a shoe, but it does amaze me that, first of all, I can get excited about the laces of a shoe, and secondly, that this isn’t incorporated into all New Balance shoes.
Performance of the New Balance 101
So you’re probably wondering why exactly this is my all-time favorite shoe, and curious if you would feel the same way. The main reason is probably the comfort. You can wear this shoe for hours on end and your feet won’t get mad. I once wore the 101 for a 17 hour run and didn’t get a single blister.
The next biggest factor is due to the ability to move quickly in this shoe. The combination of weight, low stack height, and traction create a perfect balance on the trail. It’s light enough to be mistaken for a track shoe on flat singletracks, but still has enough grip to run through boulder fields.
The New Balance 101 does have a lower profile lug pattern on the sole. The forefoot lugs are designed in a Y-shape, which allows for traction when turning and moving side to side. I found this beneficial, as I prefer a more technical trail, which means very few steps are straight ahead. I have worn other shoes with forward facing lugs, and with those I don’t get quite the same amount of comfort when moving 45 degrees to the side with each step. The heel consists of a thicker lug pattern, which allows for decent traction upon impact.
Because of low lug profile, I would not recommend taking these out in mud or snow. The traction in wet conditions does not compare to some of the heavier trail shoes on the market. It does however make running on the road more practical (I know we would all prefer to be on the trail 100% of the time, but that just doesn’t happen).
Thank you New Balance. I’m sure you brought this back due to constant requests from runners like me, but you did a great job of not making any adjustments. This was a great shoe in 2010, and it’s a great shoe in 2015. And for $90, this shoe is also great for your savings account.
For more info on the 101 and other New Balance products, visit www.amazon.com/newbalance.