Gear Review: New Balance 101 Trail Runner

This barely there trail runner has the perfect blend of breathability, support, and durability.

[minimalist trail runner]

Barefoot-curious? After more than 1,500 miles of testing in every weather and trail condition—from Vermont’s Green Mountains to Idaho’s Sawtooths—testers were unanimously wowed by the perfect blend of breathability, support, and durability in this mud-shedding, barely there trail runner. It looks more like an ultralight marathoner, not a rugged trail shoe. But after a full season (400-plus miles) off-road, one Idaho tester summarized: “It’s a versatile compromise between traditional shoes and new-school ‘no-support’ models, so it helps you transition to forefoot striking (which has less skeletal impact than heel striking) without skimping on sole protection.”

Aggressive forefoot lugs gave testers traction in rocks, mud, and wet grass, while deeply cut heel brakes provided control on steep descents. And the midsole—with a stiff plastic plate under a thin layer of EVA foam—provides minimalist protection. “It has just enough cushioning to block the bite of rocks and roots,” says one tester. “My feet were happy even after an 18-mile run.” The airy mesh upper keeps dirt out while letting puddles stream through (the shoe dried fast, so no one had hot spots or chafing), while microfiber overlays give the mesh structured support.

Bonus: Wavy laces always stay tied, and the nearly seamless interior lining is so comfy you can go sockless. $75; 1 lb.; m’s 7-15 (D width), w’s 5-12 (B width)