New Balance XC700 Aug ’12

As careful readers of my gear reviews will recognize, this is the same shoe as I reviewed last year, albeit a different model.  While last year’s purchase was based on a whim, this time it took a more roundabout way.

Last month, I finally admitted that I’d burned out both my old XC700s and my original NB100s after the former’s heel separated and the latter’s upper ripped apart on the Flume Trail. No disparaging marks here, I’d put a few thousand miles on them collectively and had got my money’s worth.

I had a race coming up in Santa Cruz and lolligagged until the last minute. No shoes had come in to URP to review (that I liked, ahem), so I marched down to Fleet Feet in downtown Sacramento. At that point, I had a 50k in a few days, then a planned 100 miler about a month later, so I wanted something light and low with a minimal drop, but maybe a little extra bulk to it. I tried a number of shoes–Adidas, Nike, NB–and left with the North Face Hayasa.

North Face Hayasa

Seemed like a great fit in the store, I liked the basic feel to it, and my feet are super agreeable to most shoes, so I took them for a spin two days before my 50k.  Astute readers will notice that there’s no accompanying picture of them…That’s because I didn’t own them long enough to even snap a few sample images.  Not sure what the deal was, they felt heavy, stiff, and bulky so I drove right back to Fleet Feet and returned them.  Some of the guys know my style in there and probably had backroom bets going on how long it would take me to return those things.

Next up (and mind you, this is the day before my race in Santa Cruz), I opted for the New Balance XC900($75), which was labeled as “more rugged upper” than the XC700, but essentially the same shoe.

Super light weight, minimal drop (I think it’s 5mm but it felt PERFECT), a nice drainable upper, and again, only 75 bucks.  I took them home, ran around the trails a few times, and headed to the race.  They performed perfectly as the trail had 4 deep river crossings, plenty of uphill to test the grit, and plenty of downhill to test the control. I loved them.

A few days later on a basic run around the lake I kicked a rock pretty hard and literally ripped the front out of the shoe from the impact. Yeah, I hit it hard, but the shoe shouldn’t have disintegrated.  Very poor quality from a company that usually gets it right.  Would I try them again? You bet.  Though not as “cross country oriented” as the 700, they’d be perfect for a fire roads 50k or 50 miler.

I marched (limped at this point, the toe was black and blue and swolen) back to Fleet Feet and the guys were generally surprised to see what had happened. It sounded like I was the first person to buy the shoes and this wasn’t a good sign! Gotta love Fleet Feet’s customer service and return policy, I had to return this pair and hunt again for something else. Bob and Justin helped me in and out of a few other low pro shoes, but I went right back to the 2012 version of the XC700 Spikeless.

New BalanceJust about 8 oz for a size 12 (they feel a tinybit lighter than the 900s), P1010218the shoe is perfect for someone who wants a low drop, lightweight, thin-footed and cheap shoe.  The little nubs on the bottom provide ample traction for whatever surface–without bogging down with mud–and the upper is breathable and light.

There’s little in terms of support or arch, and that’s just the way I like it.  I can roll it up into a ball and after getting drenched, the thing is bone dry in a matter of minutes.  This is what lightweight trail shoes should strive to be.

Nubby rubber spikes
Nubby rubber spikes

I wish I could provide you with more manufacturer-babble about the specifics, but strangely, there seems to be NOTHING about this year’s model on the internet.


As mentioned last year, the shoe is only $70 or so.  Sure, you could opt for a Minimus, but you could also save yourself some cash and buy a decent selection of craft beers.

The price difference…times two.



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