New Balance Summit Unknown Review Facts
The New Balance Summit Unknown is a sleek and stylish response to overly bulky, maximalist trail shoes that surround us. With this lightweight and durable model, the brand puts the misconception that a stable, protective trail shoe must look massive to rest. The Summit Unknown is an all-around shoe that can take you long distances over (almost) any type of terrain – if you can handle putting the tongue back into position now and then, that is.
The outsole of the New Balance
Summit Unknown is made out of HydroHesion rubber compound, which is specifically designed to provide reliable traction on wet surfaces, making the Summit Unknown a great choice all-around for outdoor runners right off the bat. The lugs on the outsole are 4mm long and compared to the Summit Trail, they are denser, and go all the way throughout the outsole, including the midfoot, which is new. The HydroHesion rubber and the outsole lugs are made to last, whether you go road or trail running. The lugs, which have a somewhat cushioning effect, feature multidirectional nodes which have less to do with design and more to do with enabling you to tackle uphill and downhill runs with increased confidence.
The responsive midsole of the Summit
Unknown is made out of REVlite EVA foam, which is no stranger to New Balance running shoes. It provides a semi-firm cushioning that is designed to resist quick sagging and breaking down. It takes a while to break into it, but once you’re all settled, it provides both a protective and reasonably cushioned ride. Choosing the REVlite midsole is a good option for trail running as well as shorter runs up to 10k – especially if you’re not a sprinter. For those who do enjoy fast-paced runs, the New Balance Summit Unknown can be used as a marathon shoe – it’s just a matter of personal preference and running style because the firmness of the midsole could start to get in the way of an enjoyable ride after the 10k threshold. In the forefoot section, there is a layer of dense material called the Rock Stop® that is intended to protect the underfoot from rough surfaces and dampens the impact shock on the foot.
As with most recent running shoes, the Summit Unknown features a no-sew upper made out of synthetic mesh and a removable foam insole. This material ensures more than enough breathability while also being more durable than regular sewn uppers – for obvious reasons. The upper features a FantomFit overlay-and-underlay mesh system, in order to provide a firm and secure
, yet stretchy fit. The upper heel and forefoot section dons a layer or Toe Protect™ compound rubber that acts as a shield from any sharp objects one might come in contact with while running outdoors. On the back, there’s a pull tab which makes putting the shoe on and taking it off really easy. The only issue with the upper is the padded tongue. After only a mile or two into the run, it will bunch up on top and create unnecessary pressure on the foot, and some runners even reported that it tended to slip sideways. While it can be irritating, especially because New Balance didn’t catch this fault in an otherwise great upper during the testing process, the tongue slippage is more of a nuisance than a deal breaker.
This running shoe weighs around 8.85 oz and 9.1 oz for the US women's size 8.5 and US men's size 9, respectively. The midsole REVlite compound is to credit for this shoe being lightweight, because it’s lighter and sturdier than most other heavier trail shoe compounds. The weight is particularly refreshing when you take into account the rubberized protection
materials used on the upper. If you’re looking for a protective trail shoe that won’t pull you down but instead offer you a feeling of lightness and speed in the feet, this is an excellent choice for you.
The no-sew mesh upper provides excellent ventilation. The airiness and breathability of this trail shoe will prevent sweating, overheating and forming of blisters, which really can be a bummer while out on the trail. Additionally, because of the lack of material overlays, the New Balance Summit Unknown is quick to drain and dry, so you don’t have to worry about puddles on the road.
One of the great things about the mesh design of the upper is that it doesn’t create any pressure points on the foot, and it’s stretchy but firm enough to offer support and stability for the foot. While this is a narrower shoe compared to some other trail shoes
, it still has more than enough room for the toes. The narrowest part of it is the midfoot, where the mesh is especially tight. The mesh upper doesn’t offer much padding, but it adheres to the foot like a glove and moves along with it, offering great comfort during the entire ride. This might not be the first choice for runners with wide feet, but if you do decide to give the Summit Unknown a try, you’ll be happy to know that it comes in standard sizes as well as wide (2E) widths. All in all, this is a very comfortable trail running shoe that fits true to size.
The New Balance Summit Unknown comes in two color combinations: Black with Energy Lime and Flame with Impulse, which is essentially an orange and black combo. Both styles look sleek and fast, and the upper looks exactly the way it feels – comfortable and supportive. The black-lime combination is more discreet, with the New Balance legendary logo being the ‘loudest’ part of the upper – the color is concentrated on the sole of the shoe. On the other hand, the second color combination is vibrant, modern and noticeable, with the rich orange color being a great option to suit most runners.
With the combination of compounds used for the outsole, midsole and upper, the Summit Unknown is made to last and endure the outdoor conditions very well. You can take it to trail runs every day, it will still last you a long time – think 300 or 400 miles. The REVlite
midsole especially adds to the overall durability of this trail shoe, because that compound is notorious for its sturdiness and the fact it doesn’t flatten fast. The rubber protection areas on the toes and the heel are not only protecting your foot but the upper mesh material from tearing as well.
Like a lot of trail shoes, the new Balance Summit Unknown is well-equipped for getting around a lot of technical trails. On the front of the shoe, there is a Toe Protect bumper and its function is pretty self-explanatory. While it does feel a bit snug in the front, this shoe still has enough vertical space for toe wiggling, which increases its comfort. The upper, while not water-resistant, is able to drain and dry quickly, so your feet won’t stay wet for long (especially if you’re carrying an extra pair of socks with you). The midsole features the Rockstop protection, intended to soften the blow that the foot would have from stepping on sharp rocks on the trail. The Rockstop protection is great for balancing out the sensitivity the lugged outsole brings, making the shoe protective enough, while still retaining the ground feel
The REVlite midsole is a responsiveness champion and an especially good choice for the Summit Unknown, seeing how it can be both a trail and a road shoe. It's springy, snappy and relatively soft, providing the runner with an optimal amount of responsiveness and speed. It’s really easy to pick up the pace in this New Balance model because the EVA foam
midsole encourages quick toe-off after the heel strike and gives great energy return. This responsiveness comes at a price most runners are willing to pay – in this trail shoe, your feet won’t feel like they’re on a marshmallow-y cloud and won’t sink into the foam. However, that’s something that runners don’t typically look for in this type of shoe.
This is a neutral trail shoe, ideal for runners who don’t need additional arch support, so runners with normal, medium-high and high arches – the New Balance Summit Unknown is for you. There is an added support that is felt in the midfoot, and it’s due to the snug upper and the outsole lugs in the midfoot area. The same rubber material used for the Toe Protect bumper can be found on the heel, but the rubber on the heel plays a more supportive role, as opposed to the protective one.
Wherever you want to go outside, chances are the New Balance Summit unknown will take you there without an issue. It’s great for trail, off-road, road, mountains, technical terrain, wet and dry rocks, and any other kind of rocky or unstable terrain. The only type of terrain where it doesn’t shine is the snow (mostly because of the ventilated upper that has almost non-existent heat protection), and mud, because a lot of it remains between the outsole lugs. That doesn’t mean this shoe can’t suffice for these types of terrains, it just isn’t optimized for them. As far as wet conditions go, this trail shoe is an amazing choice, due to its fast drying and draining we mentioned before.
At its basic retail price, the New Balance Summit Unknown is a bargain – trust us. While a lot of people wouldn’t consider a triple-digit price (even if it’s on the lower end of the triple-digit spectrum) a bargain, we firmly believe that you’ll have to try really hard to find a better well rounded trail-to-road shoe than the Summit Unknown. And if you happen to find it on sale – don’t even think twice.
This shoe does tend to accumulate mud between the dense outsole lugs; however, that doesn’t stop it from gripping to muddy surfaces well, which means that the accumulated mud circulates as you run instead of sticking to the bottom and not moving until you scrape it off. Other than muddy roads which can be a minor inconvenience, the New Balance Summit Unknown is amazing on all surfaces: paved roads, concrete, gravel, rocky, rooty and dirt roads, grass fields, as well as technical mountain
terrain. But where this shoe really shines is the wet terrain – it’s one of the best running shoes for rainy days and that’s all because the HydroHesion rubber compound the outsole is made of, which is specifically built for gripping to wet surfaces.
Because of the Rock Stop® system, the Summit Unknown isn’t an overly flexible shoe – the midfoot rock plate is too firm to allow much flexibility in that area. That being said, this shoe is amazingly flexible in the forefoot, which favors toe-flex and hence: faster paces. Due to this flexibility, the faster you go in this shoe, the less effort you’ll put in the gait cycle mechanics. Also, this type of flexibility
is beneficial when going uphill. In our books, this really makes for a great trail shoe, even though its flexibility isn’t mind-blowing.
The snug-fitting upper and the narrower fit really do a great job of keeping the foot stabilized and secure. To some that are more accustomed to lower drops, this shoe might feel a bit too high and create a feeling that it would be easy to twist an ankle. However, while it takes a little bit of adjusting to the stack height of the heel, this is a great, stable shoe. For those who prefer a low heel, it might be worth taking a look at the Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4
. The lateral stability is completely satisfactory, so you really don’t have to worry about stability when tackling the trails in the Summit Unknown.
The drop of this trail shoe is 10mm, which is a broadly used drop because it suits a lot of runners. The stack height is approximately 17mm in the forefoot and 27mm on the heel, and this includes the 4mm lugs. The forefoot's relatively low stack height allows for a good feel of the surface
while being protected from it at the same time.
• Neutral support
• Great for a variety of surfaces
• 10mm drop
• Highly breathable, no-sew mesh FantomFit upper
• Rock Stop midfoot protection
• Protective rubber in the front and back of the shoe
• Padded tongue slips to the side
• Removable foam insole
• REVlite midsole
• HydroHesion rubber outsole compound
• 4mm lugs that go throughout the sole provide great grip on most surfaces
If there ever was a high-quality, durable
and well-rounded trail shoe that is affordable to most runners, it’s the New Balance Summit Unknown. It can be used for everyday runs and in a variety of different weather conditions and surfaces. The only downside to it is the tongue slippage, which is annoying more than anything. With a modern, fast look, quality build and versatility, you’re looking at a truly great trail shoe.