As we’ve said before on this gear blog, shoes create the most wrenching packing decisions. They add bulk and weight and can easily mean the difference between a small carry on bag and a suitcase you have to check. Those who plan to visit the gym or go for a run while traveling have an extra tough time making it work.
These WT100 sneakers from New Balance could be the answer for a lot of people. They’re unbelievably lightweight (6 ounces) and the whole upper is a mesh material that allows them to pack flat. You can easily stuff them into a spare corner of your bag or lay them flat on top of your clothes just as you’re zipping your suitcase shut.
Of course you give up something when you give up the bulk, in this case a thick shock-absorbing sole. There’s still some foam there, but noticeably less than with conventional styles. These are more like running slippers than shoes, for people who are going for that “running barefoot” feel. They’re pitched as trail running shoes, which makes more sense than pounding the pavement. They’d be ideal for running on the beach. If the main reason you’re bringing sneakers is just to use the hotel gym or ride a bicycle though, these are fine. There’s not much shock to absorb if you’re just using the Stairmaster, lifting weights, or pedaling.
The comfort level is high with these shoes and although the bottom is thinner, the support is good. I’ve only been using them for about six weeks, so I can’t say how they’ll hold up in the long run, but so far so good. I especially like the laces on these. With a shape that’s more like a DNA strand than a normal shoe lace, they never come untied while I’m on the move. The mesh material covering most of the upper breathes easily so sweat evaporates quickly.
These lightweight New Balance sneakers usually sell for $75, which seems out of whack with the limited amount of materials used, but it does follow an outdoor gear trend: the high-tech lightweight stuff often costs more than what’s heavier. These WT100s come in six colors, but curiously in only one width. New Balance is known for providing different widths for different feet, so maybe they’re waiting to see how well this shoe does first before expanding. Fortunately the stretchy mesh upper makes this less of an issue for wider feat than more structured designs—they fit okay on my wider foot. Models are available for both men and women.
New Balance Women’s WT100 Trail Shoe at Endless.com
See more styles at NewBalance.com
Tim Leffel is founder of the Practical Travel Gear blog, as well as the Cheapest Destinations blog and the narrative webzine Perceptive Travel. He is the author of The World's Cheapest Destinations (now in its 4th edition), Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune, and A Better Life for Half the Price.
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