The New Balance Summit KOM is a solid, fortress of a shoe that can handle any terrain. However, it is heavy, clunky and unresponsive in most normal trail running uses.
The New Balance Summit KOM is a rebranded and updated New Balance 910. The 910 was a fairly popular shoe that had a strong following. The Summit KOM continues on that tradition with an identical midsole and similar looking appearance but with the addition of the Vibram MegaGrip rubber compound and added lateral support and protection. This shoe is designed to be a workhorse of shoe, able to handle all of your daily miles on a variety of terrain and at any speed. If you are looking for a lighter weight shoe, the New Balance Summit Unknown might be the right choice since the Summit KOM is a burly shoe. The Summit KOM offers unparalleled protection, but all of that protection comes at a cost of adding extra weight, a bulky feel and a stiff and firm ride. The thick rubber outsole and added rock plate really do a disservice to the excellent Revlite midsole. It has a firm feel but is able to retain that same level of firmness over the length of the run.
The Summit KOM is a comfortable shoe with a nicely padded heel collar and tongue. It is a fairly high volume shoe, meaning that there is lots of room inside. Somewhat oddly, the toe box is rather pointed and narrow, similar in shape to more European style of shoes. The laces and lacing system work well but the laces could be thinner. The laces are very thick and bulky, which goes with the general vibe of the shoe, but it just feels unnecessary.
Protection is really what this shoe has gone for. Being named the Summit KOM (King of the Mountain and women’s specific Queen of the Mountain) it is positioning itself as a big mountain running shoe. This is exactly the type of shoe I would want when running over loose, rocky terrain or skree when pushing to a summit. It is incredibly protective underfoot and laterally. Also the Vibram Megagrip outsole, never disappoints. For all of those reasons, it also would make a great light hiker.
The initial step in feel of the New Balance Summit KOM is really nice with its well padded heel collar and tongue. The midfoot is roomy without being excessively loose. The biggest problem most reviewers reported was a very narrow toe box. Testers reported it is too pointed and very rigid with its overbuilt toe bumper. The upper, which is nicely padded is also overly built up. It makes the shoe very secure and protective but it can be hot and inflexible. The midsole with New Balance’s Revlite material is usually very good (and is excellent in the Summit Unknown) but with the addition of a rockplate and deep lugs it makes the shoe stiff and firm. The cushion, which is on the firmer side, is at least consistent throughout the shoe and for the length of your run, no matter how long.
As stated earlier, this is not a short distance race day shoe. That is not to say it is an overly slow shoe. It runs pretty smoothly and transitions from heel to toe well which allows it to move moderately well. For long, technical runs and races this would be an excellent choice. The Vibram Megagrip outsole allowed our testers to feel confident and secure while running fast downhill and provided the grip needed to push the pace uphill. There shouldn’t be any surprises here. It is the heaviest shoe tested and just by looking at it you can see it is not meant to be a speedster.
Security of Fit
The Summit KOM has a very secure fit. There was no reported slipping or movement. This is due to the well padded heelcup which hugs l well without being overly tight. The midfoot is fairly high volume which allows it to fit a wider variety of foot types but with its well padded tongue extensive overlays, our range of testers reported it hugs the foot really well. This provides a lot of support that most lightweight shoes typically lack. Overall, this shoe fits a narrower foot best mainly because of the narrow fit of the toe box.
Typically, a shoe that is agile is lightweight, with a low stack height and great ground feel. Unfortunately the Summit KOM doesn’t really have any of those attributes. What really helps it perform well is the Vibram Megagrip compound with its unique triangular shaped lugs. It grabs well in all weather conditions and terrain types. But with its taller stack height and lack of ground feel testers reported they tended to roll over the top of most obstacles as opposed to dancing around them.
Responsiveness, like the speed category, is adequate. It isn’t so bad that testers reported a total lack of response, but it just provided an uninspiring ride. It is fine for long, slow miles in the mountains but it didn’t inspire our team to run fast. There really are no surprises here, you can tell from looking at and feeling the shoe that is not meant to be anything other than a daily trainer.
Protection is really where this shoe shines. The material that makes the Summit KOM feel bulky and heavy, is also what makes this shoe almost impenetrable. Some testers described it as a “fortress” and as an “armadillo”. The toe bumper is excellent, the lateral protection is second to none and the thick, firm midsole, with a rock plate that provided excellent underfoot protection. For rocky, technical terrain there was nothing better.
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HOW WE TESTED
Out testing spans the course of several months. Our testers spend a few weeks running at least 50 miles (typically much more) in each shoe. They live all over the country so each shoe can be put through our testing protocol in a variety of terrains and conditions. Each tester is encouraged—to the best of their ability—to test the shoes in as many different terrain environments as possible: in the mountains, on dirt roads, buffed single track, technical terrain, etc. In addition to varying terrain, our testers have to test each shoe at different efforts including a long run, easy running and fast running. As mentioned above we test for six different criteria: comfort, speed, security of fit, agility, responsiveness and protection.