Although my initial reaction to this shoe was that it was too bulky and overly rigid, I slowly realized the advantages of the protection and durability of the New Balance Summit KOM/QOM (“King/Queen of the Mountain”) on trails with sharps rocks, sloppy terrain, and other obstacles.
Key features, including a rock plate, solid toe barrier, and ample cushioning made these shoes feel impenetrable and comfortable over long efforts. I did not feel like these were shoes to PR in, rather they were built for the inevitable slogs during every training season.
True to its name – New Balance Summit “Queen of the Mountain” (or “King of the Mountain” for the men-specific version) – this shoe was built for the varied terrain from based to summit.
The Vibram outsole provided sufficient multi-directional traction in most environments that I tested these shoes on, including dirt trails, over rocks, grass, and snow.
Between the integration of a ROCKSTOP plate between the midsole and outsole and a Toe Protect forefoot barrier, these shoes were impenetrable to water, snow and mud, as well as guarded from sharp rocks and other impacts. These shoes are built to instill confidence in protection and durability through your longest and most rugged runs.
As aforementioned, the protection on these shoes are their most impressive feature – and you do feel like you can tackle the most rocky trail runs in these.
The ROCKSTOP rock plate proves effective underfoot. The upper is made of breathable synthetic mesh with a solid Toe Protect toe cap that truly minimized impact to even as clumsy a runner as myself.
My only complaint about the protection of these shoes is that tiny rocks that would get lodged between lugs and drainage holes in outsoles from running on gravel. While this wasn’t an immediate issue, it did compromise drainage and tread and created the annoying task of having to pick out the tiny rocks after a run.
After over 50 miles on this shoe, the only significant wear is on the heel cuffs that have already split. The upper shows no other signs of tearing or fraying and are only cosmetically scuffed on the toe cap. The Vibram outsole shows minimal signs of wear after fifty miles.
Responsiveness & Speed
At 10.8 oz., I found this shoe to be heavier and more cumbersome than other trail shoes I have run in. I thought the RevLite midsole could have been more responsive.
The sole felt stiff, so my steps fell flat-footed, especially on the downhill. The multi-directional lugs facilitated efficient uphill traction overall, but the downhill did not always feel as secure to me on sloppier terrain (like mud or wet rocks).
When I ran through mud, the outsoles got caked in so much mud that it actually weighed the shoe down to the point that I had to stop and remove it.
Comfort and Fit
These shoes run smaller, and I had to re-order a half size larger than I usually do. Despite these shoe size running small lengthwise, I found the fit to be roomy enough to accommodate swelling the may occur over longer distance runs or a wider foot.
I did not experience any blisters or “hot spots” in these shoes. I did not find these shoes to be comfortable right out of the box. Despite the cushioned midsole and inclusion of the removable insole, it took about 10-12 miles before I got used to the rigidity of the shoe overall.
Additionally, the laces did not stay tied securely, which was often frustrating to me. I found the breathable synthetic and mesh upper combined with the Toe Protect to be a good combination for keeping my feet dry in snowy and wet conditions; however, the ventilation felt compromised on hotter days.
While the New Balance QOM would not be my first choice for a potential PR race, for a training run or race wherein I anticipated the hazards to be plentiful and potentially painful, these shoes would be a great option. I liked these shoes more the more I ran in them, especially for that extra sloppy terrain.
While I did not have an opportunity to trail run a 14er, I think the QOM would be the shoes to do it in. These shoes would be ideal for any trail runner looking for maximum protection in a true trail running shoe or a key inclusion in a trail running shoe rotation for more aggressive trails.
We purchased a pair of New Balance Summit K.O.M. from Running Warehouse using our own money. This did not influence the outcome of this review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.