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    New Balance MU460 Plate shoes

       (1 review)

    Umpire in Chief

    New-Balance-MU460-Plate-Shoes.thumb.jpegThe official on-field shoe of Major League Baseball (MLB) umpires, the MU460 All-Black Umpire Plate Shoes are designed to provide 40% more coverage than the previous model, while weighing 10% less.

    • ABZORB® - a blend of Dupont™ Engage® and Isoprene rubber - in heel and forefoot provides superior shock absorption and cushioning throughout the game.
    • Leather upper for natural comfort and durability
    • Multi-direction lug sole for traction
    • EVA foam midsole for durability and comfort
    • Toe box is designed of the highest grade Thermal Polyurethane possible, with greater density in high impact zones.
    • Crisp and professional black upper with embossed MLB logo
    • Available in D (standard), EE (wide) and 4E (extra wide) shoe widths

    This product is available at Ump-Attire.com.


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    MadMax

    • 3
      

    There are two titles that apply to an experienced review of these shoes:

    • 10% Less Is Still Too Heavy
    • Perception Is Not Reality

    Out of the box, the MU460's looked every bit the champion over their MU450 predecessors and their Reebok rivals. Firstly, like any umpire can attest, they "look the part", giving the impression of a substantial work boot rather than a flimsy training sneaker. The rivet-less, held-on-by-a-hidden-strap metatarsal guard seems to float (it does) effortlessly (it doesn't) above the laces like a great armored edifice against wayward pitches, foul balls, flung bats and the occasional klutz catcher stepping on it. For a keen observer, they really hold a polish well, and gleam in the sunlight or lights of a forthcoming game, ready for action as soon as this plate meeting ends.

    After calling "Play Ball!", the MU460's are quite protective, granting the utmost in confidence to the umpire wearing them that (s)he can lock in and take a pitch or a swing without having to have "happy feet". The protective toe box cap is comprised of a dense, unyielding plastic instead of steel, and is likely fused to the pleather (yes, you are reading that right) with adhesives. Steel is heavy, but when it is made thinner so as to lighten it, it has the potential to deform. So too, movement of leather upon steel causes abrasive wear, and eventually the steel cap tears through the material. This plastic plating is also carried into the metatarsal guard like an armadillo's shell – there is pleather clad to it like an outer skin. Beneath the plastic plate, there is a cellulose pad, and then a taut mesh netting to act as a liner and aid circulation.

    Circulation and ventilation is at a premium in these shoes. The only venting of the boot shoe itself is done through pinholes on the flanks of the shoe and through two "radiator grills" on either side of the laces. These radiators are, unfortunately, covered by the metatarsal guard while in use, thus, the guard needs that mesh inner liner to promote airflow. This becomes a factor because... these shoes are synthetic leather (ie. "pleather"), don't breathe like true leather, and hold in all that perspiration from your feet and get really, really heavy. Get the emphasis? Again... heavy!!!

    The footbeds get absolutely thrashed. Not only do they get compressed by repetitive use, but if there are any sand grains or tiny pebbles in the shoe during use, they start to tear up the footbeds. So too, when these footbeds get soggy (and they do get soggy), they retain moisture for awhile, as well as stink-&-funk, and just contribute to the general unpleasantness of carrying them home after a two-or-three-plate-game stretch, or worse, having to put them back on again after having a lull or base duty.

    Pleather was likely employed for ease-of-polish retention, cleanliness and durability. Leather gets fussy and expensive, prone to damage from cleaning agents that are otherwise used in-a-hurry or to remove some tenacious mud / dirt / clay that oft plagues the fields these are worn on. Leather also is prone to decay when damp, or drying out, cracking or splitting in high-heat environments. With these variables facing New Balance, it made sense to do this in pleather, and still makes sense today.

    Internally, the MU460's are quite roomy. This is very likely to accommodate the varying thicknesses of socks umpires wear, as well as encourage and allow umpires to take out the stock footbeds (do so!) and replace them with third-party footbeds or orthotics. The tongue is exorbitantly oversized, though, and while the mid-cut / mid-top style may be supportive to some, it presents a challenging (and frankly, annoying) interface between shinguards and shoe. Then, throw that plump tongue into the picture, and it gets crowded at the ankle. Something will begin to be abraded, whether it is the inner lining of the shinguards or the tops of the shoes (or both!).

    The soles are one of the redeeming qualities of the shoes. Devoid of big nubs or lugs, they are equally adept on garish mud pits behind the plate or FieldTurf. New Balance was sure to employ their AbZorb technology, so they are rather cushy, and weight aside, don't feel like stiff, clunky boots while standing in them. Treads hold up exceptionally well, and won't be affected by the walks on pavement that need to be undertaken while going to-from a ballpark.

    But lets not kid ourselves – they don't handle like trainers or athletic shoes. They are likely the most un-athletic pieces of footwear in an otherwise very athletic sport (scratch that, have you seen the Pentagon plate shoes??). So while the perception is that the MU460 is the pinnacle of plate shoes, the reality is that New Balance – and other companies, to be fair – have some work to do, starting with taking the "work boot" aspect out of the equation. 

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