December 7 2017
Our squad of testers put the latest running and fitness gear to the sweat test to determine the winners of our 2017 Tech Awards.
Last week, New Balance released their new shoe, the Fresh Foam 980. The 980 is New Balance’s entry into the “maximalist” market, which are categorized by ample underfoot cushioning and modern shapes. (Brian Metzler wrote a great description of the maximalist trend for Triathlete here). But are these shoes worth a trip to your local running store?
Description: The Fresh Foam 980’s are a unique entry into the running shoe market. The upper part of the shoe is made of breatheable mesh and no-sew overlays to wrap the foot, and the bottom is constructed from a smooth rubber outsole. But the highlight of the shoe is the Fresh Foam midsole, created from one piece of foam to provide a cushioned but responsive feel as you run. “You feel the same softness throughout the entire midsole from toe to heel,” says New Balance Technical Field Rep Jess Hyland. “The amount of thought and performance data that went into the construction of the midsole, though, is intricate and presented in a purposeful hexagonal design.” Despite the generous cushioning, the shoe weights in at only 7.27 oz, with a 4mm drop between heel and midfoot cushioning. The shoe retails for $110.
Pros: My first impression as I slipped the 980’s onto my feet was “Wow, this is plush.” Indeed, the Fresh Foam cushioning provides a very cozy ride. However, as someone who is used to running in lightweight shoes, I was a little skeptical. Would the cushioning would feel too bulky? Would I not be able to feel the road in a design that is slightly higher off the ground? The answer- these shoes are definitely NOT bulky and feel very natural. My fears were unfounded. The 980 felt so light but much more supportive and soft. It still has a very natural and responsive feel when I run. You could definitely run some speedy workouts in these shoes. For a well-cushioned shoe, the price is also competitive. The 980 also runs true to size.
Cons: For neutral runners who prefer a traditional-cushioned trainer with a higher heel-to-toe drop (think Asics Nimbus, New Balance 1080, Brooks Glycerin), the 4mm drop and the lighter weight might be a transition that takes some time. Some runners may not love the flashy color and modern look of the shoes.
Bottom Line: The New Balance 980 is soft and supportive. This could easily be a new favorite shoe among many runners. As someone who is used to lighter shoes with smaller drops, the 980’s are a welcome addition to my shoe rotation. But just like any shoes, and especially with new trends like maximalism, they may not be for everyone. If you want to give the New Balance 980’s a try, call your local specialty running store or head to newbalance.com.