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Earlier this year I mentioned that New Balance running shoes never resonated with me. But now, I’m loving them.
First it was the New Balance 1400 (I’ve since bought another pair). And now it’s the Fresh Foam 980 Trail .
NB is making waves in the running industry by finally making shoes that runners actually love. They used to have an admittedly lackluster line of running shoes but they’ve turned that all around.
Today I’m impressed by their innovation and commitment to runners. More importantly, they’re passionate about running. A few months ago I met the global PR manager for New Balance who delivered a fascinating presentation on their new line of Fresh Foam shoes. Part of these shoes are inspired by NB’s work in the 3D printing space and the foam material is unlike anything ever made by a shoe manufacturer.
I received a pair of the 980 Trails and was admittedly skeptical. They’re bulkier than my preferred shoe style and the elevated platform worried me; usually this style makes running feel awkward to me or irritates my IT band.
But I was pleasantly surprised at how well the shoes perform on and off-road, including technical trails, steep hills, and boulder scrambling in my recent Garden of the Gods trail running adventure.
They’re not perfect but the 980 Trails are an interesting shoe that I think will work well for many runners.Fresh Foam 980 Trail: Specs & First Impressions
Let’s take a look at the 980 Trail’s specifications so you know what you’re running in:
Most notably, the sole is constructed of New Balance’s new Fresh Foam material. At first I was doubtful I’d like this shoe because I typically prefer a firm ride (like the AdiZero Boston ) but Fresh Foam isn’t super soft. It’s “softish” and is still responsive when running fast.
Note that I had to size up to a 10.5 rather than my standard size 10 running shoe. Other runners have experienced the same sizing issue, so keep that in mind if you decide to try them.
My first few runs in the NB 980 Trails went surprising well. I almost never buy trail running shoes because the outsole can be too rugged and stiff and they feel awkward on smooth surfaces like roads or the track. But the 980’s outsole is just the right blend of traction, smooth running, and grip.
The smooth ride is likely due to the responsive Fresh Foam outsole material, the low heel-toe drop, and also the heel cup being neutral. I’ve talked before about how aggressively flared heels are a red flag for me but the 980 Trail heel is barely flared at all.
Lounging in the Fresh Foam 980 Trail shoes after a workout
Even though they’re technically trail running shoes, I would characterize them as a hybrid – well-suited for both road and trail running. I ran slow on technical single-track and fast on the track and the 980 Trails didn’t disappoint. They can perform in either environment.
I’ve been wearing both the NB 1400 and the 980’s, mostly alternating them every other day. I always wear the 980’s for my longer runs of 11 miles or more but I’ve done short, easy runs in them too.
Before researching these shoes, I wasn’t aware the drop was only 4mm. I’ve run up to 16 miles in them with no problems in my feet or lower legs (thanks to some specific foot exercises !).What About the New Balance 980 Trails Could Be Improved?
Overall, I love these shoes and I’ll continue to wear them as I explore more trails in Colorado. The responsive cushioning, traction and grip, and the smooth ride make a future purchase of the 980 Trails a no-brainer.
But they’re not perfect. Like all of the shoes I review. there are drawbacks.
The upper seems stiff and while it loosened over time, it makes tying the laces cumbersome. On several occasions I had to stop and retie my shoes because I didn’t get them tight enough the first time around (and I’m not someone who likes really tight shoes in the first place).
There’s also excessive wear beginning to appear on the inner edge of the shoe’s upper. The fabric is becoming frayed from the bending and compression of my foot rolling inward when I pronate. There’s more than 200 miles on them now so this isn’t a big problem, but it’s clear these shoes won’t last for 400+ miles.
Finally, the New Balance 980 Trails are slightly higher than I normally prefer at 20 – 24mm off the ground. Usually this disconnect from the ground makes me feel “clunky” and incredibly unresponsive. But like I’ve mentioned, the 980’s are surprisingly responsive, light, and quick.Final Thoughts
I think the Fresh Foam 980 Trails are a valuable addition to the New Balance line of running shoes. They offer responsive cushioning, traction with grip for technical trail running, and a ride that also works on the road.
There’s a few situations and types of runners that could benefit from this shoe:
As always, it’s important to remember that every runner is unique. Shoes that work for me might cause you to get hurt because of the differences in our biomechanics, form, stride pattern, training history, and susceptibility to injuries.
Learning what fits, feels good, and helps you achieve your potential is a valuable journey that every runner must make. It’s a long process that includes much trial and error but it’s the only way to truly understand the exact type of running shoe that helps you thrive.
It’s helpful to read a lot of shoe reviews but it’s even more important to experiment and run in a lot of brands, styles, and models of shoes.
Ready to experiment with the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail running shoes? Check them out on Amazon. where the prices seem to be the most affordable.
I just got these and absolutely love them. I’ve had much less back pain starting with the first run. I really had to get use to the lower heel drop, it’s taken me about 3 weeks to build up my calves and hamstrings, where I felt it the most. I guess I wasn’t doing enough of your exercises! I really appreciate that you had a problem with lacing too, I hate tying my shoes tight and these really require that. I did a brief review/ post about these too and that’s something I mentioned- glad I’m not alone!
Great review, thanks for sharing your experience!
You need to check out the Montrail FluidFlex 2’s if you like these.Beginner?
About Jason Fitzgerald
He writes for over 200,000 runners a month and has helped tens of thousands of runners accomplish their goals with results-oriented coaching programs.
Sign up for SR's free running e-course and you'll get downloads like workouts, strength exercises, and ebooks to help you become a better runner: claim your free downloads here .Most Popular Posts
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New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Black Green
Shoe Name: New Balance Fresh Foam 980
Drop: I’ve seen several reports on what the true drop is of this shoe. Not sure why it’s varying. Maybe this has to do with foams compressibility and being that it’s compressing over time the height was built in to compress a but from the heel. Just a theory so don’t start any rumors. New Balance has posted this on their website in regards to drop height-
due to variances created during the development and manufacturing processes, all references to 4mm drop are approximate
I decided to do my own measurement. Here’s a radiograph of my foot in a size 9.0 New Balance Fresh Foam 980. I measured 1.9 in the heel and anywhere from 1.5 to 1.4 in the forefoot. This equates to a 4mm or 5mm drop. I can live with that. I’ve always said its tough to tell between a 0 and 4 mm drop when trying on a shoe. I do notice it however when I’m running and especially with longer miles. Here’s a picture of the radiograph.
Cushion: A lot! I almost think too much. I’ve been told it compresses a bit after wearing for a while but I’m not sure I have logged enough miles to experience this yet. The cushion in this shoe is a bit “squishy”. I really think the idea behind it is to offer more cushion yet still be a minimalist type shoe. The trend in running shoes is moving toward a more lightweight flexible shoe with added cushion.
Flexibility: Almost passes my roll up test. The shoe is very flexible and this flexibility is evenly distributed. In other words it doesn’t just bend in one zone more then another. The thickness of the foam does inhibit complete rolling up of the shoe but it is flexible and definitely not a rigid sole.
Overall: I like where New Balance is moving with this shoe. Most runners look for comfort in a shoe and I think will love the cushion this shoe has to offer. I prefer a more firmer type of cushion as this is really soft and giving but as mentioned earlier I was told it firms up with mileage. If this is true I think it will be an enhancement to the shoe and bring cushion to a new level. Over the past 25 years the trend has been to change a running shoe every 300-500 miles as cushion is “lost”. There is no medical basis for this and studies have demonstrated that as cushion is lost stability increases in the shoe and leads to less muscle activation to prevent “movement” of the foot in the shoe. As this foam compresses over time we may see a memory develop in the foam midsole which would enhance the fit and contour possibly allowing for a more natural ride.
One thing I wish this shoe had would be more room in the forefoot. Again, it’s roomier then most but I think we need to see some changes in the last development which molds for a wider forefoot. This is an important overlooked concept that even Nike has yet to figure out. The number one selling minimalist shoe over the past several years has been the Nike Free and the Fresh Foam forefoot is slightly wider then the free. There is no reason to narrow the toe-box of a shoe and “tighten” up the fit. Doing so will reduce the functionality of the toes decreasing their mechanical advantage and reducing the overall stability of the foot.
So bottom line, a well cushioned shoe with flexibility and lightness. Is it minimal? I don’t like to classify shoes as minimalist etc. As long it lets the foot function the way it was designed then it’s fine with me. If you want to feel the ground more, this is not the shoe for you. If you need some cushion for longer runs, try it!
About The Author Dr. Nick Campitelli
Dr. Campitelli is a podiatrist in Akron, OH specializing in foot and ankle surgery with an interest and enthusiasm for running as well as helping runners with injuries. For the past several years he has been treating running injuries in patients by fixing their form and transitioning them to minimalist shoes. Having treated runners with all types of injuries through conservative measures with orthotics and shoe gear changes to reconstructive foot and ankle surgery, Dr. Campitelli has brought what works best and is most current to his practice as well as the Akron and Cleveland running communities.
Michael Mayfield April 24, 2014 Reply
This was the most well written, well reasoned review I gave ever read. Thank you. I love my minimalist shoes but feel I will need more cushioning for an October marathon. I bought the 980s before I read your review but thought this was the shoe that best fit my needs. I feel less sceptical now and I will give the shoe an honest tryout. Thanks again.
I had the pleasure of joining New Balance for an invigorating yoga session at Exhale Spa. The session was dedicated to breast cancer survivors.
Thanks for the comprehensive review. As a keen runner living in London, I think visibility when running at night is a big factor. I sell reflective rope laces that I think would match this pair of NBs really well.
Running injuries are coommn due to 2 main factors 1) running on modern surfaces2) running in shoes that promote heal strikingDid you know Abebe Bikila won the olympic gold medal for the Marathon barefoot?Did humans evolve to wear shoes? Not until the 1970 s did running shoes (driven by Nike’s marketing) become popular.Take some time to look into minimalist and barfoot running practices.There are many shoe companies that are working to provide zero drop shoes the provide a more natural running experience
The first time I saw the Fresh Foam 980 Trail. I was reminded of the rocker sole shoes most commonly used by Skechers.
Those shoes have extremely thick cushioning and look like the sneaker variant of platform shoes meant to make a person seem taller.Some are also rounded at the bottom, allowing wears to rock back and forth while standing still.
The Fresh Foam 980 Trail has the same thick sole, but uses a flat sole instead. There is a rocking sensation with the slightly curved front, but most running shoes offer that.
Still, I wondered how comfortable they would be with such a thick heel.
When I put them on,I found out that they were probably the most comfortable, well-cushioned running shoes I have ever used – and I am a fan of minimalist running shoes.What kind of running is the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Designed for?
The Fresh Foam 980 Trail is a very fine trail shoe for rugged terrain as well as a smooth runner on the road; a versatile hybrid for varied terrain.
These shoes are geared for nature-made tracks, such as the ones at MacRitchie Reservoir and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, where it is common for one to step on twigs, exposed roots, pebbles, and to walk along slopes with loose soil.
The cushioning that the 980 has in abundance is meant to protect the foot under these conditions.
The upper mesh grips your foot and holds it snugly in place while providing soft cushioning should you land on something irregular, such as an exposed rock with sharp ridges – This is where that 25mm of foam material is able to absorb the impact.
On the one hand, it means that your foot rarely feels it is landing on anything but a flat surface, as the protrusions never so much as graze your foot.
As a result, those who enjoy the feedback from the ground; of pounding on pebbled tracks or getting a proper grip of the soil as you race up the slope, will miss that feeling – The shoe’s protection prevents all of that !
That said, the 980 trail is anything but bulky and its soles offer a high level of manoeuvrability and control.
The foam material compresses easily and a solid heel strike creates a bounce in the stride, as the shoe recoils from the ground.
A mid-strike offers a stable grip and the entire package is lightweight enough to scamper around on.
The overall cushioning on the Fresh Foam 980 Trial makes running on trails responsive and effortless.
Video overview of the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail
New Balance seem to have the knack of making shoes that not only perform well and fit really good, but also look great too. There is a variety of color schemes available for both Men and Women . and they all look very stylish. Finding a pair that really catches your eye and fits in with your taste should be quite easy.
The FreshFoam 980 Trail has a lightweight, breathable construction paired with a simple, plush upper to keep your feet comfortable and protected. A gusseted tongue has been added to keep out debris and keep the runner comfortable.
Additional support and protective elements in the upper allow for the unpredictable nature of trails. A synthetic and mesh upper with no sew overlays make for an eye-catching design to provide a lower to the ground running shoe ideal for any trail workout.
With a lugged outsole and super soft cushioning, the Fresh Foam 980 is the perfect combination of protection and comfort.Features
Jump to Full ReviewComfort
After research and comparison to different shoe brands and models (Nike. Asics. Brooks. and Salomon ) this particular shoe seems to stay consistently comfortable and responsive throughout the entire running process. The midsole foam is soft but not too mushy, providing a really smooth and responsive ride, all in a lightweight package. The premium OrthoLite Sockliner offers additional cushioning and especially great comfort for running. This is also an excellent shoe for walking with enough padding which allows you to stand for long periods or run for long distances without knee or ankle pain. The upper is soft and plush; the tongue is made of a neoprene stretch.
New balance doesn’t design products to fit an image, they design them to fit their users. Fit is not so different from the New Balance 980. Although, the Boracay has a more rounded toebox and generally more room to fit a wider range of foot shapes. The outsole lip is also wider than the 980, helping to extend the area. Additionally, the upper heel is set a bit more inward, which influences the quality of the collar fit around the foot. Thanks to changes in the midsole, they are able to adapt to different types of feet. When it comes to holding the foot in place, it is little more snug. furthermore, the memory foam at the base of the shoe conforms to the shape of your foot, making them fit a little more naturally.Balance
New Balance’s Fresh Foam Boracay Running Shoe has a wonderful balance between cushioning and efficiency of ride.Style
These sneakers are pleasant for the eyes. New Balance is the best fashionable alternative to orthopedic footwear. They come with various styles and colors. I hope that the Boracay is more reflective in low light visibility; however the snaking upper layers were chromed up in glossy silver so they just have a daytime shiny effect.New Balance Fresh Foam Boracay Pros and Cons
There is no lining in the interior, making the upper mesh more breathable and capable of letting more air in and out. Thanks to the lightweight material. and I haven’t had any issues with foot sweat or moisture getting trapped in the shoes. Besides that, the two-way stretch air mesh in the Premium OrthoLite Sockliner also provides breathability.Flexibility
The outsole pattern of the Boracay was changed and follows a linear path from heel to toe. That leads to be more consistent and continuous in the flexibility of the forefoot. Additionally, the new outsole also increases the shoe’s range of flexibility.Durability
After putting about 25 miles on the shoes, I have not found any signal of breaking down. New Balance shoes, in general, seem to last quite a while.Stability
The one piece outsole not only provides generous cushioning and a smooth ride, but also provides stability and protection for the foot upon impact. furthermore, The plush Fresh Foam midsole were designed to soften response and impact, as well as provide stable heel-to-toe transitions. A slightly lower profile of the Boracay also contributes to enhancing the shoe’s stability.Support
In their design, the Premium OrthoLite Sockliner offers good arch support. And, for a mid – foot striker or under-pronator, the shoes also provide the necessary support.Ride
The great of a single density midsole design allows consistent transitions from heel to forefoot, as well as turnarounds. Even more, the Fresh Foam Boracay supplies a supremely smooth ride. There’s a linearity of compression which does not cause a distracting feeling, and that is a feature of a great shoe.Weight
No complaints about the weight here. Similar to other New Balance shoes, their Fresh Foam Boracay has been made from lightweight materials which feel light and comfortable.Price
The price is less than its major competitors and reviewed as reasonable cost for their quality and advantages.Conclusion
Previous experience with New Balance shoes has always been positive, and these new Boracays are no exception. New Balance’s Fresh Foam Boracay Running Shoe is ideal for people who run midfoot and underpronate.Related posts:
NEW BALANCE FRESH FOAM BORACAY 980
Fresh Foam is the special technology to cleverly, concave or convex lens depending on the type of support you need, designed by New Balance to achieve a midsole that provides both lightness and cushioning.
Upper material Air Mesh with Thermo-welding and reflective inserts gives the BORACAY 980 a comfortable fit, enveloping and without seams.
These are the hallmarks of BORACAY 980. running shoe with decidedly low differential (4 mm) that pushes the runner to a race on top.
It is a shoe designed for long and medium distances suitable for medium weight runners seeking cushioning and protection without sacrificing lightness and reactivity.
The range of colours is captivating, the variants studied are three for men and three for women, all very beautiful, make the BORACAY 980 a shoe popular in fashion key.
Fresh foam is another shoe that was announced with great fanfare, with many folks assuming the shoe would be uber-cushioned like the Hoka One One Conquest and Brooks Transcend. (New Balance's tagline: "The science of soft.") What we found: a fairly standard training shoe. Measurements from the RW Shoe Lab show the cushioning to actually be firmer than average, and the flexibility was right down the middle. "The shoe has a good fit, but it also feels oddly generic," says David Alm, a wear-tester from New York City who regularly trains in lightweight footwear, including other New Balance models. That's not to say it's a bad shoe; it's just not the shoe we expected. The cushioning is consistent with other shoes of similar profile (how high it positions your foot from the ground).
BOTTOM LINE: Best for lightweight runners with average arches.
“The shoe has a good fit, but it also feels oddly generic—like the sole is just a slab of rubber. There was not a lot of give, or the feeling of a customized experience with the shoe. It fits well and I like the cushioning—it’s not too much, not too little.” —David Alm, New York City
“I didn’t like the lacing system—the tongue rode up too high relative to the fit for the shoe.” —Jay Barry, New York City
“The upper was light and plush, but maybe a little tight in the toebox the first few times I wore them. Eventually they seemed to stretch out.” —Brian Dalek, Emmaus, PennsylvaniaRunning Times Review
Like a slugger for the local baseball team, Boston-based New Balance's 980 hit it out of the park according to our testers. One proclaimed, "I can't put it more simply: This is a great shoe, and I'm excited to have it as part of my rotation." While a few testers reported negatives on heel fit and the lacing, most comments raved about the no-sew upper, the flexibility, and the tread pattern that worked well on- and off-road. But the feature that garnered the most tester praise was the midsole, another new foam that was deemed lavish in its comfort and energizing in its bouncy resilience.