Two weeks ago, New Balance released their new shoe, the Fresh Foam 980. This shoe New Balance’s entry into the “maximalist” market, which are categorized by dense underfoot cushioning and modern shapes. Many maximalist shoes, the 980’s included, use light materials and incorporate low heel-to-toe offsets. Is it worth it for customers to try out this new trend? We tested the 980’s to find out.
Description: The Fresh Foam 980’s are a unique entry into the running shoe market. The upper is made of breatheable mesh and no-sew overlays to wrap the foot, while the bottom is constructed from a smooth rubber outsole. But the highlight of the shoe is the Fresh Foam midsole. “You feel the same softness throughout the entire midsole from toe to heel,” says New Balance Technical Field Rep Jess Hyland. “The amount of performance data that went into the construction of the midsole is intricate and presented in a purposeful hexagonal design.” Despite the generous cushioning, the shoe weights in at only 7.27 oz for women and 8.8 oz for men, with a 4mm drop. The shoe retails for $110.
Pros: The 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? These fears were unfounded, as the shoes are definitely NOT bulky and feel very natural. The 980 felt light but much more supportive and soft. It still has a very natural and responsive feel. 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 neural runners who prefer a traditional-cushioned trainer with a higher 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 so soft and supportive. Many customers have already loved the feeling of the shoes when trying them on in-store. 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 will be a new addition to my shoe rotation. But just like any shoes, and especially with new trends like maximalism, they may not be for everyone. Come into Morristown Running Company to try out the 980’s.