We like the New Balance Fresh Foam 980. We like it a lot. We like it because it came as a surprise, and it continues to surprise us every time we wear it.
To begin with, we fully expected the 980 to be a marshmallow. Before it arrived, early marketing had led us to believe that these bad girls were going to be the kind of plush that makes you think of ’80’s era pleather sofas. That kind of plush. NB even uses the word in the marketing. We were thinking HOKAish, ‘cept different.
But nooooooo, not the 980. While the sockliner is pretty soft and gives a plushish step in feel, the midsole itself is pretty firm. As in, whoa! firm! Responsive even. My first thought when strapped ’em on was that these were a lower, firm Brooks Launch. And that ain’t a bad thing, because the Launch has achieved its own level of awesome.
The 980 is born from the best of both minimalism and maximalism. We don’t exactly know what that means, but the midsole has at once a lower offset–4mm, thank you minimalism–and a fat, protective profile, hat tip to maximalism. Like if the Kinvara and the Vomero had babies, ‘cept different.
And then after about 50 miles, the 980 is just part of your foot. The midsole softens up just a bit and the upper wraps your foot like a sock until the whole thing is just an extension of you.