New Balance 980 Fresh Foam Review

Today turned into an unscheduled rest day due to a sore foot and general lack of desire to go out in the heat for 15 miles of trudging along at easy pace. Which means that the review I’ve been meaning to write on the Fresh Foams now has nothing to excuse it not being written.

You know you’re off to a good start when the ads for the shoes feature Dusty and Jenny:

Weight: I had a bias against New Balance trainers, having sampled a few in the past, specifically the 1080s and 890s. I found them clunky and thick, with heavy soles. Upon first picking these up in the store I knew they were a far cry from anything previous in the way of daily trainers from NB. They weigh in at 8.8 oz, nothing crazy light, but for the cushioning they provide, they feel much lighter than you’d expect.

Shape: The shape is very similar to NB race flats, just with much thicker soles. They fit snugly on my feet just like the 1400 or 1600 do, and have a more plush upper and tongue to give more comfort than the flats provide. The overall shape is sleek and form fitting, so broad footed people might want to be aware and order a wide model if possible. With only a 4mm heel-to-toe drop, they are certainly a more neutral feeling shoe, which contributes to the race flat vibe they give out when you take off in them. That being said, prepare to transition to these shoes slowly if you’re used to trainers with a solid post or aggressive heel/toe drop. These will not correct you’re stride per se, just make it more comfortable.

Speed: These shoes tempt me to run too hard on my easy days, when they are fresh (no pun intended) Which brings up my only real complaint with them, they need a day to recover between use. I try to do that with all my shoes, or a couple days even, but these guys really NEED it. They do rebound and feel good again, just expect to feel sluggish if using daily. Again, the 4mm drop and form fitting upper, single piece mesh, really make these feel faster than an 8.8oz trainer ever has for me before.

Design: Like I’ve mentioned before, New Balance has stepped it up in the bright colors world! The Fresh Foams come in seven color options and all of them are loud! I might have the most muted of colors schemes and mine are bright blue and orange. As seen in the picture below, they really do resemble their faster, smaller brother:

Longevity: Perk of waiting so long to write this review, the shoes probably have over 350 miles on them now so I can actually speak to the longevity of them. The soles have hardly any wear on them and that was my biggest concern with these going in. I thought the solid foam and rubber sole would both break down quickly, but apart from the need to give them rest days, everything seems to be holding up amazingly well. There are two little holes in the mesh where my big toe tries to escape, but I think that problem should be unique to me. I’ve also hiked a few mountains in them and ran plenty of trails, technical and otherwise. Even over adverse terrain, they’ve performed well.

Final Thoughts: The Fresh Foam Trail was just released and I will definitely be picking up a pair! My last pair of trail shoes lasted only three runs and one long hike before I returned them, so I’m psyched to hopefully get a pair that last long enough to review! (Pro tip, though comfortable and with massive amounts of grip, don’t waste your money on the North Face Ultra Trails, unless you never run in rain, sun or indoors.) The Fresh Foam 980’s are one of my favorite shoes of all time and one of the best easy/long/oopsI’mhikinginthemagain shoes that I’ve ever run in. So here’s to some well deserved free press, New Balance, keep being awesome.

Here’s the current NB stable:

EDIT: NEW FRESH FOAMS HAVE ARRIVED! I bought another pair to rotate with, I love these things so much.