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:
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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.
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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:
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EDIT: NEW FRESH FOAMS HAVE ARRIVED! I bought another pair to rotate with, I love these things so much.
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New Balance 1400 V2 Review

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Current New Balance collection, notice three pair of 1400s

DISCLAIMER: New Balance is my brand of choice for almost any running activity, so I did go in expecting to like these shoes. I really do enjoy running in all of the NB shoes I own and I love what the company does for the Boston area and what they stand for. Many of my recovery and easy pace runs have been in the 1080 V3, most of my speedwork and races are in the 1400 and now the 1400 V2 and I have raced in the 1600 as well, up to full marathon distance. The Minimus is my go to mountain running and technical trail shoe and if I were to race often in distance’s shorter than 10k, I would pick up a pair of the RC5000 as well, a true road race flat that just feels fast.

Enough about my New Balance love affair though, on to the matter at hand, I’m going to touch on a few things that matter to me in a speed-work/race shoe.

Weight: One reason I’ve raced in the 1600 as opposed to the 1400 in the past was the weight difference. The original 1400 weighed in at 7.1 oz and the V2 is down to 6.3 oz. The 1600 however, weighs only 5.8 oz and though the differences may be small, they do add up over 26 miles. I’m sure some of the perceived effort due to weight is in my head, but whatever works, right? That being said, the 1400V2 feels incredibly light and nimble and I could easily imagine running a marathon in them after doing most of my 20+ runs in them while training for Boston.

Shape: I am very particular about the shape of the toe box especially, my second toes are much longer than my big toes and I need shoes that will cater to that. I also have an issue with my pinkie toe sliding under the next toe and if the box has too much room for my feet to move up and down inside. I prefer shoes that I can snug up quite tight to keep unwanted foot travel to a minimum and these do that very well. The single piece upper limits any pressure points that could bother me when keeping them tight, too.

Speed: I’ve run in a few shoes that billed themselves as competition or speed inspired but lacked the responsiveness to uphold those claims. The first time I ran in the original 1400 I remember setting a 5 mile PR on a training tempo run. A run I took too quickly, no doubt, but they were my first racing/competition shoes and I couldn’t believe how light and quick they felt. I’ve since tried other shoes out of curiosity, from some of the bigger brands, Nike and Adidas to name a few and I did not feel like they gave me the comfortable finished product that the 1400 offered for running fast.  The V2 just builds on those first impressions. Also of note is the redesign of the sole, even more grip than the original and what looks to be a long lasting, simple build. 

Design: I am a sucker for the bright and flashy and New Balance has delivered with their entire current lineup. There are a couple of style options on the V2 and one of them happens to be bright yellow! Great match for the emerald green and canary yellow Greater Lowell Road Runner colors.  The reflective bits on the shoes are fun, too.  If you look good you’ll feel good, and if you feel good you’ll race well. 

Longevity: After breaking these shoes in at the end of winter and training through the wet spring months in them, I was not surprised to find the uppers breaking down a bit before I had really worn down the soles too much. That being said, I put approximately 300+ miles on them and they still felt responsive and not too flat. I will be buying a few more pairs and keeping them in my regular rotation over the next year. Hoping the upper mesh stays intact a little better on my next pair with summer running.
UPDATE:
Second pair of the V2’s have been purchased and are holding up great in summer running. I ended up putting about 350 miles on my first pair before relegating them to a walking around shoe, pretty typical mileage for a shoe with such little support.

Please comment with any questions or thoughts on the shoes and I will try to answer as best I can.

 

Mizuno Hitogami Review

I’ve been looking forward to grabbing a pair of Mizuno Hitogami’s since the end of last year when I first read about them. Finally picked some up last Wednesday and after putting 50 miles on them I can safely say that these are some of the best shoes I’ve ever run in.

I’ve been using Mizuno for my easy paced and recovery runs for more than a year now but found my previous pairs adequate without being exciting at all. I first ran in the Elixir and did enjoy the incredible longevity of the shoes, and the ability to naturally pronate, without the shoe regulating my stride too much. They did not feel so good as to convince me to stay however and I switched back to New Balance for easy runs, when I did wear through them. I went back to Mizuno again what I started using Sayonara’s last fall after trying out multiple trainers from New Balance and Adidas, I did choose to go back to Mizuno since they did seem to hold up well and I didn’t really dislike them. Not a ringing chorus of praise here, I know. The Sayonara I ended up liking even less than Elixir due to the larger toe box and overall width. They did their job okay, but after 300 miles they would start to break down from my foot’s increased movement in the toe box. Thus by the end of 2013 I was back to my old dilemma of sourcing a suitable non-speed work shoe that I actually liked all around.

The Hitogami sounded like everything I enjoyed in my two previous Mizuno shoes, but lighter, narrower and sleeker. It’s proven to be just that and more. The shoe wears like a marathon flat but has enough support to feel comfortable over long runs. Albeit, half the running I’ve done so far in them has involved Yaktrax, they still feel great over distance. 20+ miles on Sunday had me feeling fine and I was able to close out with a 19 minute final 5k. Finishing fast, or running fast at all for that matter, is not something I normally enjoy in anything but flats or near flats, but the racing inspired shape of these shoes is no joke, they really do hug the feet and feel effortlessly light.

I realize that this isn’t a traditional review, but in light of the fact that I’ve never given more than a cursory mention to my shoes on the blog, I hope that this speaks to how much I love these things. If you’re in the market for a new lightweight trainer, or race shoe if you are a marathon/half marathon runner who isn’t comfortable in flats or the like, please give these a try:
http://www.mizunousa.com/running/mens/running-shoes/neutral/wave-hitogami

I know for me, since I’ve started running, I’ve never really found that one shoe that I loved for various types of training and running. In talking with other runners, that seems to be a general problem, with many of you in the same position. Hopefully you can take my word for it and get yourself to the nearest running specialty store to try out a pair of these. (I should mention, they run $10-20 less than many other trainers, too!)

Happy running!

Update (3 months and 400-450 miles in) Shoes started to break down and lose some rebound, but no complaints with  400+ miles, proving that Mizuno shoes really do last!

Snow Day – Good Vibes!

I’ve had this silly habit of starting my blog posts with a title, like they are some kind of college paper and need to be composed in a specific manner. This is not a ‘me resolving to change this habit’ statement, I’m only making note of it. For now I can write whatever I want, free form! Today was a remote workday, thanks to some fresh white stuff. Working from home is not without challenges, but the proximity to the kitchen offsets almost any potential downsides. Breakfast was: three egg southwest omelet, French toast bagel and a bowl of blueberries, washed down with Chai. Lunch was a pile of pancakes, peanut butter and syrup and fresh coffee to sip on whenever I wanted it. And while the food perks are well loved, they don’t take top spot in the working from home bennys for me. What is the best part about working from home? Lacing up as soon as I log out and thus getting more of my run finished in the daylight! It led to some great memories today too, trying new roads and dodging plow trucks and feeling like I ruled the roads.

To the guy who stopped snow-blowing in the sleet and freezing rain to clap for me as I ran by with ski goggles and an ice beard earlier, you rock! That act easily made my day and kept me smiling for the duration of my run.
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Said ice beard and smile. Hat in the picture was given to me last night, +1 to cool friends and random gifts! The traction was sketchy at best in the snow today and the Yaktrax had a hard time digging through it, but I’m thankful that with all of the snow we’ve had it’s only been truly bad on my easy paced runs so far. That being said, I do hope they plow the crap out of the streets tonight, at least somewhere, so I have a place to run ladder intervals tomorrow.

Social media and the internet in general have been overflowing with good vibes for and from runners the past few days. For such a massive community it’s still so close knit and caring, I love it! All of us have joined in deriding and grimacing over THAT runner from Portland who so braggadociosly claimed that the snow was perfect for running in and then promptly fell on her butt. http://youtu.be/f85bdCzrNkY And for girls and boys alike, this from Lauren Fleshman: http://asklaurenfleshman.com/2013/11/keeping-it-real/ is well worth a read. On a more personal sphere, my dad posted a picture of some plane tickets for April today… parents, siblings and friends will all be at the marathon cheering this year. I’ve never not planned on crying at some point during the marathon, but it’s definitely going to happen now. No possible way to contain all of the emotions that will clatter together prior to, during and after this race.

In my next post I will be following a format and title again, a write up of sorts on my newest shoes. Mizuno Hitogami (I Love Them) But for now I leave off with the song that popped into my head when I started writing this. Perfect music for a snowy winter day.

Training Update

I first started blogging with the intention of posting my training and now that I’m a few posts into my switch over to WordPress, I figure that a training update post is due. Starting with a week ago, my workouts have gone something like this:
Friday the 9th
Fartlek – 8 Miles @ easy pace with 2min @ 10k every 5 min (average pace 6:00/mile in the “on” sections)
Evening run Speed Session – 5k in 18:10 followed by stretching, rolling and working loose.

Saturday the 10th
Recovery day, off to lovely Portsmouth, NH for some fun with friends. The kind of fun that makes running the next day seem impossible.

Sunday the 11th
Hard long run – 2 miles easy (7:00/mile) – 15 miles @ marathon pace +10-20 secs/mile (ended up being right on track somehow with a 6:25/mile pace) – 1.7 miles easy @ (7:30/mile)
Followed with solid stretching and rolling and re-hydrating all afternoon.

Monday the 12th
Easy run – 4 miles (7:13/mile) Legs were very stiff and painful initially, took 3 miles to start feeling good.

Tuesday the 13th
Easy run – 8 miles (6:46/mile) Too fast for an easy run, but sometimes that is how it goes. Legs had started feeling good again.

Wednesday the 14th
First ran in my fresh New Balance 1080 V3’s 5.2 @ 6:52/mile pace. Ran an hour later with run group at Marathon Sports in Wellesley, Ma , another 6.5 miles @ 7:13/mile. The second run was in a demo pair of Newton Energy NR. They felt very different from other Newton’s the five shallower lugs were more to my liking. We ran a mixture of trails and road and they responded well. I would probably not buy them for easy paced running personally, but they might be fun with some more speed, they did feel light on the feet.

Thursday the 15th
My first run ever with GPS! As the second part of my self purchased birthday gift on Wednesday I bought a Garmin Forerunner 10 to go with my new shoes. The run was a 5 miler with hill sprints at maximum effort 4 miles in. I did 10 x 10 sec sprints on a 8-10 grade hill. They felt great, even in the thicker 1080’s.

Friday the 16th
The workout this afternoon was brutal, to put it bluntly. I ran 3 miles easy (7:10/mile) followed by 3 x 10min @ 10k pace with 3 min active recoveries. Finished with another 3 miles @ 7:20/mile. The 10 minute sections were supposed to be run at half marathon effort, but it’s close enough to 10k pace for me that I shot for a little lower and probably ended up somewhere in the middle. The splits were approx: 1st@5:48/mile 2nd@5:45/mile 3rd@5:50/mile

My total distance over the past 8 days was about 72 all said and done. I’ve been keeping close to a 60 mile average over 7 days for the past three and a half weeks now. I am happy to report that I feel less likely to be injured now then I did before the higher volume started. The training methods of Brad Hudson seem to be dead on for me. Still remains to be seen if I will actually be much faster using these tactics, but the most important part right now is building a strong, healthy base. I want to keep improving year to year and I truly subscribe to the longevity method in seeing gains now. It took a couple years of impatient over-training to arrive at this place, but here I am.

Musical inspiration of this post:
http://youtu.be/0gEVaniPOmU