Shoe Review: New Balance Fresh Foam 980
Shoe Name: New Balance Fresh Foam 980
Model: Style# M980BY
Weight: New Balance reports it as 8.8 oz on their website. I placed my size 9.0’s on the scale and came up with just a bit over 8 oz.
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.
Forefoot: The forefoot is still a bit narrow in my opinion. It has a soft breathable mesh for toes and allows some wiggle room.
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!
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
New Balance shoes are great and the height review you’ve given here is something to think about. I always wonder if we really do need elevated shoes and why not have something more similar to the shape of the foot. But maybe that’s what NB does with their shoes. Thanks for sharing it up here.