In search of new shoes, I checked my options by first looking at brands I hadn’t tried yet. But that idea that quickly over turned when I laid eyes on New Balance’s update to the 980 Fresh Foam. I remember trying last year’s model at work (for those who don’t know, I work at Fleet Feet) and was extremely impressed because it didn’t feel like a New Balance shoe. I said to myself, “Self, my feet are actually comfortable in a New Balance shoe.” Then the heavens opened up and I knelt one knee to say “I do”. But really, the catch of the Fresh Foam are its differences to its New Balance relatives. No weirdly shaped upper contour, no arch support placed far back on the heel, no cushioning feeling rock solid. It’s a new breed of New Balance that should be continued for the sake of runners!
After remembering my good experience jogging around the store with the original Fresh Foam – I decided to give the update an honest attempt.
The Fresh Foam Boracay is named after a beach in the Philippines, a beautiful beach too. Assuming the name, New Balance must have intended this shoe to feel like walking on a soft sandy beach, however they’ve missed the mark. After putting fifty miles into the shoe, it’s more firm and responsive than soft and squishy. Even out of the box, you’ll notice the springy give from the midsole. It’s not a bad feeling! In fact, I prefer my shoes to give me more control during my toe offs and less feeling like you have to fight your feet sinking. As a side note, New Balance should advertise their shoe differently if they’re going to compare it to running on a beach. A trampoline maybe?
After doing a fifteen mile long run last week, the shoe performed great until ten miles in. The problem was at that point my legs were tired and needed more give from pounding the road. So be weary that ten miles plus, you may start to wish you had a softer shoe.
On downhills, it’s no Hoka by any stretch, but it provides a decent amount of protection. I’ve let my legs fly on a 13% grade road downhill and my feet are still attached, so I call it safe if you enjoy tearing down slopes.
No sew upper construction is a God send. Its slipper feel is another differing factor that makes it such a great shoe. Above the toes are plastic overlays that help the upper retain its shape. It reminds me of the wave design on the Kinvara 3, subtle and aesthetically pleasing. There is reflective shiny plastic that wraps around the front and heel for night time visibility. Bottom of the tongue is elastic and allows you to pull it over your foot without bunching – something I enjoy doing every time I lace up. The tongue is soft and sits evenly on your foot without any problems. I would describe it as meaty, but I welcome that with arms wide because it’s comfortable. The upper is my favorite part of this shoe. I have a medium width foot and enjoy the overall wrap. If your feet are wide, the shoe does come in other widths, thanks NB!
In my shoe lineup at the moment, I’ve been using the Boracay for medium/long runs. Not the best I’ve experienced for the job just recently coming off the Nimbus 16, but significantly lighter. The shoe weights in at 9.0oz, which is appreciated for those longer distances. I wouldn’t recommend this shoe for long distance marathon training, it’s simply not soft enough to provide protection. It’s stack height 22mm (Heel) and 18mm (Forefoot). A 4mm drop in this package is impressive. Lately I’ve been trying to keep my drops 6mm and under for natural running’s sake. Another note, the outsole is extremely grippy. On the roads, you can take turns on a dime. I tried them on the trails yesterday and they performed like any road shoe would, typical mud sliding in the wet parts.
The biggest update to the 980v2 is the upper, which I believe to be slightly wider in the toe box. The midsole’s convex and concave polygons have been enlarged and more consistently placed. Interestingly, when New Balance was first designing this shoe, they constructed the prototype with a 3D printer. By analyzing where people strike the majority of the time while running determined the placement of the polygonal shapes on the midsole. The addition of that elastic tongue base is a nice feature that makes slipping the tongue over your foot more enjoyable. Weight wise, the shoe is identical to its predecessor.
I would recommend this shoe for anyone looking for a daily trainer who is planning on running a half marathon or anything less. It’s a great shoe and I hope New Balance continues the Fresh Foam line because it’s the best shoe they’ve produced.