New Balance Fresh Foam Boracay Review

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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.

Cushioning

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.

Upper

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!

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Performance

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.

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Update Changes

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.

Overall

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.

8/10

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First Marathon! Bowling Green, KY Marathon 2014

It was done. Milestone completed.

November 2nd I ran the Bowling Green, KY Marathon and pushed my body and mind to limits I never knew existed.

The race started 7am central time. The weather was a raw twenty five degrees, but the sun made it bearable to pre race warm up. After equipping my bib to my Salomon tee, I did some strides in front of ballpark to get the legs up to speed. The race directors were nice enough to include pace marker signs at the start line, so I moseyed over to the 7 minute pace group where I found a couple of strong looking marathon runners to team up with. At the one mile mark an older gent started conversation and asked what my goal times were, so I told him around 3 hours to qualify for Boston. He advised that I should slow it down a bit because he’s experienced plenty of marathon bonkings in his day. So I did just that – sort of. I stopped to fix my compression socks that were falling down my calves, yes, I stopped with no shame. Two marathon runners came up behind me that were talking up a storm so I hung with them for many miles. One of them was a Bowling Green native who was pretty talkative. He was kind enough to give me some terrain pointers, telling me what hills to be weary of. Again, more good advice duly noted!

Imagine the campus of Eastern Kentucky University perched up on a steep hill, now understand that the course ran over the campus a handful of times like a speed bump with attitude. I kid you not, the total elevation gain was about 1,000 feet. Which isn’t unheard of, but tough enough to make you grimace for your first ever 26.2.

So I kept on my two marathon buddy’s heels for the first half. One of guys decided to surge ahead and leave us, so I made a small push at the half to have bragging rights that I was in 2nd at one point. That reality dissipated shortly after we crossed the first half when my buddy left me to pursue first place. Ever watch those Sesame Street bits where they continually say, “Alone. Alone. ALOOONE.” while the words pop up in tandem? My feelings exactly.

Things were great. I was cruising at a safe 6:40 pace all the way up to mile twenty. Weirdly my legs started getting weaker, lessen with each stride length. I knew the wall was coming, and I was bracing for hellish torture was ahead. My honey stingers were losing their sting by my third gel, and I was feeling like I ate the Seinfeld black and white cookie. No, I didn’t barf, but a little was reaching my mouth. Luckily, the last six miles were flat neighborhood so it was a bearable challenge. By the time turned into the first neighborhood, I absolutely had to stop. My legs and mind were playing games with me. I wasn’t ashamed for walking. Although, the hardest part admitting to was that I wasn’t going to qualify. As I transitioned from walk to run I saw my pace on my watch gradually slipping into the seven minute range. I eventually accepted the facts and decided to finish – that was my goal!

race pace

Grueling through the last six miles push me to a dark place in my mind. A battle of bad thoughts danced in my mind trying to discourage my persistent efforts, while I thought positive believing that just finishing will be good for me. Lessons were learned. The three runners that passed me frustrated me because I knew I was a better athlete than they were, however the results said otherwise.

In hindsight, perhaps I went out too fast. I’m glad I did though because that instilled lessons in my running work ethic that I’ll take to my next marathon and the ones after that. There things I want to do differently next time. I want to experiment with new nutrition to ensure my late race is strong and not a slogfest. I also want to figure out another hydration solution. My Salomon hydration pack is useful, but I’d rather not have it on me. Maybe just rely on the aid stations? So many options to play with for next race – I’m getting giddy boi’s and gurls.

Here’s my stats:

Half way – 1:27:33

Finish time – 3:16:30

6th out of 187