Anyone familiar with New Balance knows their shoes have been “named” with numbers, but only the very astute observer can figure out what the numbers represent. So in attempt to increase model identity, New Balance has started assigning names to some shoe models. Hence, the new Boracay model is actually the update to the 980.
The 980 was the first New Balance shoe to incorporate Fresh Foam as its cushioning system. Fresh Foam is foam midsole shaped with the influence of 3D printing to create patterns within the midsole. The resulting configuration allows the midsole to have desired cushioning and stability effects at any location within the midsole to create a prescribed feel. As such, the 980 was tuned to provide good energy return in a moderately compliant platform.
While the original 980 was billed as the “science of soft”, the shoe was firmer than many runners expected. This wasn’t a bad thing; it just meant the 980 was well-suited for fast paced running. With the Boracay, the Fresh Foam midsole has a new pattern and a fairly soft feel.
Changes in patterns were not limited to the midsole. The outsole pattern of the Boracay has been changed and follows a somewhat linear path from heel to toe. The result is more consistent, continuous flexibility in the forefoot.
With these changes to the midosle and outsole patterns, the Boracay feels slower than the 980 and we attribute this sensation to the softer feel of the midsole and less “snap” in the forefoot. As such, the Boracay now fits in as an everyday trainer, where as the 980 was more akin to performance shoes.
The fit of the Boracay also moves in the direction of more traditional everyday trainers. The 980 had a shallow and pointy toebox, which was too small for some runners (not me, I loved the fit). The Boracay has a more rounded toebox and more overall volume to accommodate a broader range of foot shapes.
With a 4mm heel-toe offset, the Boracay is a good option for midfoot strikers seeking a well-cushioned, daily training shoe. If you are seeking a more performance-oriented ride, The New Balance Zante is available in March 2015. Like the Boracay, the Zante uses Fresh Foam for cushioning but is tuned to have a firmer ride. The ride of the Zante and its lower weight make it an ideal companion shoe to the Boracay. Use the Boracay for daily runs, long runs, and recovery days and pull out the Zante for uptempo runs and interval days.