While the New Balance 1080 v6 is new from the ground up, it still delivers a smooth, well-cushioned running experience. The shoe just accomplishes the feat in a different manner. The midsole/outsole is no longer a multitude of parts. Gone are the N2 cushioned inserts, ABZORB FL foam midsole, T-Beam midfoot TPU shank and multi-piece carbon rubber/blown rubber outsole. In its place is a more cohesive one-piece Fresh Foam midsole (introduced in the 980 and found in the subsequent Boracay and Zante shoes) and mostly blown rubber outsole with some carbon rubber in the heel for added durability.
The Fresh Foam midsole uses a combination of geometries, to deliver a specific ride quality. Concave hexagonal shapes on the lateral side allow the midsole to compress on impact, while convex hegagonal shapes on the medial side add a touch of support. The development of the midsole takes advantage of 3D printing during the design process and incorporates a ton of data collected from motion capture analysis, in-shoe pressure and force application measurements. Through this process the midsole gets tuned to deliver a certain (softer) feel. In the New Balance Zante the feel is firm. In the 1080 v6 the feel is much more soft.
1. The base net (width of the shoe at its base) appears to be at least 5mm wider. I don’t have the best tool for measuring this, but using a tape measurer, I found a 6mm wider measurement. This wider base net does not change the fit of the shoe but it does make the shoe more stable and also disperses pressure over a greater area, delivering a sense of reduced impact forces.
2. The beveled heel has been significantly increased in both height off the ground and length. If you are a heel-striker, this design smooths out the transition from heel to midfoot. It is reminiscent of the rocker design found in Scott and Hoka One One shoes.
The upper is all new and the materials are a big step up from those found on the previous version. There is a bootie construction where the tongue is attached to both sides of the upper, eliminating excess material found in a typical tongue construction. The tongue itself is nicely padded as is the heel collar. Both are a big step up from the previous version. The mesh materials are also of a richer quality.
The shoe is built on the same PL-8 last of the last few iterations of the 1080, meaning it has an 8mm heel-toe offset and similar shape to previous versions.
The shoe fit slighlty long but a standard size still worked for me. If your shoes are often a little long or you prefer a little less room, going down a half size should work. The bootie construction and midfoot overlays provide a universal fit, which can be cinched down for low volume feet and easily expanded to accommodate a high instep. The toe-box is a touch on the shallow side but not far off of a medium height. The forefoot fit is more rounded than its predecessors or other Fresh Foam models and provides noticeably more room from the middle toe down and around the pinky toe. The heel is a medium fit. For those with a narrow heel, using the last eyelet is sufficient for securing the heel in place. The arch structure has a noticeable, comfortable presence for medium height arches.
The comfortable, soft tongue stood out as I first tried on the shoe. There is nothing confining in the upper. The shoe feels good all around the foot, but the heel feels a little loose around my slightly narrow heel. However, I did not have to change the lacing to secure the heel in place. The insole is not as soft as some others, so I did not get an initial impression of softness when slipping on the shoe. This changed when I stood up. Just walking a few steps, this shoe was noticeably softer feeling than the 980 or Zante. Not squishy soft, but still on the softer side. There was no odd creasing, pressure point issues or slippage. The beveled heel did create a sense of instability and awkwardness when first walking in the shoe.
The shoes is compliant, meaning it has some give underfoot. Within the first half mile of a run, the forefoot reminded me a little of the original Saucony Triumph ISO, which I found lacked responsiveness in favor of softness. However, as the run progressed, the shoe felt well-balanced. Not so soft as to sap all my input but not firm enough to get up and go. It won’t be confused with a tempo shoe, but it responded well-enough during pick ups that I could use it for a tempo run, if I were in a pinch. It’s the kind of ride that’s great for accumulating miles. It’s smooth and well-cushioned. When I forced myself to heel strike, the shoe retained its smooth ride. The awkwardness of the beveled heel experienced during walking was not felt during the run. During my normal midfoot strike, the heel is not engaged and during a heel strike the beveled heel rolls nicely forward.
Recommendations and Comparisons
With its balanced feel between too soft and not soft enough, the 1080 v6 is ideal as a daily trainer for the runner seeking a well-cushioned experience. With an 8mm offset, the natural comparison is to the Saucony Triumph ISO. The 1080 v6 slots in between the two versions of the Triumph ISO. The original Triumph ISO was too soft for anything but easy runs. The Triumph ISO 2 has much more rebound than the first Triumph ISO. It has some give to it, not as much as the 1080 v6, but bounces back with a feeling of better energy return. It feels faster than the 1080 v6, but the 1080 v6 feels more plush underfoot. The ASICS Nimbus is our best selling shoe in this Premium Neutral category and the 1080 v6 is a worthy competitor. The rides between the two shoes are similar and New Balance has matched the plushness of the upper of the Nimbus. The 1080 v6 has a roomier toe-box than the Nimbus and the Nimbus has a snugger heel fit. The Nimbus has a 10mm offset, which result in the shoe being about an ounce heavier than the 1080 v6. While weight may not be the primary factor in this category, the lighter weight 1080 v6 and similarly weighted Triumph ISO have an advantage at quicker paces.