The New Balance Fresh Foam 980: First Impressions

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Maximalism. It’s one of the buzzwords that has put itself into existence in the running world over the past year, indicative of a full pendulum swing away from the minimalist trend of the Born to Run days. What is it? The “maximalist” category hasn’t been clearly defined at this point, but the differentiator is an obvious one – plenty of cushioning.

So is this new trend just a revamp of plush traditional trainers like the Nimbus or the Vomero? Not quite, though some premium trainers are going in that direction. Instead, shoe manufacturers are looking for ways to incorporate learnings from minimalism into shoes with a lot more protection underfoot.

New Balance’s first contribution to this trend is the 980, which recently found its way to our doorstep. The 980 is the introductory carrier of Fresh Foam, a new compound that promises a super soft ride. Always fans of new shoes and new technologies, we were quick to give this new shoe a try.

So how does the 980 actually feel?  It’s soft, but don’t expect this shoe to be a Hoka, either. If you enjoy a more responsive feel you will still find plenty to like in the 980. The ride itself encourages a fast turnover – the low 4mm offset keeps you up on your midfoot while a higher toe spring seemingly rolls you forward for a quick toe-off. The best part? This shoe just feels smooth. The full-contact outsole makes for an effortless transition from footstrike to push-off, making this shoe a joy to run in.

The upper mirrors the underfoot feel of the shoe. Not too plush, but more than comfortable enough to keep you happy on long runs. The fit is forgiving and will have little problem accommodating a range of foot shapes.

Honestly, we’re excited for New Balance’s first take on the more-being-better trend. It may not be your softest or most cushioned shoe, but the 980 will make for a good transitional option for someone who wants to save their legs from the pounding of pavement without completely running on pillows.

Be sure to check out the New Balance 980 for Men and Women. Also, take a first look at the trail version of the 980, which will be available July 2014.

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