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New Balance 980 Trail Shoe Review

August 20th, 2014

At a Glance:

  • 4mm offset (24mm heel, 20mm forefoot)
  • 10.5 ounces in weight (men’s size 9)
  • Fresh Foam midsole technology that delivers plush cushioning
  • Multi-directional lugs that offer traction for climbing and descending
  • No-sew synthetic mesh upper and gusseted tongue designed to keep out debris

Verdict:

A low offset, highly cushioned trail shoe that meets the demands of daily trail runners as well as fans of the New Balance 980 road version.

Synopsis:

With a growing demand for max cushioned shoes containing a low heel-to-toe offset, New Balance created the 980 Trail to deliver a trail-specific model that is versatile and comfortable. As the success of the New Balance 980 road version continued to grow, the trail model was released shortly after to give off-road runners a taste of New Balance’s innovative Fresh Foam technology. A nimble and cushioned ride with dependable traction, the 980 Trail will keep runners feeling connected to the trails as terrain varies. The combination of a sturdy yet supple midsole foam and a broad platform shape allows for ample shock absorption and full-ground contact through the gait cycle. The shoe thrives on well-worn trails and mountain terrain, yet suitable for some mileage on the roads too. Ultrarunners or road runners looking for an off-road option to break up their asphalt routine are a perfect match for the 980 Trail.

A Deeper Look:

Convex shape on lateral side
Concave shape on medial side

The Fresh Foam midsole was developed through 3D sculpting to create a series of both convex and concave hexagons to helps enhance sponginess and firmness in specifically targeted areas of the shoe. In the 980 Trail, firmer convex hexagons are located on the medial side to create a stable feel during foot strike, while softer concave hexagons on the lateral side provide a soft underfoot feel as the foot rolls.

On the outsole, a blown rubber material is used to create an aggressive lugged system. Lugs placed on the forefoot are pointed towards the heel while lugs on the heel are pointed towards the forefoot. This design helps create optimal traction when maneuvering technical trails. With full-ground contact, the outsole design creates a stable foot plant and a softer out of the box feel than the road version.

Mutli-directional lugs point towards midfoot to offer traction uphill and downhill

To help increase comfort, a no sew synthetic mesh upper is used to provide a glove like fit. With a slightly pointed toe, toe box height is low and keeps the foot secure and in place during fast downhill descents.  With a tightly packed mesh design along with a gusseted tongue, this shoe is built to keep dust out while maintaining breathability.

Tight mesh keeps out debris and hugs foot

Similar Shoes

The New Balance 980 trail provides a unique design but has some similar features to other popular trail shoes. Upon step in, the 980 Trail has a very similar feel to the Pearl Izumi Trail N1. Both provide a similar snug upper design to keep out dirt along with plenty of cushioning to protect against sharp rocks. When it comes to performance, the 980 trail has a comparable feel to the Saucony Peregrine 4. With a 4mm heel to toe drop as well as an aggressively lugged outsole, both shoes will offer a no slip grip to power through the trails in record pace.

Wear-Tester Findings

  • Provided a soft and well cushioned feel right out of the box.
  • Fresh foam midsole provided more than enough protection from sharp rocks and stone bruising.
  • Shoe felt smooth and connected with the trail.
  • Full ground contact design provided an “extension of the foot” feel.
  • Multidirectional lugs kept runners confident on the trail as pace increased.
  • The fit was standard but toe box height was noted as shallow providing a tighter fitting experience.

Take on the trails with the max cushioned New Balance 980 trail, available now:

New Balance 980 Trail Men’s Shoes

New Balance 980 Trail Women’s Shoes

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