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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

New Balance 980 Fresh Foam Trail Review

Some time ago, I was given a pair of New Balance 980 Fresh Foam trail shoe to try. When I first got it, my first impression was "Wow" its beautiful and then immediately after that, oh my goodness, how am I going to wear that!

Design: You see, the NB 980 is what the market calls a Maximal shoe as opposed to "minimal. And I have been wearing minimal shoes for the past few years that I wasn't sure whether I can still run in such thick shoe. 

But surprisingly despite the thick sole, it is still just a 4mm heel to toe drop. Basically what NB has done is to put in a thick layer of what it calls Fresh Foam, which is still EVA but redesigned to allow for better movement and cushioning.

The 989 has a rather high heel counter and because I wear mainly ankle socks, I can feel a hot spot developing on my left heel after a while. But I suppose this can be easily resolve by an application of blister shield or higher cut socks. The high heel counter provides a snug fit and provides better support and protection something that is essential for the twists and turns on the trails.

Weight: despite the thickness of the sole, it is still rather light at about 300 gm which is great when you need all the weight advantage as the legs grow heavier and heavier over long distance.

Cushioning: There is more than adequate sufficient cushioning even without any rock plate in the sole. In fact, I personally feels that there is too much cushioning and on the trails, I can hardly feel the ground. On the plus side, there is simply no need for rock plate because the cushioning is so good that it takes all the rocks and roots in its stride. There is also no toe plate which may be a bit of an issue over more technical terrains.

Traction:  To ensure that I do an objective review, I worn the shoe on 3 different occasions covering a total of 38 km over trails and roads. First time was a short 8 km easy run at MacRitchie covering the northern route and second time, a longer 15 km run, also at MacRitchie and covering the additional trail to Rifle Range road and the Rifle Range Link where the trails are more technical. The last run was a 15 km road run between the Upper Peirce and Lower Peirce Road. In all cases, the shoes gripped well even during the 2nd run when the  ground was wet and slippery from the rain the day before. This is possibly due to design of the multi directional lugs on the sole.

Flexibility: Unfortunately as expected due to the thickness of the sole, it wasn't as flexible as I could like it to be.

Water Proofing: The upper is made up of a breathable mesh and it will appears that water can get in easily. However, on my runs despite the rain the previous day, there wasn't sufficient ponding for me to splash through so at this point I am unable to conclude how effective the water proofing if any will be.

Overall, I like the shoe for its cushioning and snug fit. But it is a it too much cushioning and reduces the ground feel something that I am not comfortable with. I think this shoe is most suitable for those starting out on trail running and looking for a lightweight, comfortable and good cushioning shoe to transit from traditional trail shoes to minimalist shoes. Also because of the ample cushioning, it will be good for longer trail runs when it can delay the on set of sole pain from the protruding rocks.

This shoe review is made possible courtesy of New Balance Singapore and Trail Running Singapore

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