New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Review

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New Balance is launching an exciting new shoe for Spring of 2014 in the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 – hot off the presses, (do they even make shoes on presses?) so to speak. They are so pumped to launch it, they’ve put together a huge marketing push – check it out at the New Balance website if you don’t believe. Runners all over the world are being given the chance to sound off about it prior to it’s release (as of the date of this posting) next week. So we here are Active Gear Review figured we’d better get a piece of the action surrounding the New Balance Fresh Foam 980, what with all the hullabaloo.

The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 – fresh colors, durable foam, great ride.

First Impressions of the New Balance Fresh Foam 980.

Right out of the box, it’s easy to see what all the fuss is about. The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 is lean, lightweight, and built to ride low to the ground… and ride fast. New Balance updated it with bold colors, and also completely revamped their “foam” lineup. The New Balance Minimus Lineup (reviewed here and here) features barefoot running at it’s most stripped down – in the New Balance Fresh Foam 980, New Balance focuses a bit less on barefoot and a bit more on natural. Essentially, barefoot/natural enthusiasts are the target market, but with the added benefit of a foam midsole and blown rubber outsole for a bit more cushion  and protection on city streets.

New Balance elected great color schemes for both the Mens and Womens versions of the New Balance Fresh Foam 980

Right out of the box, I could tell that the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 lived up to at least part of it’s hype. It’s very lightweight (reports have it coming in at 8.8 oz – the pair I tested in size 10.5 weighed in at 9.0 oz) and flexible. Even though the color choices are a bit bold (neon loudness all the way through), I like the placement and contrast of the color scheme. In my opinion, it has a sharp, fresh design. It’s obvious it was well thought out, and not just a hashed over version of last year’s shoe. From the first time I slipped on the New Balance Fresh Foam 980, I could feel the aforementioned plushness – you really can feel the foam. It felt cushy without bogging down, and the one piece upper felt comfortable. I really looked forward to getting them out on the road.

The outsole on the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 contributes to the extremely smooth ride.

Testing the New Balance Fresh Foam 980

Luckily, I was sent the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 in enough time to put quite a few miles on them. I put them through their paces in varying run workouts, and as of the date of this post, am still running in them. I was able to put interval training, pace runs, and long distance (so to speak – I’m in my running “off season” so my longs runs top out at 9 miles) runs on the New Balance Fresh Foam 980, and I like the feel of the shoe through all of them. My first impressions were correct in that the shoe feels lightweight and fast – just lacing them up I felt the need to try them in an interval workout prior to any other run. The balance of the shoe (largely the responsibility of the foam) is just slightly towards the forefoot, making every toe off feel springy.

Both men and women get the benefit of the “no-sew” upper on the New Balance Fresh Foam 980

I should, however, begin with the upper and work my way down. I haven’t tested a more comfortable shoe with a Spring of 2014 release date. The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 has a “no sew” upper, which essentially means it’s all one piece. This eliminates hot spots on your foot, and feels very comfortable even without socks (to be fair, I only took one run in them without socks, a 5k – no blisters). The webbing feels even and cool throughout the run, and partially helps to keep the weight down. It strikes a new balance (get it?) between lightweight and control – I felt firmly wrapped by the upper throughout, but not so that my feet couldn’t breathe. The midsole matches the upper seamlessly, and this where the true selling point of the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 lies. The foam is every bit as responsive as a shoe from New Balance should be, and doesn’t feel mushy in the slightest. My only worry is that foam based shoes tend to break down quickly – as of the date of this testing I sense no deterioration in the foam, but do believe they will only be 300-350 mile shoe. The outsole shape provides a great feel for the ground; with no plastic components, it only serves to enhance the smooth heel toe transition.

Final Thoughts on the Mens New Balance Fresh Foam 980

In conclusion, the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 is a great choice for runners looking for a neutral cushion shoe that runs like a dream without adding bulky weight. The three color choices are bold without being overly loud, and the seamless no-sew upper provides a comfortable feel with or without socks. At a pricepoint of $109.95, the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 is a great deal – this shoe will take you from training to race day in speed and style. Head on over to New Balance’s website to check them out for yourself, and see what people all over the world are saying about New Balances latest and greatest.

Thoughts on the Womens New Balance Fresh Foam 980

It has been years since I have run in a pair of NEW BALANCE® shoes.  Running since I was in high school, I got into a rut of wearing the same brand of shoes for years.  The Women’s NEW BALANCE® FRESH FOAM 980 was an incredible awakening to what new technology looks like in running shoes.  Not only are the NEW BALANCE® FRESH FOAM 980 aesthetically pleasing but the construction in these shoes is geared for maximum training and performance capabilities.

New Balance categorizes the Fresh Foam 980’s a performance neutral shoe, which is ideal for runners who love to train and/or race fast.  These lightweight, weighing 7.2 ounces, low to the ground shoes are ideal for picking up speed while feeling the contact of the ground that one could find in a minimal shoe.  Also, incorporated into this shoe is a breathable no-sew upper that will keep your feet secured and comfortable.

Never having run in minimal shoes, I really did not have anything in that category to compare these shoes too, however I found these shoes to be different and more comfortable than any other neutral shoe that I have run in.  The heal drop in these shoes is a mere 4mm, which really allows you to not only feel protection for the ground, but it also allows you to feel the nuances of trail and pavement without the injury.  After running in NEW BALANCE® FRESH FOAM 980 and a number of neutral shoes, these shoes seem to be constructed as a hybrid of a minimal and neutral shoe.  As a person who is constantly striving to increase speed and distance, I found these shoes to be great for training and would personally recommend them to people who are trying to venture away from their tried and true shoe to something new and different.

For more info on these and other New Balance footwear, visit

Zachary Rodasti: Zach's been testing gear with Active Gear Review since day one of the site, and just generally loves being outside doing any outdoor activity. He and his wife race year round, prefer long distance endurance events, and have raced marathons in multiple states nationwide. Recently, Zach added triathlons to his list of endeavors, and has competed in all distances up to a half iron. He has two young boys who are full of energy and get into all sorts of trouble on a regular basis - just like him.
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