NEW BALANCE – THE FRESH FOAM MIDSOLE REVOLUTION
by BRIAN METZLER | SEPTEMBER 2019
THE NEW BALANCE FRESH FOAM MIDSOLE
If you have run in a few pairs of running shoes over the last few years, you’ll know that not all midsole foams are made the same. But that’s not how it used to be. From the mid-1970s (when running shoes were first built with layers of cushioning between the outsole and the footbed) until about 2010, most running shoes featured a standard form of ethylene vinyl acetate, aka, EVA, which offered a moderate level of softness but not much resiliency, no matter what size the runner was or how their feet landed on the ground. Yes, some shoes used air and gel packets and others had polyurethane inserts, but the main cushioning compound was typically EVA foam.
But then a midsole revolution started in 2010-2014 with several new types of foam—including Fresh Foam from New Balance, Boost from Adidas and RMAT from Hoka, among others—that offered both plush cushioning and energetic rebound.
What set the New Balance Fresh Foam midsole apart from the start is that it’s a modern version of EVA, a uniquely formulated compound that is injection molded in a heat press. This can be morphed to create single-layer midsole platforms that are either more or less supportive. The Fresh Foam is lighter, livelier and can flex more dynamically than traditional EVA, so it can match or counteract the natural flex patterns of a runner’s feet.
New Balanced used data recorded from thousands of runners, and their engineers and designers created concave and convex sidewall patterns and implemented laser engraving to alter levels of compression and resistance under impact as needed for either neutral or stability shoes.
THE NEW BALANCE FRESH FOAM COLLECTION
There are a whole range of running shoe styles from New Balance featuring the Fresh Foam midsole. From the neutral style the classic 1080, the stability Vongo, the bestselling Beacon, the newly released More, and the lightest of the Fresh Foam collection, the Zante Pursuit.
Read on to learn which style in the New Balance Fresh Foam Collection is right for you.
NEW BALANCE FRESH FOAM 1080 v9
Weights: 10.0 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 8.4 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm (30mm heel, 22mm forefoot)
The Buzz: The luxuriously appointed, neutral-oriented New Balance 1080 trainer is built for high-mileage training. This year’s edition has a new upper and a completely renovated midsole design. The double jacquard mesh upper is softer than the previous edition and has fewer overlays, but it secures the foot better than previous editions.
The midsole of the New Balance 1080 features thicker and much softer foam, giving it a smoother, more flowy ride than previous versions. The full-length blown rubber outsole offers reliable traction, but it’s been improved this year with new flex grooves give it more agility and handling. The heel collar of the latest edition of the 1080 has also been enhanced to keep feet in place, while a new Ortholite insole further ups the comfort factor.
The bottom line is the New Balance 1080 fits better, feels better and runs better.
NEW BALANCE FRESH FOAM VONGO v4
Weights: 10.3 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 8.4 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm (29mm heel, 25mm forefoot)
The Buzz: It might seem contrary that New Balance would create a stability shoe with its Fresh Foam technology, but it makes perfect sense due how the variability of the single-layer midsole compound can be created to have either soft and rigid characteristics in different places.
The New Balance Vongo doesn’t have a traditional medial post, but it uses strategic geometries (a Varus wedge midsole that slopes from the medial to the lateral side and a two-piece rubber outsole with a softer lateral side) to slow pronation and force momentum to the lateral side of the shoe.
Although the support is significant, the smooth ride, sleek design and easy-flexing demeanor of the Vongo v4, it feels more like a neutral shoe. The new, stretchy upper and knit collar provides a comfortable, secure fit and adds a new modern style to the Vongo.
NEW BALANCE FRESH FOAM MORE
Weights: 10.2 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 8.3 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm (34mm heel, 30mm forefoot)
The Buzz: The New Balance Fresh Foam More is first true maximally cushioned shoe from New Balance, and wow, what exquisite cushioning it is! Only a few road running shoes have ever had this much plush cushioning under foot. (The Hoka Bondi and Altra Duo are a few comparably cushioned shoes.) But unlike some high off-the-ground maximally cushioned shoes, the Fresh Foam More serves up a secure and stable ride without any side-to-side wobbling.
The foam on the New Balance More is soft but not marshmallowy soft. Although the Fresh Foam More is a neutral shoe, the midsole foam has been engineered to be slightly firmer on the medial side and slightly more pliable on the lateral side to over a bit of stability for runners who mildly overpronate.
NEW BALANCE FRESH FOAM BEACON v2
Weights: 7.4 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 6.6 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 6mm (29mm heel, 23mm forefoot)
The Buzz: The New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon made a huge splash when the original version was released in 2018, both because it was a lightweight, softly cushioned and very comfortable shoe able to run at all speeds, but also because it had aesthetic appeal with an athleisure/lifestyle vibe to it. Same goes for the equally fresh and light second edition, which is built on the same outsole/midsole construction.
What makes the New Balance Beacon unique is that it’s built on a single piece of Fresh Foam without anything to inhibit the natural flex pattern of the runner’s foot. To keep the weight to a minimum, the outsole is mostly exposed foam with small, strategically placed rubber pods for a touch of durability.
The new engineered knit upper on the Beacon v2 enhances the fit, softness and breathability in the forefoot, while a redesigned heel section helps keep the foot in place without slipping.
NEW BALANCE FRESH FOAM ZANTE PURSUIT
Weights: 7.4 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 6.1 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 6mm (24mm heel, 18mm forefoot)
The Buzz: The lightest and fastest of the Fresh Foam collection, the New Balance Zante Pursuit is a lightweight, performance-oriented speedster that can be used for up-tempo workouts or races from 5K to the marathon.
New Balance used data-driven design based on the gait patterns of fast runners to create a shoe with a sleek geometry, athletic fit and peppy demeanor. The soft, engineered mesh upper snugly wraps the top of the foot, providing a secure fit while allow the foot to move and flex uninhibitedly at high speeds.
Yes, you can run slower in the Zante Pursuit, but the moment you slip it on you’ll find this style inspires speed!