Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Review

What They Say:

Experience the science of soft — off road. With the same impossibly plush and natural underfoot feel as the road version, the Fresh Foam 980 Trail delivers a smooth yet stable ride.

Born of science, the Fresh Foam 980 Trail is unlike anything you’ve ever stepped into. Developed using specialized design software, this men’s trail running shoe features a full-ground-contact outsole that grips uphill and downhill for great traction. And while you’re on the move, the gusseted tongue helps keep trail debris from getting into your shoes. For a secure fit, the breathable mesh upper features simple no-sew overlays that wrap your foot in all the right places. The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail: incredibly soft yet stable…even on tough terrain.

Awarded "Best Ride" in Competitor Magazine's "Fall 2014 Trail Running Shoe Buyer's Guide" (October 2014)
4 mm drop: due to variances created during the development and manufacturing processes, all references to 4 mm drop are approximate
Aggressive lugged outsole gives maximum traction for off-road activities
No-sew material application
Synthetic/mesh upper

What I Say:

Sometimes it takes me a while to get to a review because there is so much to be said. But the flip side of that feeling is the reality that a shoe's qualities are really quite simple: does it allow you to forget it is there on the run? Obviously there are a myriad of design features and personal preferences that enter that equation, but that conclusion says it all.

The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail meets that standard.

I am not a frequent trail runner. I tend to find myself on trails primarily around several low cost or Fat Ass races held locally. In August I participated in a 50K trail run which consisted of 4 long loops. I wore the Fresh Foam 980 Trail shoes for the first two laps of that race and was quite pleased.

The Fresh Foam 980 Trail slide on and immediately felt good on my feet. My inaugural steps around the living room gave me some pause as they had a bit of give to them and I worried itf this would equate to too much "squishy" on the run. Fortunately this was not an issue once out on the trails.

The day of my race was a misty wet one. No soaking rain while I wore the shoes but enough moisture to keep the trails wet. The Fresh Foam 980 Trail provided protection against the wet but eventually between the wet trail. They also provided a nice, ongoing cushion against the rooty, rocky terrain. This run is not too technical but I did feel some confidence with the grip of the shoe on the trail.

My experience with trail shoes is not extensive but long enough to appreciate certain variables I prefer. I want a trail shoe to provide a firm, but flexible fit, breathability and a lighter frame including a platform that provides grip, but is not overly loaded with sole/lugs.  The Fresh Foam 980 Trail provides all of these features and are a well designed, comfortable, functional solution. The only slight reservation I have with the shoe is the level of protection, the "squishiness." I found the shoe extremely comfortable over all trail conditions, except the few portion of the course where we crossed paved roads. I then felt the give in the shoe was a bit of a distraction.  But considering the overall quality and benefits of the the shoe I would still recommend it without reservation. Highly recommended!

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