Thomas: The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 is New Balance’s entry into the max cushion category. I never thought this would be a category that I would be interested in. After running in a few models I admit that I like running some of my longer slower runs in plush cushioned shoes, think touring sedan vs sports car. At the bottom of this post I give a comparison of some of the max cushion shoes I have run in.
The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 fits and feels like a more traditional running trainer. The seamless upper kinda baffles me. The welded on overlays provide a custom fit to the upper with no stitching. No stitching means no rubbing and a sock like feel. The flat bottom provides traction and stability. I was surprised how well they handled road, dirt, and ice. The firmness of the the midsole allows the shoe to feel faster than most max cushion shoes.
Either my foot is growing again or the 980s run a little short. I recommend trying on a half size larger than you normally go in for when purchasing running shoes. Compared to the other max cushion shoes the 980s felt the most like a traditional trainer. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however from the marketing I was expecting a super cush ride. The cushioning was most noticeable when running over broken asphalt or stones. If you thought the tongue was puffy in the 890 v4, you will find another puffy tongue in the Fresh Foam 980.
After two back to back 12 mile runs and a 22 mile long slow distance run my feet felt good. The fit and comfort of the shoe’s upper, other than needing a 1/2 size up, was the best fit of the Max shoes and the most similar to a traditional trainer. Between the New Balance 890 v4 and the Fresh Foam 980 I prefer the 890. The issue I have with the Fresh Foam 980 is that it doesn’t separate itself from the traditional trainers enough. I wanted a softer feel to the cushioning. The level of cushioning preference is so subjective I recommend you try them on yourself. You may find the firmness makes the shoe faster than the competitors offerings while still giving you lots of underfoot protection. As a side note, New Balance does offer this shoe in various widths.