Looking for a shoe with lots of cushioning and support, but still has enough flexibility and a firm enough ride so you feel fast? New Balance’s Fresh Foam 1080 might be worth a look.
Triathletes have, for the most part, embraced the “lightweight” trainer component of the running market. It makes sense – many triathletes will run about three times a week, mixing quicker runs with longer distance efforts, hill repeats and intervals into their weekly schedules. And, while the speedsters who compete in ITU races might be running track-like times that require a racing flat, most multisport athletes don’t run fast enough to warrant anything that light, but still want to run in a shoe that allows them to get up on their toes and go fast during a race or quick training session.
The shoe industry has provided more than a few great shoes that fit this all-around approach – we feature a number of them in our upcoming Buyer’s Guide in the March issue of Triathlon Magazine Canada.
One of the shoes in the guide just got released officially on Monday – the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080. We were lucky enough to get a pair of these new shoes earlier this year to review. While it’s not what you’d consider a classic lightweight trainer, the Fresh Foam 1080 provides a really firm, cushioned ride with lots of flexibility so you still get the best of both worlds – a shoe that will serve you well for longer efforts, but won’t hold you back when it’s time to get up on your toes to try and run a bit faster.
At 293 g (10.4 ounces) the Fresh Foam 1080 isn’t the lightest trainer you’ll see on the wall at your local running store, but when you’re wearing the shoe it feels a lot lighter. That’s probably because of the flexibility that comes from the specially designed grooves on the outsole and also the comfortable, secure fit. While there’s a lot of cushioning built into the shoe thanks to the generous Fresh Foam midsole and thick, padded insole, there is a distinctly firm feel to this shoe. This isn’t one of those super-cushioned shoes that feels like you’re running on a couple of pillows – you can tell that your foot is being supported and that the shoe is absorbing the shock on each foot strike, but you feel very much in control and have a good feel for the road below you. (I’d be interested to see how these shoes are for running on trails, but with a foot of snow outside right now, that will have to wait for a bit.) Like many cushioned shoes, there wasn’t nearly as much of a “plush” ride as the thermometer dipped way below zero.
The synthetic mesh upper is very comfortable and flexible, enhancing that “quicker” feel, while the 8 mm drop seems to work well for a variety of paces, whether you are landing on your heels during an easy run, or trying to pick up the tempo and move to your midfoot during a fartlek session.
Heavier runners will definitely like this latest version of the 1080, as will lighter triathletes who want support and cushioning in a shoe that will also work for tempo efforts. While you’re not going to want to use the Fresh Foam 1080s for a super-fast race or workout, it will serve you well for a variety of daily runs at different paces and would be worth thinking about for a hilly half- or full-marathon, especially if you’re coming off a bike beforehand.