Sunday, August 14, 2016

New Balance 2017 Previews: 1080v7, Zante v3, Hierro v2

Article by Sam Winebaum, Editor Road Trail Run

New Balance focused our attention on upgrades on three popular shoes in the Fresh Foam line: Fresh Foam 1080v7, Fresh Foam Zante v3, and Fresh Foam Hierro v2.
All three feature the characteristic single density Fresh Foam midsole where deflection or support is tuned via hexagons in the outer wall of the midsole.
As we head into the third or is it already 4th season of Fresh Foam based shoes, New Balance emphasized that they have been gathering a tremendous amount of force data via sensors in runners' shoes and this data has informed their improvements. New Balance's motto is "Always in Beta".  It's all very incremental and deliberate so we can't say the shoes are radically different in appearance or construction so how they perform will have to await our testing down the road. We can say every generation of Fresh Foam has gotten better across all models for us.

Fresh Foam 1080v7 ($150)
The Fresh Foam 1080v6 was one of our favorite (article here) heavy duty premium trainers of 2015 but we found it a bit stiff and the upper up front a bit to unstructured. At 10.8 oz/307 grams it gains 0.6 oz over v6. Available January 2017.

The forefoot upper agains some denser engineered mesh on the sides which should give some structure to the front of the shoe and hopefully solving that issue for us.
The bulk of the outsole remains blown rubber with two major flex grooves but overall the pods appear narrower and more rectangular and the mid foot flex area longer with more grooves and pods and deeper too. This should help improve flexibility up front. 

The medial side convex sidewall hexagons are smaller in the rear but appear more prominent. This should translate into more stability at the heel and is a result of New Balance's pressure mapping data.
 On the lateral side while in v6 the hexagons were distinctly convex for give and deflection. In v7 they are more convex denser and shallower, again this should contribute to increased stability and a smoother transition but we hope not also contributing to stiffness up front.
The "N" saddle is simplified. Gone is the heavy not particularly attractive almost solid overlay area reaching from the lacing to the midsole along the entire length of the lacing area replaced by a more subtle mid foot overlay area. So between the denser more supportive mesh up front is what now appears to be more than adequate mid foot upper support, backed up by the change in midsole sidewall geometry, the overall fit should be more consistent from heel to toe with less of the somewhat disconcerting contrast between very well held mid foot and looser forefoot I found in v1.
The heel counter used to have a TPU overlay strap around it. In v7 it is removed and the softer part of the achilles tab longer in length as a result. We like the subtle reflective element. Overall the heel collar appears more plushly cushioned, New Balance calling it a rollover collar design.
Fresh Foam Zante v3 ($100)
The popular light trainer racer gains a minuscule 0.1 oz to 8.7 oz/247 grams. Peter Stuart reviewed v2 for Road Trail Run and loved the improvements from v1 to v2. We were told the key changes in v3 were adjustments to the lateral hexagons with more of them and all now convex so as to help provide a quicker transition to toe off and likely more stability as well.  The upper goes to a one piece engineered mesh upfront which seemed denser maybe a bit more supportive than v2's upfront

Runner data informed slightly larger outsole hexagons under the 1st metatarsal head.

Fresh Foam Hierro v2 ($115)

Losing 0.6 oz from v1 the Fresh Foam trail runner now comes in at a very respectable 10.8 oz/307 grams and this with its burly and effective Vibram Mega-Grip outsole and 3mm more midsole cushioning making it "the most substantial and plush trail model in the New Balance line."
The lugs are now more spaced out and there is no rock plate. This should improve flexibility. 
The upper is now 3D resin printed and has a mid foot Meta-Lock wrap for improved underfoot stability. The toe area is enhanced with an internal bumper.
As with the other shoes in this preview the midsole sidewall hexagons and layout were tuned based on runner data, in this case trail runners' data.

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