Saturday, February 25, 2017

New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2 - Stable, Well Cushioned Daily Trail Trainer

by Jeff Valliere
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2
10.6 oz. US men's size 9/8.5 oz. women's size 8
26 mm heel/22 mm forefoot
$124.99 - Available now

The New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2 has shed .6 ounces, while adding 3 more mm of cushioning over the v1, making it New Balance's most substantial trail running shoe.  The Hierro v2 feels light, reasonably responsive and is extremely well cushioned without feeling soft or sluggish.


The Fantom Fit upper of the Hierro v2 is now a 3D printed resin, with an internal toe bumper and mid foot Meta Lock wrap to improve underfoot stability.  The mesh is well ventilated and the 3D printed resin does a surprisingly good job providing structure and stability despite the lack of more traditional overlays.  The internal "Toe Protect" bumper is somewhat flexible and provides a little bit of protection against minor stubs.
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2
Fit is true to size, the heel and midfoot have a precise and locked in feel, but the forefoot has enough width to accommodate a wide range of feet and satisfy those with need for splay and room for swelling.  At first I suspected that the wider toe box would compromise control in technical situations, but was pleasantly surprised to find that my foot stayed quite locked down regardless of terrain, gradient or speed.
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2
The gusseted tongue is of medium thickness, comfortable and helps provide a bootie like fit and feel.  I have come to appreciate a gusseted tongue, not so much for keeping out debris (has never been a problem for me at least as it relates to the tongue), but mostly for fit/feel and keeping the tongue in place.  The woven laces are a perfect thickness with just a bit of stretch to them for achieving a perfect snugness on the first try.
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2
The heel collar is on the lower side and well padded, with enough form and structure for great foot hold, comfort and protection.
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2
The Fresh Foam midsole is the highlight of this shoe for me.  It provides ample, plush, responsive cushioning for long runs on rugged terrain, without feeling the least bit sluggish, heavy, over built or squishy.  There is no rock plate, but with the 26/22 mm thickness, coupled with the rugged Vibram outsole, I am unable to tell that there is not a rock plate.  The omission of the rock plate is to provide greater flexibility, which I find to work very well, as the Hierro 2 strikes a great balance between flexibility, ground feel, support and protection.

My only reservation with the Fresh Foam is that it feels as though it is compressing a bit prematurely. This degradation is ever so slight, but it is noticeable and I wonder if it will last the 300 miles of use that many expect to get out of a shoe.

The strategically positioned hexagons are tuned and laid out in a manner based on trail runner data for optimum cushion and support.
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2
The Vibram Megagrip outsole is impressive, providing excellent grip on a wide variety of surfaces. With moderate depth, well spaced out lugs, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Hierro 2 gripped on steeper, loose conditions, off trail and on snow.  Grip on dry rock is very good, but wet traction/wet rock traction is average to slightly above average.  The lug pattern/spacing sheds mud well.

Durability is impressive, as I have only a slight bit of wear where I toe off and also at the very back of the heel.  This is after 50 or so rough miles on mostly rocky terrain, so I expect to maintain a very gradual rate of wear over the lifetime of the shoe.
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2
The Hierro v2 is versatile and a pleasure to run in, be it a couple of miles, or an all day ultra run.  My size 10 weighs in at 11.5 oz., yet feels lighter than that.  Given all of the plush cushion, ample protection, security, rugged Vibram outsole and durability, the weight is very reasonable.

Aside from performing flawlessly on my daily 60-90 minute runs on steep, rocky technical terrain, my longest run in the Hierro v2 was 4.5 hours, where I encountered dirt road, smooth singletrack/doubletrack, rocky technical singletrack, 2+ miles of pavement and steep snow.  The Hierro v2 was the perfect choice for this run and it never felt out of it's element.  Those 2+ road miles confirmed the versatility of this shoe, that it would make a great door to trail shoe and still be able to handle just about any trail.

I found that it performed optimally at moderate to slower paces, but can certainly handle upping the pace on both road, trail and even on steeper, technical terrain.  The wider platform is quite stable, ground feel is excellent without feeling thin and the upper accommodates a wide range of feet while providing very secure foothold and support.

I would recommend the Hierro v2 for all day training runs in a wide variety of conditions/terrain, ultra races, or for those looking for one shoe to do it all.

New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v2

NB Hierro v2 vs. Brooks Caldera (my RTR review here):  The Caldera is nearly 2 ounces lighter, is a little more responsive, but cushioning is very similar, as is fit.  The Hierro v2 has better traction overall, with a more durable outsole.

NB Hierro v2 vs. Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 (my RTR review here):  The Challenger ATR 3 is more than 2 ounces lighter and is much more of a race ready shoe, but both are great for long distance runs with ample cushion and protection.  Again, the Hierro v2 has a beefier, more durable and versatile outsole.

NB Hierro v2 vs. Saucony Xodus ISO (my RTR review here):  These two are about equal in weight, but the Xodus has 3 more millimeters of cushion.  The Xodus also has deeper lugs, better for snow and mud, but overall traction is similar.  The Hierro v2 can better handle speed as it is more responsive, is more stable in technical terrain with a more secure upper and stable platform.  The Hierro v2 is also a better door to trail shoe.

NB Hierro v2 vs. La Sportiva Akasha (my RTR review here):  The Akasha is 3/4 of an ounce heavier, but somehow seems to run lighter than the Hierro v2.  Cushion is similar, but the Akasha is a touch more firm, responsive and performance oriented.  The Akasha has better traction overall, particularly in wet conditions and is a bit more agile and nimble, particularly evident when running fast in technical terrain.

NB Hierro v2 vs. Topo Athletic Terraventure (my RTR review here):  Very close in weight, traction, versatility and trail feel.  Both have a more generous forefoot fit to accommodate a wider variety of foot shapes and appeal to those looking for a bit more room for splay/swell, while still retaining a stable feeling upper.

NB Hierro v2 vs. NB Leadville 1210 v3 (my RTR review soon to come):  Both shoes feel very similar to me in terms of weight, response, cushion, protection, traction and secure upper with some wiggle room.  I think the Leadville feels slighly more nimble and performance oriented and would pick it over the Hierro v2 if racing or if spending time on rocky terrain.  I also find the Revlite midsole of the Leadville v3 to maintain it's properties longer than the Fresh Foam used in the Hierro v2.

Jeff's Score:  9.6/10
- 0.2 for wet traction
- 0.2 for possible Fresh Foam degradation

Jeff Valliere's Run Bio
Jeff is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 3d Masters this year. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.  He often runs and climbs at night. Passionate about the sport but also the gear he has reviewed hundred of shoes for various magazines and sites and participated in product testing for many brands.  Formerly a bike mechanic he now works in Satellite Imagery. He has twin 6 year old daughters who keep him ever busier yet.

The Hierro v2 was provided at no charge. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

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Jeff Valliere said...


Dan said...

Any comparison to the Gobi? I love my Vazee Summits and looking to try another NB trail shoe though I'm excited for v2 to come out.

Jeff Valliere said...

Hi Dan, unfortunately, I can't compare with the Gobi. Reviews I have read of the Gobi indicate it is a bit thin underfoot if being used in rocky terrain, but I can attest that the Hierro v2 has very good protection. Beyond that, I don't really know.

Looking forward to testing the Vazee Summit v2 here as well!

sam winebaum said...

Hi Dan, Sam Road Trail Run Editor chiming in. I have run and reviewed the Gobi but not the Hierro. The Gobi is the only Fresh Foam shoe I have really enjoyed. It is a door to trail shoe hybrid but not as heavy rocky trails option as Jeff said. The upper is superbly supportive for trails but underfoot it is a bit thin and the lugs are best for mellow terrain. My review here
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