Wednesday, December 13, 2017

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v8 Review, with Detailed Comparisons to Brooks Levitate and Saucony Triumph ISO 4

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v8 ($150)
Stats Weight: Men’s US 9 10.9 oz /309 g  Women’s US 8 9.3 oz
Stack Height: 27mm heel/19 mm forefoot, 8mm drop (Per Running Warehouse as NB doesn't provide full stack heights)
Available now.
INTRODUCTION
Dave: It’s taken me awhile to fully understand where New Balance is going with the Fresh Foam concept. To me, Fresh Foam is extremely stiff, allows minimal flexion at the midsole in their neutral trainers, and almost all models just plain feel, blah. While they definitely hit the nail on the head with the 2018 890v6 (RTR review) and the 1400v5, current favorite racer (RTR review) I was intrigued to try the 1080v8 and see how they define heavy cushioning. The previous version of 1080 (v7) was a brick.

Peter: I haven’t had the same experience with Fresh Foam. The Zante has been a pretty great shoe for me--especially early versions. I’ve found a pretty good balance of flex, cushion and spring. The 1080 is definitely more shoe than I’m used to running in, but I was eager to give it a try--perhaps as a long, easy run shoe.

Sam: The last Fresh Foam based shoe I ran in was the Boracay in 2015 and my experience then matches what Dave describes above. It was fine but did not float my boat as I found it fairly stiff. I felt that the Fresh Foam concept was overly data driven with its tuning of the midsole side wall cushion or support and outsole geometry through differing shape and size hexagons and was less about feel and ride. In particular I didn't care much for the continuous single sheet of outsole rubber without flex grooves. In cold in particular, Fresh Foam shoes seemed to stiffen and firmer up more than I liked, to brick like consistency. Well that was then and this is now so I sort of reluctantly decided to test the 1080v8, New Balance's premium neutral daily trainer. While I am a fan of lighter shoes (9-10 oz or so) for my daily training,  I wanted to closely compare it to others in its class I have run in recently such as the new Brooks Levitate, Saucony Triumph ISO 4, and Asics GEL-Nimbus 19. I was pleasantly surprised!


First Impressions, Fit, and Sizing 
Dave: In my opinion, when you slide into a running shoe, if it feels good upon initial step in, chances are it may work out pretty well for you. This isn’t the case for everything and I’ve been wrong before, but generally speaking, if it fits well, it will ride well. Unfortunately, the 1080v8 did not go well from the get go. I have an average to narrow foot and I really needed to crank down on the laces to get a secure fit. I also needed to use the last eyelet on the shoe, which almost always flares up the heel collar pressure causing me develop inflammation (Haglund’s Deformity like symptoms) (See pic) 

Peter: Dave, we’ve had such a different experience with this shoe. I found the step-in to be great. Materials are plush and sizing and fit felt great to me. I did have to stop on my first run to tighten them down, but once I got the shoe dialed in it felt great.

Sam: The look is sleek, classy, modern, and elegant.  I am with Peter on the fit. I am true to size in the 1080 and the fit is a fantastic easy to dial in combination of soft comfort, secure hold-but with a more relaxed fit than some, and plenty of toe room vertically and in width. So it has a perfect fit for a comfort oriented daily trainer.  It is hands down the best upper for me of any of the premium shoes mentioned above I have tested recently. New Balance is really crafting great uppers these days as the 890v6 upper is even better!

UPPER
Sam:
The upper is fairly standard modern fare, a simple pattern engineered mesh over an inner bootie. The front mesh is soft, pliable with plenty of breathability but has some structure and vertical volume to it.  The toe bumper is a soft rubber overlay. A wide variety of foot shapes should be happy in this toe box except maybe very narrow feet. Wide 2E models are available as well.

The mid foot is held by an external more substantial saddle connected at the midsole. All overlays on the saddle are on the outer surface with the exception of a single stitched overlay connecting it to the front toe box mesh piece.  The saddle reminds me a bit of a less extreme Saucony ISOFit, extreme in that ISOFit has deeply separated bands. The tongue is moderately padded with non slip mesh on top. Lace up and lace hold has been impeccable. 
The fit is on the more relaxed side but secure. It's super comfortable overall. I was sized up half a size but would easily go true to size.

Dave: I’ve really never had a problem with NB uppers of recent and this upper works just fine with my foot.

Peter: It’s a great upper. Breathable, nice materials and good looking.

MIDSOLE 
Sam: New Balance's Fresh Foam approach combines a single density slab of foam with data driven geometric patterning of the midsole walls.  Concave hexagons provide deflection (cushion effect) while convex hexagons provide support and firmness. Generally, concave hexagons are found on the lateral side for cushion/deflection and convex ones mostly on the medial side for some support. It does work, I think, when done right, and when also considering the importance of shoe flexibility and outsole firmness, more on that later.  
RIGHT: Fresh Foam 980 LEFT Fresh Foam Boracay
Over the years the patterning has evolved from fairly regular patterns of convex and concave hexagons as seen above in the original Fresh Foam Boracay and 980 (lateral side shown) to a more sophisticated and I think more effective approach below in the 1080v8. 
The lateral side hexagons (above) are far larger at the heel than the forefoot to provide initial deflection and cushion then become more vertical at mid foot for more structure and support. There is also some laser hole patterning which may or may not be functional.
On the medial side (above) we see a denser pattern of convex hexagons for more support. If I had any suggestions for New Balance it might be to relax the medial heel to mid foot hexagons somewhat as underfoot there when combined with the wide platform I would wish for a bit more dynamic less supportive transition and as discussed below also less outsole coverage at mid foot.
So what is effect of all this tech and data modeled shaping?  Well, back to the fundamentals, unlike many, but not all, midsoles these days the cushion is from a single slab of foam so the feel is consistent and seamless from heel to toe. It is a moderately firm, very well cushioned midsole sitting over a moderately firm outsole. This is in no way a harsh midsole on the run but I think it could benefit from slightly softer foam. It is well cushioned, decently responsive overall with some pop but it is certainly not the bounciest or most lively midsole out there say when compared to Brooks DNA AMP in the Levitate or adidas Boost. It's pretty basic EVA tuned up with geometry.  In terms of firmness and stiffness, it sits between the softer but more energetic new Brooks Levitate and the slightly firmer and stiffer Triumph ISO 4.

Dave: As stated before I just don’t understand Fresh Foam and its obsession. I’m saying this in the nicest way. To market it as being very “poppy” as they always have, this shoe honestly has no snap. It’s extremely heavy, and to me just feels dull. I had a difficult time enjoying this shoe and in the words of fellow Road Trail Run reviewer, Peter Stuart, “I was just waiting to turn around and change shoes!”

Peter: I don’t mind Fresh Foam. Is it the be-all-end-all of materials? Probably not. But it is a good, solid, “snappy” material. My experience of the 1080 V8 from the first run was that, while it was heavy, it snapped off the ground and I ran faster than I intended to.

OUTSOLE 
Sam: From what I can tell the most significant evolution in Fresh Foam shoes, beyond hexagon tuning is the outsole design. As far as comfort, transitions, and response earlier Fresh Foam trainers were crude at best for me.
From a a stiff, often harshly firm, especially in the cold, firm, single un interrupted slab outsole in the earlier Boracay (left below) to improvements in flexibility in the still fairly stiff 1080v6 (right below) the integration of outsole and midsole in the 1080v8 is improved.
The 1080v8 has well spaced larger more crosswise lugs leading to more flexibility with a fairly firm blown rubber in all areas except the heel where the harder rubber wraps around the lateral side to the first white flex groove ahead of the heel (left side below). On the medial side of the heel the harder rubber only extends though the first rear lug to the white space seen below right.

While I might lighten up the coverage and density over the mid foot somewhat to better transition the front of the shoe outsole midsole is vastly improved. As with many New Balance, the 1080v8 has a distinct snappy toe flex starting at the back white flex groove.

Its toe flex is further forward and it has more flex at the front of the shoe than the longer flexing Triumph ISO 4 and Levitate. The Levitate has a similar overall flex firms but its flex point is further back. The Triumph ISO 4 also has a long flex but is stiffer overall than the 1080 or Levitate.  If I was to suggest an improvement it would be to include one more shallower flex groove further back to improve slower pace transitions. Of course data driven insights are included in the outsole design but I am unable to pinpoint them beyond the crosswise lugs potentially helping forefoot flexibility and  think the dense pattern at mid foot likely contributes to stability there, maybe a bit to much for my taste. I also agree with Dave's comment below that wet traction was a bit lacking in my side by side tests on wet road line paint and I too would like to see this shoe get lighter and an obvious place to look would be in reducing the outsole coverage, especially at mid foot.

Dave: When you take a look at the outsole it almost looks like a light trail shoe. This clearly adds to the overall weight of this shoe.  I ran on some wet surfaces and it honestly slipped a tad. Durability seems to be decent however and if you’re looking for a workhorse, this may be it.

Peter: The outsole does indeed have a lot of rubber on it. It will last forever. There are two flex grooves across the forefoot that allow the shoe to bend up front. I would love to see this shoe get a little lighter.


RIDE
Dave: The 1080v8 just didn’t work for me. It’s not that it was that bad, it’s just not for me. Each and every run in the shoe lacked what I really look for in a super solid shoe and that’s decent cush, lightweight and boasts a ton of snap (Skechers Razor, Zoom Fly, Nike Zoom Elite 9, etc). The runs were just, meh. I found myself constantly trying to pay attention to the shoe, rather than my run. For me, that’s an issue.

Peter: The ride of the 1080 V8 was surprisingly fun for me. I find the shoe to flex and snap--especially at tempo--and really enjoy easy running as well as faster stuff in these. I wouldn’t race in them, but I will definitely keep them in the rotation. I do find that my feet get a bit tired by 8-10 miles in these. Perhaps it’s the weight, but it might also be the generally relaxed geometry and wide landing platform.

Sam: I am back in Fresh Foam with the 1080v8. Both slow and fast runs were enjoyable and snappy in this "big" shoe which runs lighter than its weight.  The under mid foot platform of wide midsole and full coverage does start to get in the way at slower paces but as the flex is decently snappy and forward I am able to keep moving smoothly. At faster paces the Fresh Foam geometric midsole patterning and the forward flex really kicks making me forget that this is a 10.9 oz shoe.  The ride is stable, well cushioned, and in no way sloppy soft anywhere. For comparison and see more detailed comparisons below, the ride feel sits between the softer but more rebounding and bouncier Levitate and the slightly firmer and stiffer Triumph ISO 4. For me the 1080v8 ride is the most balanced and responsive at faster paces with the Levitate easier to run at slower paces.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Dave: In all, New Balance needs to lighten these kicks up. The Fresh Foam midsole is extremely stiff and could use some more flex in the midsole. Fresh Foam is just plain heavy. This would allow a smoother heel to toe transition, which for me, it didn’t have any. If it’s a durometer issue, it could come down a few notches to make a more pleasant ride. There’s also too much tongue, something you have seen for years with NB. There’s no doubt in my mind this shoe is a high mileage trainer however. For me, I’d pull it in a run shop for the beginning runner or the runner who truly wants that heavier shoe for slower paced runs. It’s your easy recovery day shoe and or your long run shoe...if you enjoy a tank.

Peter: Yes, they need to get lighter. Agreed. As for stiffness, I found that about 2 miles in my pair really loosened up and I don’t find them to be particularly stiff. They are a heavier, more substantial shoe than I generally like to run in, but I like to run in them anyway. There’s a rhythm I seem to get into with the 1080 V8 where I run faster than I feel like I’m running--and feel like I can run long in them too. If you don’t mind a heavier shoe, or if you are a bit heavier yourself, these are a great option.

Sam: We all agree lighter please and I agree with Dave on a touch softer foam. Otherwise this is a very solid daily trainer with an upper that balances comfort and support without compromises. Given its open soft toe area it could be a great choice for those who need width or have foot issues precluding overlays and pressures there, and it is available in wide sizes as well. The forward, snappy outsole flex point allows me to run them at faster paces without struggling as I sometimes do in such heavier, stiffer daily trainers. At slower paces I wish for a slightly longer softer flex as in the Levitate and less outsole coverage at mid foot to ease those slower pace transitions and which could also reduce weight.

Overall the 1080v8 is a great choice for high mileage, heavier runners, and those seeking a balance, top to bottom of comfort, cushion and support without the sense of pushing a soft awkward couch or brick down the road.

Peter's Score 8.5/10
Solid daily trainer
 -.5 could be lighter
  -1 forefoot fatigue creeps in after 8 or so miles/stiffness 

Dave's Score 7/ 10
Overly stiff
Too much outsole
Minimal flex in the midsole
Lack of smooth heel to toe transition

Sam's Score 9.70/10
Not what I prefer for daily training but a strong option in cushioned premium trainers
-0.15  Get the 1080 weight down to 10.3-10.5 oz and it would be a home run
-0.15 The distinct forward flex point which is missing from many of its competitors is a positive but 1080 needs yet more flexibility further back by making the rest of the flex longer to help ease transitions at slower paces.
* A note on scores. Each reviewer scores as they wish. Sam's score reflects his preferences and also his view of the suitability of the shoe for its intended purpose and audience.

COMPARISONS
For full reviews of all the shoes in the comparison see our index page here

New Balance 1080v8 vs. Hoka Clifton 4: 
Dave: If we’re talking heavy cush, these two need to be compared. However, if you want a more powerful shoe, Hoka wins out here. It’s also far less weight on your foot. Durability wise, the 1080 would win.
Sam: the Clifton 4 is a somewhat softer less stable shoe. I agree it is more powerful for sure and is more than an ounce lighter but "riskier" for those who are heavy heel strikers or who need a touch of stability from a firmer platform and more outsole continuous rubber.

New Balance 1080v8 vs. Asics Gel Nimbus 19: 
Dave:  The win goes to the Nimbus on this one as Asics is continuously trying to lighten up their shoes. Gel vs. Fresh Foam...I’ll take the Gel.
Sam: While the Nimbus also has a distinct forward flex point I like, the package of midsole and gel is not as seamless on the run although it does attenuate shock a touch better in the Nimbus. The Nimbus upper is fine if you want lots of support but for me is overbuilt and somewhat constraining and doesn't hold a candle to the 1080's.

New Balance 1080v8 vs. Nike Pegasus 34:
Dave: Both in that higher mileage neutral category, these would be similar “pulls” in a run specialty shop. If the runner is looking for a tad more shoe, then the 1080 is probably what they may prefer. However, if it comes down to overall fit and weight, I would suggest the Pegasus 34. Can’t wait to get my hands on the 35!
Peter: These are actually pretty similar for me. If only the 1080 got down to the weight of the Pegasus it would be a no-brainer. As it is, the 1080 feels a little less stiff than the Pegasus. The 1080 is a wider shoe and less-restrictive of the foot. If you have a wider foot, this may be the shoe for you.
Sam: I agree with most of what Peter says above except I find the Pegasus lumpy and uneven under foot while at same time the Peg is more responsive. I would select the Peg for faster miles and the 1080 for general versatility.

New Balance 1080v8 vs. Skechers Ultra Road 2 
The Skechers is a much, much lighter cushioned shoe. I’d say that the 1080 retains a bit more road feel and feels like a more standard running shoe. 
Sam: Totally agree

Comparisons of the NB 1080v8 to 
Brooks Levitate (RTR review) and Triumph ISO 4 (RTR review)
Sam: These three are very close in purpose, price, and specs. Even color in my test samples!
TOP TO BOTTOM: New Balance 1080v8, Brooks Levitate, Saucony Triumph ISO 4
All three have plush supportive state of the art uppers. Hands down for me the 1080 has the most refined and relaxed upper of the three with no loose or tight ends. The Triumph ISO 4 upper is the most adaptable to different foot shapes due to ISOFit but is held back by an awkward and somewhat snug last ISOFit band and lace ending up front over the metatarsals.  The Levitate has a secure, very comfortable fit with the best mid foot to heel fit of the three but has a pointier toe area with stiffer engineered knit over the toes which some may find snug in width and height. I was sized up half a size in the Triumph and 1080 and would stay there with the Triumph, despite it being a bit long but go true to size with the 1080 and Levitate.

RIGHT TO LEFT: New Balance 1080v8, Brooks Levitate, Saucony Triumph ISO 4

RIGHT TO LEFT: New Balance 1080v8, Brooks Levitate, Saucony Triumph ISO 4
All three have substantial molded heel counters. I slightly preferred the higher narrower hold of the Levitate. While the Triumph had the highest heel collar, its softer lower achilles collar did not quite give me the fit there of the other two. The 1080 but to a lesser extent and Triumph have puffy big tongues. While very comfortable, I prefer the lower profile easier to manage and perfectly adequate Levitate's.

Midsole, Outsole, and Ride
The Levitate PU midsole is outstanding in its unique piston like energy return and is the softest riding of the three. The Triumph ISO 4, despite its TPU Everun midsole, had the firmest and stiffest overall ride but one that as the pace picks up has a snappy energy return at the heel but less so in the forefoot due to its stiffness. The 1080 sits in between Levitate and Triumph in terms of firmness and response leaning towards moderate to faster paces. The Levitate's longer soft flex and midsole gets a slight nod in terms of versatility at slower to moderate paces while the 1080 gets the nod for faster paces.  The Triumph would get the nod if you prefer a performance fit and performance stiffer flexing ride with a firmer yet noticeable energy return.
Bottom line: Levitate, 1080v8, and Triumph ISO 4
I do most of my training miles in lighter shoes than these three. If I had to chose a shoe for my easier miles I would chose the unique and energetic ride of the Levitate. If I wanted a performance fit and a firmer energetic ride in a stiffer shoe the Triumph ISO 4 is the choice. If I was a faster paced runner who trains mostly in heavier more cushioned shoes and put a premium on upper comfort I would chose the 1080v8.

For Sam's bio see our Reviewers Bio Page here
The 1080  was provided at no cost.The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Visit our 2018 Previews Page here for more details on 2018 run shoe, apparel, and gear, 13 brands so far.

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