Thursday, June 14, 2018

New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon Review: Truly Fresh, the "Kinzante" is a Joy to Run!

Article by Sam Winebaum, Dave Ames, David Henry, and Peter Stuart

New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon
Introduction
Peter: I did not see this coming! I’ve been digging the NB 1400 V6 for fast stuff and rediscovering my love for the 890 series with the v6, but I had no idea that the NB Fresh Foam Beacon was coming down the pike. Maybe it’s due to my lack of expectations, but the Beacon has been a really surprising and delightful arrival. What a fun shoe!
Sam:  I totally agree with Peter. Beacon is a huge smiles shoe for me: very well cushioned, super light, flexible, stable, and best of all with a smooth ride with just enough response.


I first saw the Beacon at New Balance Boston Marathon booth and right away the lightweight-way down below 7.5 oz, the simple sleek upper, flexibility and forefoot cushioning caught my eye. I was very curious to see how a Fresh Foam shoe would run without the always, at least for me, stiff, awkward and over covered outsoles which led to harsh rides, and especially so in cold weather, when all that rubber hardened. Here there is no outsole at all beyond a few strategic patches. Beacon is in the recent trend towards simplified construction with seamless one piece upper with minimal overlays, a single density midsole with “sculpting” of the sidewalls and underside and minimal or no outsole. We suspect such construction reduces waste and manufacturing costs.
Dave:  Sam and I saw the Beacon at the New Balance booth at Boston.  At the time, it looked intriguing, but as with an expo like that, and being the geeks that we are, it kind of got mixed up in all the rest of the shoes we looked at that weekend.  I actually had forgotten about it! Well, next thing it’s on my doorstep. Wowza! This shoe was much needed in my opinion by NB. Fresh Foam just doesn't work for me.  It’s dull, overly stiff and packed a zero “fun” ride. Yes, even the Zante 1 didn’t do it for me! Well, let’s just put it out there that this new midsole compound, Fresh Foam GC (Ground Contact) is sweet! If this is the direction NB is leaning towards for the future, sign me up!


Stats
Weight: Sample US M9 7.1oz./200 g; Official US W8.5 6.2 oz /177 g
Sample US M 8.5 6.91 oz/196g
Stack Height: 20mm forefoot/26mm heel, 6mm drop (Approximate)
Available men's sizes 7-16, widths D, 2E; women's sizes 5-12, widths B, D.
$120. Available now at Road Runner Sports here


First Impressions and Fit
Peter: Simple as can be. I put the FF Beacon on and ran. Some shoes take a bit of fiddling to lock the foot down, some don’t. This one don’t! Fit is true to size and foot is held well.
Sam: Beacon is true to size in all respects, length and width. It has a relatively wide easy fitting forefoot with no overlays and no pressure points anywhere. I will describe the upper as providing a fit as “snug a bug in a rug”. Somewhat relaxed in fit, soft and secure all over its fit is a touch closer to trainer than racer. This is an incredibly comfortable and easy to lace and go upper.


Simple, spare in design Beacon has some subtle visual and functional design intrigue from the side wall concave and convex hexagons and the circular knit patterning which varies density of its thicker fibers according to support support and breathability requirements in different areas of the upper. The Beacon calls out the New Balance "N" prominently in a reflective overlay that is also functional for support.


Dave:  My size 9 is spot on.  Having such a narrow foot and thin ankles, lacing gets a tad tricky for me here, but via lock lacing, I haven’t had any issues.  I’m locked and loaded in the Beacon and ready to run! The toe box allows for a hint of splay- helping you wider footed runners out if you want to try the Beacon. It is also available in wide versions.

David H: Fit is very simple and basic and honestly just how I like it.  Too many shoes try too many things with fit and end up having issues. It’s on the VL-6 last (zante, 1500, Vazee pace, new 890 etc) so most will feel comfortable with it and the material is soft and decently breathable.  No bells or whistles but it works.


Upper


Peter: The upper is made of a soft and supportive circular knit mesh. It’s hard to say whether it’s mesh or knit, but it’s soft and holds my foot well so I guess it doesn’t matter. The heel collar is soft and nicely padded. The upper is so simple it’s hard to say much about it. That’s partly because everything works just as it should--the tongue is a great length and amount of cushion, the laces all work with my foot well held. I haven’t run in super-hot conditions, but the weave is pretty tight, so it will be interesting to see if they warm up too much. So far no problem.

David H: The upper material is a pretty simple, circular knit mesh with low stretch.  Perfect combo for a shoe of this weight and usage. Other than the midfoot bootie that also keeps the tongue in place, what you see on the outside is what you get.


Dave:  The upper isn’t anything fancy, which sometimes is just what the doctor ordered when looking for a lightweight high performance trainer.  I feel completely secure and have no issues with slippage at the heel. One thing to point out here is that NB is finally listening in terms of the length and use of the tongue on their trainers.  They have been notorious for so much extra tongue that just “gets in the way.” This Beacon tongue lays nicely over the top of the foot allowing a smooth and controlled fit, just the way I like it. I also really enjoy the thickness, width and length of the laces.  They feel strong and secure, which for me is important because sometimes I like to really crank down on them over my narrow foot before a Tempo or Speed session.
Sam: I agree with Peter and Dave that this upper is comfortable, soft and supportive with a slight amount of stretch making it a good choice as a marathon racing upper for those late miles swelling feet. There is plenty of toe box width and height for most feet given the slight stretch and wide versions are also available. The upper is supported at mid foot by a stout bootie than appears more vertical than most booties as it heads down to the midsole and thus I feel less arch bite than most booties.
The reflective “N” logo is the only overlay in the shoe and provides some pliable mid foot support.
The tongue is lightly padded and in combination with the great foot wrap of the upper more than adequate in support, although I did find that after a half mile or so of each run I had to re tighten as the upper stretches a bit. The bootie plus very soft but dense upper is on the warm side.
The thin skeletal lace holder is very pliable. I really like that NB made the effort to separate the eyelets from the inner edges of the two sides. This combination helps make lace up both secure but also with no binding hot spots as the system is very top of the foot conforming. As stated above, I do find an adjustment is needed after a half mile or so to re tighten as mesh and laces stretches but that’s OK given the overall comfort, The always tricky front of laces metatarsals area is particularly well executed. It is a key are for foot hold but often over built, with resulting pressure or the opposite under supported, sloppy support and toe off. Not so here.
The Beacon has a real heel counter of moderate firmness and there are no overlays at all beyond the reflective N logo.

Midsole and Outsole
Peter: I’m under the impression that this is a different version of Fresh Foam--and I have to say that it feels that way. NB are calling it Fresh Foam GC (for ground contact). It must be a different compound because it’s super light and has a lot more bounce than previous versions of Fresh Foam.
There’s also almost no rubber outsole on this shoe. I know some folks out there will be worried about wear, but at about 50 miles I’m not seeing anything alarming. New Balance is touting the durability of the GC compound as part of the equation for minimal outsole rubber. So far, so good.


Sam:
The midsole is broad, flexible up front and full contact front to back. Fresh Foam GC is very light and is on the softer side (softer than NB's Revlite) but dense enough not to deflect, bottom out or feel harsh except a touch at very slow paces at the heel. All of this magic happens without much outsole in the mix. Fresh Foam GC is smooth running with very decent energy return and with a very moderate bounce feel. There is enough medial support without overly vertical side walls.

Fresh Foam
Fresh Foam is not just foam but a system of foam and side wall sculpting and here also outsole sculpting.  Convex hexagon shapes provide support as they tend not to compress while Concave shapes compress providing cushion.
In the top Beacon above, we see convex shaping at mid foot to provide some medial support with concave softer shapes towards the heel and forward. The entire lateral side has concave shapes, and big ones,which deflect more and thus provide softer cushion. In other Fresh Foam shoes, and comparing versions, I feel these hexagons are effective but...have always been hamstrung by all the stiff, continuous outsole rubber on those earlier Fresh Foam shoes as well as firmer midsoles. In the Beacon we have the sense of smooth continuous. unimpeded motion through the gait cycle with cushion and support from the geometry present but never overly obvious.  


Dave:  Fresh Foam GC (Ground Contact) seems to be the real deal!  So far so good from me. I’ve been very critical of Fresh Foam in the past, because it was just plain “blah” for me, but New Balance seems to have hit the nail on the head here.  It’s quite the powerful midsole. The Beacon is hella fast and transitions so smoothly from heel to toe. My only issue is that the heel could be a bit more beveled off as I feel it getting in the way late in long runs when my form is gets sloppy.  Another interesting point is that I feel very level and aligned biomechanically on this Fresh Foam GC midsole, compared to previous Fresh Foam, such as the Zante v4. Fresh Foam, in previous versions, caused me to excessively supinate, while at the same time the medial outsole sidewalls were just too darn firm.  This would cause a shooting pain up my IT bands. My gait feels powerful and on cruise control with this Fresh Foam GC midsole.

David H: Agree with the the others here.  I’ve not been a huge fan of Fresh Foam in general.  Aside from the Zante v1, it seemed like it was pretty dead and crushed out quickly.  When it was stacked up more (Hierro, Vongo, etc) it seemed to be worse not better. This is totally reversed with FF GC.  The Beacon is lively without being squishy and really feels like it ties the whole shoe together somehow despite no outsole to do that.  A+ on the midsole material.


Outsole
Peter: Not much to say here. There are precisely 5 “strategically placed” pieces of rubber on the bottom of the shoe in high wear areas. I suspect that this will frighten some people, and we will will report back on the wear--because I’m going to be putting a bunch of miles on these!
Dave: I know it has already been called out on the Running Shoe Geeks and elsewhere concerning the exposed outsole.  I am easily 50-60 miles in with almost no signs of wear and tear.
Note that the front toe “outsole”, unlike the rest of the outsole, was smooth and low profile out of the box.
I’ll second Peter here and say the outsole is going to be just fine.  Ground Contact (GC) was developed by NB to not have the need for excessive rubberized outsole.


It’s funny, they are so small, but the strategically placed harder rubber lugs in the heel and forefoot high contact areas really do make a difference.  I looked at my outsole after some mileage and they are perfectly placed, meaning I am using them! You feel a good amount of pop from them. My guess is I’ll pull around 275 to 300 miles in the Beacon which is not shabby at all for a shoe barely over 7 ounces.
Sam: One heck of a well designed “outsole” here. The five rubber patches, and they are thick and very durable, are positioned in a few strategic places for wear and pop with the rest exposed Fresh Foam GC in varying size hexagonal lugs. The result on the run is a sensation of both continuous ground contact with decent response. Upfront, at the tip of the to,e I am seeing some scuffing marks but as expected. Interestingly at the rear lateral side, where I land hard and often wear even durable rubber, and if present to the sides any exposed midsole, I am seeing absolutely no wear so far about 20 miles in,

It will be interesting to see what others find with different gait types and wear patterns. Peter tends to be a mid to forefoot striker and Dave and I are more heel strikers and for all of us so far so good in the durability.


I was curious to compare the underfoot geometry of the great New Balance 1400v6 to the Beacon.
One can clearly see the wider on the ground platform and more minimal rubber of the Beacon (right above). When less hard rubber, softer midsole foam, and broader geometry are combined the result in Beacon is a softer, smoother, yet somewhat less responsive ride. For most, the Beacon would be a more comfortable marathon and long run shoe if not quite the speedster the 1400 is.

Update on Outsole Durability
Dave leans more towards a heel strike and wear patterns may vary based on each runner's bio mechanics but the pictures below of his outsole at 140 plus miles show light wear and he feels the ride is almost as when the shoe was new. 

New Balance has done some serious work to make a midsole used as an outsole as durable as this. Note that as above the smooth area at the toe was present when the shoe was new.
Ride
Peter: Kinzante!  If you loved the early Kinvara and the early Zante you’re in luck. Mix in a little bit of Skechers Ride 7 and maybe just a dollop of Hoka Clifton and you’ve got the NB FF Beacon. The Beacon is the kind of shoe I’m always hoping to put on. It’s light, it’s cushioned, it picks up to speed seamlessly and goes easy without any problem. It’s joy to run in. My first run in them was a fartlek workout and I got down to super fast speeds (for me) without any problem. My second run was 14 miles and I felt fresh the whole time. These things are the real deal. I agree with Sam (and I think Dave) that it feels best at pace, but it certainly feels good enough at slower paces too.
Sam: The Beacon has a great ride. It seamlessly balances decently soft cushion with some response. The firmness of the midsole is just right to achieve both relatively shock free cushion and some response. The ride, despite the incredibly light weight, is in no way harsh yet surprisingly quite responsive in a muted soft way given the lack of much outsole.

The forefoot ride is notably broad, well cushioned and flexible without being sloppy or unstable. The toe off is smooth and easy due to the flexibility and potentially no tip of the toe outsole rubber, something I found really got in the way in the Nike Epic React and to a lesser extent the Saucony Kinvara 9. 

I found enough cushion for slower paces but given the 6mm drop, the softer GC foam and minimal outsole rubber the heel felt a bit low and firmer than I ideally prefer at slow paces for daily training. I wonder what this shoe would feel like at 8mm drop with 2mm more heel cushion. As the pace picks up and one lingers less on the heel that low feeling completely disappears and they flow along with the transitions and toe off sensations and smoothness particularly satisfying at all paces. 

I would have no problem doing all of my running in the Beacon as I prefer a light well cushioned trainer with a firmer but not harsh ride and some pop and response and all of those attributes are present here.

Dave:  What a shoe. It’s kinda like the shoe I have been searching for for a while now.  It has all the awesome characteristics of a Kinvara 9, but doesn’t bottom out on long runs.  I ran 17 in Beacon last weekend and it was snappy all the way, mile after mile. It’s a firm shoe, but that’s what I like. But don’t let firm scare you, it has more cush in it than most lightweight performance trainers of this category.  The blend of firm and cush makes it really snap. As stated above, the heel could be a bit beveled off for me, because it gets a tad in the way,. This said it could also be my gait right now as I have been a tad injured with a messed up left leg and misfiring glute.  It transitions very quickly from heel to toe and feels the best a higher speeds making this a great go to shoe for me for Tempo, Fartlek, Progression and even hill sessions. At slower speeds I am not totally sure I have completely mastered it, yet. It takes a few runs to “force” more of that midfoot pop, but I am getting there.  I have plenty of other “recovery” day trainers in my rotation as is. The Beacon is your “go fast” shoe.
David H: I agree with the others.  This is a uniquely versatile road shoe.  If the Beacon is any indication, we’ve now arrived at a place where shoe brands have the materials to bring a well cushioned shoe at a very light weight.  Mine are at racing flat weights for my size 13 and yet are more cushioned than many trainers. The ride is effortless, transitions very smoothly and feel good at pace.  Something I’ve not said about an NB shoe in a long time. I agree with Peter in the Zante v1 and Skechers Ride 7 comparisons. I found it similar to the Ride 7 in structure and feel but maybe a hair firmer than the Ride; all with the feel of lightness and more racy feel of the Zante v1.

Conclusions and Recommendations
Peter
New Balance has quietly launched a terrific shoe. It’s where I wish the Zante line had gone and the Kinvara line from Saucony had gone. It’s a really fun and simple shoe. I would probably still race a ½ in the 1400, but these would be in consideration, and they’d be a great marathon race shoe too. If you’re looking for a simple shoe that can do it all, the Beacon is strongly recommended.
Peter’s Score 9.9/10   -.1 for potentially warm upper. On one of my runs I felt a little unstable cornering, but I’m coming off of a foot injury so it’s a bit hard to tell if it’s me or the shoe.


Dave
Dave:  Peter is absolutely right.  It’s where I had hoped Zante landed years ago and of a Kinvara that just with a bit more cush to it underfoot.  It’s also in the Skechers Performance Razor 2 category, as it can go a bit longer without my feet hurting on a 20+ mile run.  Razor bottoms out on me after 17 or 18 miles. All in all, a well executed shoe by a brand that needed to get its groove back in the cutting edge  trainer game. I’m a 1400 fanboy, but the other shoes in NB line just haven't’ done it for me, including my break up with 890 (rough relationship) - - This sparks a new level of interest in NB.  Please keep this Fresh Foam GC idea going!
Dave’s Score:  9.5/10
-.25 for slightly too much heel getting in the way
-.25 for a thick upper.  Could get a tad roasty

David H.
Definitely a big surprise.  I’d honestly nearly written NB off on the foam game.  Revlite and traditional Fresh Foam, just don’t stand out in today’s market with so many better midsole compounds out there between Nike, Skechers and Adidas in particular.  The Beacon surely changes that and is a shoe I’ll pull out for more runs this year. Well done NB.
David H’s Score: 9.5/10 
I told myself I wasn’t going to give 9/10 scores easily, but it is that good.
-.25 agree with Dave here that the midsole is a bit chunky in spots...doesn’t get in the way much for me, but less=more if it doesn’t affect the ride.
-.25 also for upper hold.  Agree with others that the upper doesn’t feel as locked down and ready to roll as the bottom does.


Sam
New Balance surprises here moving right into the lead pack for super light, well cushioned trainer racers. One of my three big smiles road shoes of 2018 so far along with the VaporFly and Reebok Floatride Run Fast. I tend to smile most broadly when a run shoe combines very light weight with plenty of cushion and lively stable performance at most paces. I take particular note of the 7.1 oz/200 g weight here which places it in august company with the Run Fast and VaporFly for a lot of shoe for the weight.


Simple and elegant in design, carefully executed top to bottom with an excellent comfortable upper, the Beacon can be a fast days and a race shoe or a super light daily trainer. That’s how I will run it, keeping an eye on durability, but so far so good.

Finally Fresh Foam technology makes me smile.  Gone in the Beacon is the awkward, stiff running Fresh Foam of past models. The GC Fresh Foam, well implemented data driven hexagons in the midsole, and losing all the over wrought outsole rubber for sure plays a huge role in delivering a lively, well cushioned, stable enough ride in a shoe weighing barely over 7 ounces. Highly recommended
Sam: 9.85/10
-.1 for somewhat firm heel feel at slow paces. Would an 8mm drop with 2mm more at the heel help?
-.05 and agreeing with Peter, I noticed a touch of front of upper instability/loose hold at speed.


Comparisons
NB FF Beacon vs. NB Zante v4 (RTR review)
Dave:  It’s not even in the same ballpark.  Zante v4, v3, and so on, just never won me over.  The Beacon is what I had wished the Zante would be and kept waiting for.  Does this mean an end to the Zante? Probably not. But I can guarantee all those Zante fans are coming Beacon’s way.  FF GC Beacon takes the cake.


NB FF Beacon vs. NIke Pegasus 35 (RTR review)
Peter: I really liked the Pegasus 35--and found it to be a great improvement over the 34 and 33--until I ran in the Beacon. I switched between the two today and the Beacon is lighter, smoother and more fun to run in. In comparison the Peg just feels a bit plodding. That said, if you want something a bit firmer, the Peg is still a good call.

Sam: The considerably heavier Pegasus 35 is more a daily trainer leaning towards performance. It has plentiful outsole rubber and a much improved and smoother transitioning ride. I prefer the easier more comfortable Beacon upper over the performance fit of the Peb. Peg is solid and firmer but for sure not as lively or as much  fun as the Beacon.


David H: Agree with Sam and Peter.  The Peg 35 feels a bit plain after the Beacon.  Nothing super wrong with the 35 and it is still a very versatile trainer (ran 20 miles on trail in them just last week...something the Beacon won’t be doing) but still the ride is just not as fun.  Fit is similar; I’d actually consider the Beacon to have more cushion by a fair bit.



NB FF Beacon vs. Saucony Kinvara 9 (RTR review)
Peter: The Kinvara 9 is a bit firmer and has a bit more snap, but i’m reaching for the Beacon more often than the Kinvara right now. Again, both good shoes with the Beacon being a bit softer and feeling a little faster to me.


Sam: The slightly heavier Kinvara 9 is one of favorites of 2018 but has more “sharp edges”: more noticeable medial midsole support, a midfoot strap, a slightly firmer ride, and less flex. I agree it has more snap but is stiffer transitioning with not quite the smooth energy of the GC midsole in the Beacon. It doesn’t roll to toe off as smoothly at all paces as the Beacon maybe due to the inclusion of way up front rubber which the Beacon leaves out? The Kinvara 9 may be a better choice as a race or fast days shoe for runners who train in pronation control shoes or have a very narrow low volume foot.


Dave:  I find myself (Peter too) reaching more for the Beacon right now.  I ran 8 in the K9 yesterday and I am a bit more beat up than I was post run than a 12 miler and a 17 miler in the Beacon.  However, I gotta say my stride feels the best it has in years in the K9. It also laces with my foot better. I’ll give the slight edge here to the Beacon, but to make it easier on everyone, just buy both!  You have 2 of the best shoes of 2018 right here!


NB FF Beacon vs. Nike Epic React Flyknit (RTR review)
Peter: Beacon, Beacon, Beacon. I wish the Epic React rolled off the toe like the Beacon--but it doesn’t. Level of cushioning feels similar to me, but i don’t love the ride of the React.
Sam: The much hyped Epic React has an overly snug almost painful mid foot upper for me and itsReact foam and awkwardly placed front and back outsole rubber just doesn’t produce the lively smooth ride of the Beacon.


NB FF Beacon vs. Reebok Floatride Run Fast (RTR review)
Peter: FloatRide Run fast feels a little more like a race specific shoe. Fun to run in, low to the ground. Beacon is a little more versatile and a little mushier (not too mushy for me, but it doesn’t feel like a race flat).


Sam: Peter nailed it. If you want a more race flat feel in a well cushioned for tiny weight dynamic riding shoe the Fast. If you want a slightly softer ride and are not as concerned about outsole durability the Beacon. I think I would give the nod to the Beacon’s upper over the very minimal Fast’s except in warm conditions.


Dave:  Floatride Run Fast is the real deal Holyfield.  But it is only a racer and workout shoe for me. The Beacon opens up the door for more mid week mileage, including those M/L (med long) marathon training runs middle of the week of 10-14 miles.  If I want to push the pace as well on one of these runs, the Beacon can do that. Again, each serves its own purpose. Beacon is totally a marathon racer as well!


NB FF Beacon vs. Hoka Hupana 1 (RTR review)
Sam: I would venture a guess that NB used the Hupana as a comparable in developing Beacon. The Hupana has a lively well cushioned RMAT midsole and no outsole. The version 1's upper which I tested was quite snug and dense and not as comfortable as the Beacon’s. Overall the Beacon outshines the Hupana given upper and slightly softer yet more responsive ride, and the Hupana was my 2017 shoe of the year.


NB FF Beacon vs. Hoka Cavu (RTR review)
Sam: The Cavu is firmer and stiffer and while a fine shoe heavier and just as not much fun to run. The Cavu upper will be more breathable in warmer weather.
Dave:  Beacon.  I can’t run in Cavu without wanting to saw a leg off.  Beats the livin’ crap out of my legs like most Hoka.


NB FF Beacon vs. NB 1400v6 (RTR review)
Peter: Same last (Vl-6), but different shoes. 1400 a great fast shoe that can go long while the Beacon feels like a great everyday shoe that can go fast.  
Dave:  Shorter work, track work, races up to the Half with the 1400v6.  Outstanding racer. Beacon could be an easy pull to race my next full Mary.


NB FF Beacon vs. Skechers Performance Razor 2  (RTR review) & Ride 7 (RTR review)
Peter: For me the Beacon sits right between the Razor and the Ride incorporating the things I like best about both. It’s fast, it’s cushioned, it’s comfortable, it’s fun to run in. I’d say the Beacon feels most like the Ride 7 (which may be my favorite shoe this year).

Sam: I agree with Peter that Beacon is right between the Skechers and for me is better than either as I found the Razor somewhat stiff and firm and the considerably heavier Ride while more cushioned not particularly stable.

Dave:  I guess I don’t need to write this again, as these two studs above already wrote it!  Plop it right in the middle! Honored to own all 3.


David H:  I’d mostly concur with the idea of the Beacon being between the Ride 7 and Razor 2, that said it is closer to the Ride 7 in my view but feels more lively.  The Beacon is probably a replacement for the Ride 7 in my book just for being a bit lighter and better upper than the Ride 7. That said, the Ride 7 is still one of the better shoes this year for me and probably the best value on the market today at $95 msrp.


NB FF Beacon vs. Salomon Sonic RA Pro (RTR review)
Sam:. While it is somewhat heavier, the RA Pro has plentiful durable firmer outsole rubber, unlike the Beacon. More conventional in ride, and also with a 6mm drop, it iis somewhat firmer and also runs well and easy at all paces but does not quite give me the big smiles of the Beacon.

Reviewer Bios
Dave Ames is the Founder and Head Coach of Ame For It Run Coaching, a nationwide run coaching business, training athletes of all ability levels from 5K to Marathon.  A formally competitive runner in High School and College, Dave focuses the majority of his time now on his athletes, but maintains the love for running and racing by keeping sub 3 Marathon, fit. 
Peter Stuart is a late 40's avid LA based runner with recent sub 3 hour marathons and sub 1:25 halves.
David Henry is a entrepreneur, endurance coach with CTS (https://trainright.com/coaches/david-henry/), husband and dad to 3 children.  He has run distances from short road races up to mountain 100 milers totaling around 40 ultramarathons over the last 8 years and has tested hundreds of shoes over that period.   
Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun. He has been running trails and roads and run shoe and tech geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half as well as 2 days after his 61st birthday a 3:40 marathon.  He also runs trails in rocky rooty New Hampshire and smooth Park City, UT. 

The Beacon were provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
Comments & Questions Welcome Below!
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47 comments:

Wes Arnold said...

Another awesome review. Never ran in NB before but these reviews are really making me consider them. If I was to buy 3 NB models 1. 5k/10k race and speed work, 2. Half/Full race and tempo/progression work 3. Long distance daily trainer which 3 NB models would you recommend??

Anonymous said...

Sure looks like a Hoka Mach. Comparison to Mach? Judging from your descriptions of the Beacon's ride, it seems more apropos than comparison to Cavu. And another note: You keep dissing the Nike React for its too-tight Flyknit upper. Don't forget that there's now an Odyssey React with a much more comfortable upper. I love it.

Anonymous said...

Going to have to try these too! They sound almost the same as the old Nike Lunar Tempo 2. How do they compare?

The Hoka Hupana was too narrow and the upper really hot for me. The energy was nice but they felt almost too soft on hot days. So beacon is better? And same ride/firmness as the Reebok Float Ride Fast? Can't wait to try this one too!

Thanks for the reviews!

demian sims said...

DOUGH!! I'd better get to wearing down my current daily so's to have an excuse to buy this shoe!

sam winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous, Re Mach. Good point in terms of shoe weight of Mach at 7.9 to compare. The Mach is somewhat firmer at the forefoot and considerably stiffer than the Beacon. I find Beacon transitions way easier. The Beacon upper may be a touch less supportive but is more comfortable. And Beacon at 7.1 oz is noticeably lighter.
Sam, Editor

sam winebaum said...

HI Anonymous re Lunar Tempo. I only ran v1 and loved that shoe! Ran a Boston in them. The upper is similar but sloppier than the Beacon. I will get my pair out and compare on the run but from recollection Beacon is more directed and stable. The Lunar Tempo is more flexible than the quite flexible Beacon almost to flexible for later miles and is less torsionally stable The cushion of the Beacon has a more consistent seamless feel. Hope this helps.
Sam, Editor

sam winebaum said...

Thanks Wes! My colleagues may differ but I might suggest for 1 1400 or Beacon for 2 Beacon or 890 understanding 890 has some inherent stability from its mid foot outsole 3 is trickier as NB is in my view missing a lighter daily trainer but in preference order 880 then 1080. Reviews of all at link below.
Sam. Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our page with links to all reviews here http://www.roadtrailrun.com/p/blog-page.html You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews. Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated.

Wes Arnold said...

What would your opinion be on the Beacon vs Torin 3.5 as a half marathon race shoe (at about 8’10 min/mile pace) and while on a NB vs Altra - how about Escalante vs 1400v6 for 10k race (at about 7’15 min/mile pace), thanks - and keep those reviews coming!!

Wes Arnold said...

Cheers Sam, looks like I could use the Beacon to also cover the speed work and 5k/10k racing too. My 10k race pace is 7’15 min/mile.

sam winebaum said...

Yes Wes. At 7:15 pace Beacon also a good 5K 10K shoe if you didn’t want to get a more dedicated speed shoe such as 1400. Sam, Editor

Marduk said...

Seems to be a shoe with great cushioning/weight ratio since it compares more favorably to heavier shoes.

How pronounced is the media post - does it suit a mild overpronator? And how does it compare to Altra Escalante?

Can't wait to try it on in Europe. Thanks for the review.

sam winebaum said...

Hi Marduk,
No medial post in Beacon but a broad on the ground platform which provides some light support but less support than the Kinvara 9, as indicated in the comparisons above. I personally haven't run in the Escalante but will ask one of my fellow reviewers to answer.
Sam, Editor.

Derek Li said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Derek Li said...


I think the Escalante may feel a little too mushy for a 10k race. I would definitely go with the 1400v6 for this.

Derek Li said...

The Escalante is quite a soft bouncy type of shoe but it has no medial posting. It may still work for a mild overpronator though, because it has a fairly wide footprint. Unfortunately I’ve not tried the Beacon yet so can’t make any comparisons.

David Henry said...

Marduk,

I've run in both and I'd say the Beacon somehow feels like more shoe from a cushion standpoint, but less overall shoe from feel/weight. While the Escalante is a decent all around road shoe, I definitely prefer the Beacon and feel the ride is snappier and smoother all the way around. As far as it being suitable for mild-over pronation, I think it would be. There is a fair bit of structure to the foam and it is not super soft so therefore not so flexible that it has no support...the Escalante has less support than the Beacon I would say.

David

Marduk said...

Thank you guys for the awesome reply!

Anonymous said...

Great review as always. Just want a little more comparison with the Sketchers Go runs ride 7/s. Would the sketchers have the warmer upper? Which is the more versatile shoe and most responsive. Would the beacon be as good as recovery running shoe and long distance shoe also - enough cushioning for the long distances. Thanks in advance.

Michael Avestro said...

Hey guys... great review. I'm intrigued by the Beacon. I was shopping for a new long run shoe, and was just about to pick up the Skechers GoRun Ultra Road 2 based on your reviews and my previous experience with the many Skechers Performance shoes (various GoRun iterations and the GoMeb Razor).

How does the Beacon compare to the Ultra Road 2? I realize the Beacon seems to be a bit more versatile, but there's a good amount of cushion and stack there.

Thanks as always, and keep up the great work!

sam winebaum said...

Thanks Michael! I would not characterize the Beacon as a long run shoe per say. Firmer and less plushy cushioned. More a faster days and race shoe in comparison. Sits between the Razor 2 and Ride 7 when comparing to Skechers and for me a more versatile faster shoes than either.
Sam, Editor

sam winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
Beacon compared to Ride 7, at least for me. Warmth about equivalent. Beacon might be a touch warmer. Beacon a faster more responsive shoe than Ride 7 and lighter by quite a bit too. If you need a recovery long run shoe with excellent lively cushion Ride 7. If you need a faster days shoe that certainly can go long but firmer than Ride 7 then Beacon,
Sam, Editor

Erkka Saaristo said...

Hi,
How would say the sizing is compared to Clayton 2, Kinvara 9 and Ride 7?
I have all of these as US10 and use midweight injinjis, the Clayton 2 is on the short side, where as the Ride 7 quite long.
With NB my sizing has been Zante 10.5 (largish), Zante2 10, Zante3 10.5, Vazee Pace 10, 1400v4 10.5 (largish), Gobi 10.5 and 1600 10 (with thin socks).

Regards,
Erkka

Michael Avestro said...

Thanks for the clarification, Sam! I guess it'll actually replace my Razor then... which should be coming up soon as well. Really appreciate these reviews, especially the head to head comparison short takes at the end. They really help to nail down what shoes will most likely be good fits for my preferences. Cheers!

sam winebaum said...

Hi Michael,
Thanks for the kind words! It is interesting that the comparisons often come very easily in short form. We ponder, sometimes retest/rewear an older shoe to refresh memory and write.
Sam Editor

sam winebaum said...

Hi Erkka,
I was 8.5 in Beacon with no issues but do think they are a touch short. The issue in going up in size might be that the relatively wide and unstructured upper might get sloppy. I would agree with you Clayton 2 was on the short side and Ride 7 on the long side for me too. This said I am always 8.5 in all my test shoes with occasionally a 9 if that what the brands have and in all cases except the Salomon S/Lab Ultra (2018) which is super narrow on the sides of the toes all are fine for me at 8.5 . I play with different sock thickness as needed to adjust even my true to size 8.5 or fill a 9. I find heavier socks in a roomier shoe can work fit miracles.
Sam, Editor

John "Old Bugger" Shaw said...

Hi Sam
I received my size 12 Beacons yesterday. Immediately loved their lightness. Same weight as my VF's; bit heavier than Lunaracer's#4; maybe close to Lunar Tempos. I love my VF's but they give my calf's grief over marathon distance. I ran 2:45 in a marathon 2 years ago in LR#3's and have yet to find an ideal replacement. Do you think the Beacon could possibly now fill that role? I also have the NB 1600's but it seems they are more a HM racer. Is the Reebok Run Fast better than both for a marathon? Love your work Sam. It sure comes through that you do too. It is not a job

sam winebaum said...

Hi John,
I never ran the Lunar Racers but did the Lunar Tempo 1 at Boston. I think the Beacon might compare to what I have heard about the LR, soft and light with a slipper like fit with enough response to move along. The Reebok Run Fast is more dynamic, firmer than Beacon but not harsh and if you will a more conventional race light trainer class shoe with a much lighter and more dynamic energy returning midsole from the Pebax than the usual EVA's.
Sam. Editor

Grant Humphrey said...

Would a comparison to the new Altra Duo be fitting? Both the beacon and duo seem to be reminiscent of the original Hoka Clifton 1s or atleast Clifton-esque?

sam winebaum said...

Hi Grant, Yes a comparison between Altra Duo and Beacon is in order. Thanks for the suggestion. However at least for me both Beacon and Duo are far more practical and versatile shoes than the original Clifton which I found very unstable at the heel and overly soft unless run at faster paces. The Clifton 5 is better in that department but now much heavier. With Duo you will get a more unstructured considerably more breathable but not quite as secure upper as Beacon's. The Duo transitions remarkably well due to its flexibility for a giant 31mm heel and forefoot drop shoe but does not quite have the smooth agility of the 20/26 mm stack Beacon or the cushion. This said the Duo is relatively firm I would say millimeter for millimeter of foam firmer than Beacon and certainly firmer than Clifton 5 Bottom line Duo leans more towards daily trainer and Beacon towards up tempo workouts and races for me.
Dup review below. Other reviews including Clifton 5 at link below.
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our page with links to all shoe and gear reviews HERE. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews. Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated!

Grant Humphrey said...

Sam,

Thank you so much for the detailed response. Many thanks from down here in South Africa, especially relevant as the Clifton was named after one of our beaches. Your input is always well received and regarded, you and the team greatly help me with my choices. Always look forward to any new update and will continue to refer all runners to your website. We get most of the brands here, except for new models of skechers, which I'm trying to source. Looking forward to your review of the Max road Ultra 3s with that new midsole tech!! Thanks again!

sam winebaum said...

Thanks Grant! Much appreciated! Max Road...for some reason Skechers wants us to hold off till fall for review. Cheers,
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Awesome review! How would you say this compares to the nike zoom elite 9?

kiwirevo said...

Thanks for the review, how are the soles holding up now with even more miles on them? I'm hoping these will be my more relaxed marathon distance shoe as I use my last pair of Salomon SLab Sonic 2s for my faster marathons (faster for me being 4:15). Also how does the upper hold on steep downhills?
Thanks & keep up the awesome work!

sam winebaum said...

Hi Kiwievo,
See update on outsole durability above in review. All three of us and seeing very good durability ,surprisingly so for exposed foam. Others who scuff at the forefoot not as good. Upper hold is very good on downhills but won't be quite what you get with S/Lab Sonic 2 but close.Thanks for reading and thanks for kind words. Sam, Editor

demian sims said...

Sam,
Very interested in these for my next shoe after I wear out my Brooks Ravenna 9's. Would the Beacon be a good daily trainer AND Marathon shoe? I also run in the RC1400 v6 and seems like it would be a good complement.
D

sam winebaum said...

Hi demian,
It could be a very good marathon shoe but softer than your other two. Not sure I would call it a complement to 1400v6 more a similar light shoe with a different ride. I would say it is closer to a daily trainer than 1400 but still for daily miles might recommend a bit more shoe.
Sam, Editor

matheus said...

Excellent review!congrats.
I'd like to know what shoe would you suggest for me. I have a zante v4, but I feel that it is to firm to me. I felt my legs hurting after run in them. The shoe I prefer to use is a Skechers gorun 400. Would you indicated to try the Skechers go run ride 7, this new NB ff Beacon or the Pegasus turbo? I will begin my 10km training in few weeks. I run only 5km by now. Thanks for everything. Always reading yours reviews here from Brasil!

Erkka Saaristo said...

Now with +100km on the Beacon, I can concur that it is the shoe that should had followed the OG Zante it's lively, snappy and comes with good amount of cushioning. Sizing wise I can tell that a Beacon US10.5 is the same size or minimally shorter than a US10 Skechers GoRun Ride 7.

Anzac said...

Excellent review and website.
I am in need of a new daily trainer. Currently run in Under Armour Gemini 1 and 2. The Gemini 1 is probably the best shoe I have ever worn. Love the cushioning and the overall comfort but I do get very hot feet. Under Armour is great but very curious about the New Balance Beacon. Going by your reviews they seem outstanding. Would love to give them a try but also don't want to make a mistake. Which has softer cushioning the Beacon or the Under Armour HOVR Sonic? They also seem to be a great shoe. I am about 85kg and run 5-15km once or twice a week and also fast walk 5-10km a couple of times a week. Looking for a nice cushioned shoe. Think I also under pronate. Would either of these shoes be suitable?

Dennis Chui said...

Sam

I bought the shoes based on your review. I did my first run with it and I already like it better than the Peg35 and Epic React. Thanks for the recommendation.

sam winebaum said...

Hi Dennis, Thanks for commenting! Much more life in them for me than either of the other two. Much prefer the upper as well. Let us know how they go as you get some miles on them. Sam, Editor

sam winebaum said...

Hi Anzac,
Thanks for kind words about RTR! The Beacon has softer cushioning than HOVR Sonic mainly as it has less rubber outsole. The HOVR is firmer and more stable. I only ran a few times in the Gemini but believe HOVR may be slightly softer due to the HOVR insert. Both have decently but not super breathable uppers. The HOVR upper would have more support for you at your weight and if you pronate or under pronate. You say "under pronate" Do you then run with a landing on the outside of the foot?
Sam. Editor

Anzac said...

Hello Sam,

Thanks for the prompt reply and comparison. Going by your comments I will definitely check out the HOVR.
Yes I land on the outside of my foot. The outside of my heel is considerably more worn than the inside. The outside of my foot around / just below the little toe is also worn. For comparison sake would you be able to recommend a suitable shoe from one of the other major brands. I am familiar with Under Armour but don't want to limit myself. Don't mind the brand as long as the shoe is suitable.
Thanks again for the prompt reply.
Anzac.

Marcus said...

Hello Sam,

I'm very grateful for your detailed shoe reports. They have helped me a lot with my decisions. I love the beacon very much. It's simply a fun shoe!
I would be very happy to receive a review of the New Balance FuelCell Impulse.
Thanks a lot, keep it up and many greetings from Germany.
Marcus

sam winebaum said...

Hi Marcus, Thanks for your kind words. Glad the Beacon is working out for you! No immediate plans to review the FuelCell Impulse but will keep it in mind for the future.
Sam, Editor

sam winebaum said...

HI Anzac, Given your outside lateral front wear pattern and the fact that the Beacon's more durable rubber is on the medial side up front I am concerned you might see accelerated wear and compressions there although the exposed GC foam is surprisingly durable. Take a look at the Salomon Sonic RA Pro or Sonic RA. They both have plenty of front durable rubber. While firmer and heavier you might also look at the ASICS RoadHawk FF2. Another to consider the just released Reebok Sweet Ride 2. Reviews of all at the link below.
Sam, Editor
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our page with links 100’s of in depth shoe and gear reviews HERE. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews. Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated!

Anzac said...

Sam,

Thanks for the suggested shoes to check out. Much appreciated. Will be researching what you mentioned.
Looking forward to reading future reviews on the website. Keep up the awesome work.