Tuesday, March 01, 2022

New Balance Fresh Foam X 880 v12 Multi Tester Review: Just Fine Enough! 12 Comparisons

Article by Mac Jeffries, Peter Stuart, Sally Reiley, and Sam Winebaum

New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v12 ($135)


Introduction

Peter: The New Balance 880 is widely known as the meat and potatoes daily trainer in the NB catalog. I’ve run in many NB shoes over the years, including many iterations of the 1080, the 1400 and 4 pairs of the Rebel V2 this past year alone. Somehow I’ve never managed to get my feet into the 880. Until now. New Balance are touting the 880 V12 as the “softest” 880 yet, featuring a dual layer midsole construction. 


Sam: the 880 sits as New Balance’s workhorse “classic” daily trainer. By classic I mean it has and retains a 10mm drop, a 32mm heel / 22 forefoot full stack height with an easy flexing forefoot, and a secure near performance upper. Designed for the majority of run types it has been a popular model exclusively sold in running specialty stores and a few online retailers.


With the v10 the model got New Balance’s more energetic Fresh Foam in a single density. With v11 (RTR Review) the 880 lightened 0.5 oz to 9.7 oz got a slightly softer Fresh Foam and a more comfortable upper with a toned down plastic heel clip.


With v12 the 880 gets a big underfoot upgrade with a softer main Fresh Foam midsole and a front slightly denser FuelCell insert on what appears to be a wider rear platform.  FuelCell comes in many flavors from the supercritical in the Rebel and RC Elite to denser less energetic formulations and adding highly responsive Fuel Cell up front sure got my attention. The upper is now a more relaxed fitting,  softer double jacquard  mesh (as in v11) but less reinforced with a thinner more pliable mid foot logo for support and no plastic heel clip as in v11.

Sally’s women’s color 

Pros: 

Mac/Sam/Peter/Sally: Comfort, ample sizing, midsole is on to something

Sam/Peter: Smooth softer ride, mellow but not mushy very flexible, ample cushion, a touch of front response

Sam/Peter/Sally: copious well segmented outsole.


Cons:

Mac/Sally/Sam: Possibly too loose in midfoot lockdown 

Sam/Peter: Weight gain of about  0.7 oz/ 20g –a little chunky, but will last a long time

Sam: Somewhat of a change in character to more mellow may 880 surprise loyalists

Sam: Overly relaxed upper materials on the same last as before. Gusset tongue or stouter overlays given pliable mesh in order IMO. 

Sam/Sally: Regular fit will favor wide feet over narrow and that is even before getting to available wide

Sam/Peter/Sally: Strictly a road outsole, not much grip on slick snow and for sure ice.


Tester Profiles


Mac is a former 275 lbs American football defensive lineman who took up running at age 30. Now, at 6’4” (193cm) 200 lbs (91kg) , he has PRs of 19:19, 1:33:xx, and 3:19:xx.


Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:25 half marathoner in recent years

Sally is a lifelong runner and mother of five who ran her first marathon at age 54, and has now run the past seven Boston Marathons and one Chicago, with a 2017 Boston PR of 3:29, good for 8th in her age group. Along the way she has raised over $240,000 for Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital running with Team Eye and Ear. A relative newbie to road racing, she has achieved All-American status in the 10K (44:04) and 5K. To commemorate her 60th birthday she ran the NYC Marathon in November finishing 2nd in her age group with a PR time of 3:28:39 and repeated on the 2nd step of the podium at NYC in 2021 with an all time PR of 3:26:54 a few weeks after 5th at Boston in 3:32:24.  Sally is a compact (petite) runner at 5’2’’ and 105 pounds.


Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 64 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.


Stats

Approx.Weight: men's oz 10.4 oz / 294g (US9)  /  women's 9.0 oz / 256 g(US8)

  Samples: men’s  10.14 oz / 288g (US8.5)

                  women’s   9.0 oz / 256 g (US W8)

Midsole/Outsole Stack Height: men’s 27 mm heel mm / 17  mm forefoot

Full Stack Height: 32mm heel / 22mm forefoot, 10mm drop

Available now including at New Balance here. $135


First Impressions and Fit

Mac: Man, it has been awhile. I have been fighting some AT for nearly 2 years now, and I just haven’t been able to put in much mileage lately. I was really excited about the timing of getting back to it, because the shape of the dual density midsole caught my eye back when they were first teased this winter. What if shoes could achieve something resembling a plate effect by simply shaping a dual density foam a certain way? 

In hand, I was optimistic. There is definitely a difference in firmness between the two layers, and what’s more, the shoe appears wide enough to fit my 13.5E foot. Plus, the color scheme is bangin’! 


Peter:  I’ve been told for years that I might like the 880, but have always gravitated to other shoes in the NB stable. This 880 V12 looks terrific. The step in is sublime. I find them to be extremely comfortable on the foot and to hold the foot just fine with no messing around. They are true-to-size for me. There’s nothing screaming “super shoe” or any promise to change your life, but they look like they have the potential to be about as solid a day-to-day trainer could be. Let’s see how that works out in testing…

Sam: The fit is true to size for me and clearly more comfort oriented than the last two 880 which had a more performance oriented fit. While on the same last as the v11, the v12’s upper is softer jacquard mesh, less structured with no plastic heel clip as before and more minimal supporting logos at mid foot.

Sally: I have run in so many New Balance shoes but have never tried the 880 before. There have been few misses in the lineup, so I was eager to test the 880 and see how their daily training workhorse would work for me. The shoe was incredibly comfortable right out of the box, seemingly true to size while very ample in the forefoot, and strikingly beautiful in a classic way. I love the colorway I received of navy blue, pink, and orange (Boston Dunkin’ colors again, just like my beloved purple RC Elite 2 with the pink and orange trim!). Stay tuned for how they performed on the run.


Upper

Mac: Upper is fairly simple: nothing to squeeze your forefoot in an uncomfortable way, and the mesh seems to be plenty durable. I am worried that there isn’t enough midfoot lockdown: while my forefoot appreciates the room, I really had to cinch the laces down when running at faster speeds to feel as if my foot wouldn’t fall off the platform. Howver, the relaxed fit was perfect for easier paces.


Peter: I find the fit to be totally solid. The upper is elegant and simple. It’s mesh, it’s breathable and it’s very comfortable. I didn’t have any trouble getting a good solid lockdown–and didn’t have to cinch the laces down too hard. The tongue is on the thick side, but is very comfortable. The heel locks down nicely. The overlays are limited to a rubberized N on either side at midfoot and a couple of rubber patches on either side of the heel with “new balance” on one side and “880” on the other. Simple. Ankle collar is decently padded. All together a very comfortable upper. 


Sam: The double jacquard mesh upper is pliable, soft, relatively dense and moderately thick.  It is soft and easy on the foot and quite roomy and unstructured as the only overlays are minor at the logo and there is no gusset tongue. I think it could use one with such a soft mesh. 


The heel counter is rigid down low and more pliable up high and is not the highly reinforced type of heel counter with lower plastic clip found in for example the v10 and a bit less so in v11.

In the photo above of the v10 compared to v12 ( I do not have the slightly more relaxed rear v11 with me)  one can clearly see the wider foot opening of the v12 and the black plastic clip of the v10.  We did see a higher achilles hold tab and a reduced clip in the v11 as shown below. 

Overall I find considerably less of a rear “clutch” thin e latest edition, something I miss. Yes a more comfortable rear hold but a less secure and stable one for me.


Sally: I agree with Peter’s summation that this is a very comfortable upper made of soft breathable mesh with good heel hold, but I found my narrow foot to have a bit too much room in the midfoot and toe box. Almost all New Balance shoes run very true to size for me in a Women’s 8, but this 880 v12  (and possibly the Rebel 2) might serve me better in a half size up; I don’t know if the shoe is actually a bit short, or if my foot is so loose that it is sliding around and hitting the front of the toe box while running. I have attempted to crank down tighter on the laces for a more secure fit, but let’s just say this shoe runs wide.


Midsole



Sam: The midsole is made up of 2 foams both of the same hardness but of different densities and compounds. The white foam is a Fresh Foam X with a slightly lower density than the front orange which is a FuelCell compound.  The heel feel is soft and somewhat bouncy. The front Fuel Cell is a touch “firmer” in feel and as it is denser but of the same firmness as the Fresh Foam. It has more front rebound and this is clearly felt on the run as is decent front stability on toe off . The front rebound is not explosive as the Rebel v2’s is but there is a clear softer impulse off the front.


The heel width on the ground is about 5mm wider from what I measure. I imagine the width compensates somewhat from the removal in the v12 of the two prior versions’ plastic heel clip. The extra width is somewhat effective in stabilizing the heel as are the hexagon shaping of the sidewalls  but as said above the new upper is not quite as up to the task as I would prefer. As a heel striker at slow paces I prioritize a solid heel and mid foot lockdown.


Peter: The big story (as far as the 880 goes) here is that they’ve moved to a dual layer midsole featuring foam of:  two different densities, different compounds, but same the same hardness. There’s a big slab of Fresh Foam X under the heel and stretching under most of the forefoot. At just behind the midfoot a denser but same hardness (as the white Fresh Foam)  Fuel Cell foam joins and runs under the forefoot and all the way to the toe. This allows for a more forgiving forefoot landing while not seeming to take anything away from the toe-off. I think this dual-layer approach adds to the overall flexibility and roll of the shoe. The 880 V12 isn’t super soft–this is not a Clifton–but they are soft enough to be forgiving on longer runs and to make them a decent recovery shoe. I’d say the foams are on the softer side of firm–if that makes any sense. 


Mac: I started typing this review before I had the technical specs on the midsole, so I am a little relieved to find out that what I felt was something akin to what New Balance was trying to achieve! Always good to know that we aren’t crazy :-) I absolutely can see a benefit from the stacking of Fresh Foam X and Feulcell in the shape they chose: the result is a small but significant improvement in toe-off as well as what I believe is better compression resistance than, say, the Beacon. It’s a good mix, and one that I will be shocked if it isn’t emulated by other companies in the near future. 


Sally: I am not as tech-oriented as some of the others, and I tend to focus on the feel of a midsole and the resultant ride. I found this midsole to be soft and somewhat forgiving without being mushy, and definitely not as bouncy as a Rebel V2 or Fuel Cell Elite. The heel landing is well cushioned, making downhills fun, and the toe off is soft enough with some spring to it, yet still somewhat firm and effective.


Outsole

Peter: This shoe is going to get a lot of miles. There’s a ton of rubber on this shoe. The bottom of the shoe has rubber on about 85% of it with only a little patch of exposed midsole just under the rear bottom of the foot. There are big deep flex grooves that help keep the outsole from being a big, unwieldy slab of rubber. The 880 is surprisingly flexible. I’m about 50 miles into this pair, see almost no wear on the bottom and feel that they are gripping the ground well in pretty much any conditions. 


Mac: The outsole of a shoe is like a deep snapper in football: you only notice it when it isn’t doing its job. This outsole is all I need and nothing I don’t.

Sam:  Mac says it well. Yup, lots of rubber here and well arrayed rubber. New Balance has come a long long way from the monolithic stiff Boracay type outsoles.  Remember those? The outsole plays extremely well with the geometry and feel. No harsh hard feel even in moderate cold, lots of well segmented flexibility.


Grip is very good on road but this is not an outsole for snow or slick conditions due to its large pads and pretty much flat contact with the road. 

Sally: I agree with the others that this outsole checks all the boxes and does its job, and is seemingly going to be a very durable outsole given the copious amount of rubber. The wide heel seems to stabilize the landing and brings to mind the Nike Invincible. It’s downside is poor grip on wintery hard packed snow and icy conditions such as we have experienced here in New England of late.


Ride

Mac: So, does the curved slab of dual density Fresh Foam and Fuel Cell throw your foot forward like a pair of Vaporflys? No. But there IS something to this. This is what you get when you take the basic concept of superfoam and curved carbon plate, and take away the superfoam and curved carbon plate: a shock absorbing ride allows - possibly helps? - your foot transition very nicely. You won’t mistake these for a Pebax monster, but you’ll appreciate the added benefit on tempos or easy days when your legs are trashed.  


Peter: The 880 has broken in nicely for me. They are not the bounciest or most dynamic feeling shoes in my quiver, but the ride is very enjoyable. They roll through the gait cycle nicely, there’s a little bit of spring at toe-off and they feel good on easy and recovery days. They run like they’re a lighter shoe. 


Sam: The 880 ride is friendly and mellower than prior versions. It’s a daily training ride that is flexible, quite soft, and with a nice front Fuel Cell impulse leaning now slightly more towards slower paces and easy runs than prior versions. Very pleasant. I do think a more dialed in and structured upper would improve the connection between foot and what is an excellent underfoot ride. 


Sally: The 880 has a just soft enough ride with a just springy enough toe off to make for a just fine enough daily trainer. Nothing superlative about the ride, but solid and user friendly and ideal for bread and butter training miles (not tempo, but then again not for really easy recovery either). I had the same issue as Sam did with a loose fitting upper, which might color my overall opinion of the shoe unfairly (cursing my narrow feet). 


Conclusions and Recommendations

Peter: I really like the 880. I think I may even like them more than the 1080. I think the 880 is a shoe that will work for tons of people in tons of different contexts. If I ran a hotel and had to have one shoe model on hand for guests, it would the the 880. It’s not as bouncy and dynamic as the Rebel V2, but it is a solid daily trainer that I want to put on when I have a recovery or easy day. Sure, it’d be nice if they were just a tiny bit lighter, but I think they’re a great shoe that a lot of people would be very happy with. 

Score 9.5/10–could be a hair lighter.


Mac: 

Ride: I really enjoyed the result of the dual density foam on a curved platform. It really seems to maximize the performance of EVA foam. 

Fit: the roomy fit will be polarizing. 

Value: At $135, it seems a bit pricey for the materials, but the design earns at least a little of that back. 

See Mac’s Review Grid in its entirety here


Sam: While the ride is modern with a quite dynamic if softer daily trainer feel,  the upper is more comfort and slower paces cruiser in nature than before.  I think the upper, despite its soft plush comfort  is the 880v12 weaker point as I believe it contributes to the 0.7 oz weight gain along with the appreciated wider platform. The upper could use a more rigid heel counter and more mid foot hold (thicker logo and or a gusset tongue) to really lock my medium narrow lower volume feet down to the sweet platform below and especially so for when the pace picks up. That said, we have a friendly pleasing fit here especially for wider feet, and if you need more, wide is available as well. 


New Balance’s use of soft less dense Fresh Foam X at the heel combined with the same hardness/firmness but denser Fuel Cell up front with its well segmented copious outsole is effective. It  allows a soft landing and a slightly more responsive and stable toe off while keeping the shoe on the softer side and very easy flexing. 


At a moderate full stack height of 32/22 with consequently a 10mm drop and a weight just over 10 oz we are in traditional daily trainer territory here with the upper and underfoot platform leaning more towards easier paces than predecessor 880’s for me but with all paces more softly cushioned and friendly. 


Sam’s Score: 8.92 /10

Ride: 9.2 (50%) Fit: 8.4 (30%) Value: 9 (15%) Style: 9 (5%)


Sally:  I understand why so many think of the 880 as a workhorse daily trainer: it is a solid crowd pleasing friendly shoe that combines a modern mix of midsole foams powering a comfortable elegant looking traditional upper. It can be a great one shoe quiver type of shoe that provides a slightly soft ride with a slightly dynamic toe off, and should appeal to many types of runners. It does run on the wider side. It runs lighter than its weight would indicate, and does its part to make for a very enjoyable running experience. You add the smiles!


Sally’s score: 8.85/10

Ride: 9.3 (50%) Fit: 8.5 (30%) Value: 8.0 (15%) Style: 9 (5%)


12 Comparisons


New Balance Fresh Foam  880 v11 (RTR Review)

Sam: Clearly New Balance has moved the 880 towards a softer ride and a more comfort oriented fit in comparison to v11 leaning it away from the traditional locked in snappy quite firm daily trainer feel of v11.  This friendlier edition should prove more versatile for a wider range of runner types especially those seeking a bouncier softer feel in a daily trainer. But for the upper, it would be a clear daily trainer choice for me. . Because of the upper and to a lesser extent the ride the V12 now leans more towards the easier side of daily training whereas the v11 leaned more towards a somewhat faster paced side of the spectrum.


New Balance Fuel Cell Rebel V2  (RTR Review)

Peter: The 880 is considerably heavier and not as bouncy or fun as the Rebel, but I think it may appeal to a wider variety of runners. I’d try them both on, but if you’re looking for a good, solid, old school feeling running shoe, you’d be happy with the 880.

Sam: The 880 is a safer all around bet with now a touch of the energetic fun of the Rebel on a more stable platform than Rebel given the geometry,  Fresh Foam rear and copious rubber. They make an excellent pairing for NB fans. Rebel for the shorter and faster “fun runs”, 880 for the rest of your daily training. 

Sally: The Rebel V2 earned my favorite daily trainer award last year, but it is more of a fun fast tempo shoe and the 880 v12 is more of a solid daily trainer. I personally tend to like a fast paced ride, but the 880 has a broader appeal. Interestingly, these are the only two New Balance shoes that I would recommend going up half a size in for length if you are on the fence.


New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080  (RTR Review)

Peter: I think the new 880 gives the 1080 a run for its money. It may be slightly more flexible. In running them side-by-side the 880 feels lower to the ground and has a less pronounced slab of foam under the midfoot. I think for a daily trainer the 880 V12 may be the more flexible and comfortable shoe. 

Sam: I am with Peter on this one. Somehow the 1080 and its thick rockered ride has never been daily trainer class for me in the sense that it is stiffer, less easy to move at slower paces as the 880 is. I do give the nod to the 1080’s more secure upper. 


New Balance  Fresh Foam X More v3  (RTR Review)

Sam: The next step “up” in cushion after the 1080 the More v3 with its 4mm drop is much more fun to run faster than the 880, with a very distinct energetic bounce off the forefoot but is overly low and soft at the heel for me at slower paces.  The 880 is more versatile and with its new foam make up gets closer than before to that front energy I like in the More while remaining slower paces friendly.

Sally: I have found myself reaching for the FF More often for a comfortable cushioned recovery run or even a dog walk; it is the Cadillac of comfort for me. The 880 is more of an all around daily trainer.


Hoka Mach 4 (RTR Review)

Peter:  The Mach 4 is lighter and more agile. I’d take them if I was going out for more than 10 miles or if I was doing tempo, but the 880 is a very comfortable ride to take out on most days. 

Sam: Lower drop, lighter, more up tempo focused the Mach 4 is a more versatile take on the daily trainer for the faster runner. Somewhat less cushioned at the heel and more cushioned at the forefoot it is not quite as plush overall (upper and ride) as the 880. 


UA Velociti Wind 2 (RTR Review)

Peter: The 880 fits me better and feels more flexible and in contact with the road. 

Sam:  Despite being a bit low and pointy upfront the Velociti Wind’s upper is considerably more secure and locked down than 880’s and is my preference. The 880’s ride easily pulls away from the dull dense and very protective foam in the UA although the Velociti’s natural low to the ground, smooth flowing, and quiet rubber outsole free geometry is pretty special but held back by its midsole foam. Of note the Velociti has no outsole rubber riding on very durable midsole foam


Saucony Ride 14 (RTR Review)

Peter:  The forefoot feel of the 880 is preferable to me. I find the 880 to roll through my stride just a bit more smoothly overall. The fit of the upper on the 880 is a little more relaxed and, while the firmness is similar, the flexibility of the 880 makes it a much more runnable shoe for me. 

Mac: This is a tough one for me. The Ride 14 is one of my favorite non-plated trainers I have ever worn, and I personally find PWRRUN to be more dynamic than Fresh Foam. The fit is a bit more secure as well. However, the geometry of the dual density 880v12 is a big plus here. If you have an especially wide midfoot, you will appreciate the 880’s fit, as well. The Ride 12 is a bit more secure on faster runs, while the 880 is a little easier to use on truly easy days. 


Saucony Endorphin Speed (RTR Review

Mac: I am including this unfair comparison for the simple fact that the 880 is trying to achieve something similar to what the Speed offers, just with less exotic materials. My advice here is to get both: the 880 is a nice Recovery Day complement to the faster Speed, and the ride of the former is at least an echo of the latter. 


Asics GEL Nimbus 24 (RTR Review)

Peter:  Equally excellent uppers. The ride of the 880 feels just a little more harmonious to me. The Nimbus is softer and may be better suited to recovery days. 

Sam: I agree with Peter on the ride comparison but much prefer the considerably more secure Nimbus upper. 

Sally: I agree with Peter on the ride comment and with Sam on the fit comment! 


Asics Novablast (RTR Review

Mac: What I see in common here are excellent uses of “standard” foams to achieve unexpectedly good results. Both shoes also have roomy uppers. I find the 880 to be a bit more stable - the Novablast can get a bit out of control - so I am taking the 880. 

Sam: Higher stacked with a narrower on the ground platform the Novablast is more speed focused requiring pretty decent well aligned form to shine whereas the more mellow flexible 880 will get you through those days when you just want to go for a run and cruise along.


Diadora Equipe Atomo (RTR Review)

Peter: The 880 feels like less shoe and has less foam under the midfoot. 880 is also way more flexible. I liked the Atomo but it felt like too much shoe for me day-to-day.

Sam: Considerably lighter at 8.7 oz vs. 10.4 oz for the 880 with a denser higher (front and back stack of foam and lower 5mm drop, the made in Italy Atomo is more rigid and rocker based vs. the flexible higher drop profile of the 880. It’s upper is considerably more secure. While not as plush in feel it is more deeply cushioned and a better choice if you aren’t a fan of highly flexible trainers and can swing its $195 price tag while the 880 is a better choice if you have a higher volume foot and like some liviler bounce.  


Puma Velocity Nitro 2 (RTR Review)

Sam: 1.3 oz lighter with an almost identical stack height and 10mm drop the Puma is also for sure a “traditional” daily trainer in geometry and ride. The Puma Nitro supercritical foam is softer and bouncier while up front both have a denser layer for toe off impulse. The Velocity upper has none of the mid foot lockdown issues of the 880. Nod to the Puma here.


The Fresh Foam X 880 v12 is available now including at our partners below

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

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5 comments:

Unknown said...

where does new balance call out the front Layer of foam as FuelCell? all the tech sheets that I've seen call it out as EVA? Just curious

Stan said...

Thanks for the review, also liked the video between the Puma, the 880 and the Asics Cumulus 24. I like New Balance for the many widths they provide as I have a wide foot. I have found the brand Topo and some of their versions work well for me. Wondering how the 880v12 compares to the Topo Phantomv2. Thanks for your your insight.

Sam Winebaum said...

@unknown we have that there is FuelCell up front direct from NB product folks.
@Stan. A far superior upper hold for all types of feet, even narrow for the Topo. Underfoot the lower drop Phantom is flatter feeling snif denser if more cushioned. Phantom 2 review: https://www.roadtrailrun.com/2021/04/topo-athletic-phantom-2-multi-tester.html
Sam, Editor

TReilly56 said...

"The front Fuel Cell is a touch “firmer” in feel and as it is denser but of the same firmness as the Fresh Foam."

What does that even mean? If something is "denser" it is firmer. If it is equally dense it is equally firm. 'Nuff said.
My quick take on the 880V12? The "Hoka-fication" of many offerings from many companies continues. I think they fit noticeably more generously than V11.

Anonymous said...

I fuelcell in this shoe.