The Best New Balance Running Shoes
New Balance are one of the biggest running shoe brands in the world. Although they have branched out in to a number of US sports and soccer of late, running remains at its core. Recent years have seen their best ever shoe innovations. We review the best of them. Here are the best New Balance shoes of 2020.
BEST CUSHIONING - New Balance 880v10
A great update to this popular model, Where it had previously lagged behind the pack a little this version brings it up to pace with the leading contenders. The new Fresh Foam gives it a light and plush feel.
- Smooth cushioning for great ride
- Feels light
- Nicely balanced
- There aren't any!
BEST FOR MARATHON RACES - New Balance FuelCell TC
The second carbon plated shoe from New Balance, the TC or trainer-competition aims to bridge the gap between ultra light racing shoes and more cushioned training models. Perfect for faster paced training sessions, intervals and tempo running, the New Balance FuelCell TC is a serious contender to the Nike Vaporfly - and that is saying something!
- Soft, springy feel
- Carbon plate for increased toe-off
- Competitively priced - for carbon plated shoe
- A little unstable
- Still expensive
BEST FOR LONG DISTANCE - New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 v10
The Fresh Foam 1080 v10 takes the brands range-topping neutral flagship to new levels of cushioning
- New Fresh Foam cushioning gives excellent ride
- Sock-like fit
- None, it's great!
BEST FOR STABILITY - New Balance 860 v10
The cushioning is highly capable and the shoe quickly becomes a work horse model for the high-mileage road runner. Really comfortable and durable - great for everyday stability.
- Traditional medial post for support performs very well
- Durable high mileage performer
- New seamless upper
- Heel collar may irritate some. Try before you buy
BEST FOR LIGHTWEIGHT TRAINING - NB Fresh Foam Tempo
A replacement for the Zante series, the Tempo is supportive for a minimal training shoe. The Tempo would make a great second training shoe offering a firm responsive ride. Brilliant for faster tempo runs, interval sessions and you should consider it for longer races.
- Light and agile
- A little firm
NEW BALANCE - TECH TALK
New Balance are now one of the biggest running brands in the world but like so many other brands, they came from humble beginnings.
Formed over 100 years ago in 1906 by Irish immigrant, William Riley, the Boston-based company was originally called the New Balance Arch Company. Whilst watching chickens’ parade around his yard, Riley was intrigued by their feet and how they could balance so well on their three-pronged points. Thoughts quickly moved to the human foot and the need to support it better with the aid of an arch support.
The company primarily focussed on selling their arch supports to workers who had to stand on their feet all day such as emergency service workers or factory workers. Riley had taken on a business partner, Arthur Hall, who eventually sold the business in 1956 to his daughter, Eleanor and her husband, Paul Kidd.
Eleanor and Paul drove the business on and by 1960, the arch supports had become popular with sports player and especially athletes who felt they needed that extra support. Many of these athletes were college runners who approached New Balance to produce a shoe. The Trackster was designed and released in 1961.
The Trackster was the first shoe to feature a rippled sole offering good grip. It was also made in different widths - revolutionary back then! It was manufactured in Massachusetts it became popular with local athletes who could run both track and cross-country in it.
Only half a dozen people worked for New Balance back then. They could produce, pack and send out orders for the Trackster themselves to retailers and mail order customers. However, in 1972, the Kidd’s accepted an offer to buy NB from Jim Davis, still the current chairman.
The deal was completed on the day of the Boston Marathon, an important time in US running history. The running market was starting to boom in the US with people taking to it as a cheap form of exercise. Not only that, but Boston was right in the centre of that running boom. The Boston Marathon is the oldest in the world and Jim and New Balance found themselves right in the thick of this mass movement.
New Balance continued with their philosophy of producing shoes in width sizing. This was expensive but it was obviously important to the company as that process remained at NB for many years. It’s expensive as the company needed to make two widths per size and retailers had to buy two widths per size.
The other thing that was different about New Balance was that they numbered each model rather than giving it a name; a tradition that remains today. The numbers inform the runner what gender and activity they are designed for, and whether they are designed to be cushioned or more stable. It’s a nice thought but in all my years of running, I’ve never met anyone who understands it.
In 1976, New Balance released the 320, a classic shoe that became a worldwide hit and cemented their reputation as an important and credible running brand. The 320 was also the first NB shoe to feature the N logo on the side.
The company went from strength to strength and by the early 1980’s were making some of the models that the company are now famous for. The general running shoes design direction then was to move in to bigger, plusher shoes. That suited New Balance whose shoes suited those who wanted max cushioning. NB launched the 990 in 1982; a shoe that became an icon for them. They were really popular for runners wanting a long-distance cruising machine and they were also great for heavier, bigger runners due to the cushioning but also because the production quality was exceptional. The nylon uppers were overlayed with copious amounts of pig skin which supported the foot and gave the shoe a great deal of strength. I remember buying a pair of 990’s in 1982 because I had shin splints at the time and thought the cushioning would help. They cost me a week’s wages, but I loved those shoes!
The 990 was a shoe designed by NB with one aim in mind; to design the world’s best running shoe. They were flexible, stable and offered the plushest cushioning available – did I mention they cost a fortune?! The midsole launched their ENCAP technology – EVA foam surrounded by a PU (polyurethane) shell which meant that the shoe was really bouncy and durable. They are still sold in high-end lifestyle sports and fashion stores today and they’re still expensive!
The company have always been conscious of their roots. They were growing fast but remained committed to making their better shoes in the USA and the UK where NB were strong. It is a commitment which exists today and whilst most of the shoes are made in Asia (typically Cambodia and Vietnam at the time of writing), they still make shoes in the US and the UK.
New Balance partnered with Dupont to create their ABZORB isoprene rubber technology shoes in the 90’s and launched their REVlite midsole tech in 2011 which delivered a more responsive ride.
REVlite has survived the test of time and still features in models today, but the majority of the range fits in to one of the three key NB tech categories: Fresh Foam, FuelCell or TruFuse.
Fresh Foam was launched in 2014. The material is light and offers a seriously smooth ride. Fresh Foam has been incredibly popular and when you run in a pair, you’ll understand why. Made by super-smart 3D mapping, NB can change the density within the midsole of the same shoe to deliver different types of shoe using the same foam. The foam is found in some of NB’s best-selling shoes including the shoe we rate as their best long distance shoe, the Fresh Foam 1080 v10.
FuelCell is used in shoes that are lighter where runners need a more responsive ride. Nitrogen is injected in to TPU foam – the result being a foam delivers better energy return. It has a quick, reactive feel to it which is why NB use it in their fastest shoes. Check out our review of the FuelCell TC - it's an amazing shoe that would be great to run a marathon in.
TruFuse is a midsole made of two types of foam which provide a long-lasting and comfortable ride. Used is great workhorse-like shoes such as the 860 and 880, Trufuse is light and gives good energy return.
Check out our Best Shoes of 2020 Guide to see which New Balance shoes made the cut.
We at shoeguide.run, are honoured to know some of the guys in key positions at New Balance. All of them entrenched in running and all of them good guys. The company has that vibe to it. It’s still based in Boston and Jim Davis is still the boss. Long may that continue.