New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Running Shoe Review

Information! This is a researched gear review for the New Balance Foam 980 running shoe. Researched gear reviews are based solely upon information and critiques found online. We take the time to read, sort, and make sense of all the voices out there – providing you with a well-rounded review of the gear you’re interested in.

New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Overview

The Fresh Foam 980 recently launched with much fanfare and marketing gusto. The bloggers seem excited to have tested their free pairs and New Balance is touting the shoes innovative design. Using computer software, the New Balance team configured the Fresh Foam 980 in response to actual runner data.

The Fresh Foam midsole features convex and concave hexagonal structures that aim to provide structure and cushion in just the right spots. The shoe also features a 4 mm drop as well as no-sew uppers, breathable mesh, and several color schemes to fit your fancy. All-in-all, this shoe features a fairly compelling combination of features.

Is this shoe any good?

Marketing lingo and foam terminology (foamology?) aside, the real question is, “How does the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 perform?”

In order to answer that question I researched a handful of blogs, a couple of review sites, and chewed on some customer reviews-tasty. You can read my specific findings with reference links below. Or, if that seems like a lot of work, just read the next four sentences.

The Fresh Foam 980 is mostly reported to be a good shoe, though Runners World calls the shoe, “average.” If you are interested in the 980’s mix of a low heal-to-toe drop, cushioned/structured midsole, and minimal uppers then this shoe may be worth a look. People find the shoe to be comfortable, but if cushioning is your main priority, there are softer shoes on the market.

The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 comes in Men’s and Women’s models and is listed at $110.

Bloggers run in the Fresh Foam 980

Meaghan from DC Fit Crasher loves her Fresh Foam 980’s. Meaghan says that her initial impression was that the shoes, “…felt like slippers on my feet. I hadn’t even left the apartment yet and was already oohing and ahhhing over how soft they felt.” After running in the shoe Meaghan claims the 980’s are, “…as light as clouds and felt like cotton balls under my feet. Cotton. Freaking. Balls.”

Cotton balls? Sounds like a good thing, I guess.

Meaghan did have a few small gripes such as her shoes laces didn’t want to stay tied and she needed to adjust the lacing for a better fit. Lastly, Meaghan reports the ventilation was good, but not so great if its freezing cold outside and your foot wants to stay warm.

Soekawan Holi also liked the New Balance Fresh Foam 980. In his review, Soekawan says of the shoe,

“When I stood in the FF 980 for the first time, I was expecting ‘plush sofa’ soft, but instead I felt an Altra Torin’s firm-but-not-hard footbed. The slight difference was the New Balance felt just a tad more plush…After two test runs, I am happy to report the FF 980 is a responsive shoe, with slightly muted road feedback, and plenty-of-protection feel.”

Soekawan also believes that his weight of 205 lbs improved his experience with the Fresh Foam 980. Soekawan believes that heavier runners may be well suited to the shoe which has been reported by some to be firmer then average. However, before you abandon your hopes of enjoying the shoe because you weigh a buck thirty, Runners World recommends the shoe for lightweight runners.

Laura of 50 by 25 says the Fresh Foam 980’s,

“…weren’t as buoyant as heavily cushioned shoes, but they also felt a lot more structured than non-cushioned minimalist sneakers. As a result, my feet felt very firm when I hit the ground, but still supported. Unfortunately, for me, I didn’t feel like there was enough support to correct for my overpronation.”

Sam Winebaum had some issues with the stiffness and flexibility of the shoe. However, Sams say that,

“Apart from the stiff forefoot and flex point far back they run very smoothly with great firm cushion and support.” Sam also mentions that heavier runners looking for a lightweight shoe may enjoy the Fresh Foam 980 because of their “supportive nature.”

Review Sites Put their Feet in the Fresh Foam 980

Brian O’Conner of RunningShoesGuru, says,

“They’re by far the thickest shoes I’ve worn in a long time, but I didn’t notice a difference in my stride…What’s more, the shoes were lighter and more responsive than I would have assumed, given their stack height. All told, this shoe might look maximalist, but it’s a much more conventional model than one might expect.”

Runner’s World wasn’t overly impressed by the Fresh Foam 980. The magazine found the shoe to be a

“…fairly standard training shoe. Measurements from the RW Shoe Lab show the cushioning to actually be firmer than average, and the flexibility was right down the middle.”

Runner’s World didn’t dislike the Fresh Foam 980, but they came to to the conclusion that shoe just wasn’t what they expected. 

A case of too much marketing hype perhaps?

Does this mean that Fresh Foam technology won’t actually cure my acne? Yeah, probably not, but then again if you made it into a cream…

Customers Respond to the Fresh Foam 980

It’s still early days for the New Balance Fresh Foam 980, but here are a couple of sites that had some customer feedback at this point.

RoadRunnerSports 4.3/5 stars out of 6 reviews. Five out of six reviews were positive and they were all for the men’s model of the shoe. No women’s reviews as of yet. The positive reviews cited characteristics and adjectives like cushioning, comfort, lightweight, responsive.

Two of the reviews found the shoes to be narrow. And the lowest review (3/5 stars) was given by someone who found the shoe to be lightweight and comfortable, but didn’t like the midfoot/forefoot cushioning. The reviewer felt that the cushioning, “…ends right at the ball of the foot and then on toe off there is literally no cushioning remaining. This makes for a very awkward toe off.”

RunningWarehouse had 3 customer reviews and they were all positive. I was particular impressed by Gregory’s review who says,

“I am a 2:50 marathoner and run about 70-80 miles a week. I am an avid new balance fan. My road shoes are 890, my trail shoes are 1210, my flats are 1400’s…First impression [of the Fresh Foam 980’s]: unbelievable! The soles of these shoes are very soft and pliable. The outer mesh is very responsive. The 3-4mm drop almost forces you to run mid foot to forefoot.”

In Conclusion

People generally like the Fresh Foam 980 and some really like it. It is noteworthy that Runner’s World found the shoe to be, “average,” but that is different from not liking a shoe. If you are interested in the Fresh Foam 980’s mix of a low heal to toe drop, cushioned midsole, and minimal upper you may want to check out a pair. Just understand the cushioning isn’t necessarily as soft as some other running options out there. The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 is available in Men’s and Women’s models and is listed at $110.

Bonus Goodies

Runner’s World Review

Get Out There Gear Review

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About The Author

Robb Erickson
works as digital marketer. In his free time Robb likes to stay active and explore the outdoors. Two of Robb's most memorable backpacking trips are hiking in the Chicago Basin and soaking in the falls near Havasupai.
  • Deborah Safe

    I bought a pair of these but after 2 weeks and a few long runs (16-37K) found that they promote my old sloppy running habits which in turn re-started some old familiar but recently conquered pain and strain in my legs. Went back to my Kinvara 4’s and am much more disciplined with happier legs. Not very scientific I know, but didn’t work for me.

  • Jacobus deRottmann

    The anterior portion of the foot is a “heel”.
    “Heal” is hopefully what your body does when you have an injury.
    That said, thank you for pulling this info together.