New Balances new mid and outsole technology – Fresh Foam – has now been applied to their new trail shoe, the 980 Trail. The stable, yet comfortable midsole is meant to hold up in the toughest of conditions and provide cushioning whether on technical mountain trails or the roughest of pavement. This shoe, retailing at $109, offers a fully breathable, no seam upper designed to wrap the foot in just the right places. With a 4mm heel to toe drop the shoe can meet the needs of just about any style of running – from heel to midfoot striker. Finally, New Balances proprietary “full-ground contact” outsole offers opposite facing tread to provide traction on both uphill and downhill running. Trail and Ultra Running were sent a few pair for both men and women and we took advantage of the opportunity to put them through their paces on trails from Utah to Pennsylvania.
Perfect Fall conditions allowed us to use the shoes in a multitude of conditions; buttery soft mountain trails to muddy valley pathways.While the overall reviews came back positive, we will let some of our testers speak for themselves regarding the particulars. We rated each area of shoe testing on a scale from 1 – 5. In some cases 3 indicates a perfect fit, whereas in others 5 is the best. Each category will be labeled appropriately.
Cushion Under Foot – 2.7
(a score of 3 indicates the perfect amount of cushion)
The New Balance Fresh Foam technology provides a consistent feel and cushion throughout the last of the shoe, offering what can only be considered now-a-days as an “average” amount of cushion; standard for the industry. It seemed to provide ample amounts of cushion on both paved roads and trails, with enough protection to keep runners feet safe from the elements under foot.
Treadwear and Traction – 3.6
(5 indicates the best possible score)
As already mentioned, the traction on the shoe is opposing from the forefoot to the heel. This technology is meant to allow for the best possible traction when running uphill or downhill: rear facing traction on the forefoot for uphill running and forward facing traction on the heel for downhill running. Testers found that while treadwear was fantastic over time the traction format was pretty much a disaster. The opposing traction only worked if you heel struck while running downhill. If you midfoot strike on downhill trails you have literally zero traction since it’s facing the wrong way. Ultimately, this was very disappointing.
Toe Box Fit – 2.7
(a score of 3 indicates the perfect fit; not too loose, not too tight)
The NB 980T provides a very traditional running shoe fit and feel. Certainly nothing ground-breaking in this model. While it feels great and performs well, there isn’t anything truly different that sets it apart in the industry. And that’s not a bad thing. It means it is still relevant to a very large audience. While shoe aficionados will find it outside their comfort area, most people will appreciate the overall fit.
Overall Value – 3.0
(a score of 3 indicates the best possible score)
The 980T, at a cost of $109, is standard pricing in the specialty running shoe industry. That seems to be the standard with all categories of this shoe – average. Because of that this shoe will fit the budget of just about anyone looking for a traditional running shoe that performs as a solid, stable, and durable cross-over shoe.
Overall Rating – 3.3
(best possible score of 5)