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October 21, 2014 Comments (3) Gear Reviews

New Balance 980 Trail – Shoe Review

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.

Mark – “I really liked the cushion… just enough to even out the ride but not so much that I felt like I lost power.”
Craig – “As a midfoot striker I felt the comfort under the ball of my foot was just fine.”

NB 980 T 2

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.

Tina – “After running 39 miles total in the shoes, they look as good as new.” 
Mark – “One thing that I did NOT like were the pattern of the lugs. They did not hold well going down loose trails.”

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.

Tina – “Having enough room in the toe box is very important to me. I noticed right from the start that my toes had plenty of room.” 
Craig – “The 980T definitely has that traditional running shoe feel. For me, I like a wider toe box. I could feel a hotspot on my little toe after a couple of ten milers.”

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.

Craig – “For the cost this is a fantastic shoe. Anyone who is looking for a great cross-over shoe, this is the one for you. The price seems to be standard for the industry and model, so it’s definitely worth it.”
Mark – “It’s a great value at that price.”

NB 980 T 1

Overall Rating – 3.3 

(best possible score of 5)

Mark – “Love it!! One of the only shoes I’ve ever worn where I didn’t have to do heel lock lacing.”
Tina – “The color and design could be better. I’m not sure that everyone would like having so much pink on their running shoes. When I saw the heels on the shoes, I was concerned that I wouldn’t like running in them, but they ended up being comfortable trail shoes.
Craig – “If this shoe had a wider toe box and a better tread pattern I would absolutely LOVE it. It maintains a very traditional running shoe feel, which will appeal to most runners, especially those transitioning over to trails. For me it was fine, not something I would go crazy about, but I do enjoy wearing it. And it looks great.” Stay tuned as next week we review the New Balance 110v2, their low profile mountain shoe. Please share your comments and experiences with New Balance shoes and specifically the 980T, if you have a pair.

3 Responses to New Balance 980 Trail – Shoe Review

  1. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to try out the New Balance 980 trail shoes. Now, I’ve run over a hundred miles in them, with the longest run being 13 miles, and they still feel and look as good as new!

  2. Weide says:

    i bought the shoe due to it snice reviews. i am normally running the altra lone peaks. also had inov8 ultra 290 and pearl izumi M2 and N2.
    Unfortunately i found the toe box extremely narrow, even though i went 1/2 size up from my usual size. Also, the foam just felt pretty stiff. Not sure what the point in a cushion shoe is, with the hight and the weight of it, when there is no real benefit cushion wise over lets say an M2 pearl izumi.
    I did three runs in them. a 50km, a 20km and a 15km. I think the shoe should have become more comfy after almost 50 miles on em.
    What happend though was, that the foam on teh right shoe has deformed quicker than on the left. I do tend to over pronate on the right more than on the left, though it is not an excessive overpronation. After only three runs you can already tell the difference.
    Another downer was the grip on wet rocks, or even wet road. You tend to slip backwards due to lack of traction, really annoying. That in addition to my first black toe nail in months, the weight, the stiffness and the lack of what it providesin comparison to what it was advertised for makes it one of the worst shoes i ever owned. I have send them back due to the poor built quality. Hope i get the money back, but to be honest, if i dont, i dont even want the shoe back,

  3. Dustin says:

    I put about 300 miles on my 980 trails before they were just done. I like the amount of cushion I can run on trails as well as roads. They seemed to breath well. I completed a 50k in them, and my feet were just fine afterwards. I had to go one half size up. I do feel they are a bit heavy, and the tounge and some other padding is a bit too thick. When running early mornings through dew they seem to soak up water like a sponge. Also the toe box is a bit narrow. Over all the shoes held up well. I really put them through a lot including some races I recommend them to someone looking for more protection. I’m currently running in a pair of hokas. Not sure on the stack height for nimbleness but they sure are a lot lighter than the freshfoam.

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