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Shoe Of The Week: New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail

The Fresh Foam 980 Trail is a versatile cruiser for mild to moderate trails.

The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail won the "Best Ride" award in Competitor's Fall 2014 trail shoe wear-test review.
The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail won the “Best Ride” award in Competitor’s Fall 2014 trail shoe wear-test review.

The Fresh Foam 980 Trail is a versatile cruiser for mild to moderate trails.

When a brand tries to convert one of its leading road running shoes into a trail shoe, it’s typically suitable for basic smooth trails and gravel roads. But the Fresh Foam Trail—a modified replica of the award-winning Fresh Foam 980 road shoe—is a dynamic and versatile shoe that excels on many different types of terrain. Like its road shoe cousin, it has a snug, athletic fit, copious amounts of cushioning and a smooth, soft ride. Although New Balance says the foam configuration is the same as that in the original Fresh Foam road shoe, our wear-testers thought the ride of the trail shoe was considerably softer. It’s likely because the outsole lugs are semi-soft and enhance the plushness of the ride. Those directional lugs conform and grip to the variable surfaces (both wet and dry) and provide some degree of underfoot protection. This shoe excels on all types of terrain from paved roads to semi-technical trails with rough surfaces. This shoe lacks a rock plate and other protection necessary for extremely technical trails, something that even our most agile and experience trail runners said limited the shoe to more moderate terrain. Plus, a few of our wear-testers thought the forefoot fit was too snug and unprotected, leaving toes prone to stubbing. (Several wear-testers suggested they would have preferred a shoe a half-size larger. Those who did try a larger size loved it.) Despite those concerns, most of our testers loved this shoe for its “cruise-ability” on soft to mildly rugged terrain. “I loved the soft ride and versatility of this shoe,” one wear-tester said. “Despite the thick cushioning, you can feel the trail surprisingly well.”

Price: $110
Weight:
 10.3 oz. (men’s), 8.1 oz. (women’s)
Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm; 29mm (heel), 25mm (forefoot)
This shoe is for you if … you like the soft comfort of a road shoe and run on mild to moderately technical trails.

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