New Balance 880v3 General Information
New Balance is a staple American shoe company that has been making tennis and running shoes for 75+ years.
The 880v3 is the reincarnation of the 880v2. The 880v3 has a significant overhaul in superficial appearance but the purpose remains mostly the same as a cushioned shoe.
The most noticable style change is the sole unit which has received a complete overhaul. Looking at the bottoms of the 880v2 and 880v3, one could be persuaded they were looking at two different shoe models.
New Balance 880v3 Impression
The day my 880v3s came in the mail I came home from work to have lunch. I was surprised to receive them on that particular day but none the less took them back to work with me to use for my afternoon run. The first run in these shoes was an out and back on a mixture of pavement and dirt trail.
I felt immediately a strong rebound of energy, especially on asphalt, with every foot strike giving me an initial good impression.
I then took the shoes “over hill and dale” on some trails to see how I liked them on less kempt paths. Overall I refer to these shoes as distance trainers for neutral runners who appreciate quick long runs.
New Balance 880v3 Sole Unit
The sole unit of the 880v3 has a 12mm drop from heel to toe. When I first slipped into my 880v3s I felt the subtle forward tilt.
The center of my body weight moved from the heel/arch to the ball of my foot. Consequently my forward motion was more fluid, the shoe moving me into the power position with every foot strike. The forward tilt encourages the body forward through a healthy rolling motion.
The sole consists of three materials: New Balance’s Abzorb, ActevaLite, and Ndurance rubber, standard materials for their shoes. Under the arch New Balance places a plastic T-beam to give some arch support. Rubber studs extend from the arch in five rows following the general path of the toe bones.
This design gives the foot a responsive connection to the ground usually associated with minimalist shoes and rarely found in cushioned models.
After a couple weeks of running I notice some deterioration particularly in these studs which leads me to speculate they will have a shorter lifespan than some of their counterparts made with heavier materials.
The one concern I have is with the heel. It is tall and “fat”. If having a lot of material under the heels is a bother these shoes may not be for you.
While not typically preferring shoes with a larger heel, e.g. Asics Cumulus, my experience is net-positive with the 880v3. I was hesitant at the bulkiness of the heel structure but found while running that I didn’t notice the awkwardness I was expecting.
In fact, it felt more like a spring sending the energy from the foot strike back up my legs. The spring-like nature of the heel compliments the stride, already moved into the power position, to propel you forward. After two runs they break in, you may not even notice the tall heel because your center of weight will be positioned slightly forward on your foot anyways.
New Balance 880v3 Upper
The upper of the 880v3 is light and fairly thin. I will describe it as composed of two layers compressed into one piece. The outer layer is a cagey mesh style designed for breathability and maintaining the shoes lightness. The inner layer is a thin “solid upper” type material typical of heftier and more structured shoes. The purpose of this inner layer I believe is to give the shoe more durability and structure than its flimsy natured lightweight counterparts who utilize only the mesh style outer.
If you, reader, have ever worn a pair of lightweight, thin uppered, minimalist trainers or flats you understand the flimsy nature which accompanies the benefits of minimal uppers. This added inner layer gives the 880v3 more life without bloating the shoe.
The heel of the upper is seriously cushioned and “fat” compared to the rest of the upper. It is also the tallest part of the shoe. This is built into the whole design of the shoe, a continuation of the supported heel to responsive forefoot drop in the sole unit. If you are prone to ankle blisters wear ankle length socks to protect yourself. The cushioning will break in some after a few runs giving your ankles a reprieve but the tall, fat heel just comes with the shoe.
New Balance 880v3 Opinion
The 880v3 is not a shoe that would garner much attention from me in a retail setting. New Balance has not been my brand of preference. But after testing these 880v3s my horizon has expanded. The glass is shattered and I will certainly be giving New Balance a fresh look.
If you appreciate lightweight neutral shoes but aren’t into minimalist styles the 880v3 may be up your alley. This shoe will be a staple in your rotation for long runs, half-marathon/marathon pace workouts, and maintenance runs. They encourage a healthy rolling stride and have good return energy placing them (and you) a step ahead of the competition when training for distance foot racing.
We thank the nice people at New Balance for sending us a pair of 880v3 to test. This did not influence the outcome of the review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.