New Balance Fresh Foam 860 v11 Intro
New Balance continues to update their popular everyday stability trainer, this year with a revamped heel design and a softer underfoot experience, while maintaining a dense medial post to hold the midfoot firm.
With its duel-foamed midsole, the 860 sits between the softer, full-bodied Fresh Foam midsole of the 880 and the more firm FuelCell midsole of the 890 in the New Balance line-up.
The firm-responsive nature of the 860 reminds me of the ASICS GT-2000, with a 2 mm. higher stack height on the 860.
In side-by-side testing with the GT-2000 7, I notice the soft touch added from the centimeter of Fresh Foam atop a dual density foam in 860, with the firm bottom layer of the midsole providing similar stability and responsiveness to the ASICS.
The 860’s upper shows advanced technology: thinner and simpler yet offering a similarly supported fit in the midfoot.
What GT-2000 has over 860, for me, is a snug heel fit right out of the box (no break-in). Both shoes fit narrow, but ASICS shoes are cut with the added millimeter or two that I need right at the ball of the foot.
I have to go up a half size in the 860 while sticking with my smaller size in the GT-2000.
(ASICS and the Adizero line from adidas get 800 stars from me on fit. They fit my foot shape like a block fits the correctly matching hole in those toddler shape toys!)
The Mizuno Wave Horizon is another similar shoe in terms of feel underfoot, though the 860 has more arch support. Medium-height arches will be more comfortable in 860.
A layer of Fresh Foam softens the impact just slightly, similar to the XPOP cushion in the Wave Horizon, with an overall firm ride due to the base layer midfoot posting in the midsole.
The 860 and Horizon both bend midfoot with significant pressure applied.
The forefoot fit is similar in size 9.5 for Horizon and size 10 in 860 (slight pinch for me with snug laces, before an extended break-in), and the heel fits tighter in Horizon, given that I can get by wearing a half size smaller in Horizon than 860.
New Balance’s 860 also competes for price and stability-wise with Brooks Adrenaline, Salomon Sonic RA, and Nike Air Zoom Structure.
New Balance Fresh Foam 860 v11 First Impressions
Slipping this shoe on for the first time – literally the act of putting on the shoe – was a joy. The pull-on-Achilles-comfort piece at the top of the new Ultra Heel design allowed my foot to slide right in.
This was true for me even though I quickly discovered that I needed a half size bigger. The Fresh Foam 860 v11 fits smaller than the Fresh Foam Vongo v4 that I ran in last fall.
Even in the bigger size, the 860 has a narrow midfoot into forefoot with a narrow-medium heel fit.
I need a narrow heel to avoid heel slippage. Since my foot triangles out to be slightly wider at the ball of my foot, with toes that taper back in.
It took a break-in of almost 100 miles for the 860’s narrow-midfoot upper to feel comfortable for all-day wear and runs over 8 miles.
Before that I alternated between having the laces too loose—which meant heel slippage—or tighter laces resulting in slight discomfort along the ball of my foot that grew as the miles or hours wore on.
I finally noticed at closer to 100 miles in the shoe, that I could keep the laces in a snug tie, and my foot no longer started to ache after an hour or so in the shoe.
New Balance Fresh Foam 860 v11 Sole Unit
The Fresh Foam 860 has a 1 centimeter layer of soft Fresh Foam atop a dual-density midsole layer which includes a very firm medial post along with another material that feels halfway in between the give of the Fresh Foam and the firm posting.
This creates a firm ride with a touch of cushion—though not the “plush” feel advertized. Arch height is medium, and though the early midfoot bends with significant pressure applied, the sole feels very solid underfoot when running.
The ride feels like you’re driving down the road in an armored vehicle, securely strapped in and free to enjoy the scenery. There’s no concern that your foot will roll inward too far, as the shoe holds steady.
My wear-pattern shows evidence of a heel strike (much to my chagrin), an even role through the midfoot, and pretty even wear under the forefoot—even a slightly lateral toe-off.
The outsole is a traditional-looking blown-rubber pattern with flex grooves running horizontally near the ball.
A vertical guidance line, and a deeper groove cut around the heel to cut weight and minimize the transfer of force from a heel strike into medial pronation.
A patch Fresh Foam shows in the center of the deep heel groove, which reveals in inner core of this softer foam inside the bottom layer of this midsole, to add cushion.
I wonder if some of the support that I feel is actually due to the firm outer layer of this midsole acting something like the “bumpers” in the latest Brooks stability shoes with their Guiderails system.
As the foot rolls forward, excess medial or lateral motion is blunted as it runs into the firm edge.
New Balance Fresh Foam 860 v11 Upper Unit
An Engineered Mesh upper offers a smooth, secure fit, but it took me around 100 miles of break-in for it to flex to fit the contours of my forefoot enough to be comfortable for runs over 8 miles.
The new Ultra Heel design reduces Achilles irritation and allows for a place to grip when slipping the shoe on. The heel cup is designed to lock the heel in place, and it is bordered by a moderate heel counter.
The designers added a touch of style to the shoe by matching the print surrounding the heel cup to the dappled design on the layer of Fresh Foam directly below it.
The fit is medium-width in the heel, moving into a more narrow forefoot. Length is true-to-size, to short.
Reflective “N’s” on the inner and outer sides of the shoe provide night visibility, as well as a small “Fresh Foam” logo on the lateral heel.
New Balance Fresh Foam 860 v11 Conclusion
Though it took me a while to break-in, I like running in the New Balance 860, but not for every day. I need a lighter shoe for speed days, and a softer shoe to rotate in.
Too many days in a row—or too many miles into a run—make this midsole feel hard for me.
Give it a try if you value a solid and supported feel underfoot, and be sure to go up a half size unless you have a super narrow foot.
I truly loved the obvious support of this midsole with medium arch. Overall, the 860 is a great addition to a stability runner’s line-up!
We purchased a pair of New Balance Fresh Foam 860 v11 from runningwarehouse using our own money. This did not influence the outcome of this review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.
New Balance Fresh Foam 860 v11 Price Comparison
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