Many times a brand will release versions of a trainer with small updates but they are essentially the same. This is not the trend with the New Balance 860. Its 12th edition has undergone small, but noticeable changes to keep things exciting.
The New Balance 860 is the cornerstone of their stability lineup. The other consistent offering is the Fresh Foam Vongo. The Vongo is their max stability offering while the 860 is the moderate one. Its purpose is to be the workhorse trainer of your rotation, built for miles at different paces.
The New Balance 860 retails for 135 dollars. It competes in terms of price and cushioning with the ASICS GT-2000, Brooks Adrenaline, and Saucony Guide. In terms of cushioning the closest shoe would be the Saucony Omni. In terms of stability the Saucony Omni shares many of the same features.
New Balance Fresh Foam X 860 v12 First Impressions
I thought I was getting a different colorway when I opened the box. I was surprised to see the black and white one. It is a simple colorway with details in the design. I like the simplicity of the overall design. The reflective N on both sides of the shoe was my favorite visual aspect. If you want a pair with more visual excitement there are 6 colorways to choose from.
Instant comfort is what was felt the first time they were slipped on. There was a solid foundation with a bounce on the top. A hug-like fit in the heel which widened out in the midsole and sole areas of the trainer. In my experience, New Balance provides a wider ride than most, but not so wide that foot slippage results.
The maiden voyage of the New Balance 860v12 was a 10k run. The initial 1st comfort felt continued into my first step. It took me 3 times to find the perfect feel with the lacing system. They were sturdy but had a bounce on each stride. It was an enjoyable run which got me looking forward to more miles.
New Balance Fresh Foam X 860 v12 Sole Unit
Let’s start from the ground up. The outsole of the New Balance 860 is covered in a thick layer of blown rubber. It adds durability to the trainer because of its thickness. The flex grooves in the forefoot along with the guidance line running from toe to heel add to the flexibility of the trainer. The flexibility isn’t felt immediately, but over time and miles it increases.
Above the outsole is the midsole, made of two materials the FuelCell and Fresh Foam X. The bigger of the two is the FuelCell, this compound has been around for quite some time. It is a tried and true material that is responsive, providing a firm and stable ride but not much bounce is felt.
There is a dual density medial post in this layer. The foam is denser in those areas you need it to prevent pronation. This provides stability in more of the traditional way. The medial is apparent because of the bulk for the first few runs in them. It is effective at preventing pronation and keeping arches from collapsing.
On top of the FuelCell is the Fresh Foam X topsole. This is the material they use for the entire midsole of the Vongo. The Fresh Foam X is a light and bouncy midsole compound. This softened the feeling of the 860 especially on impacts and toe offs. This topsole runs from heel to toe and gives the trainer a comfortable fit. It does its job without taking away from the stability of the shoe. The benefits of it would increase if you added the amount of Fresh Foam X in the topsole or mixed it in the midsole.
New Balance Fresh Foam X 860 v12 Upper Unit
Air Mesh makes its first appearance in the 860v12. This is a synthetic air mesh material meant to add flexibility while being supportive. It is a breathable material almost to a fault. It allows cold air in to the point where my toes were cold during runs. This would be a benefit in the summer months, but was a drawback reviewing them in the winter.
There is a raised pattern starting in the midfoot of the upper and continues to the end of the heel. This adds structure to the upper which in turn improves the fit of the shoe. The N logo is also raised and adds structure to the upper. It is a medium amount of structure in terms of the fit and allows it to still be flexible. It is a seamless upper and has no points of irritation.
In the heel you will find a molded heel counter. Basically they took the ultra heel from last year’s version and added some cushion to it, the ideal amount of cushioning needed. This is similar to what was done to the Vongo 5 last year and is a strength of the upper. It provided a tailored fit holding the heel in place. With the heel in place the stability of the trainer is increased.
The New Balance 860 provides ample room throughout the midfoot and toe box. This is a benefit for runners with a wider foot or ones who are seeking more room to stretch in their trainers. It allows for toes to splay out on toe offs. It increases the level of comfort to the trainer as well.
New Balance Fresh Foam X 860 v12 Conclusion
My last experience with the New Balance 860s was the 9th version. The 9s were a workhorse of a trainer that had a couple drawbacks for me. Many aspects of the trainer have changed since then. Does that equate to the 12th edition being a better trainer? Based on my experience I would say yes.
The midsole made from both FuelCell and Fresh Foam X provides a comfortable stable ride. The dual-density medial post provided stability without being noticeable. The midsole absorbed impact nicely along with giving a small energy return. The FuelCell provides a solid foundation while the Fresh Foam X added a needed bounce.
I wish there was more Fresh Foam X because around mile 8 the feeling of the midsole became firmer. This was especially true in the heel portion of the shoe and caused a slight discomfort.
Durability is a strength of the midsole of the 860s. These trainers are built for miles. Mine showed minimal wear after a hundred miles in them. Both the midsole and upper are made with durable materials.
The Air Mesh makes its debut in the 860v12 and makes quite a statement. I found this material to be adaptable to my feet along with being breathable. It is almost breathable to a fault because my toes experienced some coldness while reviewing them in the winter.
This drawback would be a positive in the other seasons. It is a structured upper on the sides of the feet adding to the stability of the shoe. The molded heel counter is the star of the upper. It provides a comfort fit with the right amount of cushioning.
Overall, the New Balance 860v12 is a dependable everyday trainer. It ran well in all the types of runs I took them on. It is a traditional trainer without many bells and whistles. Just because it lacks bells and whistles doesn’t mean it is missing something. It provides smooth stability along with comfort for mile after mile.
If I were you, I wouldn’t overlook New Balance because they have proven again they can make a solid stability trainer.
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We purchased this pair of New Balance Fresh Foam X 860 v12 at Running Warehouse with our own money.
New Balance Fresh Foam X 860 v12 Price Comparison
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