New Balance Running Shoes: the Definitive Guide 2018

Fresh Foam, Vazee, Pace, Prism, Zante, 860... What is all this about? Check out the best New Balance running shoes - updated 2018!

From the moment I started writing these guides to running shoe brands lineups (don’t forget to check out our Nike, Asics and Brooks guides), the brand that was requested constantly was New Balance

Why is that ?

Because New Balance insisted for decades using a “number” system that was confusing for anybody who was not already in the know and when finally people started to wrap their heads around it – New Balance changed it (but not all) again.

I do believe this new naming system works – but NB is still keeping some models on the old system and some on the new system… probably to avoid losing customers who have been wearing “numbers” for the past few years worrying they would not know what to buy next.

Let’s have a look at New Balance legacy numbering system.

New Balance model numbers: what do they mean

Most of you will be familiar with NB’s most popular models of a few years back: MR1080 v4, MR890 v3, WR1260v5… there is a surefire way to exactly understand the kind of shoe by looking at this number – the image below will help you understand.


Basically each model name/code was composed by 4 sections:

  • “MR”: The first two letters identify the gender and the sport activity. “M” is for MEN, “W” for WOMEN. “R” is for Running. “WW” will be Women’s Walking, “MX” will be Men’s Cross-Training and so on.
  • “10”: The “hundreds” number (890, 1260 etc) represents the level of “premium” of the shoe. It used to be symbolic of the pricepoint of the shoe, where 890 would be a shoe around $80, 1080 a shoe around $100 and 1260 a shoe around $120.
    While this is not strictly the case anymore, the concept stays: you can expect the cost (and features) of the shoe to go up when moving from a “8” model to a “10” or a “12”.
  • “80”: The last two digits of the number used to indicate the level of cushioning: a “60” being a stability shoe while a “80” a neutral shoe. This is the actual list:
    • 60 = stability
    • 70 = light stability
    • 80 = neutral/cushioning
    • 90 = speed
  • “v6”: the “V” is the version of this shoe.

These numbers were not exactly customer friendly – but I have to admit that once you know the logic, it actually makes a lot of sense.

New Balance running shoes in 2018

We have seen this trend now: since a couple of years, most brands started shying away from the usual neutral > support > motion control way of classifying their running shoes. We have seen this with Nike and Brooks.

New Balance is also moving in that direction, splitting their collection in 3 big buckets:

  1. ADAPT – Fresh Foam collection: focus on soft and smooth ride
  2. UNLEASH – Vazee collection: focus on responsive ride and fast runs
  3. COMMIT – NBx collection: focus on high mileage

I need to admit I am NOT a fan of the names chosen (adapt/unleash/commit) but I do like the direction NB is taking and I believe it will get better in the next couple of years.

Let’s now look at the shoes in each bucket, what technologies they adopt and let’s try and make sense on who should be wearing what.

ADAPT – Fresh Foam Collection


The Adapt collection features running shoes that deliver soft cushioning and a smooth ride. Fresh Foam is the name of NB’s softest midsole foam material and all the shoes in this collection use Fresh Foam.

Inside the Adapt collection we find all kind of shoes: from cushioning to stability, trail and road-to-trail. Here are the main models:

$150 - The 1080 has been for many years the pinnacle of New Balance cushioning running shoes. After version 5, the 1080 has adopted Fresh Foam midsole material and changed its name to Fresh Foam 1080. This shoe is the softest of the shoes in the ADAPT category, even though some consistant feedback seems to be that the previous 1080 was softer.

$130 - Vongo is the first stability shoe in the Adapt collection. It is designed to provide the same level of soft cushioning of the 1080, paired with light stability and support for over-pronators thanks to a particular configuration of the midsole and a perforated midfoot wrap.

$100 - The Zante (named after an island in the Mediterranean sea) is possibly the first big hit in the Fresh Foam collection, having received great praise from many runners. Characterized by a midfoot-friendly 6mm drop, low weigth, bootie construction and very competitive price, the Zante is meant for neutral runners looking for a everyday cushioned shoe that rides soft, but welcomes faster pace and racing.

$115 - The Hierro is New Balance's premium trail shoe, unofficial successor of the very popular NB980 trail. Meant for tough terraing thanks to multi-directional outsole pattern and debris-free upper.

$95 - Last in the Fresh Foam (or Adapt) line is the Gobi - first introduced in Fall 2016. It is a road-to-trail shoe with 6mm drop, less than 10 oz. of weight and a sub $100 price. The Fresh Foam Gobi is an ideal first step towards trail running.

UNLEASH – Vazee Collection


Don’t ask me where NB got the VAZEE name from, as I have no idea.

What we know is that Vazee/Unleash are the shoes meant for your faster training days, for your races as an age-grouper and for runners who prefer a responsive feeling during their runs.

$150 - The Vazee 2090 is new for Fall 2016 and it's New Balance premium neutral shoe for the responsive category. It uses premium execution across the upper and a combination of REVlite and N2 cushioning for the midsole. We envision this shoe becoming a popular marathon racing shoe for the age-groupers.

$110 - Vazee Pace was one of the best received new shoes of 2015. Meant as an everyday trainer for faster runs (or runners) with a distinctive responsive feeling - the second version improves on last year thanks to more blown rubber coverage in the forefoot and a new, seamless bootie constructed upper.

$90 - The Rush is - unless somebody explains to me why not - a takedown version of the Vazee Pace. While sporting a similar bootie construction on the upper and a midsole with a very similar shape, the Rush utilizes a new midsole material from NB called Rapid Rebound. At $90 MSRP is a very very interesting shoe.

$100 - Vazee Prism is, currently, the only stability shoe in the Vazee collection. While managing to stay under 10 oz. of weight, the Prism delivers decent stability thanks to a dual density medial post. Responsiveness is ensured by the use of REVlite foam like in most of the Vazee collection.

New Balance Vazee Summit

$100 - Last in the Vazee collection is the Summit. Ready for running on challenging terrains thanks to very aggressive lug pattern and a 3/4 rock plate, the Summit sports a no-sew upper that is quite flexible and quite low weigth. Couple all this with a $100 price-point and we can see this shoe be very successful for NB going forward.

COMMIT – NBx Collection


NBx collection… New Balance says these are the shoes for long mileage, ready to stand the distance. To be honest I am not really sure what this means – especially since I can see many of the shoes in the other two categories being suitable for high mileage and also because it is such a varied collection of shoes.

In my opinion this is the “silo” where NB is placing their legacy franchise models before eventually renewing them all. But this is just my opinion, nobody at NB either confirmed or denied this to us at the moment of writing. Don’t let this discourage you: these shoes are the ones that proved the most successful in NB’s collection for many years.. there are great shoes in there!

As you can imagine the shoes in the NBx collection mostly keep their “numbering” system that we explained further up in this article. Hopefully now you will be able to understand what these shoes are about just by looking at their name/number.

New Balance 860v6

$120 - The 860 has been for years a staple in New Balance stability lineup. A quite traditional stability shoe with 10mm drop and stability post.

New Balance 880v6

$120 - 880 is the little sister of the 1080. Aside from the absence of Fresh Foam, the NB880 delivers very good cushioning and the newly designed, no-sew upper will stay comfortable for many miles.

$150 - Another franchise style for NB, the 1260 is the heavy duty stability shoe in the lineup and it has been for quite a few years. Combining N2 cushioning, ACTEVA lite foam material, a T-Beam for torsional stability and an 8mm drop - the NB1260 is one of the big names in high-mileage stability.

$125 - Taking the name from the grueling race, the Leadville is meant for trail running on extreme terrains.


Well… it is a fourth bucket. There are quite a few NB racing shoes, but the three we detail here below are the most popular.

$110 - The 1500v3 is a marathon racing shoe that is extremely popular in North America and Europe. It features some ligth stability in the form of a T-Beam to help even neutral runners cope with form degratation over long races. Weighting less than 8 oz. with a 6mm drop it can be a great 10k to half marathon running shoe for many runners and a 26.2 shoe for very fast, efficient ones.

$100 - Now in its 6th incarnation, the 1400 is similar to the 1500 but with a less extreme attitude. It is softer while still incredibly light (closer to 7 oz. than it is to 8) and the 10mm drop is more forgiving than the 6mm of the 1500. We reckon this shoe can be the marathon-race-day weapon for many runners.

New Balance 5000v2

$125 - Here's the 5000 - a racing flat so light it's incredible (3.6 oz.). It is available in a few version - even with spikes and it's recommended for short distance racing (up to 5 or 10k).

There are a few other New Balance running shoes – but the selection up here is a very good introduction to their lineup.

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Don’t forget to have a look at the other brand guides we wrote this year:

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