THOMAS: Change is good, they say. It helps us grow, adapt, and keeps us from getting bored. Things you should change include: Water filters, diapers, passwords, and occasionally your mind (but apparently nobody does that anymore). Hell, change even helps us pay for parking meters (David Bowie gets it).
But when it comes to a near-perfect daily trainer like last year’s New Balance 1080v10, sometimes we don’t like change. We gave that shoe our Best Daily Trainer award of 2019 (it came out in December of that year). We weren’t in on the development meetings for the 1080v11, but I’m guessing the kickoff session went something like this … “Let’s not f**k up what we did with the 1080 v10.”
And guess what? They didn’t.
AUSTIN: The 1080 v10 still sits atop my list — which I’ve checked twice, Santa style — as the go-to daily trainer for all types of runs. A lot of times I’ll wear it for a nice 3-mile warm-up, then switch to a firmer shoe like the Brooks Launch or Saucony Kinvara, or, if I’m feeling fast, the Vaporfly NEXT%. And then grab the 1080 again for the cool down. All that to say, the bar for the 1080v11 is high. Like, pole-vaulting high. But I digress, so let’s see if Kris Kringle would don these kicks as he delivers gifts in a few short days from now.
MEAGHAN: David Bowie and Kris Kringle … COVID is affecting us in ways we never imagined. I’ll leave my analogies off, let’s get on with the review.
THOMAS: As you may have guessed, the best thing about the 1080v11 is that not much has changed since the previous model. Almost everything comes down to refinements of the upper. The weave over the vamp/toe box opens up a little more for breathability. Where the v10 had embroidery on the medial and lateral sides of the arch, the v11 loses the embroidery in favor of a larger “N” logo to give the support and hold the foot over the midsole. The styling of the heel counter loses the – shall we say, scrotal – look in the v10, instead modeling more of a reflective water pattern like the bottom of a swimming pool. The refinements don’t change the way the shoe fits, but they do a nice job of cleaning the shoe up. Things that stay the same are the gusseted tongue, the stretchy weave of the upper, and the molded heel counter with an Achilles flare off the back. The stretchiness of the upper makes the 1080 v11 easy to slide onto the foot.
The midsole and outsole don’t get touched. You have the same Fresh Foam X that gives an amazingly well-balanced and cushioned ride. It is by far the best use of Fresh Foam X in any New Balance running shoe. Disagree? Fight me. (Only if I’m guaranteed to win.) The rubber on the outsole is even configured identically as the v10, so unsurprisingly, the durability of the 1080 is solid.
If you aren’t familiar with the 1080 v10 and just want to know how the 1080v11 fits and rides, well here you go. The fit is true to size, so go with your normal running shoe size. The weight is virtually identical to the previous model at 10.04 oz. (285 g) for a US M10.5, and it has an 8 mm drop. The ride of the 1080 v11 is buttery smooth and just the right amount of soft while still giving out great energy return. This shoe can handle your running moods. If you want to go nice and easy, the 1080 v11 will be gentle and easy on the legs. If you decide to pick up the pace the 1080v11 has enough pop in the Fresh Foam X to feel lively.
AUSTIN: Can I start with color? Yes? Thanks. I love the blue colorway, which is timely as winter approaches. The navy and light blue complement the snowy midsole well. Of course, now I’m thinking about Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas.” [Editor’s note: This guy really loves Christmas.] The design isn’t overly flashy this year, but I do hope that New Balance will take some cues from Saucony and present some colors that flash and sparkle in 2021 (e.g. the Kinvara 12).
Step-in comfort felt superb. I didn’t expect anything less. Follow that with a soft heel cup, though I immediately observed a slightly firmer forefoot. The laces have less pull than v10. I know it’s unusual to spend time on a menial issue like laces, but I favor the laces that have that “bungee” feel. I think it makes the tying process easier, and as we know, every element of a shoe is purposeful in the design process. The tongue feels a little less padded too. Finally, the Hypoknit upper provides a generous toe box, though I don’t foresee it causing any issues for my narrow feet.
With that verbose intro out of the way, I’d like to talk about performance for a few moments. As I noted, the ride felt slightly firmer than version 10, though after I settled into a ten-miler, that old familiar feeling returned. A soft ride that still delivers responsiveness. As I pushed the pace towards 6:30, version 11 never cratered or bottomed out. Fresh Foam X, the lighter, softer foam, still shines without feeling weighty as the miles stack up. From what I can tell, the midsole and outsole appear unchanged, though the firmer forefoot suggests the midsole underwent a minor revision in the lab. After that 10-mile run, my legs felt great the next morning for a recovery run … in the 1080 again.
MEAGHAN: As Thomas and Austin noted, not much has changed from the 1080 V10, but the subtle updates are quite nice. The first thing I noticed (because it was my only complaint about the 1080 V10) was that the toe box has been rounded out. It’s a touch wider for better toe splay and provides better accommodation for my wide feet. The upper is still very stretchy and will house just about any foot shape. With that said, the materials have a little less give and feel more durable, which is great. I wore my 1080v10’s a lot and ended up putting a hole in the upper. So far, so good, with this model.
Underneath your foot, everything remains the same: full-length Fresh Foam X and strategically placed blown rubber. The Fresh Foam X is light, bouncy and feels just as springy on mile 1 as it does on mile 20. The shoes remain nice and light. My W7.5 came in just over 8 oz.
JARRETT: The upper is an engineered hypoknit with zonal stretch. It features a large ‘N’ overlay on each side of the midfoot for additional structure. On the back is a very lightly padded UltraHeel which flares out and is pretty soft and flexible. I had a tiny bit of heel slip at first but within the first 2 miles I was locked in. The lightly padded tongue is gusseted and sits low on the ankle, which means it ain’t going anywhere.
The forefoot and toe box were fine for me, and although the toe box doesn’t have much volume, the hypoknit is so stretchy that no pressure gets put on the toes. The outsole is holding up as it’s covered in a good amount of rubber and some exposed Fresh Foam.
The shining star of the 1080v11 is the Fresh Foam X midsole. It’s soft and heavily cushioned, but rebounds well while running. I enjoyed the ride while doing some easy miles, and enjoyed it even more when doing some tempo work. The rockered midsole provides a smooth transition and assists with quick turnover.Shop 1080v11 – Men Shop 1080v11 – Women
THOMAS: It is hard to find fault with this shoe. It ticks all of the boxes for me.
AUSTIN: I truly hoped to leave this section blank and jump straight into a riveting summary, but I’d be remiss to overlook some issues that emerged. One of the recurring gripes runners had about version 10 was the midfoot. “It’s too tight due to the internal band and gusseted tongue.” If this gave you issues, I’m sorry to bear the news: nothing has changed in version 11. However, it occurred to me that you could cut the band from the left and right side of the tongue and let it remain attached at the bottom. That may provide some extra room in the midfoot. Keep in mind that’s merely a theory on my part. Actual field results may vary.
Also, I noticed some midfoot pain on the lateral side of my left foot. I think it’s due to the stiff “N” overlay or the midfoot saddle pressing into the top of the foot. The pain subsided after my run, but I’m concerned that it may resurface. I may tweak the laces and experiment with sock thickness as potential solutions.
MEAGHAN: When I’m holding the 1080v10 and 1080v11 next to each other, I cannot see nor feel a difference in the heel counter. But when I put the 1080v11, it feels off. The hard, plastic structure built into the lower heel of the shoe pushes against the back of my heel in a way that doesn’t feel natural. It’s not debilitating, and I’m wondering if this will get better after a few more runs, but so far, it’s very apparent.
JARRETT: For some strange reason, I noticed pain in the top of my left foot while wearing the 1080v11. I narrowed the source of the problem to either the harder medial ‘N’ overlay that extends all the way up the foot or inside the shoe where the lacing near the toe box is pushed against the top of the foot. I played around with the lacing and the tongue on a few runs, but it kept hurting me to the point that my foot almost felt bruised. After a few days off from the v11, I loosened the shoes and that helped. Austin seemed to have a similar issue to this, but on the lateral side.
I’m aware that the #WideFootFam claimed the v10 to be on the narrow side. I’m unable to compare it to the v10, but since the only big change to the v11 is the upper, it’s probably still a problem. I don’t find the fit to be as roomy as other 2E New Balance shoes in the midfoot, so if you’re on the very wide side, you’ll either have to try the 4E or pass.Shop 1080v11 – Men Shop 1080v11 – Women
THOMAS: This shoe is good for both the beginner runner and the seasoned pro. It is one of the most solid daily trainers out there. If the release date was in 2020, the 1080v11 would be in contention for best daily trainer. We gave best daily trainer to the v10 in 2019. Shoes I would compare this to would be ASICS GEL-Nimbus LITE 2, Skechers Razor+ Hyper, HOKA ONE ONE Mach 4, Nike Pegasus 37, Diadora Mythos Volo, and Brooks Ghost. This is one of those shoes I would feel comfortable recommending to any runner.
AUSTIN: All things considered, I still love the ride of the 1080 v11. It’s reasonably snappy for a highly cushioned trainer that will undoubtedly receive some competition from the updated (and fantastic) Brooks Glycerin 19. The Hypoknit upper feels great, but I’m of the mind that the midfoot saddle, tongue, and internal band will continue to be the complaint lodged against version 11. The “N” overlay may make it feel more snug. Like Elvis, I’m feeling a little blue about the update, but I’m not ready to leave version 11 out in the cold.
MEAGHAN: I’m so glad that New Balance made minimal updates to the 1080 V11 (and also that those updates addressed my only concern from the previous model). This shoe is light, bouncy, and can handle lots of miles. While I wouldn’t pick this over the Beacon 3, it’s definitely a great option for your daily trainer rotation.
JARRETT: I want to love the 1080v11 so bad that it hurts (literally). Looks-wise, the shoe is sleeeeek. The midsole is what I want in a daily trainer. It’s uber soft, but not mushy. It’s responsive and smooth. It feels great when picking up the pace thanks to the rocker, and at 10.2 oz., it doesn’t feel heavy at all. The upper may be the only problem array, but that could be an anomaly. Other than that, the 1080v11 is a top-notch daily trainer.
The New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11 releases on 2/2/2021 for $150. You’ll be able to pick it up at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.Shop 1080v11 – Men Shop 1080v11 – Women