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New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Review

Thomas: The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 is New Balance’s entry into the max cushion category. I never thought this would be a category that I would be interested in. After running in a few models I admit that I like running some of my longer slower runs in plush cushioned shoes, think touring sedan vs sports car. At the bottom of this post I give a comparison of some of the max cushion shoes I have run in.

The Good

The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 fits and feels like a more traditional running trainer. The seamless upper kinda baffles me. The welded on overlays provide a custom fit to the upper with no stitching. No stitching means no rubbing and a sock like feel. The flat bottom provides traction and stability. I was surprised how well they handled road, dirt, and ice. The firmness of the the midsole allows the shoe to feel faster than most max cushion shoes.

The Bad

Either my foot is growing again or the 980s run a little short. I recommend trying on a half size larger than you normally go in for when purchasing running shoes. Compared to the other max cushion shoes the 980s felt the most like a traditional trainer. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however from the marketing I was expecting a super cush ride. The cushioning was most noticeable when running over broken asphalt or stones. If you thought the tongue was puffy in the 890 v4, you will find another puffy tongue in the Fresh Foam 980.


After two back to back 12 mile runs and a 22 mile long slow distance run my feet felt good. The fit and comfort of the shoe’s upper, other than needing a 1/2 size up, was the best fit of the Max shoes and the most similar to a traditional trainer. Between the New Balance 890 v4 and the Fresh Foam 980 I prefer the 890. The issue I have with the Fresh Foam 980 is that it doesn’t separate itself from the traditional trainers enough. I wanted a softer feel to the cushioning. The level of cushioning preference is so subjective I recommend you try them on yourself. You may find the firmness makes the shoe faster than the competitors offerings while still giving you lots of underfoot protection. As a side note, New Balance does offer this shoe in various widths.

Max Shoe Grid



Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Nrmrvrk says:

    Nice review. a little on the brief side but I really like the comparison chart. I assume that the drop on the NB shoe was 4mm given the line drawn halfway between 0 and 8. Great detail. I hope to be able to look back in the future to see those stats for many different shoes.

    thanks for the write-up!

    1. Thanks. You are correct in your assumption. The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 has a 4mm drop.

  2. Marius Bakken says:


    I’m a Norwegian two-time Olympic runner (13.06 5k back in ’04) as well as an MD. I have been following your blog and want you to know that I’ve added you to a list of the Top 100 Running Blogs for 2014!

    You are there, and deservedly so, in spot # 41!

    Keep up the wonderful work.

    Kind regards,
    Marius Bakken, MD

    1. Thanks Marius! I reposted the link on our Facebook page and some other running group’s pages. It was a great list of sites and a useful resource. If there is anything we can do to help you and your site, please let us know.

      Thank you for including us,

  3. Dave Clark says:

    Can you compare the cushioning of the 980 compared to the Cortana 3? I assume you would prefer the 980?

    Thanks, Dave

    1. I do prefer the 980. The cushioning was more plush in the 980 and the segments of the mid and outsole flexed better through the stride. The Cortana felt more clunky overall.

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