TAYLOR: New Balance has been kicking out some good stuff in 2019, especially in the road division. The New Balance FuelCell Rebel was a go-to shoe during the summer, and the 1080 v10 is one of the best daily trainers of the year.
Here we are with the NB Fresh Foam Hierro v5, an eye-popping trail shoe in line with the wild styling of the Nike Terra Kiger 5.
This newest version has a new body on top of its original chassis. The upper is completely redone with a highly-durable TPU-coated textile material that lays over a softer mesh. New Balance did away with the sock-like heel collar and went the more traditional route with a soft padded heel collar.
A small rubber toe bumper and a tongue shroud for debris protection round out the changes.
What remains is a thick Fresh Foam midsole on top of a Vibram Megagrip outsole, and an 8 mm drop.
Overall, if you’ve found yourself pleased with a shoe similar to the Brooks Cascadia line, this could be a shoe that steals your heart.
That said, it’s a polarizing shoe. It is very durable but not so flexible or breathable. It is stable, but bombing a technical descent isn’t advised. The Hierro v5 has a lot of cushion, but almost zero ground feel.
ERIN: I’ve tested a lot of shoes, and New Balance is a company that has always been near the top of my list– it’s rare for me to dislike a New Balance shoe. Recently, though, I feel like New Balance has been offering an insane number of options, some of which are, frankly, difficult to understand the purpose of. The Hierro v5 perplexes me.
ERIN: This is a pretty cool-looking shoe, especially the men’s colorways and the two women’s colorways I didn’t receive. If they’re meant to be a fashion shoe, I think they succeed pretty well. When I was in college in the early aughts, a good friend of mine was a huge fan of whatever New Balance trail shoe was available then (I think it was only one version). These would be right in his wheelhouse.
To be clear, my friend never ran in those shoes, except from parties that the cops busted. He won’t be reviewing the Hierro.
The midsole is Fresh Foam, which I love in the Beacon. I’d probably like it in the Hierro too if I didn’t hate the rest of the shoe so much.
TAYLOR: Overall, I did enjoy this shoe. For me, it will be a good trainer in the base-building phases where many runs are not super long and most are at a moderate or slower pace.
The Hierro v5 is very protective, durable, stable, and versatile enough to use as a daily trainer (albeit being a bit chunky). It checks a lot of boxes in which many trail runners would be seeking.
And while aesthetics isn’t at the top of most trail runners’ lists, it checks that box too. These would look just as good on the trails, on a date, or in my first-grade classroom, apparently. I’ve had more comments on how these look than any other shoes I’ve owned. Nearly 50% of the comments came from children under the age of nine, so you know these are sweet!
Another thing I have enjoyed is the simplicity of the midsole. Many shoes are flawed when there is a lot going on underfoot. It doesn’t really matter if there is a so-and-so plate, blah-blah-blah technology, and three layers of foam if the shoe is uncomfortable! New Balance has it right here with a single-material midsole made of its famous Fresh Foam. It is consistent throughout the foot and pretty comfortable.
The midsole is protective over moderate/technical terrain and felt good on smooth gravel trails too. I felt its was on the firm side of the pendulum even though it is described as being plush.
This is also a very smooth-riding shoe. This is rare in a trail shoe of this stature, but in general, it felt very similar to what a stability road shoe would feel like. Even with the big lugs and Megagrip outsole (in which I believe all trail shoes should be fitted with), the shoe transitioned between speeds and various terrains well.
ERIN: Seriously, though, what is the point of this shoe? Does it fill some sort of unmet need in New Balance’s trail shoe arsenal? I think the answer to that is no.
It’s heavy, it’s clunky, and it’s kinda difficult to put on. The upper has a TPU coating, which I don’t get. It’s touted as being more breathable (than what? The previous Hierro?) but… it really isn’t breathable. And it’s stiff, as you might expect from a TPU-coated upper.
The outsole is Vibram Megagrip and has aggressive multidirectional lugs. I think the aggressiveness of the outsole really masks any of the cushion provided by the Fresh Foam midsole. The ride is stiff and unresponsive. I have to say that I enjoyed zero of the miles I ran in this shoe.
It was hard to get the fit correct, and I had to tighten and loosen the laces several times to find a balance between not having the laces dig into the top of my foot and not having my heel slip. I never really found that sweet spot. I can, however, vouch for the lugs’ ability to pick up all manner of things, including a Q-tip that got stuck in there as I walked through my house.
Oh, and one more thing. You know that pointless heel rudder that Altra included on some of their trail shoes for awhile? Then did away with because it’s dumb and has absolutely no discernible purpose? New Balance has added one to the Hierro v5, and nobody knows why.
TAYLOR: Weight seems to be the most common denominator in shoes that could be really good but are stuck at a “glorified average” rating. The Hierro v5 is a bit on the heavy end. I cannot always feel a big difference in a shoe’s weight, but as the miles rolled on, the weight became apparent. This is another reason why I would suggest this shoe as a low-mileage trainer.
With the upper being the big change of this model, I felt that it was a little underwhelming. Overall, it was a standard level of comfortable and certainly durable, but it was not very flexible. There were no major problems with this, but I could feel some resistance in my forefoot and toes. Even with a wider-than-typical forefoot, my foot wanted to move more naturally than this upper allowed. I especially felt this on trails that were more technical.
One odd thing was that I would end up with debris (mostly gravel) in my shoes. I almost never have debris in my shoe post-run and this happened literally every time. Presumably, this came from the extended outsole (meant for stability) behind the heel, but I really do not know.
ERIN: If you miss having a heel rudder on the back of your shoe that allows someone to step on it constantly or if you’re nostalgic for those early aughts NB trail shoes, pick up a pair of Hierros. Otherwise, if you want a solid pair of shoes that’s actually great to run in, just get a pair of New Balance Gobis.
TAYLOR: If you’ve loved shoes in the past that liken themselves to the Brooks Cascadia (I did not enjoy this year’s model) this may be a shoe to consider. The New Balance Hierro v5 is the equally as durable, much smoother riding, and better-looking cousin. Don’t expect to set any PR’s, but if you want to look good off-trail or on-trail during easy runs, then this could be for you.Shop New Balance Hierro v5