Spring 2014 Running Shoe Buyer’s Guide

Photo: Scott Draper | Competitor

New Balance Fresh Foam 980, $110

8.8 oz. (men’s); 7.3 oz. (women’s)

25mm (heel), 21mm (forefoot)

Fit: Narrow from heel to toe, this shoe has the snug, athletic fit of a racing flat, thanks in part to an extra foamy tongue.

Feel: A plush interior makes it feel like there’s a lot of material snugly wrapped around your foot. But the dynamic midsole foam, combined with a form-fitting upper mesh, creates a flexible, glove-like sensation that allows this shoe to be surprisingly nimble. (The concave and convex patterns of the midsole sidewalls play a role in how stiff, soft or stable the foam is in those areas.)

Ride: A moderate heel-toe drop and new Fresh Foam technology in the midsole offer a unique ride that’s cushioned enough to offer plenty of protection underfoot for longer miles on the road but responsive enough to run fast. Our wear-testers like this shoe as an everyday trainer because of the extra cushion and pep provided in every step. One tester admiringly referred to the “spunky energy return,” while another summed it up by saying, “It’s a great all-purpose shoe.”

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