New Balance 880v3 Review

March 25, 2013
New Balance 880v3

The Good

  • Really smooth and stable for a big-cushion trainer
  • Pared back, semi-minimalist upper lightens the load—just 11.3 ounces
  • Plenty of crash pad for high-impact heel strikers (no bottoming out)
  • Moderately responsive and energetic for such a cushy shoe

The Bad

  • A little flimsy in the upper—hard to get a snug fit
  • Narrower feet might find the last a bit high-volume
  • High-heel forces heel striking (as any 12mm-drop shoe would)

The 880v3 was one of our favorites among big, thick-heeled, traditional trainers this year. It's a great long-distance shoe for cushion addicts and heel-strikers who like to cruise—the thick, soft foam let the miles disappear effortlessly underfoot. I found the pared pack upper to be a bit loose and flimsy, compared to other foamy cushion kings like this one, but that has a nice upshot—it has a more natural feel and certainly dumps a bunch of weight. Overall, the 880v3 is certainly a good value, and—with its just-the-basics upper—a standout shoe for heel strikers logging big mileage, especially those with higher volume feet.


The 880v3 is two shoes smashed together. One is a heavily cushioned heel striker, with some deeply recessed lugs for cruising along dirt roads. The other (the upper) is a really pared down, minimalist-inspired shoe that’s supple, flimsy, and all about moving with your foot. In some ways, the two are an odd pairing, but for those who are sick of how overbuilt and heavy the uppers are in well-cushioned trainers, this shoe will come as a welcome relief.

Most of the upper is just small-pore mesh and thin, pliable film overlays—just about everything that could be taken off the upper has been jettisoned. The main things that remain are a moderately thick tongue, a moderately padded heel cup, and a stout heel counter.

Given how much cushion and power there is under foot, the upper feels a bit spineless and loose—it’s hard to get a secure, snug fit. (That’s also partly because this shoe is higher volume overall). That’s not a pro or con—it’s just a flavor that this shoe has. It’s a looser, less precise feel, but one that also feels more natural.

The foam is right in the middle between feeling squishy and responsively firm. There’s a nice bounce to it—and a moderate energy return. For me, as a 155-pound runner, it hit the sweet spot—not too pamperingly, sluggishly squishy, but really deliciously comfortable for longer runs.

The “T-beam” midfoot shank keeps this shoe feeling torsionally powerful from heel strike through transition—it doesn’t feel mushy or wobbly, despite that big stack height.  

Top marks here—this is a buttery smooth ride, on pavement or flat dirt trails. It really feels great.

The reason this shoe gets a high rating is that there’s a lot of cushioning, and it’s really comfortable. but while shoes sometimes hook buyers in the store with an off-the-charts squishiness that saps the shoes energy on the road, the 880v3 has just enough to deliver an indulgently plush ride without overdoing it and feelint flat, or wobbly and unstable.

No, this isn’t a “fast” shoe—it’s a comfort cruiser. But it’s no lead foot. Compared with other comfort cruisers, it’s on the lighter side (11.3 ounces for a men’s 9) and the moderately responsive foam helps move things forward. I would enjoy this shoe on a long tempo, but all that cushioning is going to slow things up considerably on shorter, faster efforts.


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