The Fresh Foam Boracay felt simply like a standard shoe with a few nice upgrades from the original 980 version. In a field full of shoes with varied sole densities, inlays, and support, the Fresh Foam Boracay seemed like a step backward. The single density foam proved firmer than anticipated though it was comfortable. With a 4mm drop and modest stack heights the shoe felt less speedy and less responsive than the Hoka One One models (Constant, Clifton or Huaka) and the Altra Paradigm. That said, fans of the original 980’s will love the improved fit.
The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 is redesigned this season in the form of the Fresh Foam Boracay. The name is supposed to speak to its smooth ride alluding to a beach in the Philippines for it’s smooth sandy exotic presence. The age-old New Balance number scale (indicating the level of performance and technology) is not present on this shoe. This is a good move as I find most consumers lack familiarity with, and understand of, this system. The base of this shoe stems from biomechanical research translated into a single material without added plastics, inlays, inserts or foreign material. The Fresh Foam sports hexagonal shapes throughout the sole of the shoe with convexity for added structure and concavity for added cushioning and deformation.
Comfort Compared to the first edition there was less of a thick cylindrical fit to the shoe. There was plenty of room in the toe box however came to a rather defined point. The upper’s surface area was decreased which lent a more streamlined fit. The upper’s mesh sucked air and breathed like a champ so much so that on cold days I found myself socking up to keep warm. The laces were improved however some runners found them too long. With this in mind the 980’s fit like any standard New Balance and true to sizing. Simply walking around this shoe is great and yet I felt like there was a lateral ridge extending from the rear foot to mid foot almost rolling me into pronation.
Speed The single sole compound provided impact absorption yet speed took a hit. Plenty of other near maximalist companies exist with similar offsets, which felt faster with similar weights. New Balance Fresh Foam Boracay felt rather average and this showed in my rather average timing.
Responsiveness There was more stability than an average trainer with a wicked rigid mid foot and only minimal forefoot flex. 4mm offset provided a sweet contact for mid foot striking. The total contact sole felt stable from ground contact into flight phase. I could not help the feeling I was losing energy somewhere and working against this shoe. I also had trouble winding up the cadence both on inclines and levels.
Durability Heeluxe, our shoe testing laboratory partner, put our sample through 150-miles of wear testing, then used its equipment to measure the compression of the foam and visually examined the wear to the outsole. The durability rating for this shoe reflects the results of that testing, with 5 being average.
Stability There is only one uniform material throughout New Balance Fresh Foam Boracay’s midsole without added posting or varied layers of density therefore this is best for neutral runner’s only.
Value With an anticipated $10 price increase to $120 this shoe is rather average in value, just as it is in fit, feel, and technology.