The New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi is a lightweight road/trail hybrid shoe with outstanding balance between comfort, responsiveness, and turnover. The overall ride is smooth across a range of speeds and effort levels.
The New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi is one of those shoes that feels smooth and comfortable regardless of the speed or distance. This is undoubtedly the result of the Fresh Foam midsole material, which has to be one of the best midsoles on the market. The balance between responsiveness and cushioning is about as perfect as it gets. Combine this with a supportive yet breathable upper, and the Gobi is a shoe that feels just as good at the beginning of the day as it does at the end of a long one.
Where the Gobi comes up short is in its off road capabilities. This is simply not a shoe designed for technical terrain. This will not be an issue for runners who primarily stick to bike paths, dirt roads, and groomed single track. However, runners who frequent rocky, loose, or otherwise rugged trail will struggle in this shoe. The traction, protection, and stability necessary for aggressive running on challenging terrain simply aren’t there.
The New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi would make an excellent general purpose shoe for runners who run on a mix of surfaces, as it can handle everything from long slow distance to moderately uptempo running. Performance oriented runners also may find the Gobi to be a compelling choice for both recovery runs and marathon/ultramarathon races on smooth terrain.
Comfort The overall comfort of the Gobi is simply amazing for a shoe that weighs less than 9oz. The midsole material is quite compressible but also supportive, and hence avoids the mushy feeling that can come with significant cushioning. The upper material also provides excellent form-fitting support without any constriction, hot spots, or breathability issues.
Speed The turnover of the Gobi is definitely above average. This is due to both the smoothness of the heel-to-toe transition as well as the moderate 6mm heel-to-toe drop. The smoothness of the ride is further enhanced by the weight balance of the shoe, which eliminates uneven effort during the running stride.
Security of Fit The fit of the Gobi is generally excellent and very secure without excessive lace pressure. Both the upper material and the footbed are soft and compliant enough to conform to the foot nicely, but not so soft as to make the fit sloppy or loose.
Agility The overall handling of the Gobi is at best slightly awkward. The shoe simply does not have the rigidity or traction to inspire confidence during aggressive running on technical terrain. At typical long run speeds it is adequate for short periods, but generally speaking this is a shoe best kept to groomed and hazard-free trails.
Responsiveness While the Gobi does not have the snappy feel of a racier design, it gets most of the way there. What’s most impressive about the responsiveness is how consistent it is across a range of speeds. This characteristic is particularly appreciated during longer runs that have faster speeds on descents, hiking pace on climbs, and easy jogging on the flats.
Protection The amount of protection offered by the Gobi is clearly below average compared to most shoes in this category. The thickness of the midsole does provide a fair amount of push through protection, but the thin upper and minimal toe bumper leave the top and sides of the foot exposed to trail hazards.
A competitive road cyclist in his younger years and lifelong outdoor enthusiast, Jacob discovered his love for long distance trail running as an adult. He lives in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Santa Fe. Follow him at Google+.