One of New Balance’s most popular running shoe models has been the 1080 lineup. The version 8 has received high reviews and by many people has been considered a well rounded cushioned / comfort shoes. The version 9 is an excellent evolution of the shoe line and has only improved on a well thought out design.
The New Balance 1080v9 has a familiar silhouette and feel to the 1080v8 but has been reworked in most aspects and in my opinion is an all around upgrade from the v8. My review of the 1080v9 is mixed, I can see reasons to love it and reasons to pass on it, but at the end of the day, if you’re a fan of the previous 1080 then this is clearly a worthy upgrade.
“Turn heads in our New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v9. Engineered with a full-length Fresh Foam midsole, we’ve updated the stylish men’s running shoe with data collected from real runners. Plus, details like a modern double jacquard upper and a comfortable Ortholite® insole help provide stylish mile-after-mile comfort.“ – Newbalance.com
The Test Subject
New Balance 1080v9
Mens size: 12
Weight: 11.84oz (mens 12)
Offset: 8mm (30mm heel, 22mm forefoot)
Type: neutral; cushioned
Use: daily / long distance
Color: Black with white
Model Number: M1080BK9
Staying true to the 1080 lineup, the look and style of the version 9 shoe remains classic, elegant and subtle. The upper has a satin finish with a simple looking mesh on the front and a soft neoprene feeling material around the mid foot and heel cup. The only splash of color or branding comes from the signature “N” on the lateral And medial sides of the shoe as well as some small print on the tongue and heel. The largest visual difference between the v8 and v9 is that the latest model has a prominent dimpling on the midsole which continues up onto the heel cup. The dimples are somewhat subtle from a distance but provide a premium and unique design up close. On the lateral side of the midsole, the dimples are actually laser-engraved and are deep pits.
One of the most thoughtful touches to this shoe which is carried over from the version 8 shoe is the heat mapping on the outsole.
The outsole heat map shows the areas of heaviest wear according to multiple runners’ data (white being the highest level and so on). New Balance claims this is to monitor shoe wear, but let’s be real, you can just see the rubber wear no matter what color it is. I do feel that this feature is a very thoughtful touch and shows a concern for attention to detail, even if it’s something as insignificant as the bottom of the shoe.
In a nutshell, this is a simple and clean looking running shoe with no loud or aggressive features, as noticed from afar. But, when up close and personal with the shoe, there’s lots of detail and care to be enjoyed, and the importance for design and style from New Balance is very apparent.
Style Creativity: 8/10
Color Combinations: 8/10
Physical Lines: 9/10
Attention to Detail: 9/10
Overall Look: 8.5/10
The Important Stuff: Performance and Feel
How does it feel? How does it perform? How does it stack up to the 1080v8? Read on!
The upper is a multi piece design, with the toe box being made of 2 layers of mesh, the outer most being highly ventilated. The mid foot and heel cup are a soft and flexible neoprene or neoprene type material.
The toe box is quite breathable and has a generous amount of room but otherwise feels common to most double layer mesh uppers. The mid foot is very soft and supple and feels smooth as butter. Even though the mid foot is soft, you are very secure and can truly lock it down very tight. The mid foot is my favorite aspect of the upper, I was able to find a wide range of lock-down and could wear the shoe anywhere from loose to extremely snug.
The heel cup also continues that soft feel and is quite roomy. There are ankle pads in the shoe but i found that the heel cup was so loose that ankle pads had almost no effect, take that as a good or a bad thing, whatever your preference is. Even when locking in the mid foot, the heel cup still felt a but baggy, and when running I did constantly notice my heel was able to slide up, down and side to side. For me this is a negative aspect, but some people may find this to be a breath of fresh air. One feature of the heel cup that I was skeptical of is the “Ultraheel”. From photos this appeared to be a flap that leaned in toward the achilles and I assumed this would provide discomfort. This flap is in fact very soft and flexible and wraps around the achilles in order to create a custom secure fit. To be honest, even with this my foot still slid up and down.
The last thing worth mentioning is the tongue. The tongue in this shoe is one of the most comfortable I’ve felt, it’s very light and soft, almost like a baby blanket for the top of your foot. The tongue was able to provide protection from the laces but felt so light an airy, I couldn’t have asked for more.
The midsole consists of the popular Fresh Foam material that New Balance has been using on many shoes, but it’s been reworked with laser-etching and is supposed to be better than previous iterations of Fresh Foam.
“Laser-engraved Fresh Foam
midsole features cushioning
that’s more substantial than
its predecessors” – New Balance
I can’t say whether I could feel a difference in the cushioning or density of this new foam, but I did notice that the lateral etching provided a more flexible and softer feel. On the lateral side of the shoe, the mid sole sits more inward whereas the medial side protrudes outward and doesn’t have the etched pits. Based on the feel and setup, this seems to be designed so that the shoe is soft when landing on the lateral part of your foot but as you pronate, the medial area of the midsole is more solid which will prevent over pronation. I found this to be a smart design, sort of best of both worlds, soft landing with stability.
The overall feel of the midsole was smooth and consistent, but compared to other materials I found it to be a bit dense and not so soft. Ever since I’ve felt Nike’s React foam, I’ve been very picky with midsole material and the Fresh Foam just doesn’t do it for me. The foam did provide shock absorption on my long 16 mile run, but never felt soft or springy, it just felt dense and dull.
The outsole of the shoe hasn’t changed much from version 8, but it didn’t need to. The outsole provides a high traction experience and at the heel there’s a higher durability rubber section to slow the wear in the typical contact point as seen in most runners.
At the fore foot, New Balance has included 5 decoupling grooves to provide more flex as compared to the 2 grooves in version 8. With this new addition, I never felt an inflexibility in the fore foot and was content with the feel.
Lastly, the foot print of this shoe is a little wider than some shoes, Nike specifically. This slightly extra width gives a very planted and solid feel, and no matter how bad my form got in the late miles my foot always landed exactly how it should.
The size 12 shoe weighs in at 11.84oz which makes it the heaviest running shoe I own, and I definitely felt it at all times. Within 10 steps on my first run I could feel my legs working a bit harder than normal. I gave the shoes a chance to break in and then took them for a long run, I figured a new day and new perspective might bring different results. Nope. From the start to the end of my 16 mile, 2.5hr run I could feel the extra weight. I found it hard to hold my normal pace and felt like I was doing more work at a 9’15” pace as compared to an easier feel at 8’50” in my Nike Vomero 14.
In comparison, my size 12 Vomero 14 was heavier than the 1080v9 but the springiness of the react foam and air pocket made it feel lively and light, as compared to the dull, clunky feel I got from the 1080. Keeping with the comparison to the Vomero, the Vomero fits a half size larger which means I ultimately needed an 11.5, and at 11.5 it fit the same as the size 12 1080v9 and it ended up weighing less.
In a Nutshell
The New Balance 1080v9 is a nice upgrade from the 1080v8, and for anyone who likes the 1080 line will love this new model. The shoe has a very clean style and is subtle yet very detailed at a closer glance. The feel of the upper was softy and comfy but the heel cup was too loose, it allowed for too much wiggling and jiggling for my taste. The midsole was too clunky for me. It did absorb shock well, but didn’t feel as soft as I would expect from a cushioned shoe. I mean, if I’m going to have a shoe that doesn’t feel soft on landing, I might as well have a light weight racer like the Nike Zoom Streak 6, right!?
To look at or walk in, I like the shoe. To run in, well, I’ve ran twice in it (6 miles and 16 miles), and now they’re for sale on Ebay. It was soft around my foot but didn’t feel soft at all on landing. Pair this with the overly loose heel cup and heavy/clunky feel, this shoe had no place in my lineup. To be fair, I recognize the fact that many people love this shoe and it continues to receive great reviews, but if you tend to side with my opinion on shoes, you won’t like this. This shoe reminds me a lot of the Brooks Launch 6, but the Launch 6 feels softer on landing. I would skip this $150 shoe and opt for the $100 Brooks Launch 6 instead. For me, I’m saving $10 and sticking with the Vomero 14 ($140), and I’m not looking back!
Overall Feel: 7.5/10
Bottom Line: 8/10
For different perspectives on this shoe, check out reviews from the OG’s of the running-shoe-review game.