Color: Silver/Optic Blue
New Balance's marketing pitch: Our most luxuriously cushioned ride.
Surfaces tested on: Road, ambient temperature of 19° C/66° F
Upper: Mesh, welded and synthetic leather overlays.
Midsole: Compression molded midsole, N2 heel cushioning insert, 'N2 burst' in forefoot. 8 mm heel to toe drop
Outsole: Hard carbon rubber in lateral heel, softer blown rubber in medial heel and forefoot.
Weight: 328 gms/ 11.5 Oz for a half pair of US11/UK 10.5/EUR 45/CM 29
Widths available: B-narrow, D-standard (reviewed), 2E-wide, 4E-extra wide.
(Disclaimer: For this review, Solereview.com bought the shoe at full US retail price.)
It’ll be fun to see how New Balance’s footwear line shapes up going forward, both in areas of product segmentation and naming convention. The Fresh Foam 980 showed up out of the blue last year, when most of the New Balance line was made up of numerically suffixed staples. The 980 was one of the rare NB (probably the only one at the time) shoes to prefix a proper name to its number, setting the stage for the Fresh Foam Zante – another model based on the new platform. The Zante and Boracay (980 replacement) also did away with numbers, and perhaps for the better.
For a shoe geek, a numerical label can be an unlovely way to call out a shoe model, a bit clinical and sterile. We, for example, like names which evoke marketable imagery and metaphors. Like the Speedform Gemini. or Asics Gel Nimbus. And who can forget Nike Pegasus, the mythical winged horse? adidas still needs work on the craft of naming. Verbose names like the adidas Supernova Sequence 7 Boost are quite a mouthful, and could do with some text trimming. The reduction on box ink alone could reverse climate change, and fix the hole in our Ozone layer.
While the Zante and Boracay could possibly be an indication of New Balance’s decisive shift in nomenclature on the Fresh Foam models, the regular line of numbered staples exist in perfect harmony. Road shoes which follow the conventional classification of neutral and motion control, and for NB loyalists the number has long been the key to understanding a particular shoe’s place in the assortment.
If you’re looking for New Balance’s neutral and motion control staples north of $100, the numbers 1260, 860, 1080, 890 merits your attention. The 1260 and 860 are motion control models with 1260 at the highest level, followed by a pared down 860. A similar tiering exists on the neutral side, where the 1080 is meant to be the plushest neutral in New Balance’s line, complemented by the lower priced 890 (and 880 too).
Given that the Fresh Foam line has already evolved – the foam used in the Zante is now softer compared to the original 980 – there might be a future overlap with New Balance regulars. But for now, the models are sufficiently differentiated, be it construction and ride experience.
Every brand has their top neutral shoe. Asics has their Nimbus, the Triumph ISO for Saucony, adidas’ Ultra Boost and Nike’s Vomero. The 1080 V5 fills in that slot for New Balance. The brand calls the shoe their ‘most luxuriously cushioned ride’, with the accompanying material literature calling out the soft footstrike.
And as if to appeal to a larger audience, NB highlights the 1080’s stability aspect. Which does not mean thta the 1080 is geared towards motion control; it just implies that there’re elements of support in the shoe which keep the ride unbiased, and hence, neutral.
New Balance points out the use of the T-beam plastic shank, which is meant to provide structural midfoot rigidity; and it does. The brand also makes mention of the ‘Asym Counter’, a name for a design feature with asymmetrical lateral and medial heel counter heights.
While most shoes come with an internal heel counter which is symmetrical in dimension on either sides, the one used in 1260, 860, and 1080 has a higher medial side compared to the lateral height. The logic being that, the higher medial wall supports the foot when it rolls inwards or pronates, preventing it from going excessively inwards.
We found the midsole wall design to contribute to the supportive feel too. The main midsole might have separate heel and forefoot cushioning inserts doing their thing, yet the midsole packs in a few tricks of its own.
The N2 heel setup might be soft, but the Abzorb midsole casing is firm with pod like projections extending outwards. There are no side grooves or cuts which might make the midsole lean towards either side, so there is a distinct, bias free character to the shoe. We’re sure this is what New Balance means by stability.
As far as the actual ride is concerned, it lives up to the claims of ‘soft heel strike’ mentioned on the 1080’s product page. The heel has an insert of substantial thickness; when we cut a slit and measured it, we got 8 mm on our scale.
New Balance says that the N2 is ’Nitrogen infused’. Not sure how that works, but we can certainly tell you how it feels.
There is a sink-in, marshmallowy softness on rearfoot strike, with a trace of responsiveness. It is also helped by the removable Ortholite insole over it, a shared part which was used to build the 1260 and Fresh Foam 980 too.
The first layer of cushioning is the open foam footbed which applies a layer of softness from heel to toe. Past that, the N2 insert gets to work, softening heel strikes.
Heel to toe transition is a bit of work, as the weight attempts to come out of the soft zone and move forward. The area under midfoot is firm, and then there’s the forefoot, which uses another version of N2 foam called the ‘N2 Burst’. This sits embedded in the forefoot cavity, layered in between the white Abzorb foam and the outsole.
The area under the metatarsals or ball of the foot has a network of outsole lugs (to use, they look like cleats) arranged in a branched structure. An analogy would be rubber engine mounts; except that in automobiles the rubber is used to decrease the sensory level of shock and vibration while protecting the engine. On the 1080, the N2 Burst strives to transmit an elevated sense of cushioning while absorbing shock.
Each hexagonal outsole cleat is seated on its personal ‘N2 Burst’ layer, with the objective of delivering a responsive feel before toe-off, or on forefoot strike. The N2 Burst does work as it should, feeling responsive in that area.
It’s not soft like the heel is, and shouldn’t be either. It mixes the right amount of cushioning and responsiveness, and we’re left thinking that this might be a good thing to place under the heel, perhaps on another New Balance model. The 1080 does not pretend to be anything else than a soft footstiker, because that’s exactly what it is.
Like in most New Balance shoes, there’s a generous display of outsole rubber, running full contact heel to toe. Given the 1080 V5’s targeted demographic of plush ride seekers, the outsole uses mostly blown rubber. Even the heel uses softer blown rubber on the medial side; hard carbon rubber is only used on the lateral heel strike area. The harder heel side also acts as a crash pad, divided from the softer side by a deep groove. The crash pad is beveled, but only slightly so with a minimal curve-up.
Because of the soft heel>firm midfoot>responsive forefoot sequence, quick touch and go isn’t the 1080’s strongest suit. Running faster in the shoe tends to be a bit laborious, as the 1080 V5’s selling point becomes a hinderance in effortless transitions. Heel is mushy relative to the rest of midsole, so there is an obvious lack of cushioning consistency along the length of the shoe. At the same, understanding what the 1080 is meant for will help set expectations.
The 1080 V5’s solitary goal is to produce a soft ride during runs, and as long as you have that empathy, then the shoe does well, at least in the way the midsole behaves. Coming to think of it, the New Balance 1080 V5 has one of the softest rearfoot strike (feel) amongst other models in this class.
Definitely softer than the Saucony Triumph ISO, Asics Nimbus 16, Brooks Glycerin 12 and. The Vomero 9 heel comes close, and the Kayano 21 is soft heeled too. Odd we should bring up the Kayano, because it is a motion control shoe. But true, that.
But what the 1080 scores in heel softness, it loses out on upper plushness. The upper while being comfortable and mostly well fitting, certainly feels like it could do better with dialling up on the lux. When measuring sensory plushness, we believe four things to be more important than the rest.
The first being a fit which feels comfortable without pressure or seam gremlins. Two, the outer mesh should have an amount of squish and stretch along with material softness. Three, the inner lining should feel smooth and soft to touch, and lastly soft foam padding in tongue and collar areas definitely help in the plushness department.
The 1080 V5 does well score on upper fit, as most New Balance shoes do. Like the 1260 V4 and 860 V5, upper combines a network of fused overlays (Fantom fit) with stitched reinforcement in toe and heel areas.
The forefoot fit feels right, snug on the sides but with enough space in the front. Sizing is true, and there’s ample overhead room in the toe box. If you choose to wear the 1080 V5 sans socks, then no issue there too. The upper breathes well in the forefoot, a result of unlined mesh.
Midfoot fit has a secured sensation of hold around the foot, and that’s because the 1080 uses an inner fit panel. Not seen on either the 1260 or 860, the two center eyelets on the upper form a loop by turning over and connecting to a panel inside.
Lacing pressure translates into a tug on these panels, bring the lacing closer. Narrow lacing is good for taking off top down pressure, though there’s a minor side effect.
There’s more loose lace-ends left over after tightening, and they tend to flap around. Plus side is that if you use the last (sixth) eyelet, it takes care of that issue. It helps that the tongue has an elastic in the front – which means that you can pull on the end so that there’s enough tongue for the last row of lacing to rest on.
The collar fit also feels better with the last lacing row utilized, otherwise it comes feeling a bit relaxed. The ungusseted tongue also tends to stay in place, arrested by the narrow lacing holding down its loop.
That was the fit, which for the most part, has no areas of concern. The materials used on the 1080 V5 could have definitely done with an upgrade, given the $150 sticker and 1260V4 as a reference. We don’t have any miles on the new 890 V5, but using the 1260 and 860 as a comparison, the 1080 feels like a shoe with the cheaper 860 V5’s upper slapped on it.
The mesh feels flat and doesn’t have the squish of what was used on the 1260, and there is less padding in both the tongue and collar area. It’s the lining material too; the 1260 V4 had a plusher feeling collar fabric with more foam padding to go. Functionally, does all this make a huge difference, or transform into the 1080 V5 into a better shoe? Heck no.
But we have to keep in mind that the shoe does cost $145, and part of that is the pricing promise to deliver a superior sensory experience. You know, cocooning plushness to match the soft ride, that kind of stuff. Brands like Asics and Brooks do pretty well in that area, being able to separate models across price classes by the virtue of suitable material packages.
We also felt that 1080 V5 had a great opportunity to make night time visibility a spectacle. Actually that’s what we thought when we saw the silver latticework underlaid in the heel and midfoot area. That turns out to be plain, silver colored synthetic leather.
Actually, there are absolutely no reflective elements on the 1080, which was frankly a surprise. Considering that both the 1260 V4 and 860 V5 have it, and are not substitutes for the 1080.
The 1080 V5 does makes good on the soft footstrike deal, and will be a satisfying choice of equipment for runners seeking that kind of cushioning.
But you know some shoes that give you this feeling of all pervasive plushness and inclusiveness? Pillow-like cushioning throughout, and an upper which feels sinfully luxurious to slip into? Well, the 1080 is the shoe which should have been that, except it isn’t.
There aren’t any deal breakers on the 1080, and it dons the mantle of a soft heel striking shoe rather well. But other than that, the shoe doesn’t evoke a sense of awesome in the context of adjectives which NB uses to market this shoe. Good, but far from great.