Color: Blue with Navy and White
New Balance's marketing pitch: Engineered to stand fast.
Surfaces tested on: Road, ambient temperature of 21° C/70° F
Upper: Mesh, no-sew overlays+welds, stitched on synthetic leather.
Midsole: Dual density foam - softer Revlite EVA over firmer Abzorb crash pad. 8 mm heel to toe offset.
Outsole: Carbon rubber under heel, softer blown rubber under forefoot.
Weight: 272 gms/ 9.6 Oz for a half pair of US11/UK 10.5/EUR 45/CM 29
Widths available: B (narrow), D (medium - reviewed), 2E (wide), 4E (extra wide)
US MSRP: $ 115
For whatever it is worth, here’s a quick primer on New Balance’s numerical nomenclature. Take the last two digits out of any model’s name, and here is what they are supposed mean, according to New Balance.
XX40: Optimal control, blend of maximum stability, control, support and cushioning.
XX50: Fitness running models for road or indoor use.
XX60: Shoes with pronation control features, while including cushioning and support.
XX70: Light stability, combination of support and speed.
XX80: Neutral. Lightweight plus superior cushioning.
XX90: Lightweight models meant for speed and distance running.
XX00: Competition models for performance and speed.
The ‘XX’ or ‘X’ part generally hints at the performance level; higher the number, more features the shoe is supposed to pack in. Think of the prefix as kind of a premium performance badging, but without compulsorily linking to retail price.
But all this is on paper, and in real life, things can get a bit blurred. The XX40, 60 and 70 sound non-exclusive. And just how different is the XX50 from the XX80 series?
Of course, people in the know (with a long history of wearing NB’s behind them – not us) can defend this hierarchy and explain the subtle difference(s). But for someone new to New Balance’s equivalent of a periodic table, successfully mastering the dark art of deciphering numeric cryptography is a time honed skill.
The recent turn of events points at an evitable shake up of the old order. By which we allude to New Balance’s strategy to switch to names instead of numbers – Boracay, Zante, and now a whole new spawn of the Vazee Pace, Rush, and Coast. There’s also this thing going around that the Vazee Pace is the new 890.
While this move is great – it is easier for many to relate to a shoe’s character (or the lack whereof) with a name, a temporary confusion of transition will ensue. Case in point is that the Boracay (980 V2) and the Fresh Foam 980 Trail (but not called the Boracay) exists alongside today, so runners accustomed to good ol’ numbers will take some time wrapping their heads around the change.
Our guess is that New Balance will gradually switch all their models to the new naming system, while retaining the numbers for internal use. Behind the scenes, most brands use numbers to identify their models – development (dev) code – in industry speak, so the switch won’t be a break from tradition. It will be chaos if the numbers and name continue to exist side-by-side in the long term.
We’ll also love to play a part (unofficially) in bringing clarity to to the transition. So with the next non-numbered NB review, we’ll include a small chart which matches the earlier numbers with their new assigned names. This is of course conditional to the probability that the numeric identification still comes printed on the sizing label.
Anyway – based on the numbering template, we had a pre-weartested assumption about how the 890 V5 should feel like. Our review experience with the XX80 and XX00 series has been the 1080, 980 and the 1500 respectively, and the ride experience aligned (more or less) with how New Balance said they would.
Hence in theory, the 890 should vaguely sit between a 980 Fresh Foam and a 1500 V1, along with some speedster leaning, correct? This seems like a legit line of thought, unless we’ve tied ourselves in confused knots. New Balance’s description of the 890 – ‘built to withstand fast’ is a nod to our thinking too.
And how does that match up with our post wear-test opinion?
Curiously, the 890 V5 is at odds with its ‘fast shoe’ positioning. Because the 890 V5 feels very much like a cushioned trainer meant for easy workouts, not very dissimilar from our impression of the 1080 V5. There are shared design aspects, like the under-heel cavity with a silver material which aesthetically mirrors the N2 construction of the 1080. Or the network of midsole pods flaring out around the sides.
So in a way, it feels like a baby version of the 1080, and not a shoe which is supposed to bridge the performance tiers of the XX80 and XX00 series. If this is how the 890 feels like, can’t wait to try the 880 and make sense of it all.
So what makes the 890 V5 what it is? A quick round-up of construction basics would be nice, yes?
The 890’s midsole material is dual density. The top layer is New Balance’s Revlite EVA, yes, the same foam used on the excellent 1500 V1, except that there is a lot more of it here.
Under the heel, there’s a firmer EVA foam which New Balance calls Abzorb, and this cradles the upper Revlite foam by means of its pod like outriggers.
Inside, there’s a cushy, independent Ortholite insole, and under that is the foam lasting, also called the strobel layer. This heaps on another few millimeters of cushioning softness over the main Revlite+Abzorb composite.
The outsole has a copious amount of rubber applied over it, and the layout is full contact. Meaning that there’s no plastic hugging the midfoot, and the rubber takes on 100% of ground contact duties.
The set-up is typical of many models – harder rubber under the heel, and the forefoot is shod with softer blown rubber slabs.
The going-ons upstairs is familiar New Balance scenery. There’s the ubiquitous ‘Fantom fit’, a term thrown around by the brand to describe a design which melds minimal, no-sew layering with a mesh base.
In this case, the toe bumper is stitch-less synthetic leather, reminiscent of the Fresh Foam 980. Coming to think of it, the toe bumper profile of the two models look similar in shape and treatment. Like the FF 980, the 890 V5 also has a pointy toe box.
Tongue and heel sections of the 890 are relatively very plush. Tongue top is open air mesh, followed by lots of foam packing, and finally a soft lining, which is used on the heel as well.
And like some of the New Balance models we’ve recently reviewed – the 1260 and 1080 come to mind – the front end of the tongue has an elastic panel, which helps in better spread over the foot. Collar lining utilizes the tongue fabric lining, and is generously plumped up with foam.
Upper heel has a full size internal counter, and on the outside, there’s a combined layering of stitched synthetic, web-like welding and the only piece of reflective insert. Though night-time visibility is limited to this triangular sheet, it shines very bright when it needs to. In case you’re wondering, the side ‘N’ logos are just silver colored, and not reflective.
Few foams are truly responsive – the ability of a material to ‘spring’ back – and cushioning materials and technologies like adidas Boost and Nike Zoom are able to deliver on that cushioning promise. But the level of responsive behavior is also tied closely to how much material is used in the shoe. Let’s take adidas Boost foam. Use it in moderation, case in point being the Glide Boost, Boston Boost and adios, and the ride character delivers a cushioned plus responsive quality.
On the flip side, if the shoe packs a lot of Boost foam, then the dial slides from responsive to soft. Like the Ultra Boost and Energy Boost. They are still responsive, but the softness of cushioning becomes the overbearing sensation, and not the responsive part.
Nike Lunarlon? In shoes such as the LunarGlide, LunarTempo, this foam is effective in its role as a responsive element. But take a shoe like the Lunar Launch, where the entire midsole is Lunarlon, and the midsole tends to flatten out.
The take-away is, too much of a good thing has a bearing on a shoe’s character, and if you haven’t got the message yet, we’re talking about the Revlite foam. When used in moderation, as it has been on the 1500 V1, the shoe feels fast with snappy transitions.
Mold a bigger Revlite piece and glue it on the 890 V5, and the shoe ends up contrary to New Balance ‘built to withstand fast’ promise. So what do you end up with?
If we had to group the 890 V5 with a broader assortment, the other shoes would be model such as the Pegasus 32, Saucony Ride 8, UA Gemini, adidas Glide Boost and Ghost 8. Which translates into a ride quality which blends cushioning and support well, but minus the tempo leaning you get from shoes such as the Zante, Boston Boost or Lunar Tempo.
The 890 V5’s heel is quite soft, though not so much as the 1080. Some of this cushioned effect is produced by the combined set-up of the thick Ortholite insole, the foam lasting, the segmented heel crash pad and the Revlite foam.
Yet in the larger scheme of things, the under-heel cavity makes its presence felt substantially.
You recall the 1080 V5’s outsole design, right? Flip the shoe over, and there’s a vacant expanse of space right under the heel. It’s flanked on either sides by rubber mounted on Abszorb Foam pods, and upon impact, these structures take the brunt of the weight. So in effect, the whole area tends to trampoline quite a bit, and heightens the cushioning sensation.
What we’ve just said clearly shows up in form of compression creases on those pods, and dirt scuff marks on the center of the cavity. That’s the extent of collapse, and depending on how much you weight, one could experience less or more of this trampolining action.
While we don’t have miles on the previous version – the 890 V4 – we assume that the heel cushioning would have been firmer on that one. Why? Because the chasm between opposite sides of 890 V4 heel pods wasn’t as wide as this time around, hence leading to potentially less compression and splaying. Readers who’ve had miles on both the V4 or V5 could pitch in below with feedback.
This also implies that if you’re a rearfoot striker, transitions will feel slightly sluggish, a inconsistency arising out of the pocket of heel softness. A trait which we called out on the 1080 V5 too.
Not surprising, given the fact both these models adopt an identical approach to heel midsole design. In the same vein, this does not apply so much if you’re a forefoot striking runner. Regardless, even though forefoot is quite cushioned, it’s found lacking in the ‘quick’ feel department.
And that’s that about the ride, really. This is a shoe which is great for what it is; a ride which mixes in comfortable cushioning with a supportive feel to it, thanks to the firmer Abzorb foam pods working together with more cushioned Revlite EVA . The foot doesn’t get tossed around because of the firmer foam base, and the transition is undeniably neutral in its delivery.
Which makes the 890 V5 good for the long and slow ones, the easy runs, call ‘em whatever you will. Yet this isn’t the shoe to go fast, regardless of what New Balance claims – a firmer and/or consistent density midsole would have helped greatly here. Even the Boracay feels faster than the 890, even though that’s supposed to be a lesser 980 going by NB’s numeral mumbo- jumbo.
Upper fits nicely, as most New Balance shoes do. And if it does not, the width options range from a corset narrow B to a cavernous 4E, so you’re covered either way when it comes to forefoot fit.
Then perhaps the only thing worth underscoring then, is the pointy toe-box, constructed in the manner of the original Fresh Foam 980.
It’s not like that the toe area is cramped or something. Just that there’s not much margin on the medial side of the big toe, and you can sense the lateral upper sloping forward over the heads of the smaller toes.
And the sizing fits extremely true to size with borderline thumb’s width of space ahead; this is one shoe you should try before buying. Like some of the other shoes we’ve reviewed, the firmer heel molding tends to push the foot forward by a few millimeters of interior space.
Rest of the upper has a plush feel to it, an impression created mostly by the foam packed tongue and lining. The tongue is long too, enough to comfortably insulate the foot from the last row of optimal heel-lock lacing.
The foam gusset helps stretch the tongue over, and while we were expecting tongue slide to happen owing to the non-sleeved/gusseted design, none of that ever happened.
The tongue’s uncanny ability to lock itself down can be attributed to 1) the generous padding over which the flat laces can better sink into; 2) the spacer mesh on top which provides enough friction/grip for it not to slip.
This logic seems solid, because the 1080 V5 came with a mild case of tongue slide. No prizes for guessing, the tongue mesh had a smoother surface and felt relatively less padded.
One thing we’d like to see fixed on the 890 upper is the seam inside. The upper mesh splits into two just around the place where the forefoot and midfoot meet, and while the seam isn’t visible outside (it’s turned over), there is a seam inside with a synthetic overlay, no less.
An interior seam is our pet peeve, really. No self respecting running shoe should have an inner seam with a backing material stitched over. Edge-to-edge flat lock seams or welded/taped ones are very ok, because they have a smooth surface. Of all brands, New Balance should get this right – pretty much footwear basics 101. On the 890 V5, the seam did not irritate or chafe, but you felt it as a distinct layer inside. But would have been much better if we hadn’t.
In the end, the 890 leaves you with the feeling that it’s somewhat of a two-face. One side of the story relates to seeing the 890 as an well oiled machine which makes good on blending cushioning and support. Conversely, that same ride character will have runners scratching their heads, for the 890 V5 is anything but ‘fast’, in true running shoe sense of that word.
(Disclaimer: For this review, Solereview bought the shoe at full US retail price.)