New Balance 880v12 Review

By popular demand, my New Balance 880v12 Review! The New Balance 880v12 is designed as an everyday training shoe that will cope with the slower easy runs, quicker interval work and the long runs aka a very versatile road running shoe.

New Balance 880v11 vs. 880v12

In comparison to the New Balance 880v11, the v12 version has changed quite a bit. The midsole is still New Balance Fresh Foam, which has larger bubbles in the heel and gradually get smaller as you get towards the toe. This is designed to give an initial soft landing but then supply a more positive push off. The big change in the 880v12 is it now has a strip of New Balance Fuel Cell foam under the Fresh Foam through the midfoot and into the forefoot. Fuel Cell is the foam that New Balance use in their shoes designed for fast sessions and shorter races. It is firmer, more responsive and has more energy return than Fresh Foam. What this does to the ride of the 880v12 is give it a pillow like softness at the heel followed by a nice push at toe off. A really good combination.

The 880v12 is still soft enough for the slower, easy runs and longer runs but is now so much better to run steady in or use for intervals/hill reps. This is important because the 1080v12 is the maximal cushioned shoe for ‘comfy plods’ and the 880 is marketed as being able to ‘do it all’ well.

The heel to forefoot drop is 10mm (32mm/22mm), which makes the 880v12 more orientated towards the more traditional heel striker.

Saying that, they aren’t very stiff through the midfoot, so I didn’t find them difficult to land midfoot in and I was only aware of the heel height when running downhill. I am a low or Zero Drop fan myself, but still enjoyed them.

The fit of the new 880v12 has also changed vs. the 880v11. The heel cup has a good hold of your heel, making the shoes feel nice and secure and stable. The heel tab still curves away from the Achilles but isn’t as high as on the 880v11. The knitted mesh upper is very soft and has a more open mesh in the forefoot to make the shoes more breathable. The toe box is a lot less pointed. I wouldn’t say that it is a broad & rounded toe box like Topo, Altra or Icebug but the big toe is straighter, which allows better toe off. There is also a bit more wiggle room at the toes. This is better for foot function and comfort, particularly on longer runs when your feet have got warm and expanded a little.

The latest New Balance 880 is light (men’s +/-288g, women’s +/-256g) but has the feel of a substantial, workhorse-like shoe under your foot. That’s quite an achievement. It is difficult to make a shoe that can do everything. Especially in today’s market when training shoes are pillow like soft and fast shoes have rockers and carbon plates and really do make you run faster. Using a carbon plate too regularly will affect your ability to run in regular shoes and some expert professional trainers are keeping training in carbon very minimal. The 880v12 is a fantastic compromise. A shoe with a full Fuel Cell midsole isn’t comfortable for most runners to wear for anything but their faster sessions and a shoe with Fresh Foam as soft as that used in the 880 v12 would be hard to run quickly in. The combination of the two works to make a versatile everyday training shoe.

The New Balance 880v12 is available in Women’s B and D and Men’s widths D, 2E and 4E.

Other Considerations
Scott Pursuit: Very soft cushioning with a rocker for propulsion (e-Ride). 8mm heel to forefoot. Here is our review:

Karhu Fusion: A real workhorse shoe. Very popular in store. Here is our review:

Brooks Ghost: These have a firmer midsole and a good toe spring to make them a good all round option. They are available in 3 width Men’s and two widths Women’s

Saucony Ride: 8mm from heel to forefoot. Although this is less noticeable than the 10mm in the 880v12 as the heel is curved so on descents you don’t hit the heel quite as hard. The Saucony Ride isn’t a cushiony for longer runs and is more suited to everyday training at shorter distances. They are responsive enough to run quickly in.

Hoka Clifton: A soft shoe but not quite as soft as the heel of the 880v12. They are 4mm from heel to forefoot and have a rocker to give some propulsion:

True Motion Nevos: A springy feel to the cushioning at the heel with a firm forefoot to give propulsion.

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