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New Balance Completely Redesigns Fresh Foam 1080v10 for Bold New Ride

A pair of the women's New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v10 on the ground

New Balance wanted the Fresh Foam 1080v10 to be radically different from its predecessors.

The running product management team outlined in early 2018 the vision of the shoe before designers got to work. They still wanted a premium, full-cushion running shoe, but that’s where the similarities ended.

Every aspect of the newest 1080 had to be better than it was before.

“They wanted us to really enhance the cushion, make it lighter, smoother underfoot, and make it more flexible,” says Andrew Nyssen, New Balance senior creative design manager. “The brief was completely different from anything we’ve ever gotten before for a 1080.”

Creating a better shoe, though, isn’t just about finding materials that are lighter and softer than the old ones. New Balance instead had to create new processes to engineer what they were looking for because what they were looking for didn’t exist yet.

The improvements started with data.

With pressure mapping data and a proprietary design process, the New Balance research and development team created a way to build better parts and harness a natural phenomenon on a computer.

“The process is way more precise now,” says Nyssen. “We’re able to work with data and use computational tools to really deliver that precision. Sketching that by hand is almost impossible.”

From development to design, here’s how New Balance reinvented the popular Fresh Foam 1080.

A pair of men's New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v10 running shoes

Voronoi Pattern

The new look isn’t just for looks.

New Balance shoe designers worked with computer programmers to develop software that creates voronoi patterns. The patterns are commonly found in nature, in everything from giraffe’s fur to dragonfly wings.

Nyssen says to think of voronoi patterns like soap bubbles rather than bricks. Bubbles grow and bend to fit the space, and they can have irregular shapes. So instead of a uniform lattice of straight lines and hard shapes, you get a dynamic web of multi-sided polygons.

“It’s really a smarter pattern,” Nyssen says. “You can do more with a voronoi pattern than you can with a uniform, six-sided shape.”

New Balance built the previous 1080 on hexagons, which delivered those uniform—and rigid—patterns. The honeycomb shapes created predictable patterns across the midsole, outsole and upper, but they weren’t quite soft or flexible enough.

The voronoi patterns solved that.

“We’ve been stuck with a six-sided hexagon, but the voronoi is the next evolution,” says New Balance Senior Designer Chase Robinson. “It allows you to have something that’s any number of sides.”

In the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V10, the voronoi patterns lend cushion to the midsole, but they also gave designers a more versatile building block for the outsole.

The voronoi pattern enables designers to be more flexible; they can use the pattern to serve as a visual cue for certain attributes, like traction or cushion.

New Balance professional runner Elle Purrier holds a pair of Fresh Foam 1080v10 running shoes
New Balance professional runner Elle Purrier runs in a pair of Fresh Foam 1080v10 running shoes

The New Upper

Like the midsole and outsole, designers crafted the new upper using a custom computer modeling technique called reaction diffusion.

Robinson says the software used to design the upper creates different zones of stretch and structure with the same knit fabric. The style of knitting, called intarsia, can knit all the different zones into one continuous piece of fabric.

“The more zones you have, the more precise it is,” he says. “We can use a reaction diffusion pattern to give you a visual of the intarsia knit’s built-in, custom functionality. We designed it to give you a stretchy, breathable vamp but also give the midfoot a lot of lockdown without adding additional layers or splits in the pattern.”

When a designer inputs the desired zones, the software builds it automatically. The process looks like hundreds of ants crawling across the screen, creating lines and patterns to fill the upper.

The resulting upper is called Hypoknit, and it’s a big departure from the engineered mesh used in the last version of the 1080. While mesh creates static, consistent support all the way around the shoe, Hypoknit allows for quick changes between the supportive and stretchy zones—it’s a more flexible, more customizable option.

A pair of men's New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v10 running shoes on the ground

Different knitting patterns and densities of the weave create the stretch over the toe box and the support around the midfoot. The intarsia knitting process also means the upper is seamless, making it more comfortable and lighter than before.

“Previously, if you wanted something stretchy and something breathable in the vamp, you’d have to use different materials,” says Nyssen. “With intarsia knitting, the same machine can make one part stretchy and one part more supportive.”

New Balance then paired the breakthrough upper with its new Ultra Heel. The improved heel cup is slimmer and less rigid than before, and the collar flares away from the Achilles tendon for a more comfortable fit.

Fresh Foam X

By tuning Fresh Foam for improved cushioning, designers are creating a premium collection of New Balance running shoes called Fresh Foam X.

New Balance recorded pressure mapping and footstrike data and then applied precise lasering and various cushioning densities to create a smarter, more performance-minded 1080.

“The Fresh Foam 1080 sets new direction for what people will expect from New Balance,” Nyssen says. “From everyday runs to someone who wants their foot wrapped in comfort. It’s kind of a new day at New Balance Running Design.”

By Evan Matsumoto. Evan played many sports growing up but didn’t go pro in any of them. Now, he’s the digital copywriter for fleetfeet.com and editor for the Fleet Feet blog where he writes about different foam densities and engineered mesh uppers.

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