New Balance Fresh Foam X Balos Review

The New Balance Balos.

All shoes are reviewed by the Fleet Feet tester team, which represents a wide variety of goals, foot shapes, running locations and terrains. Reviewers pound the pavement, climb the hills, tackle the trails, then come together to compare notes. Debates ensue over the feel of the cushioning, the purpose of the shoe, and how it compares to last year’s model. While each reviewer has their own individual preferences, we hope that capturing our debates will help you make an informed decision.

Most couples mark their tenth anniversary with a candlelit dinner, an intimate cocktail party or a fancy gift. I’m already looking forward to taking an elaborate vacation for my tenth anniversary in 2034 (perhaps to Balos Beach in Greece).

But New Balance didn’t do any of that on their tenth anniversary with Fresh Foam, their proprietary midsole foam. Instead, they decided to create a brand new shoe within the Fresh Foam X line–the New Balance Balos, available August 14.

“What we’re doing in the anniversary year is really trying to drive some new innovation into the Fresh Foam platform, and that’s what the Balos is,” Danny from New Balance explained at The Running Event last November.

Danny described the Balos as a max-cushion offering that, thanks to the blend of PEBA foam and Fresh Foam, provides both blissful softness and propulsive energy return. Sounds too good to be true? Fleet Feet reviewers finally got the Balos on their feet to see for themselves.

Tech Specs

New Balance Fresh Foam X Balos

Weight 7.3 oz (W), 9.2 oz (M)
Stack height (heel/forefoot) 38.5 mm/32.5 mm
Heel-to-toe drop 6 mm
Category Neutral
Surface Road
Price $200
Comparable to… ASICS Novablast 4, On Cloudmonster Hyper

Ride

Cushioning

Energy

The New Balance Balos' outsole.

Fresh Foam X & PEBA midsole knocks it out of the park

Fresh Foam and PEBA sitting in a tree…K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes prototype testing, then they repeat, then comes the Balos on our reviewers’ feet!

New Balance’s Fresh Foam X foam is their softest midsole foam to date, and you’ll find it in the midsoles of their most popular daily trainers, from the reliable 880 to the ultra-plush More. New Balance’s PEBA-based midsole foam is much more responsive than it is soft, which is why it graces the midsoles of only their speediest running shoes like the SuperComp Elite v4. Blending the two foams together creates a best-of-both-worlds running experience that reviewers lauded.

“I have tested hundreds of shoes with various foams and I know what I like and don’t like,” says Brandon, who’s not exaggerating about the amount of shoes he’s tested. “It’s hard to be impressed these days when every shoe is often doing the same thing or doesn’t stick out. Well, the Balos sticks out to me and it’s among my favorites this year.

I have to give credit where it’s due and New Balance knocked this out of the park–homerun and all. The bases were loaded and Derek Jeter stepped up to close out Yankee Stadium.”

Yankees fan or not, we all agreed that the Balos hits the perfect blend of soft and responsive.

“The Balos has a nice, rolling sensation to it,” says Kate, who’s training for The Big Run 5K. “The shape of the shoe feels like it propels me forward, and the foam has a fun, bouncy quality to it. I’ve really enjoyed all of my runs in this shoe so far. It feels lightweight and peppy. It’s nice to have a non-carbon plated option to grab on days when I need to put in a medium effort. I’ve also taken this shoe for a few walks, and it feels really nice to walk in. I think the rolling and bouncing sensation is a bit more noticeable when walking than it is on the run. When I need to take a work break and get my blood moving, this shoe brings me back to life.”

Despite the shoe’s tall stack height, it feels plenty stable thanks to a wide base. I wore the Balos on a 6-mile run after dealing with some mysterious foot and ankle pain. I was grateful for the wider platform that added a sense of stability, especially when taking turns. The cushioning felt amazing and I was disappointed that I had to cap my run at six miles, but I was trying to be smart about my foot.

Mesh upper adds a sleek feel

The upper of the New Balance Balos.

The New Balance Balos sports a smooth, creel mesh upper that offers a streamlined fit and feel.

“I’m pretty sure that the birds were chirping and romantic music was playing the first time that I slipped on the New Balance Balos, because I fell instantly in love,” says Mandy, who’s currently training for an ultramarathon. “The tongue wraps perfectly around my foot with a thin, stretchy material that stays in place. The shoe hugs my foot in all of the right places and the upper provides a locked-down fit, while still being breathable for hot days or days where I might get stuck running in the rain.”

The Balos fits true to size, although reviewers had different experiences with the fit based on the shape of their feet.

I have low volume feet (feet that don’t take up a lot of space within the shoe), and I felt that the toe box was a little bit too high based on the way the material folded slightly inwards each time I took a step while walking. However, I didn’t notice any issues on the run, which is the most important part for me.

Heather, who has a high instep, felt the top of the shoe was a bit too snug during her runs.

“I was nervous as I slid into the Balos, since I have a high instep and I was concerned that the wraparound from the tongue would cause some pain on the top of my foot while running,” Heather says. “For the most part, it just felt like a secure hug on my foot, which felt really nice. Around mile 2.5, I felt a little twinge in the top of my left foot, but I will admit to wearing thicker socks and using a slightly thicker insole. If I had worn thinner socks and a thinner insole, I’d be totally fine. I enjoyed the fit of it otherwise, so next time I plan to wear thin socks and thin insoles to avoid that foot squeeze.”

If you aren’t sure about the shape of your feet, your best bet will be to head into your local Fleet Feet to try on the shoe in-person. Fleet Feet outfitters use 3D fit id® foot scanning technology to gather information about your feet and the support they need by taking precise measurements of your foot length, width and arch height, so you can learn a lot about your feet while you’re there.

The New Balance Balos' heel.

New Balance Balos vs New Balance 1080 v13

Tech Specs

New Balance Balos

New Balance 1080 v13

Weight

7.3 oz (W), 9.2 oz (M)

7.3 oz (W), 9.2 oz (M)

Stack height

38.5 mm/32.5 mm

38 mm/32 mm

Heel-to-toe drop

6 mm

6 mm

Price

$200

$165

While the Balos is a brand new offering from New Balance, it drew comparisons between the 1080 amongst reviewers. Both shoes have the same weight, almost the same stack height and the same heel-to-toe drop. They both offer Fresh Foam X midsoles, although the Balos is also infused with PEBA, making it more energetic and therefore more versatile.

Aside from the midsole foam, the biggest difference is the upper of the two shoes. The 1080 uses an engineered knit, while the Balos uses mesh.

When I first unboxed the Balos, I was expecting it to feel similar to the 1080. However, the upper felt much thinner and offered more of a high-performance vibe. Plus, the tongue is super stretchy and thin, adding to that sense of a speed-focused shoe. The heel collar is in stark contrast to the rest of the upper, featuring a dense, thick padding right at the top. This contrast hints at what’s to come with the ride of the shoe–the merging of both comfort and speed.

How does the New Balance Balos compare?

We took a look at some comparable shoes to see how they stack up against the New Balance Balos. Here’s what we found.

Tech Specs

New Balance Balos

ASICS Novablast 4

On Cloudmonster Hyper

Weight

7.3 oz (W), 9.2 oz (M)

7.9 oz (W), 9.2 oz (M)

7.4 oz (W), 9.3 oz (M)

Stack height

38.5 mm/32.5 mm

40.5 mm/32.5 mm (W),

41.5 mm/33.5 mm (M)

37.5 mm/31.5 mm

Heel-to-toe drop

6 mm

8 mm

6 mm

Price

$200

$140

$220

Reviewers found the New Balance Balos to feel most similar to the ASICS Novablast 4 and the On Cloudmonster Hyper. All three shoes offer highly cushioned, energetic rides without a plate embedded in the midsole.

Both the Balos and the Cloudmonster Hyper feature PEBA foams for responsiveness, and both the Balos and Novablast 4 have wide, stable bases to increase stability.

All three shoes have relatively similar weights, stack heights and heel-to-toe drops, the difference mainly lies in the feel of the foams. I found the Balos to feel the softest of the three and the Cloudmonster Hyper the firmest.

It’s hard to describe the ride of the Balos because it is so unique,” Mandy says. “It provides me with pep, propulsion, cushion and comfort all rolled into one shoe. I have been fortunate to run in a lot of different shoes since I’ve worked for Fleet Feet, and this is by far my favorite shoe—I can wear it all day at a theme park because it looks good, and it’s also light enough to pick up the pace for some speedwork.”

Who is the New Balance Balos best for?

The New Balance Balos is reflected in a body of water.

The New Balance Balos is a suitable choice for both beginners and experienced runners. The blend of Fresh Foam and PEBA foam makes this shoe super versatile, so it’s a great option for those seeking one shoe to handle the bulk of training. It’s also a strong recommendation for runners who aren’t quite satisfied with more traditional EVA-based foams and want something with a bit more pop.

“I would recommend the Balos to so many people,” Kate says. “It can be a really nice all-purpose trainer for runners who like bouncy cushioning and a rocker shape without a carbon plate. It’s also good for tempo-paced runs since it’s lightweight and capable of picking up the pace. While I won’t choose it for my fastest efforts, I will choose it for my second-fastest efforts! And finally, I would also recommend this shoe to anyone looking for an energetic walking shoe, or someone who just wants a comfy, stylish athletic shoe. Balos, you can do it all, baby!”

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