How does New Balance update one of its most popular running shoes? Bring in Fresh Foam.
New Balance over the past couple years added its premier foam to a handful of its most popular models: The New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v10 and the New Balance Fresh Foam 880v10 highlight the switch. Now, it comes to the venerable 860 where it works with a firmer foam to deliver a smooth, stable ride.
Even with the success of Fresh Foam in other shoes, New Balance Product Manager Paul Zielinski says they have to be careful when updating popular models.
“It is always challenging to update such an important model. We always ask ourselves, what are we updating and why? And in this case we knew we could bring our more cushioned ride to the 860 by including Fresh Foam.”
The New Balance Fresh Foam 860v11 has an updated midsole and clean look, but maintains the shoe’s reassuring stability. Fleet Feet reviewers laced up the New Balance Fresh Foam 860v11 to see how the new midsole feels and how the new model compares to the previous version. Here’s what they thought.
New Balance Fresh Foam 860v11
9.6 oz (W), 11.2 oz (M)
The New Balance Fresh Foam 860v11 looks and feels like a premium running shoe thanks to its streamlined design and high-quality materials.
Designers covered the 860v11 in an engineered mesh upper. The mesh feels slightly stiffer than some other mesh uppers. That stiffness isn’t a bad thing, though, because it gives the shoe a more durable feel—important for an everyday training shoe that will handle the majority of your miles.
Zielinski says the upper was designed using data. The data informed the shape of the upper and how much support it provides.
“In the 860v11, we looked at strain and stress data to ensure the foot is supported but has the right amount of space to expand,” he says.
An internal heel cup creates a generous fit that grips that back of your foot nicely. The heel cup transitions into a flared heel collar, which is new for this year’s model.
Designers went through several early iterations for the design of the heel and sidewall shape. While the main shapes and structures stayed the same, designers toyed with different ideas for the stitching and overlay.
Early designs show the heel overlay changing coverage, from a version that covered about a third of the shoe to a thin sliver that ran along the midsole. They eventually settled on the swooping design that made it to production.
The heel collar’s shape keeps it off your Achilles tendon to prevent rubbing or irritation. Designers added a little extra padding just above the heel bone, which wraps comfortably around the cup to lock in the fit.
Fleet Feet reviewers say the new 860v11 feels generously sized in the heel and midfoot, making it work for a range of foot shapes. New Balance also makes the 860 in wide sizes for runners who need more space.
“The new 860 has a really comfortable fit,” one tester says. “It has plenty of width in the midfoot, and the heel fits my foot well—there’s no slipping or rubbing there.”
Fresh Foam is lighter and softer than previous iterations of foams used in New Balance running shoes. So, designers used the improved foam as part of a two-foam system to bring a big change to the 860v11’s ride.
“Runners can expect a brand new, enhanced cushioning experience,” Zielinski says. “With the Fresh Foam interacting with the foot closely on strike, runners can expect a smooth and cushioned ride.”
Fleet Feet reviewers say that’s exactly how the 860 feels. The Fresh Foam creates an easy landing and smooth transition whether you land heel first or on your midfoot.
Even though New Balance used its softer foam, the 860v11 isn’t packed as full as the Fresh Foam 1080v10. The lower stack height plus the traditional stability features make the 860 feel firmer underfoot than its cushier sibling.
To give the shoe stability, New Balance added a medial post made of firmer foam. You can spot the medial post because of its outline and pattern on the sidewall of the shoe, but you can feel it on the run.
The post is much firmer than the surrounding foam to account for excess pronation. The firmer foam compresses less under your weight, making it more durable. Over time, that durability keeps your shoe flat rather than wearing down prematurely under the inside of your foot.
There’s no side-to-side wobble in the New Balance Fresh Foam 860v11; reviewers say it feels stable on landing, through the transition and into the takeoff.
While making big updates to a well-loved shoe is always tricky, Zielinski says bringing Fresh Foam into the mix was an easy choice.
“The comfort, design and performance of Fresh Foam has been proven across multiple other models within our performance running range so it only made sense to bring it to the 860v11,” he says. “By utilizing Fresh Foam in the 860v11, we are able to provide enhanced cushioning while maintaining the support this runner expects.”
Fleet Feet reviewers also say the new 860 feels flexible underfoot. The flex grooves in the forefoot lend the shoe a smooth roll through takeoff.
The biggest difference between the New Balance 860v10 and the New Balance Fresh Foam 860v11 is the midsole.
New Balance added the Fresh Foam midsole to the newest 860 to give it the soft cushioning and bouncy response afforded by the brand’s premier foam. The Fresh Foam replaces the previous cushioning system that New Balance used in the outgoing model.
The 860v10 and 860v11 also look fairly different when you compare them side by side. Both shoes use an engineered mesh upper, but the designs are very different. The update is mostly an aesthetic change.
New Balance also used a new heel design. While designers kept the UltraHeel technology, they created a flared heel collar that angles away from your Achilles tendon. It’s a similar design to the heel collar on the Fresh Foam 1080v10.
The 860v11 is also slightly lighter than the outgoing model: New Balance lists the v11 as .1 oz light for the women’s model and .6 oz lighter for the men’s.
New Balance 860v10
New Balance Fresh Foam 860v11
9.7 oz (W), 11.8 oz (M)
9.6 oz (W), 11.2 oz (M)
Adding Fresh Foam to one of the best-selling New Balance running shoes is a smart choice.
The premier foam gives the New Balance Fresh Foam 860v11 a cushioned ride without interrupting the shoe’s reliable stability features. Equipped with a firm medial post, the newest 860 maintains the shoe’s dependable ride and durable performance.
A generously sized heel and midfoot create a comfortable fit for a wide variety of foot shapes, and the soft heel cup with a flared collar create a great locked-in feel without irritating your skin.
With a major update to the midsole and some small tweaks to the fit, the New Balance Fresh Foam 860v11 remains a confident and durable everyday training shoe for new runners to professional athletes.
Still not convinced? Don’t sweat it. Fleet Feet's return policy means you can test drive your shoes and gear without risk. If you’re not happy with the way your gear performs, looks or fits, we’ll take it back within 60 days. Plus, you’ll get free shipping on orders over $99 and free return shipping on all fleetfeet.com orders. That's our Happy Fit Guarantee.
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.