NEW BALANCE FRESH FOAM 860v12 REVIEW
Brian Metzler | October 14, 2021
The New Balance Fresh Foam 860v12 has been a mainstay in the New Balance line-up for years. The 12th iteration has received considerable upgrades for the past two years. Its smoother and more comfortable than ever while still being supremely stable and secure.
The New Balance Fresh Foam 860v12 remains a workhorse of an everyday trainer for runners who need some additional support for pronation control with some modern, livelier features.
The 860v12 features a two-layer FuelCell/Fresh Foam X midsole package for the first time. This is a significant update that’s made it softer and slightly bouncier. It also has an improved engineered mesh upper and new lacing system that has enhanced the fit, feel and breathability.
Stability is derived from the firm and fairly traditional medial post — a large, wedge of higher-density foam under the arch along the inside edge of the foot — as well as the slightly wider footprint from the midfoot through the toe box.
While it remains a very stable shoe, the key aspect of the 860v12 is that it’s a smoother type of stable and not rigid and clunky like some of the previous editions.
New Balance replaced the elf-like Ultra Heel feature of the previous edition of the 860 with a more tradition padded heel collar with a slight flare to reduce Achilles tension.
The new upper, an updated lacing system, a firm heel counter and a heavier embroidered “N” logo combine for a secure all-around fit.
The New Balance Fresh Foam 860v12 fits true to size with a medium fit from heel through the midfoot and a noticeably wider toe box than it previous had. (It’s available in two widths for men and women.)
There’s a sense of cushy softness as you as you step into these shoes and lace ‘em up. This is because of the soft Fresh Foam X midsole top layer and also from the premium sockliner, padded tongue, lightly padded heal collar and the locked-down hold of the upper.
While the FuelCell foam provides a solid foundation that makes it extremely stable on the run, the layer of squishy Fresh Foam X cushioning helps create a softer, smoother and springier ride. It’s a good mix that feels great while still providing the stability that runners expect.
WHO IT'S BEST FOR
Runners who need or appreciate a super-stable training shoe for high-mileage training will like the 860v12 a lot. But it’s been improved so much, those who ran in the previous two editions probably won’t believe it’s the same model.
While it was a bit one-dimensional previously, the new model is more dynamic and versatile. It’s best for weekend long runs and mid-week maintenance runs, but it can definitely hold its own on moderately fast tempo runs, spontaneous fartlek runs and some longer intervals.
FRESH FOAM 860v12 PROS
The Fresh Foam X midsole compound is the softest and most compliant foam New Balance has in its lineup. The thin, full-length slice of that foam on the top of the midsole provides a hint of bouncy responsiveness in every stride. The ride is secured by the thick layer of FuelCell foam on the bottom.
The outsole is made entirely of blown rubber. This gives it sufficient grip on wet and dry pavement and plenty of durability. It’s very similar to the previous two editions of the shoe, with a slightly different pattern and marginally wider flex grooves.
Overall this shoe shines as a tried-and-true stability model with some modern flair. It’s not going to blow your hair back or inspire speed, but it’s reliable and slightly cushier and more comfortable than its predecessors.