If you were a teenager in the 90’s you will at some point have had your favourite TV show set on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. A quirky comedy about a typical mischievous and rough around the edges teenager who get’s thrust into the high life when he moves in with his wealthy Aunt and Uncle who live in Bel Air. Just why it was such a big hit I believe is that in some ways we can all relate to Will Smith’s character. Even if we weren’t a teenager at the time it is highly likely that we secretly dreamt to be a youth again. You have to admit it, being a teenager is pretty exciting, fun and carefree. As a teenager you have very little responsibilities, you think you know everything, and life is a beach. It is fun not being grown up, to have an excuse for your wild behaviour. I mean when did we as adults become so serious about everything? Maybe it’s the bills to pay at the end of the month, or the car or house we want to buy so we work extra hard to get it. I don’t know about you but I constantly need to remind myself to slow down once in a while and actually have some fun, to not take life so seriously..
Enter The Fresh Prince of Boston. The quirky, mischievous and a little rough around the edges teenager of the running world. The Fresh Prince of Boston, also known as the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe (this particular review is about the trail version hence the name of the site). When New Balance first brought out the Fresh Foams they had an air of mischief to them, in many ways they were nothing like New Balance had ever brought out before. Moving from it’s Rev-lite and minimus mid and outer soles New Balance was taking a gamble, in a sense rewriting it’s legacy in an over saturated industry. A bold move that is not unlike a teenager who is not afraid to challenge the status quo, not afraid to try something fresh, throw off the mundane and have some fun. I mean just look at the colour options you get with the shoe, if that doesn’t scream a wild carefree teenager like spirit then I don’t know what will.
Don’t get me wrong, just because I am comparing this shoe to a wild and fresh teenager doesn’t mean the shoe shouldn’t be taken seriously! In fact this shoe, while being wild and fresh, is very serious about it’s business and it’s business is performance.
Lets look at some of the specs:
The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe Upper:
I have to admit I was a bit surprised to see that New Balance went with a singular stitch mesh design for the Fresh Foam Trail 980 Upper. It does breathe nicely which is great but it also hamper’s it’s strength and durability on the trail, I am happy to report though that the v2’s will come out with a cross stitched dual density mesh which will make it much stronger on the trail. Along with the padded heel bridge and the ‘Gusseted” tongue which very effectively keeps debris out of the shoe the Fresh Foam Trail’s hug your foot very nicely. Out on the trail I experienced very little niggles to my feet inside the shoe, the fact that the overlays are not sewed makes a massive difference and enables the shoe to comfortably be worn without socks.
The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe Midsole:
As mentioned before New Balance has gone with a foam design on the midsole, this according to New Balance allows you to “Experience the science of soft — off road. With the same impossibly plush and natural underfoot feel as the road version, the Fresh Foam 980 Trail delivers a smooth yet stable ride.” The smooth yet stable ride comes from a ground clearance of 29.3mm at the heel and 22.7mm at the forefoot. This equates to an approximate 4mm heel to toe drop which for me is my most favourite feature of the shoe. New Balance have kept their philosophy from their more natural running inspired minimus shoes and kept the drop as minimal as possible while still offering a smooth and comfortable ride for the longer runs.
The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe Outersole:
Any trail shoe worth it’s salt will always be graded according to grip and ride-ability. The fact that the Fresh Foam 980 Trails has a full ground contact out sole with multi-directional lugs which ensure fresh grip on even the most mischievous uphill and downhill tracks is a massive plus for this shoe. A “fast finish” angle to the outsole gives the shoe a great ‘roll-on’ effect as you run along the trail which I enjoyed quite a lot.
New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe Performance:
So how does it perform? It’s one thing to list a bunch of fresh sounding specs but out in the real world, on the trail, does it all come together like an inside out California roll or is it a fresh flop? First let me give you some context to my running, I am and always will be a ‘running with the fairies’ minimalist runner. For me less is always more when it comes to a running shoe so it is safe to say I was little skeptical of running in a ‘maximal’ shoe again. I was not disappointed. In fact I literally had to hide the Fresh Foams away after two weeks so I could go out in my minimus shoes again. Out on the trail they are incredibly comfortable, and at 8.9oz (230g) they are mischievously light! They handled the rocky, technical sections of the mountain really well and I felt very confident in their grip. They were, simply, a breathe of fresh air! The ride was soft yet surprisingly responsive and on the steep descents they were care free and agile. On hard pack and tar they were fantastic. The one thing to consider though is they do ride about a half size too small so if you are looking at them then try a size up as the toe box is a bit narrow.
I do still find my minimus shoes faster at higher speeds through the really technical stuff but for holding a consistent pace over the long haul the Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe is about as comfortable and responsive as you can ask for.
So I guess the question you need to ask yourself is how seriously are you taking yourself? Do you need a bit more fun in your life, a bit more foot loose and fancy free vibes? If so then you need to meet The Fresh Prince of Boston, the quirky mischievous and a little rough around the edges teenager of the running world.