The Science of Soft

By: Drew

When we get a new shoe here at Fleet Feet, we get pretty excited! The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 arrived at our store last week, and I’d been pretty excited to get them out for a run. The Fresh Foam 980 is a shoe that is following the trend of giving the runner an über-cushioned ride, a la Hoka One One or the Brooks Transcend. New Balance is calling it the “Science of Soft.” This is a new type of shoe for me to run in, but it shares a lot of features with shoes I’ve really enjoyed. Below I’ll try to give an overview of the shoe with information that I think is helpful when learning about a new shoe.

Category: Neutral


The midsole of the Fresh Foam 980 is where New Balance put in a lot of time and work. To develop the midsole of the shoe New Balance used design software that took data from runners that was input to determine the sizes of the hexagons that line the midsole. The concave and convex hexagons are meant to help the shoe transition smoothly from the foot strike to the toe off.  New Balance also gave the shoe a 4mm offset from the heel to the toe, as opposed to the traditional 10-12mm in many running shoes. This is often done to keep you more level to the ground and to encourage a mid to forefoot strike. The foam is very lightweight as well keeping the shoe lightweight at only 8.8oz (men’s size 9).


The outsole of the Fresh Foam 980 is pretty straightforward. There aren’t any cut outs which allow the shoe to have full contact with the ground as you run. There is a bit of a groove at the heel to allow some extra flexibility for the heel strikers among us.


The upper on the Fresh Foam 980 feel really nice on the foot. There aren’t any sewn on overlays that might cause rubbing, and the mesh feel very breathable. This is one of the places where I think the shoe really shines; it gives the 980 a great feel on your foot.

First Impressions:
The 980 offers up something for pretty much every type of runner. If you’re a minimalist looking for something with a bit more protection for your feet you’ll appreciate the 4mm offset and how lightweight the shoe is (8.8oz for a men’s size 9). Shoe nerd? The midsole (big piece of foam) was designed using computer software (OK so maybe I thought they already did this, but I guess not) and the size of the hexagons all were determined using data from runners to provide the best responsiveness and support. Maybe you just want a comfortable neutral shoe to log some miles on, the upper (the mesh that covers your foot) on the shoe is crazy comfortable. Any way you shake it, the Fresh Foam 980 is a pretty sweet shoe. I’ve only been able to put a handful of miles on them so far, but first impressions are important (thanks, Mom) and so far I’ve been really happy with the shoes. They have a great, smooth feel all the way through your running motion, especially through the toe off.

Have you had a chance to try the Fresh Foam 980 yet? If you have I’d love to hear your thoughts. If not, stop by the store and try a pair on!

Some of the technical information was obtained from New Balance, and the photos are mine.

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