In June, I was honoured to receive the accolade of being the parkrunner of the month at Cranleigh parkrun and that I was to become the proud owner of some shiny new shoes courtesy of Sweatshop.
I popped into the shop to pick up some new kicks and was instantly drawn to the Brooks offerings because that is generally what I have always worn. I never really looked at the Adidas options and having not been particularly enthused by the Asics’ I had tried, I steered clear of those too. I tried on a pair of Nike Pegasus, but in the end I decided to go with something a little out of left field, for me at least, a pair of New Balance. I had never even put a pair on my feet so I decided I couldn’t really pass up this opportunity.
Having put 300 miles into the shoes now, I feel I can offer up a pretty accurate portrayal of how I have found them. In a simple one word review: brilliant.
But now for a little more detail.
Here is what they say about the shoe:
Be relentless. Never stop pursuing in Fresh Foam Boracay. Designed to bring a smoother and more stable ride to your route, this shoe gets that there is always something to chase. With soft and consistent cushioning, it delivers plush comfort from mile 1 to whenever you decide to stop.
- 4mm drop
- Neoprene stretch tongue
- no-sew material application
- Ortholite® Premium insole
But what do I think about it?
Slipping the Boracay on to the feet is a little like a luxurious foot-hug. The fit is a little more narrow than anything I have tried before, but I think that is more telling of the fact that I have been wearing trainers a little too wide for my slim feet. At no point have I felt my feet restricted in this manner, but the only drawback I have felt is that the overlay seemed to run right across the top of my big toe. This was never a problem when running and it has caused no issue regarding rubbing or blistering, but when putting the shoe on or simply standing around it is mildly distracting.
The biggest problem with putting the shoe on, and in fact one of my biggest gripes with the whole shoe is the neoprene stretch tongue that they seem to be lauding on the website. Whilst I am not offended by the choice of material or indeed its padding properties the problem with it exists in the fact that one cannot simply slip the shoe on; once the foot is in place you need to slip a finger down the inside to unfurl the tongue which has doubled back on itself and caused uncomfortable lumps and bumps across the top of the foot – every single time!
The selling point for this shoe (so much so they even put it in the title of the shoe) is the Fresh Foam midsole of the shoe. Rather than relying on plastic bits, funny shaping, or pockets of air, the midsole on the Boracay is one lump of ‘Fresh Foam’ from heel to toe with no obvious break for the arch or grooves for flexibility that you might normally see on a running shoe. The science behind this can be seen in the subtle differences in the hexagonal pattern along the lateral and medial sides of the shoe. In order to change the level of cushioning and responsiveness New Balance make these sections either concave or convex. At the rear of the shoe, for example, the outer edge is firm so that the foot does not roll outwards and this is controlled by the concave shaping of the foam. On the inside, to allow for a nice smooth ride, the opposite is true and a convex pattern allows for a little more squish. What this means in practical terms is a shoe which offers so much more fluidity in it’s ride than that offered by a shoe with more prescriptive plastic bits included. For me, this has basically resulted in a shoe with near perfect levels of cushioning – it is comfortable on the long run (and I’ve had plenty of those in my marathon training schedule), but also responsive whilst doing 400m reps on the track.
Finally, the outsole is a full covering of blown rubber with a similar pattern of hexagonal lugs to those on the side of the midsole. The grip offered here has been absolutely satisfactory on the roads in both wet and dry, but I suspect it would not cope overly well in wet grass or any real muddy areas – though I haven’t tried in either situation. With 300 miles on the clock I can see the wear and tear starting to take place as the sole thins along my strike pattern, and the very toe edge is basically through to the midsole – but aside from that there seems to be plenty of life left along the rest of it.
On the road
300 miles later, I have a few reservations about the shoe – largely down to durability. One lace cracked and frayed within a matter of runs; this is not a problem per se but not a great advert. On the same shoe the lining of the heel counter seemed to fail and collapse pretty swiftly; again, not a huge problem but hardly a glowing endorsement either.
The main feature of the shoe is the plush comfort on offer from the Fresh Foam, but as a mid-to-toe striker I am generally using the area of the shoe with the least cushioning. As a result I think I am probably approaching the end of its lifespan as my run this weekend seemed to be lacking some of the earlier cushiness.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The upper continues to hug my feet like a glove and I have not found a single hot-spot or point of discomfort from any run I have done between four miles and 21. In fact, there are few traces of evidence to suggest I have even run half as many miles; the shoes are in great condition still. Every one of these runs has been a pleasure, and I am so pleased to have discovered New Balance as a manufacturer of fine shoes.
Would I recommend it?
Absolutely!! This shoe is brilliant. The minor durability issues are as much down to bad luck on my part I suspect and actually do little to detract from the shoe. Whilst I might have hoped to get a few more miles under the belt in them, I reckon anyone who heel strikes will get at least 500 miles of service from them.
I award it a strong 8/10. If you’re in the market for a new shoe, then try this one – I reckon you’ll be happy!
stock images from New Balance, own images taken 12/10 with 302 miles recorded in the shoes