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New Balance’s Fresh Foam X 860v12 Remains a Stable Classic

Compared to v11, the upper and cushioning both feel a touch softer.

new balance 860 v12
Trevor Raab

The RW Takeaway: A reliable daily workhorse that offers moderate-to-high support, fairly firm and very durable cushioning, and an accommodating fit that still feels secure. It’s classic vanilla stability, in the best way possible.

  • Full-coverage rubber outsole shows minimal wear after 100 miles
  • New double-knit engineered mesh upper feels softer and stretchier
  • V12 returns to a more traditional heel cup shape

    Price: $135
    Type:
    Stability road
    Weight:
    11.0 oz (M), 8.8 oz (W)
    Drop:
    10 mm

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    As other brands adapt their stability tech to guidance rails, New Balance sticks with the traditional medial post for the 860, calling it a tried-and-true method of support. (In fact, the Vongo v5 actually transitioned to a medial post instead of the “varus wedge” construction formerly used in the Vongo v4.) And that’s not a bad thing—posted midsoles may feel a bit dated to some, but still work well for moderate overpronators. In fact, the v12 is one of the stability models we’ll recommend first to runners seeking a simple, well-made shoe with more support—and fewer bells and whistles.

    Fresh Foam X 860v12
    New Balance amazon.com
    $134.99
    $109.95 (19% off)

    • Good arch support
    • Multiple widths available
    • Softer than v11, but still a fairly firm ride

    • Heavier than comparable Asics, Brooks, and Saucony models

    Still an All Fresh Foam Midsole

    As an editor who reads shoe reviews daily, I’ve realized there’s a bit of misinformation online about the 860’s midsole foam. So, I’ll set the record straight after my conversations with New Balance’s team. Like its v11 predecessor, the 860v12 has two layers of Fresh Foam in its midsole: the top is soft, the bottom is speedy. Many runners believe that the top layer is Fresh Foam while the bottom layer is FuelCell; there’s no FuelCell foam anywhere in the 860 model. However, New Balance did tweak the formula of the lower layer (an EVA-based material), slightly lowering the durometer, a measure of hardness. So, in this version of the shoe, it feels a smidge more forgiving.

    There’s plenty of rubber to eat up miles on rough roads, packed dirt, and gravel.
    Trevor Raab

    That much is all good. But on the run, the new-school foams clashed with old-school stability tech, a dense medial post. It does the job to slow down pronation forces, but the extra weight slows the shoe’s ride, too.

    “I know this shoe is designed to be firm and has a loyal fanbase that praises its cushioning, but for me, it was a bit too firm after about five or six miles,” said a tester, who usually runs about 40 miles per week in Nikes. “Comparatively, the 860s have a firmer feel and roomier fit than the Structure or Pegasus.” If you like the amount of support in the 860 but want more cushioning with a plusher feel, as this tester did, check out the aforementioned Vongo v5.

    Sturdy embroidery stabilizes the foot.
    Trevor Raab

    New Double-Knit Mesh Feels Softer

    You’ll find the biggest changes going from the 860v11 to the v12 on the upper. To some runners, the 11’s engineered mesh lacked stretchiness and comfort. It also felt a bit cramped as many folks opted to size up in the older version. The 12 fits true-to-size with a soft gusseted tongue and cozy, breathable mesh that stretches just the right amount to accommodate both wide and narrow feet.

    “Stability and support felt great. Even though the shoe feels roomier on the inside, I did not feel like I was swimming around at all. My foot felt secure at all times, while running straight or around turns,” one tester said. “Interestingly, there must be a larger gap around the ankles, as I would consistently get more small gravel inside my shoe than I ever do in other trainers. Luckily, that still did not translate to any heel slippage.”

    The broad toebox doesn’t taper around the edges as much as Nike or Saucony shoes.
    Trevor Raab

    For those in the market for stability shoes and trying to separate the masses, choose the 860 if getting a close-to-perfect fit is your top priority. That’s where this trainer takes the cake. The forefoot and toebox are wide and a little stretchy, spacious but not sloppy. It’s rare that not a single tester mentions a cramped pinky toe or hot spot in their sample pairs, but our testers raved that the 860’s fit was roomy yet locked down from heel to toe.

    Wear-Tester Feedback

    A.J. Sanford | Tester since: 2021
    Arch: Flat | Gait: Neutral | Footstrike: Heel

    “For a middle-distance collegiate runner who likes to be up on his toes, this shoe is a little bit too heavy to feel speedy. It doesn’t necessarily work against speed, but it doesn’t exactly make doing strides an easier time. So, if I’m doing a seven-mile run during which I don’t have to go any faster than threshold pace, I think these shoes shine. But if this was my primary shoe, I would probably pick up another pair for quicker efforts on the track. The shoe took about 20 miles to break in, which wasn’t too bad. (In the FuelPrisms I previously tested, the comfort was instantaneous.) As someone who has flat arches, I think the 860 does offer great arch support but this shoe has never made me feel quick at any distance. Overall, it is a very durable shoe that I think will easily get me entirely through an indoor season—and probably most of outdoor season—of mileage.”

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