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New Balance Fresh Foam X 860v12 Review

By Chief Editor Matthew Klein and Contributor David Salas

The New Balance 860 has always been a staple stability training shoe from NB. Version 12 comes in with a new upper that significantly improves the lockdown and ride of the shoe. The 860v12 is a firm riding shoe that still provides plenty of protection for your daily miles. The construction of the shoe is still pretty consistent with many "traditional" stability components utilizing posting and platform rigidity and should work for those that enjoy that category. 

New Balance Fresh Foam 860v12 lateral view. N logo across midfoot in a yellow outline. Dark blueish upper. Shoe held to a street.

Specifications for the New Balance Fresh Foam 860v12 (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: Not Provided (men's size 9) Not Provided (women's size 8)
Measured US Men's size 10: 11.4 oz / 323 grams
Stack Height: Not Provided
Drop: 10 mm
Classification: Moderate Stability Daily Trainer

(We will update the stats once they are provided to us in full)

Alternative lateral view of the 860v12.

RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

Matt: The New Balance Fresh Foam 860 v12 is a consistent, solid daily stability trainer. A slightly wider fitting upper provides plenty of room, although as usual for New Balance there is a wide version available. The ride adds a little more responsiveness from the layer of Fresh Foam but still provides a slightly firmer base for stability. A post in the rearfoot and posterior midfoot provides solid but well integrated stability for those needing some guidance in the heel. The New Balance Fresh Foam 860 v12 returns as a solid, reliable daily trainer with an appropriate amount of stability for those looking to get some solid miles leading into fall races.

David: The New Balance 860v12 is a huge step up from v11 with upper integration and comfort. The 860 has always been their daily training stability option. The shoe does feature posting from the distal rearfoot through the midfoot on the medial side of the shoe. The shoe also has a full contact outsole that seems to contribute to stability really well. The shoe is a relatively firm, but protective, daily trainer for those that like the traditional stability category. 

Upper view of the 860v12. Tight lacing going down seen. Moderate heel padding.

FIT (LENGTH / WIDTH / COMFORT)

Matt: The New Balance Fresh Foam 860 v12 fits me true to size in my normal US men's size 10. The fit overall is normal to slightly wide. The extra width occurs mostly in the forefoot, with just a hair extra in the heel in midfoot. It was enough however that I needed to lace lock the shoe due to some foot slippage especially on hilly terrain. The lace lock fixed this and I had no further issues. The 860 v12 returns to a more traditional heel design although there is a surprisingly flexible heel counter. There isn't a ton of padding in the heel collar, but the heel counter did not bother me at all. The midfoot fits fairly traditional and the thick tongue keeps itself secure. The forefoot has. little more room, although the overlays initially made it feel slightly snugger. This went away almost immediately, revealing a more square toe box. I had plenty of room for my toes without getting sloppy.

The upper is on the thicker side, but still ventilates decently. The inner liner is slightly rough, so I did not use this shoe sockless. Overall the fit is slightly wider, providing a nice amount of room in the forefoot but potentially needing some additional security from a lace lock technique. 

David: I am really happy with the upper of the 860v12. In the previous model the midfoot was a little wide and the material was a little thicker. The shoe wasn't very comfortable with step in or long mileage. That is not the case at all with version 12 for me. The upper is dialed in very well and true to size for my normal 9.5. The mesh is a little thicker than some shoes on the market but plenty breathable for daily miles. There are minimal overlays but little regions where threaded overlays are used to thicken up the region and reinforce the mesh. This is along the lower end of the medial and lateral side of the shoe and almost forms a little bit of a sidewall. The heel and midfoot are normal width with the toe box being slightly wide.

The dimensions of the upper are solid and the reinforcement is actually really nice. The shoe fits my foot really well and I'm not sure I would want to change much at all. Perhaps slightly thinning out the dorsum of the shoe, but that's me being picky. The overlays and lockdown of this shoe provide a nice hold throughout the foot and make the running experience much better than v11 for me. 

Forefoot, medial side of the 860v12. Some sole flaring seen through forefoot.

PERFORMANCE (RIDE / SPEED)

Matt: The New Balance 860 v12 has a slightly firmer ride with a touch of responsiveness from the top layer of Fresh Foam. The rearfoot rides on the firmer side, with the top layer of Fresh Foam taking the edge off. There is a small posterior lateral heel bevel that provides a somewhat smooth ride during heel contact. However, it is small and the firmer/stiffer rearfoot makes this area a bit clunky until the pace increases. This can be a little annoying during warm-up, but goes away fairly quickly. The midfoot and forefoot are fairly solid, with a slightly firmer ride and a great transition. The forefoot has decent flexibility, allowing for a smooth toe off. The amount of toe spring and rigidness up front has decrease significantly, so those wanting moderate flexibility up front will enjoy this shoe.

From a durability standpoint the 860 v12 is above average. I have over 50 miles on my pair and only see slight wear in the usual spots. The slightly firmer midsole has not changed, so I would expect at least the normal 300-500 miles if not more. Use wise this shoe is best for daily mileage on roads and well groomed trails. The slightly firmer ride does help for light fartleks or strides, however this shoe is primarily a trainer. The midsole is best as a stable mileage shoe that will give you a consistent ride over longer miles.

David:
The 860v12 is a relatively firm riding daily trainer in the stability category. Overall the shoe does have more of a traditional stability ride to it. The post is noticeable but integrated well throughout extending from the rearfoot through the midfoot. There is a slight posterior lateral heel bevel that does seem to keep the heel strike pretty fluid through the region. The shoe is pretty rigid throughout but does have mild forefoot flexibility which is refreshing since the rest of the shoe is pretty stiff. This is also thanks to some relatively deep flex grooves sprinkled into the forefoot in the outsole. The shoe certainly has a very consistent ride throughout. The midsole itself isn't overly responsive but definitely holds up very well at daily paces and with long mileage. I've used this shoe for some quick strides, but the shoe certainly shines more in the daily mileage category. 

Up close of medial post of the 860v12, spanning much of the medial side.

STABILITY 

Matt: The New Balance Fresh Foam 860 v12 is a moderate stability shoe. The majority of the stability comes from a medial post in the rear and midfoot. It is most significant in the rearfoot, which combined with the firmer ride makes for a stable, albeit stiff ride in the back. The midfoot is wider than many shoes and features a continuation of the post and a guidance line through the outsole. This makes for a smooth and quick transition through this area. The forefoot has solid flex grooves and outsole flare, particularly on the medial side that guide the foot forward. The midsole/outsole are quite stable. The upper does have a flexible heel counter, but the laces need to be locked or tightened to provide more stability. The upper, fitting slightly wider, does cause some foot sliding, which can contribute to a little instability. This is easily fixed with a lace lock and should be the first thing many people should do if they do not have a wider foot. 

David: I feel that the 860 has been crushing the stability category for a while in the most literal definition independent of ride and fit. The upper integration and the platform of the last model did not really work well for me and the shoe felt too rigid and my foot didn't agree with the transitions. With the upper revamp in this model that is far from the case. The platform itself is still very stable but the upper really makes this step up in the right direction. The ride is relatively firm and provides plenty of structure that resists torsional rigidity well. The full contact ground outsole keeps good ground feel and traction on most terrains. The upper provides a much better lockdown and is reinforced really well while not going crazy on overlays through the medial and lateral aspect of the shoe. I remember rating stability high in v11 and will rate that high again in this model. 

Outsole of the 860v12. Flex grooves minorly in forefoot. A guidance line seen thinly from heel to forefoot. Full coverage ground contact outsole

THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

Upper Integration, by David Salas, PT, DPT, CSCS, Taco Enthusiast
The biggest change I have noticed in v12 versus v11 is upper integration with the platform and how that influences ride. A good upper goes a long way when it comes to the ride of footwear, especially in the stability category. What New Balance did really well in the 860v12 is using light threaded overlays to create some stability through the medial and lateral aspect of the shoe. It almost serves as a nice supportive region through the shoe that is resistant to translation medially and laterally, but also still allows for the upper to have a normal amount of slight expansion and breathability that comes with running longer. On top of that the lockdown of the shoe has improved significantly and makes the foot feel much more natural on the platform below it. As shoes are getting more and more advanced in the midsole and outsole it is really refreshing to see some companies shifting focus onto dialing in the uppers.

Stability Comfort by Matthew Klein PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT
There is a great deal of discussion these days regarding how stability is done and what it actually influences. At first, posting and stability shoes were supposed to be something everyone needed, then the pendulum swung the other way and many thought no one needed this. As expected, the true answer is more complicated. While we do know that often times people will have similar kinematics regardless of the shoe they are in, that doesn't mean stability methods won't help certain people (Nigg et al., 2015). It needs to be clear though that posting or stability methods at most slow down excessive motion, but rarely stop it. The term "pronation" is thrown around a lot, the only problem being that it is a normal motion that helps with shock absorption. It is a natural triplanar, being a combination of 3 different motions including eversion, dorsiflexion and abduction of the foot and ankle. Too much of it can overly stress tendons and muscles, while too little can stress bones and other passive structures. Methods like posting can help those with excessive motion ONLY if they are having issues with pronation related injuries (Willems et al., 2021).

Pronation related injuries include posterior tibialis injuries (tendinis/tendinosis/muscle strains), Achilles problems (tendinopathies), plantar fasciitis/iopathy, patellar tendon problems and anterior tibialis/medial tibial stress syndrome (Willems et al., 2021). However, other running related injuries are likely to not be influence by stability methods, so if you have anything besides the above, being prescribed stability shoes to prevent them is questionable advice. HOWEVER, if you find stability shoes comfortable and they make running more enjoyable, that is a great reason to use them as we know how important comfort is when choosing shoes (Nigg et al., 2015). If you find stability shoes uncomfortable and don't have any of the above, then the same logic applies. Find what works for your body and remember that if you do need stability, there are many different types of stability in footwear now. So find the type that works best for you if you need any and remember that a little variety also helps.

References

Nigg, B. M., Baltich, J., Hoerzer, S., & Enders, H. (2015). Running shoes and running injuries: mythbusting and a proposal for two new paradigms:‘preferred movement path’and ‘comfort filter’. 
British Journal of Sports Medicine49(20), 1290-1294.

Willems, T. M., Ley, C., Goetghebeur, E., Theisen, D., & Malisoux, L. (2021). Motion-Control Shoes Reduce the Risk of Pronation-Related Pathologies in Recreational Runners: A Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial. J
ournal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy51(3), 135-143.

Heel of the 860v11. Some minor heel flare at the top. Fresh Foam 860 written on heel

RECOMMENDATIONS

Matt: The New Balance Fresh Foam 860 12 is a solid shoe, although there are two things I would recommend. First, the heel and midfoot could use a bit more security in the upper. This will add to the overall stability and prevent any slippage. I would suggest considering some additional reinforcements in the upper. The second is to increase the heel bevel to smooth out initial contact at the heel. It isn't bad, but it could be a bit smoother.

David: I think v12 was a huge step in the right direction for the 860 line. I do think the heel to midfoot transition could be slightly refined to just allow for a smoother initial contact. This could be done by creating a little more of a bevel in the region or utilizing a softer landing surface through that region. The crash pad on the 860 is actually done pretty well however. 

Rear lateral view of the shoe. Modest heel cushioning seen. The 860v12 offers a slimmer profile than it's predecessor.

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

Matt: The New Balance Fresh Foam 860 v12 is a slightly firmer riding, moderate stability shoe for those with normal to wider feet wanting to get daily mileage in. The upper is wider, particularly in the forefoot, requiring a lace lock for some. The ride is smooth in the front and stable/slightly clunky in the back. The forefoot has great flexibility and the post in the heel and midfoot should provide plenty of stability in the midsole for most people that need it. Overall a solid and traditional stability shoe for those that want something consistent for moderate to longer mileage. 

David: The New Balance 860v12 is a relatively firm riding stability shoe meant for logging daily mileage. The shoe has a really well done upper that provides great lockdown and reinforcement throughout. It is a little bit on the thicker end, but should work well for most daily efforts. The ride feels like a traditional stability shoe ride but a nice mildly flexible forefoot. 

The classic Matt Klein stacked shot. Outsole seen on left pair, second shoe is laid laterally over in hand.

GRADING (SHOE CATEGORY)

Matt
Fit: B+ (Plenty of room, but could use more security, particularly in the heel/midfoot. Other than that very comfortable. Great as an all day casual shoe too.)
Performance: 
B (Solid shoe for getting mileage in. Rides on the firmer side Heel a little clunky, but forefoot is very smooth)
Stability: A- (Solid stability with post, wider last. Could use slightly better lockdown in upper)
DPT/Footwear Science: B (Decent use of multiple methods including guidance lines, sole flare and posting. Nothing overly new or impressive. Heel is actually a little clunky and post could be better integrated to smooth this out. )
Personal:  B (A consistent shoe for mileage. Wish heel was a bit smoother and shoe was a little more responsive)
Overall: B/B+ (A solid and consistent moderate stability shoe with a wider fit for getting in daily mileage.)

David
Fit: A (Very well done. Dimensions are dialed in and the creative usage of overlays really help with stability.)
Performance: 
B (A consistent riding daily trainer. Ride is pretty consistent with a traditional stability shoe. Nothing flashy overall but protective and consistent.)
Stability: A (Upper integration is done very well, firm platform, posting well done, full contact outsole)
DPT/Footwear Science: B- (There isn't anything overly innovative or biomechanically "exciting" in this shoe but they did do a good job of improving the upper integration with the platform)
Personal:  B (I certainly enjoy v12 much more than v11 but the ride is still a little firm and heavy for me to pick it over other training options out there. It certainly is not a bad shoe, but not one I would normally use in my personal lineup.)
Overall: B/B+ (A durable and consistent stability shoe for those that like a firm posted ride without major bells or whistles)

SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

The 860v12 arrives in November. Visit Running Warehouse to find the 860 here at Running Warehouse here. Using the link to purchase helps support Doctors of Running. Thanks so much!

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Feetures Socks: Featuring excellent fit, grip, and most important all the fun color options
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FURTHER READING

Visit our Stability Shoe Resource Guide for stability shoe basics and some comparative shoes with medial posting.

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TESTER PROFILES:


Matthew Klein, PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

Dr. Matthew Klein is a 150 lb male with notable PRs of 14:45 for 5k and 2:32:44 for the full marathon.  He typically runs 70-100 miles per week and trains at a variety of paces from 8min per mile recovery runs to 4:40 per mile 1k repeats.  He prefers firmer and responsive shoes with snug heels and medium to wide toe boxes.  The stability guy of the group, he also prefers a little stability in his footwear. However, as a researcher, clinician and running shoe aficionado, he will run in anything. 

David Salas PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Dr. David Salas is a 135 lb male with notable PRs ranging from 3:54 in the 1500m to 1:08:36 for half marathon. He typically runs 60 to 70 miles per week and trains from about 7:30 recovery runs to fast shorter efforts at 4:30 pace. He normally prefers neutral shoes with a firmer ride, but is completely open to other types of shoes.  He is a footwear enthusiast at heart and will always appreciate a high quality shoe when it comes around. For updates on training or testing, 

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at Running Warehouse and New Balance USA for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run run as well as a warm up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

Please feel free to reach out, comment and ask questions!
Contact us at doctorsofrunning@gmail.com

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