Clinical Analysis of Running, Running Footwear, and Injury Prevention/Performance. The Doctors of Running, using knowledge of human movement, clinical biomechanics and performance, bring you cutting edge articles, reviews, and research reports.

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New Balance Beacon v3
By Contributor Andrea Myers

The New Balance Beacon v3 is a neutral shoe that can do it all - easy runs, intervals, and long runs. If I were stranded on an island with one pair of running shoes, these would be my pick.

New Balance Beacon v3
Price: $119.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 7.8 oz men’s size 9/7.1 oz women’s size 8
Stack Height: 29mm/23mm
Drop: 6mm
Classification: Neutral lightweight trainer



RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

The New Balance Beacon v3 is a very neutral shoe that is lightweight, cushioned, and has ample width and volume in the forefoot. The Fresh Foam X midsole provides enough cushioning for easy runs on tired legs, but plenty of responsiveness for strides and intervals. The knit upper is soft with minimal stretch, promoting secure foot lockdown. The wide forefoot allows for toe splay and comfort on long runs. The Beacon is a truly neutral shoe with minimal stability features. It provides cushioning and underfoot protection while allowing the foot to do what it wants to do.

 


FIT

The New Balance Beacon v3 fits slightly long and wide in my usual women’s 9.5. The wide toe box is the main feature that made me try the Beacon a couple of years ago, as I was having issues with blisters on the medial (inside) aspect of my big toe. I am on my 7th pair of Beacons in 2.5 years, and they have gotten me through a marathon training block and a few thousand miles without a single blister. The midfoot and rearfoot are wider than average, but it is easy to stabilize the foot without heel lock lacing. There is a small cushioned internal heel counter, but overall the heel cup is very flexible. There is also an Ultra Heel tab that curves away from the Achilles. I have had no Achilles or heel irritation in these shoes. The tongue is thin, lightly padded, and is not gusseted. I have had no issues with tongue slippage in these shoes. The flat laces have minimal stretch and securely lock the foot down. The Fresh Foam X midsole provides lightweight, responsive cushioning.

The outsole is almost entirely exposed midsole foam, with shallow lugs of various sizes running the entire length of the shoe. There are 5 lugs (2 in the posteriolateral heel and 3 in the medial forefoot) that are covered with blown rubber. The placement of these rubber lugs is for outsole durability, but New Balance is making a big assumption about the biomechanics of their customers. As a midfoot striker with initial contact in the area of the 5th MTP joint, I do not wear the heel lugs at all and I minimally wear the medial forefoot lugs. This results in greatly reduced durability of the outsole for me. I have yet to get more than 200 miles out of a pair of Beacons because I wear down the exposed midsole around the 5th MTP to wafer-like thinness. Despite the greatly reduced durability for me, the Beacon is my favorite daily trainer because no matter how tired my legs are, I know that it will provide sufficient cushioning and underfoot protection without weighing my feet down.



PERFORMANCE

The ride of the Beacon v3 is responsive and natural at every pace. The heel bevel and mild toe spring contribute to smooth foot progression from initial contact to push off. During easy runs, the shoe feels cushioned without feeling soft. During faster intervals, the Fresh Foam X becomes more responsive and the flexible forefoot and toe spring help with turnover. Even though the heel cup is soft, I have not had any issues with heel stability at faster paces. The traction is above average - I have used it in torrential rain and on sand covered winter roads without any issues. It performs well on dirt roads and moderately technical dry trails. It would likely not perform well in mud or snow due to the lack of deep lugs. For those not interested in plated shoes, the Beacon would be an ideal marathon shoe due its lower weight and responsive cushioning. In our modern world of aggressive rockers, plates and very soft midsoles; the Beacon stands out for its responsive midsole and promotion of natural mechanics. The Beacon will be best for runners who are looking for a shoe that gets out of the way while providing protection and support.

STABILITY

The Beacon v3 is one of the most neutral shoes I have run in, which is why it is my favorite daily trainer. It is not a shoe for runners who need motion prevention or guidance. The only mild stability features of the Beacon are the very flexible heel counter and the mildly raised sidewalls around the medial and lateral midfoot. I do not notice the heel bevel due to my midfoot striking, but it likely serves to center initial contact for heel strikers as opposed to controlling motion. The toe spring does help the foot progress from mid-stance to toe off, but is not a true stability feature. For runners looking for a truly neutral shoe, the Beacon is a great option.


Outsole on new pair of Beacon
Outsole of Beacon on another pair after 175 miles


THOUGHTS AS A DOCTOR OF PHYSICAL THERAPY

What makes a particular shoe work well for one person and poorly for another? The traditional categories of running shoes (motion control, neutral, cushioned) are flawed; recent research has found that prescribing footwear based on foot type does not have any effect on injury rates (Knapik et al 2014).

How else might running form be categorized for shoe selection if the traditional methods related to pronation are not as useful as we thought they might be? Researchers at the University of Calgary have described what they call the “Preferred Movement Paradigm,” which they define by stating that “runners are likely to maintain a consistent movement path (i.e., movement trajectories) when changing between reasonably similar shoes” (Hoitz et al 2020). In other words, the nervous system selects the optimal movement pattern under a given set of conditions (footwear, level of fatigue, pain, etc.). The researchers state that muscle activation patterns may play a role in an individual’s preferred movement path; therefore, a running shoe design that reduces muscular activity without forcing the runner to alter their preferred movement path may be useful in improving running economy or reducing injury risk. The concept of a preferred movement paradigm in running still requires extensive further research, including how to define an individual’s preferred movement pattern for a given set of conditions. If researchers and clinicians are able to further define and categorize runners’ preferred movement patterns, we may be able to prescribe running shoes more effectively to reduce injury rates.

This concept of a preferred movement pattern fits nicely with my experience as a bike fitter. The best bike fit for an individual meets the person where they currently are at from a strength, flexibility, and biomechanical perspective. I am almost guaranteed to cause a person pain if I put them in a position that exceeds their current hamstring flexibility, core strength and endurance, hip range of motion, etc. The best bike fit accommodates any “issues” a cyclist may have while promoting optimal pedaling mechanics for their body. Physical therapy can then address any correctable physical impairments a rider may have, and their fit may be re-evaluated in the future if their strength and flexibility improves.

I envision a future of running shoe prescription that involves not only gait analysis but also evaluation of a person’s non-running biomechanics, strength, flexibility, and proprioception. A more complete physical assessment will inform shoe prescription by helping the fitter understand why a runner demonstrates a particular preferred movement paradigm. Shoe prescription should not be limited to assessment of foot and ankle mechanics, as it often currently is. A complete understanding of mobility and strength of the spine, upper extremities, and lower extremities is vital to understanding what happens at the foot and ankle. For example, impaired thoracic and lumbar rotation may alter lower extremity mechanics and ground reaction forces. If that runner improves their spinal rotation, you may see a change in ground reaction forces and contact time, R/L ground contact time balance, and vertical oscillation. This may result in a change in the preferred movement paradigm and a corresponding change in the type of shoe that is best for that runner.

Runners may be categorized not only by what happens at the foot and ankle, but by the amount of knee flexion and ankle dorsi/plantarflexion they demonstrate at initial contact and during mid-stance, by their pelvic stability (do they demonstrate pelvic drop/Trendelenberg that could indicate gluteus medius weakness), spinal mechanics, spinal rotation, arm swing, etc. Categories of running gait impairments may be similar to the concept of Movement System Impairment Syndromes, which is a concept extensively developed by Shirley Sahrmann, PT, PhD (Sahrmann 2011). A similar categorization system may lend itself to more accurate shoe prescription as compared to current common practice.

Sources
Knapik JJ, Trone DW, Tchandja J, Jones BH. Injury-reduction effectiveness of prescribing running shoes on the basis of foot arch height: summary of military investigations. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2014; 44 (10): 805– 812.

Hoitz F, Vienneau J, Nigg BM (2020). Influence of running shoes on muscle activity. PLOS ONE 15(10): e0239852. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0239852

Sahrmann S. Movement System Impairment Syndrome of the Extremities, Cervical and Thoracic Spines. St. Louis: Mosby, Inc; 2011.



RECOMMENDATIONS

My only recommendation for the Beacon is to improve the durability of the outsole for runners who do not heel strike. It is very frustrating to buy a new pair of $120 shoes every 200 miles, but I do so because I love the comfort and performance of the Beacon. Adding additional rubber lugs to the outsole around the 5th MTP would not add significant weight and would greatly increase the value of the shoe for midfoot and forefoot strikers.

WHO THE NEW BALANCE BEACON V3 IS FOR

The New Balance Beacon v3 is a lighter weight, neutral shoe with responsive cushioning. It is not for runners with stability needs. It is a rare shoe that can be used for easy days, intervals, and races (for those who do not like race flats or plated shoes). The wide toe box is an added bonus for runners who like their shoes to be foot shaped, but do not like the minimalist shoes that typically have this feature.

Peanut approved

GRADING

Andrea
Fit: A (wide toe box, flexible heel counter, soft upper, secure lockdown)
Performance: A- (a true jack of all trades shoe that I can trust for easy runs on dead legs, intervals, and long runs. A- for lack of durability of the outsole)
Stability: B (minimal stability features. a truly neutral shoe)
DPT/Footwear Science: A (wide toe box allow for normal toe splay, reducing risk of decreased blood flow in lateral plantar artery)
Personal: A (favorite daily trainer that can be used for any type of run, not an A+ due to outsole)
Overall: A (one of the best neutral shoes on the market today)

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TESTER PROFILES:


Dr. Andrea Myers is a 5’7”, 130 pound female with PRs of 3:04:48 for the marathon and 18:41 for the 5k. She typically runs 35-60 miles per week with recovery runs at 8:00-8:30/mi pace and 5:30/mi pace for shorter efforts. She prefers firmer, neutral shoes with 4-8mm of drop and high volume toe boxes. IG handle: dreamy560

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 purchased by Andrea! 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.

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Adidas Adizero Takumi Sen 8

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