The New Balance Fresh Foam Boracay is a much improved update to their current Fresh Foam 980 Road. Aesthetically, it hits on all the same notes as the 980 but with some new striking color ways that I think hit the mark really well. Other than style, technically the shoe has definitely been improved and updated in this new iteration and the changes should be welcome for most.
WHAT’S NEW WITH THE BORACAY
So first things first, the amount of cushion within the shoe has definitely been increased without affecting the heel height. This is designed to lead to a softer/smoother ride. The Fresh Foam has always been aimed at the neutral runner, but I have to be honest and say I think this is a shoe that definitely crosses categories and could benefit runners with stability needs as well. This improved cushioning has been accomplished by reducing the midsole offset to 4mm. So in theory the fit should be exactly the same as the 980, but should allow you to run longer and faster given the additional cushion.
Note that even though the Boracay has this foam sole, it really shouldn’t be thought of as a maximalist or an increased cushion shoe. Several people I showed them to had an immediate reaction of wow those look like they have a lot of cushion and are very comfortable. This is partially true, but only in the fact that they are very comfortable. The physical height of the shoe against most other runners is very similar, so switching into these won’t be a particularly dramatic change for most and might just provide you a welcome alternative shoe for longer runs.
THE DESIGN OF THE SHOE
I honestly can’t tell you how many times somebody mentioned how much they like the overall look of the shoe, it was seriously a conversation starter and not because its different or funny looking to them, but because they liked it… not too much and not too little was what I heard. The upper is soft and plush and the tongue is a neoprene stretch, so lacing up is really simple and it stays tight throughout your run. The laces were a tad long for my taste, but this was easily fixed. The lower sidewall of the shoe looks like it’s been spray-painted which is actually really catchy. I’m also a big fan of the color combos, in particular the red white and blue design.
Another thing I noticed about the design, was the lack of paneling and let me see if I can describe that a bit more. Many shoes put a lot of reinforcement or structural fabric pieces throughout the body of the shoe and you find this more so with neutral and stability shoes. In the case of the Boracay, the shoe is devoid of any real structural elements which leads to an almost sock like feel. Some people worry about the lack structure somehow being related to a decrease in stability, but because New Balance modified the offset and have a nice plush heel, you sit really well in the footbed.
PUTTING SOME MILES ON THEM
After about a month with the shoe and after putting a good portion of miles on them, I think I can comfortably assess how I feel the shoe’s perform. First things first, it’s not like this shoe is getting you into new territory. A lot of people worry when you add cushioning that you make a shoe feel very soft. That is decidedly not the case with the Boracay. The shoe is still extremely responsive and has a very solid ground feel. It’s also very fast, for lack of a better term and I am not a fast runner.
The 5-10K Range
My first several runs with the Boracay were all in the 5-10K range. I found the shoes to be extremely comfortable and did not find them to feel overly soft at all. I did notice the change in the offset from my traditional shoes and I think this change and the foam heel itself kept me a little more forward which allowed me to maintain my speed a bit more than normal. In the beginning, the one area I noticed I had difficulty with them was keeping a consistent stride and pace. I would find myself accelerating or slowing down without thinking about it. Once I got into them a bit more and focused on my stride in the shoe, I found them much more predictable. I did mention fast up above and I say this because my times in this range definitely dropped to the tune of 20 to 30 seconds per mile. I’m guessing this won’t happen for everyone, but the more accustomed I got to the shoe, the faster I felt they allowed me to run.
Half-Marathon and Beyond
As I took these out a bit more into the half marathon realm, I still found them to be solid performers. That being said, I did not like having to maintain a strong focus at distance. I find when I run longer distances, I like to get into a groove and wander a bit mentally, but these did not allow me to do that. However, when I remain focused I had very strong times. The primary take away from the testing was that you need to spend time with the shoe in order to become accustomed to running with them, but once you do I found solid performance improvements.
I had a chance to run with these in various weather types as well. They definitely sit in the dryer weather category as the are really well ventilated which can lead to very wet results in the wind and rain. When its dry, they can really tear it up and they breathe like a dream though.
TECHNICAL STATS, PRICING & AVAILABILITY
- Weight: 9.31oz (size 9)
- Drop: 4mm heel/toe
- MSRP: $119.95
- Available: February 2015