In the realm of romantic relationships, monogamy is a virtue. When I sought to apply that virtue to running shoes, though, I quickly found myself feeling oppressed, limited and pining for the sexy contours and promising performance features of shoes made by my “main squeeze’s” competitors. After deciding to see other people [okay, this metaphor is getting torturous], I’ve enjoyed the freedom to try all kinds of different footwear. While some of those pairings come perilously close to evoking one-night stands, others find me returning again and again to their warm, tightly-laced embrace. The New Balance 890 (now in its third generation) is one of those shoes to which I return over and over.
Disclosure: The actual pair of shoes reviewed here was provided by the manufacturer, but the reviewer had run in prior versions of the shoe, all acquired at his own expense.
New Balance accurately bills the 890 as a “lightweight neutral trainer”, but it also provides a bit of added support. The great evolutionary leap in the 890 line came when New Balance reduced the heel drop between 890 versions 1 and 2, from the old standard of 12mm to 8mm. The change was quite welcome, and has undoubtedly made what was billed a performance shoe actually feel like a performance shoe. The 890 V3 represents refinement rather than reinvention, something more shoe manufacturers may wish to consider when they make a product that works as well as the 890 does.
The 890 is true to both parts of its manufacturer’s name. The appealing design, availability in multiple colors and sleek lines emphasize the “new”. In this runner’s opinion, the lighter the shoe, the better it should look. The 890 manages to looks sharp without seeming gimmicky, incorporating performance features in a visually appealing way.
Good looks aside, the 890 manages to honor “balance” in a way few shoes do. The 890 hits the sweet-spot between minimalism and structure, flexibility and stiffness, cushioning and firmness. It’s one of those rare shoes which – depending on the unique profile of its wearer – can handle anything from fast track repeats to marathons (and beyond). Personally, I favor it for medium-long to long runs (12-20+ miles). It feels comfortable as-is, but also accommodates custom orthotics.
The 890’s upper breathes well, but paired with a heavyweight sock, also handles cold temperatures ably. The sole has a reported stack height of 28m heel, 21mm forefoot (numbers via Running Warehouse), and provides good traction, even on slightly slick surfaces, and easily handles non-technical trails. A slight change from prior versions in terms of the spacing of the outsole lugs results in fewer small rocks getting lodged in the sole. For someone who includes regular hybrid road/trail runs, the 890 is a versatile partner.
Since a shoe review can’t be all unicorns and rainbows, I’ll share one minor gripe about the 890. On what is otherwise an all-around excellent shoes, the laces are underwhelming. The laces themselves feel somewhat cheap, as if they would fray with heavy use. Also, it takes some effort to get the shoes to fit “right”, which in my case means snugly through the fore- and mid-foot, but not too tightly in the tongue/collar area around the shoe’s opening.
Although I’ve only logged about 50 miles in the 890 V3, my experience with the first two generations was that the outsole and midsole are surprisingly durable. That allows the 890 to defy conventional shoe life wisdom by giving its owner more than 500 miles per pair.
Perhaps the highest praise I can bestow on the NB 890 V3 is that if I was forced to winnow down my sizable running shoe inventory to a single make and model, the 890 is the shoe I would choose.
We’d love to hear your thoughts – if you’ve run in the New Balance 890, feel free to share a comment below!
|Ron Abramson is an immigration attorney from Bow, NH. He has PR’s of 3:08:48 in the marathon, 1:26:18 in the half-marathon, and 18:46 in the 5k. He’s also a top-notch ultramarathon pacer and long distance charity runner. Ron writes a personal running blog called Got Lactate?, where you can read more about his running life.|