New Balance 890 v4 Review: The Barcalounger of Running Shoes

One of my top shoes from last year was the New Balance 1400v2. It’s a simple, comfortable, no frills shoe that provided just enough cushion – kind of like an Ikea Poang chair:

New Balance 1400 v2

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Ikea Poang

Given that I tolerated the 9mm drop 1400v2 just fine, I thought I’d give the 10mm drop New Balance 890 v4 a try as I know a number of people who think highly of the 890 line. The folks at Runningshoes.com were kind enough to send me a pair to review (Disclosure: this review pair was provided free of charge – you can read about my policy on writing honest reviews here), and I’ve now put enough miles on them to render a verdict.

The first thing I noticed about the 890 is that the heel collar and tongue are massively overstuffed. If the 1400v2 is an Ikea Poang, the 890v4 is more like a Barcalounger:

New Balance 890v4 Sole

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barcalounger

In a discussion of this shoe on Facebook, fellow shoe geek Seth H. posted the following photo, which demonstrates the 890 puffiness quite well (followed by another photo provided by Chris P. which shows the uncanny resemblance of the 890v4 ankle collar and tongue to a hippopotamus mouth):

890 fluff 890 hippo

And here is a view of the tongue with the shoe on my foot – comically huge!

puffy 890 tongue

Let’s move on from the puffy tongue/ankle collar (which didn’t really bother me from a functional standpoint) and discuss the nuts and bolts of the shoe.

The New Balance 890v4 is probably best classified as a lightweight trainer. It weighs 8.1oz in men’s size 9, and stack height is 28mm heel, 18mm forefoot. The 10mm drop is a bit higher than I typically like, but I wanted to review this shoe since shoes like this one represent a nice alternative to the typically heavier, more-highly-structured (brick-like?), 10-12mm drop traditional training shoes that make up the bulk of running shoe sales (I generally do not like running in such shoes at all).

My overall experience with the 890v4 has been sort-of uneventful. It’s not a bad shoe by any means, but it doesn’t particularly excite me. It’s not a shoe that calls to me and makes me want to head out the door for a run (Is that you 1400v2? Run time?). But, it’s a serviceable shoe that provides decent cushion and is capable of eating up long, easy miles.

The fit of the 890v4 is pretty good on me. I went a half size up and have plenty of room up front, and the upper is stretchy enough to allow my toes to move around. Actually, I quite like the upper of this shoe (minus that gigantic tongue). It’s made of a mesh that seems like it will be plenty durable, and the overlays provide adequate support. Internally, the lining of the upper is soft and non-abrasive, but I have not tried running sockless since all of my miles in the shoe have been in cold weather. The sockliner is thin, and the arch support is not overly obtrusive.

The sole of the 890v4 feels much firmer than I expected it to. This might in part be due to the fact that it’s so cold outside (EVA midsole foam firms up in the cold), but it doesn’t feel cushy even walking around the blessedly warm indoors. For some reason I expected this to be a softer shoe than it is. That being said, I have not had any issues with the sole on the run. It’s not so firm that it feels like a brick, and I’ve actually enjoyed the miles that I’ve run in them (enjoyed rather than loved being a key distinction here).

New Balance 890v4 Sole

One more point about the sole – I’ve actually found it to do quite well on the crusty ice that has so defined my typical running surfaces this winter. It’s not lugged, but the sole is arranged into pods with gaps in between, and these conform nicely to irregular surfaces underfoot providing traction as a result. I’ve actually specifically grabbed this shoe a number of times for runs this winter specifically for this reason. It’s a road shoe that can handle snow and ice better than some others.

Conclusion

The New Balance 890v4 is a decent lightweight trainer for long, easy miles. Could even be a marathon shoe for those in more traditional shoes who want a lighter race option that retains a similar drop and lots of cushion. It’s not a sexy shoe, and it’s not a perfect 10 for me personally, but I’m more a racing flat kind-of-guy so I kind of expected that. And, if you need extra protection for you anterior ankle, you need look no further!

For another take on the 890v4, check out this review on Believe in the Run.

The New Balance 890v4 is available for purchase at Runningshoes.com.

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Every version of this shoe has had an absurdly padded ankle collar and tongue. In my opinion, the fit and feel of the v4 is better than all previous versions of this shoe. That said, it doesn’t do much to separate itself from other similar shoes.

  2. Brad Patterson says:

    Great review, Pete! It’s interesting what you noticed about the pods in the sole and how they work well in the crusty ice. I have found the same thing with the little nubs on the sole of the Sayonara. I did 14 miles yesterday, quite a bit of it crossing ice patches, and the grip was pretty dang good.

  3. And just like the deceptively cute and cuddly looking hippo, I have a feeling that shoe would really f*ck me up.

  4. The visuals in this review really accentuated your points. Thanks for taking the time to post them. I wonder what that insanely padded heel area would do for someone suffering from Achilles woes…

  5. Ordered these in my size 14 at New Balance store and had high hopes. Tried them on today and frankly, I don’t like them. I actually have size 13.5 feet and the 14 did not fit. The low toebox constricted my toes and I found the heel loose. The shoes feels completely different from the 890 V3 to the point where I think New Balance should have changed the model number. I passed on them…

  6. I am so disappointed in version 4 of this shoe! I’ve been a huge fan of version 3 and my experience was shared by many. After receiving so many good reviews, I’m not sure why NB decided to overhaul the design of the 890. This version is a completely different shoe to the previous ones. The guy in my local running shop said that NB recently hired a new head designer from one of the other major brands which is probably why the drastic design changes were made. Such a shame!! Oh well, time to find another shoe. Adidas Adios Boost is looking good….

  7. I have that Ikea chair! It’s not an eye-catcher, but it’s surprisingly comfortable. Maybe the 1400 is an interesting shoe for me. I did not like my 890v3 very much. Too heavy, too warm. Not minimal enough. Though other people that were used to ‘normal’ running shoes thought it was very light :)

  8. Pete,

    I know you can’t really answer this but I’ll accept a rough opinion. I’m light, and for the last 7 months been using 890 v3′s. It’s time to replace them. I’m looking for a slightly softer than racing flat shoe but and the v4 doesn’t attract me, for one thing they’ve hiked the heel toe profile up from 8-10. I think I’d like something reasonably flexible. Do you think the 1400v2 would fit the bill for me as an ‘everyday trainer’? Weekly mileage 45 miles, comfortable/easy pace about 7m/m. Only wear out the toes of shoes, 12mm heels just get in the way (a bit like yourself) Other than them I’m thinking Nike Flyknit Lunaracer +3 or Sketchers Gorun 3. What do you think? Any other suggestions.

    • I really like the 1400v2, could use it as an everyday trainer. The GR3 is much softer and more flexible, also something I could use for long miles. Lunaracers are too narrow up front for me to use often. Hope this helps!

  9. JoanaDC says:

    Would you recommend these for a supinator that lands on the forefoot?
    I run in Asics Nimbus and Brooks Glycerins, the Glycerins are quickly getting worn out on the outside, the Nimbus not so bad, but those shoes get hot, I always get blisters if I run more than 10k. I guess I am looking for something neutral, light and flexible (I’m a very petite female, BTW) with plenty of forefoot cushioning. Tks!

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