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Shoe Review: Versatility in Action – New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v8 ($150)



If you were to take just one pair of shoes on a four-day weekend getaway – knowing you’d wear them to run and for casual wear – which ones would you take? I know that might sound like a very good question or a rather dumb question. The only reason to consider taking only one pair of shoes on a trip is probably for the sake of packing as compactly as possible. That was my goal on a recent extended weekend trip to San Diego, but it was also to prove a point about how much I like the new New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v8 trail running shoes.


Very few shoes can truly do everything very well, but I packed a pair of Hierro v8s because they serve up a good blend of comfort, style, performance, and versatility. During my whirlwind trip, I ran on roads, ran on trails, and even ran a little bit on a beach. Plus I wore them traveling on the airplane and to a taco restaurant in Old Town. OK, truth be told, I also packed a cheap pair of flip flops for everything else, but the point is that I got a lot of mileage – literally and figuratively – out of one pair of shoes. That’s not to diminish the Hierro v8 as a trail running shoe, but instead to underscore how much I like it.


What’s New: The Hierro v8 has been updated with improvements to enhance its performance and to lower its carbon footprint. The soft and squishy Fresh Foam X midsole is slightly thicker than the previous version and the heel-toe offset has been lowered from 8mm to 6mm in this edition, optimizing the plush, cushy feel and lessening the slope angle for easier transitions through the gait cycle. Plus, the new Fresh Foam X midsole compound of the Hiero v8 is made from approximately 40% bio-based materials, while the outsole is a version of Vibram’s new Eco-Step Natural Outsole made from 90% petroleum-free ingredients.


Fit/Feel/Ride: The New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v8 fits true to size with a medium interior volume and a moderate amount of room in the toe box. When I slip these on and lace them up, my narrow feet aren’t cramped, and my toes and forefoot have plenty of room to splay and wiggle comfortably. The step-in feeling is soft and plush, especially when I engage the premium footbed and the Fresh Foam X midsole as I start to jog. The ride is luxuriously soft and smooth, but it’s also surprisingly stable on flat and semi-technical terrain, too. Combined with the Fresh Foam X midsole compound not washing out to the lateral or medial side, it’s a model that gains a bit of inherent stability from its sturdy Vibram outsole and its moderately wide footprint.


Why It’s Great: This shoe is great because it’s versatile. It’s like a road running shoe that’s built for the trails, but it’s also just a very well-built trail runner. If you’re familiar with New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 road running shoes, the Hierro v8 has the same soft, cushy and comfortable characteristics, only with the addition of an exceptionally grippy outsole. It has a durable, breathable upper for running in warm weather, and a reinforced toe box for moderately rugged trails, but it’s still lightweight and agile enough to run uninhibited on mild terrain and over sections of paved or concrete surfaces when necessary. 


On one 8-mile jaunt in San Diego, I ran from Powerhouse Beach in Del Mar to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and back – covering sections of dirt and gravel trails, concrete bike paths, paved roads, and, of course, lots of  sand – and I couldn’t have been more pleased with my choice of shoes and the well-rounded versatility they provided. I probably won’t wear them for super rugged mountain trails – because there isn’t enough sidewall or underfoot protection for that – but I know I could take them up and down one of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks in a pinch if they happen to be the only shoes I have in my truck.


Specifications:

Weights: 8.9 oz. (women’s 8); 11.1 oz. (men’s 9) Heel-Toe Offset: 6mm (38mm in the heel/32mm in the forefoot)


Why You’ll Love It: It depends on your interest (or travel plans!) as to why you might love this shoe. You might enjoy it as a do-everything trail running shoe or as a fun summertime lifestyle shoe. They’ve always had splashy, active aesthetics, and to me, the gum rubber outsole of this edition of the Hierro gives them extra cred as a cool mountain sneaker.  As you can tell, I have loved them for just about everything, but especially for trail running. I’ll keep these shoes in my truck all summer and wear them for short to medium-length trail runs and kicking around Colorado mountain towns.


Pro: The Vibram Megagrip outsole and the low-profile Micro Traction lugs are made from a tough, durable eco-friendly compound that provides exceptional traction on the dirt, sand, rocks, gravel, and pavement.


Con: The tongue isn’t gusseted, which means it can wander on its own during a long trail run. That doesn’t compromise the fit, but I’d prefer it for better overall connectivity and performance.


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