New Balance 1080 V9 - Comfort and speed in a lightweight package / by George Estreich

The 1080 V9 from New Balance is the ninth version in a classic series dating back over a decade. This version sees the most radical redesign, and its all for the better.

The new, entirely revamped New Balance 1080 V9 is a running shoe I have recently come to thoroughly appreciate. On ‘Reviews of Things I Own’ I tend to veer from category to category as my passions wax and wane across a variety of activities and hobbies. Lately (or for the last 1,5 years) I've been obsessed with running, logging about 20 miles a week, and looking forward to each run with an enthusiasm I would have never predicted. I’ll save the details about how I came upon this obsession for another post, choosing instead today to focus on the subject of this review, the New Balance 1080 V9.

A no nonsense upper with two distinct fabrication zones: One engineered mesh upper at the forefoot and a lycra covered molded foam section in the rear. It looks high tech because it is.

Of the 10+ pairs of running shoes I currently cycle between, the 1080 V9 from NB has struck a chord with me. I tend to prefer a medium to highly cushioned ride, but also run at speeds that make some max cushioned (read: heavy) shoes feel sluggish. The V9’s are plush but not soft, and at under 10oz in my size (8.5M), offer a great balance between cushion, bounce, stability and light weight.

A medium width toe box sits atop a wide midsole. This helps the form fitting engineered mesh upper provide a stable and quick-feeling fit.

The upper of the 1080 V9 is a soft engineered mesh that feels great around the foot and looks extremely sleek and modern. A no-nonsense simplicity emanates from this upper, and you can both feel and see how this reduction in complication has made the shoe more comfortable and form-fitting, with fewer potential hot spots. Having only tested the NB 1080 V8 on one run, I can say that this updated upper is a complete revolution between the most recent generations, in a very good way.

Lots of concavities and convexities aid in stability and structure. The molded heel counter is both unique and a little ahead of its time, perhaps we’ll be waiting for version 10 or 11 before they really get it really right.

The most visible revision to the 1080 since the last model is the redesigned heel section. The design of this component is both visually striking and well functioning. However, its also the most fraught revision in the shoe, and one I suspect wont last to version 10 in its current form. While the heel counter is stiff and supportive laterally, it has a completely mystifying inwardly-oriented bound seam at the achilles area which will undoubtedly cause blistering in many users at the outset of using the shoe. It bothered my left achilles immediately and for the first couple of runs, fading away somewhat as I built a callous in that spot. But even when it doesn’t hurt, I can ‘feel it’ when I think of it, and thats not the “disappearing underfoot“ that we want in our best shoes. On balance this heel counter mostly works, looks really cool, and probably will be the weakest link to most users. Some will have to wear thicker socks to really get the most out of the V9’s.

The waves and undulations of the midsole are really cool to look at, but even better to ride on. These midsoles are built for one purpose: making every stride uniform and supportive, comfortable and fast.

The midsole of the 1080 V9 is the most notable, and best part of the shoe. The Fresh Foam mixture used in this midsole is on the stiffer side, compared to the other shoes I own from other brands, but very deep in its stack height, even if the heel drop is a fair 8mm. The ‘feel’ of this midsole reminds me of some of the modern Hoka One One midsoles, including the toe box width of a Hoka trail runner I own called the Stinson ATR-4.

Specially designed with convexities and and concavities to help stability and flex along the foot strike, as well as a rocker style shape, the midsole of this shoe is a case study in modern running technology. One additional detail that is both functional and visually striking are the laser perforated holes cut into the concave sections on the lateral rear side of the outsole. This aids in compression, making the stride transition smooth as the foot pronates naturally from back lateral side to front medial-central for the toe-off. Cool.

The lateral side of the midsole (on left) is concave, aiding in flex. The concavity also features laser cut sections to aid further in softness and flex. To help with stability on the inside of the foot, the medial side of the outsole is convex (on right), adding stiffness to control pronation and keep your foot tracking straight. I’m a mid-to-forefoot striker, so I’m not sure this helps me at all, but heel-midfoot strikers will appreciate it.

The mid/outsole is even wider than it looks in this pic. Its positively huge at the forefoot. I love it. Also shown here are my Laces-Locks, not included with the shoes. The 1080 V9 does include elastic laces, which are notably awesome as many great shoes don’t, even in 2019.

The toe box of the 1080 V9 is on the narrow side (in my M width), but sits very comfortably on a widely flared forefoot midsole section. This lends the feeling of control and comfort, with a very stable platform on which to strike and push off. I am willing to bet that this shoe would feel narrow to me if the midsole weren’t so much wider (especially on the medial side) than the upper has actual room. Its a nice place for your forefoot to land, even if its a little too cozy in the upper, which lets you press in and stretch the upper more confidently on each landing.

The fresh foam graphic on the insoles is cool, and standard across the NB Running line for 2019.

The insole of the 1080 V9 is an Ortholite brand slab of really cushy foam that makes step-in ultra plush, and coasting positively tranquil. I suspect that the quality and thickness of this insole contributes a lot to the feel of the Fresh Foam midsole, which when squeezed feels harder than it feels underfoot. This likely translates to a shoe that works well for me, as its responsive and soft, lively and plush all at the same time.

The Ortholite brand insole.

The inside of the shoe is mostly free of protruding seams or weird internal structural items. There is one seam directly above the point at which the laces meets the toe box (at the top of upper) where if someones foot has high volume it could be a nuisance. Also, if you wear orthotics that lower shoe volume this might be an issue. It is not a problem for me. A standard strobel is directly beneath the insole. The insole obviously is removable for drying and cleaning if necessary.

The Ortholite insole is very thick at the forefoot. The insole provides a plush step-in and a really nice landing pad for mid-forefoot strikers.

Light blue strobel. Sure, why not?

The outsole of the V9 is one of my favorite aspects of the shoe. Most of my newer running shoes skimp on the outsole in favor of weight and plushness. I think this is an ok tradeoff as those shoes are great fun, but not in every use case. When its rainy, or you are running on slick or occasionally unstable surfaces, exposed EVA foam can be slippery and dangerous. Additionally those who log dozens of miles a week might find durability to be a problem as exposed foam is not as durable as outsole rubber. The full contact outsole of the 1080 V9 is grippy, decently thick, evidently durable, and quite cool looking. There is no doubt that this shoe can handle virtually any surface you wish to run on, while conveniently offering an unexpected amount of flex due to a series of knock outs in the exact grooves where the foot flexes when running.

The full contact outsole is both durable, grippy and flexible. Note the cut outs directly under the main flex area of the foot. They work.

There appears to be a harder durometer rubber on the heel portion of the outsole, which is likely to enhance durability even further. Additionally, there is a color design which mimics the typical high pressure zones of the foot nestled inside. Its a cool look that is not needed, but for a simple and otherwise elegant shoe like this, its a nice detail.

“NB” branding at the toe. Super wide forefoot on the midsole of this shoe, sitting under a narrow to medium width toe box. It works for me.

Overall, I would recommend the NB 1080V9 to a runner who logs a lot of miles, at varying paces, and wants a shoe that can handle it all. It’s a great shoe for ‘one shoe’ owners. I would also recommend the NB V9’s to a runner with a variety of shoes, who wants one that is both versatile, and great on recovery days or vacation days, when you dont quite know what the road ahead has in store. This highly capable, highly durable and very lightweight (for its cushioning level) shoe is a standout in a year of standouts in this product segment.

The low point of the shoe is undoubtedly the heel section which suffers from a very odd choice of adding a fairly sharp seam right at the achilles tendon, and a lack of padding at the top that insists on your feet being the right shape to work well. Others will need good socks to have a locked-down fit.

I have used Lace Locks, as Im sure you have noticed, as I do on many of my running shoes. It helps keep the shoes feel tight without being restrictive or painful.

Kids can have some fun with this too! Check out the Arishi V2

As an addendum to this review, I would also like to share that I have purchased a kids version of this for my son and occasional running partner. He’s always drooling over my cool kicks that dont come in his size, until now. These NB Arishi V2’s are sized in little kids sizes and offer at least a cursory take on what they produce for adults in the 1080 and Zante running shoes.

Engineered mesh looks great but is a little head-scratching on a kids shoe. Will my son burn through it? Yes. The question is how long it will take.

The Arishi V2 uses as version of Fresh Foam that is notably stiffer than either the 1080 V9 or the even softer Zante. It is however very light and springy, and my son claims its one of the fastest shoes out there, noting that he regularly beats his school buddies in races at recess. That might also be his strong legs and can-do spirit, but hey we’re human, so we like to imbue traits in the things we love. I dont argue with him. The shoes are obviously very fast.

Grippy and durable outsole will long outlive the upper. An odd reversal of fortunes for a kids shoe.

The features of the Arishi V2 are miniaturized versions of the 1080. The outsole is a grippy full contact affair with tapered lugs in a nice wave like pattern. This outsole is built for any surface. Its non-marking and evidently durable.

Cool convexities and concavities appear to follow a logic similar to the adult shoe. Thats a nice touch.

My one concern for this shoe, and I will follow its wear and update as needed, is the durability of the upper. My son is 7, but he’s really careful with his stuff. These shoes have already shown scuffs and tears in the upper mesh that are worrisome in a kids shoe. I trust that an adult can avoid the scrapes and slides that tend to fray uppers, but you cant expect a kid to do the same.

I fear that New Balance has sacrificed durability for light weight, and in the process belied its goal of making a great kids running shoe. Its fast while it lasts!