The New Fresh Foam Gobi V3
The new Gobi V3 replaces the V2. The design of the upper has changed slightly, with different mesh overlay paneling, and this new version also incorporates a gusseted tongue designed to help keep debris out. See the new shoe in the first photo below, followed by the previous version we tested.
We link to the new shoe above, but the following review refers only to our experience with the Gobi V2.
Hands-On Review of the Fresh Foam Gobi V2
While we expected this shoe to be a direct competitor to the maximally cushioned shoes in this review such as the Hoka Challenger ATR 4, we were surprised instead to discover one of the most comfortable and unassuming trail running shoes we have tested. While it uses New Balance's Fresh Foam, it uses far less of it than Hoka does, leaving us with what feels like a far more balanced shoe that is nowhere near as prone to tipping and rolling, and thus far more stable on uneven terrain. However, the thinner foam leaves quite a bit to be desired regarding underfoot protection, and this fact combined with its cross-over tread design led us to appreciate this shoe better on smooth trails, bike paths, and even roads.
It quickly became a favorite based simply upon how incredibly comfortable it is. While its lack of protection and tread meant that it doesn't stack up to the stiff competition on gnarly trails and off-trail terrain, we think this shoe is the best choice for those who like to get in an everyday run on smoother terrain, or who mostly run roads but sometimes dabble on the dirt.
The Gobi Trail v2 are an extremely comfortable shoe that are ideal for pouring miles into on mellower terrain, and also look pretty chill compared to some of the gaudier designs available today.
Underfoot, this shoe is far, far thinner than it looks from afar. In fact, its 17mm stack height under the toes is the third lowest amount of any shoe in this review. Since the midsole is made entirely of fresh foam and lacks any sort of rock plate, it isn't surprising that the amount of foot protection underwhelms us. The foam does a nice job of absorbing some of the impact of the landing without making you feel like you are running on a trampoline, but also allows protruding objects to be felt by the foot. It is more sensitive than it is protective, a reason why we preferred it on trails where we didn't have to run on rocks! Regarding the upper, there is a small toe bumper and a rubberized overlay that provide minimal protection, and the breathable mesh has virtually no overlays to protect it from abuse. Concerning the score, we thought it was in line with the protection offered by the Topo Athletic Runventure 2, and gave it 5 points.
The white midsole of this shoe, made of New Balance's Fresh Foam, looks a lot thicker than it actually is in reality. This layer of foam provides good cushioning against repetitive impact, but also allows for a lot of trail feel.
New Balance claims that the outsole lug pattern of the Gobi Trail is ideal for running on smoother trails and roads, and we would have to agree. The single piece of rubber is covered with a plethora of short, 2-3mm deep lugs of all shapes and sizes that are both flat on the bottom and usually rounded off on the edges. This pattern is durable and provides some grip on trail surfaces, but is nowhere near up to the standard set by the insanely aggressive lugs of the Inov-8 Roclite 290 or Saucony Peregrine 8. If off trail exploits are your jam, this isn't the shoe for you. However, if you want to get a lot of miles out of a shoe, then this is a good choice.
You can see the relatively non-aggressive traction found on the bottom of this shoe, which we found to be quite durable and make for a great cross-over road-to-trail design, but which wasn't as grippy off-trail as most we tested.
This shoe fits in the middle between extremes, neither super prone to instability nor ultra stable. Its comfortable fit is sort of loose which allows for a bit of foot movement on off-camber terrain but isn't at all what we would describe as sloppy. Its 6mm heel-toe leaves it ever so slightly prone to rolling, but really this isn't an issue. This shoe is not as stable as the Editors' Choice winning Salomon S/Lab Ultra, but is way more stable than the maximally cushioned Hokas.
The Gobi Trail ride fairly stable and have little propensity to tip, a fact we appreciated on this unique trail that crosses a log far above the ground in the forests of Oregon.
Hands down this is one of the most comfortable shoes you could buy and requires absolutely no break-in time. There is very little for us to even write about regarding comfort because nothing about this shoe bothered us even the slightest bit! The fit is neither too narrow nor too wide, but pretty much right in the middle. For those with wide feet, New Balance also sells these in a Wide size. There is quite a bit of padding around the ankle opening and heel that helps keep in snugly in place. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this meant that it absorbed a fair bit of water in our water bucket test, and it still retained a lot of this water after the five-minute jog. All told it is not the most optimal choice for running in wet conditions, but regardless is on par with the Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4 as the most comfortable shoes you can find.
The large amount of padding around the ankle opening is a large reason why these shoes are among the most comfortable we have ever worn, and we love the soft but not too spongy feel of the Fresh Foam beneath.
Our pair of men's size 11 shoes weighed exactly 20 ounces on our independent scale. This figure is exceptionally light considering how comfortable the shoe is and happens to be the exact same weight as the more aggressive New Balance Summit Unknown. It is hard to find an everyday trainer that weighs so little, a testament to the power of foam construction.
10 ounces per shoe for size 11 is pretty darn light considering the amount of friendly cushioning and incredible comfort provided by these.
As we mentioned when discussing underfoot protection, this shoe is fairly thin despite all appearances to the contrary. With a thin midsole made entirely of foam and lacking a rock plate, one shouldn't be surprised to hear that it is fairly sensitive. This level of sensitivity didn't exactly inspire us to charge over talus fields while wearing them, but we did appreciate the trail feel when the landings were a bit smoother.
Running in front of one of the 10 amazing waterfalls along the 10 falls trail in Silver Falls State Park, OR.
We think this shoe is an ideal everyday trainer and is the single best choice among our review selection for running on both roads and trails without unnecessarily wearing down those huge lugs that you paid such a premium for. It also looks normal enough to wear around town as a regular comfortable shoe.
The main South Falls at Silver Falls State Park is the largest of the ten that we saw while cruising the loop in the Gobi Trail. We love this shoe because it is so comfortable, perfect for lots of daily training runs.
This shoe retails for $100, making it the most affordable in this review. We liked it far better than its overall rating would suggest, and think that the value-conscious will really appreciate all that it has to offer.
These shoes absorb a fair amount of water, so its a good thing the trail went behind the waterfall, instead of through it, at Silver Falls State Park, OR.
The New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi Trail v2 is an extremely comfortable shoe that thrives best on smoother terrain. It isn't our first choice for steep mountain climbs or off trail scrambling missions but is an excellent choice for pouring the daily miles into without worrying about longevity.