New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi V2 Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
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.
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.
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 G 290. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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