10 Best New Balance Running Shoes in 2021

Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen on
10 Best New Balance Running Shoes in 2021

New Balance has become a go-to brand not only for stylish lifestyle footwear but running shoes as well.

Given how easy it is to get lost in all those FreshFoams and FuelCells, we are here to narrow down your choices. We have tested 60+ road and trail running shoes from New Balance to select the best options in various categories.

Whether you’re after a well-cushioned trainer for daily runs, a budget-friendly all-arounder, or a speedy shoe for personal bests, we’ve got them all covered.

See the carousel below with our top picks in various categories.

How we pick the best New Balance running shoes

With over 150 New Balance running shoes to choose from, it's our mission to help you find the one and only.

Each shoe on our website comes with a proprietary CoreScore, a number from 0 to 100, which indicates how good it is. Sounds simple. But here is the work that goes into it:

  • Our independent shoe testing lab literally puts every shoe through the wringer, cutting it open and measuring over 30 different aspects on flexibility, softness, durability, etc.
  • A team of dedicated runners logs at least 30-50 miles in each pair before sharing their experience.

We also aim to keep our scores as objective as possible:

  • All New Balance shoes are purchased with our own funds, helping to minimize brand loyalty and bias.
  • Over 100,000 expert and user reviews from all over the web have been accounted for in our scoring system.

Best overall

If there’s one thing we’re sure of, it’s that we are the masters of nitpicking. But boy was it a challenge to do in the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2!

Hats off to NB, they really smashed it in the golden trinity of weight, response, and cushion!

Most do-it-all shoes are good at everything and great at nothing. But this shoe is a literal rebel and changes all that.

It excels at everything. From recovery runs, long-distance stretches, to tempo days, this shoe just stands out!

Comfort is king in the Rebel v2. It’s so plush and fluffy, we didn’t want to take them off! In our lab tests, we found that it’s 70% softer than the average midsole, and 48% softer than the similar FuelCell foam in the RC Elite. Safe to say, if the feet had dreams, it’s this one right here!

It’s marshmallowy soft, yes. But it’s not mushy either. It’s bouncy and efficient, it rocks in faster paces, and is cushy during slow, easy days.

Whatever you put it through, this shoe just performs!

And heavens, what a (light) weight! At 7.6 oz it’s almost like a race shoe - ALMOST.

If there’s one red flag here, it’s that the super soft midsole will most likely pack out after 300 miles.

This shoe may retail for only $130, but with all the goods it brings on the table, for us, it can sit in the ranks of $160 shoes.

See our full review and facts

If you’re into soft midsoles and flexible uppers, buy the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 v11. After putting this shoe to the test, we can say it’s got its eyes set on comfort above anything else!

The upper is very stretchy, it hugs and molds to the foot. And to compensate for that flexibility, the welded overlays make sure to keep the foot supported and locked in place.

In our lab test results, we have gathered that this shoe’s foam is 31% softer than the average.

While this rewards the feet, it penalizes the ride, rendering it unstable during quick turns. A caveat we cannot move past.

Taking comfort to new heights, the upper is one of the most breathable we’ve tested!

Another thing to write home about is that we dig the shoe’s traction! On cement (wet and icy sections included), we had ZERO issues with slippage.

See our full review and facts

Best for race

Comfortable, bouncy, fast, and sexy - it’s no wonder why this shoe sits atop our list for race day!

The foam is just like a spa treat for the feet - it’s INSANELY soft! To balance it out, it’s equipped with a carbon plate, which makes the ride stable and efficient, bouncing you forward to your next PB!

And to all the wide-footed runners out there, let’s rejoice! It’s got some flex to open up to our larger feet.

What’s even more exciting is that it’s not as stiff as other racing flats. The RC Elite (in our lab test) is significantly less rigid (68.5N) than the VaporFly (83.7N) and Endorphin Pro 2 (94.2N).

What does this mean to you? If you’re new to plated running shoes, this is the shoe that does not require much adjustment - a friendlier alternative for the newbies!

Good news to the forefoot runners: it’s got a lot of grip up front, thanks to the generous rubber coverage.

And we wouldn’t miss out on that impressive breathability now, would we? Even at the hottest temps we could test it under, the extremely large perforations on the upper just keeps the feet sweat-free and cool!

Life is not all rainbows and butterflies, and this shoe reminds us that.

All that plushness in the midsole has a price to pay. And in the case of the NB RC Elite v2, it’s that it makes the ride unstable.

See our full review and facts

If you want to run fast and feel like an elite, all while keeping the feet comfortable, we highly suggest the New Balance FuelCell TC!

It’s a shoe that’s designed to pace you through the long runs. At $200, it’s a more down-to-earth alternative to the AlphaFly and the Vaporfly. It’s also more durable too!

The upper screams premium. It’s soft to touch and has enough padding to keep the foot sitting comfortably in place.

Now here’s the treasure of the shoe - the midsole. It’s marshmallowy soft, but the carbon-fiber plate’s rigidity adds stability to the ride. The result? A snappy cushion that will propel you forward!

Out of all the racing shoes we’ve tested, this is among the few EXTREMELY comfortable ones. It’s just a superlative in the comfort department. An easy 10/10!

If there’s one thing this shoe missed the mark on, it’s the loosening of fit during high-mileage efforts. Other than that, it’s a solid speedster that will bolt you through the blocks!

See our full review and facts

Best for trail

A trail monster - we’d pick the New Balance Fresh foam Hierro v6 if we want to tackle the moderately technical terrain with comfort and protection in mind.

Before anything, let’s just give a moment to that oh so sexy lewk! If you want to catch some attention, this baby will do the job!

The shoe’s tale of comfort begins in the upper. It's among the plushest uppers we’ve ever tried. And holy moly! What an ankle collar, it’s so padded we just had to measure it (which we don’t usually do!) And wow, it’s super cushioned and thick at 21.1mm!

And as a shoe built around comfort, it just had to have a plush midsole too. Here’s the deal - it’s not crazy soft, and it’s dense. In other words, it’s got all the qualities to absorb impact while not being too squishy that it loses sight of stability.

Now that’s what you call balance!

The real champion here is the Vibram outsole of the shoe. If there’s one way to describe it, it’s built like a tank! Add in the insane amount of foam in the midsole, and you’ve got an armored card for the feet in the Hierro v6.

The Hierro’s undoing is in its weight. At 11.4 oz, it just tips the scales! It’s heavy on paper as it is on foot!

See our full review and facts

New Balance’s take on Hoka? We’d like to think so too. Say hello to the NB Fresh Foam More Trail v1 - the brand’s max-cushioned trail shoe.

If you’re a runner looking for a blend of comfort and grip out on the trails, this is the shoe we’d gladly recommend!

It’s one hell of a chunky shoe, and with all that chunk, comes a copious amount of underfoot cushioning.

On the run, this translates to plush comfort, making the shoe more than capable of long days out on the trail.

And with its very lugged design, this shoe came to bite and bite, it did! We tested this shoe out on both soft and hard surfaces, and it latched to the ground beautifully! No wobbly sensation, no slippage, just confidence all throughout.

On the downside of things, this is not a shoe we’d pick for the highly technical terrain. It can still see some improvements on the outsole.

Overall, this shoe shines at easy-paced, high-mileage efforts. And if you want to tackle light to moderate trails with ease, you won’t go wrong in the New Balance Fresh Foam More Trail v1!

See our full review and facts

Best for flat feet

What gives the New Balance Fresh Foam 860 v11 an edge among all the other stability shoes we’ve tested is that it encourages a more natural ride.

And for a stability shoe, it’s not obtrusive either. So much so that neutral runners reap just as many benefits both overpronators and flat-footed runners do.

It’s cushy and comfortable, which makes it our no-sweat choice for long miles. And to inspire confidence in your runs, this shoe has a sock-like fit, following the natural shape and contours of the foot.

On uneven surfaces, the New Balance Fresh Foam 860 kept us steady. We didn’t have to worry about losing our footing at all!

At 9.7 oz, this is a heavy trainer! The average running shoe (according to our lab test results) weighs in at 9.4 oz. It might not be a ton of difference, but we sure felt it on the run!

If you want a shoe that can be a do-it-all, this is a great buy! The NB Fresh Foam 860 v11 is a no-nonsense pick for a highly stable shoe that’s fit for the long haul, daily runs, jogs, walks, and athleisure.

See our full review and facts

Running in the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 Vongo v5 is nowhere near challenging as the moment we had to choose between it and the Fresh Foam 860 v11. Seriously, they’re just so awesome, it's so hard to pick! 

Of course, the real champ in this shoe is its stability. It’s so supportive, but it doesn’t feel harsh to the feet, making it a standout among the rest. 

During landings, our feet were well-cushioned, and the ride was as smooth as butter! And what really took us by surprise was the plushness it gave us. The moment we put our feet in, all we had in mind was “this is what premium feels like.” 

And just when we thought support couldn’t get better, the upper was there to prove us wrong! It’s foot-conforming, and it really locked our feet in place. As in, no rolling, nor slips. It’s everything surefooted. 

Even better, it’s a tank! We love to put our shoes through the wringer, and the New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo is no different. And a few rough miles in, it’s still as fresh as the moment we got it out the box. No scratches, and the midsole is just as bouncy! 

If there’s a hiccup to it, it’s that it’s too heavy to really pick up the pace. But other than that, it’s one solid shoe! 

See our full review and facts

Best budget shoe

For $70, the New Balance Fresh Foam Arishi v3 packs so much comfort, responsiveness, and style in such a lightweight package!

In our opinion, the best value among our list of budget running shoes.

If you’re new to the running scene, this is a pair that will exceed your expectations. A long-time runner? This can fit just right into your rotation!

This shoe does not compromise on comfort in favor of lightness. With its Fresh Foam midsole, you get the best of both worlds! Even better, it’s springy enough to bounce you forward and make your runs efficient.

Taking comfort up a notch, the shoe is also highly breathable. When we took it out for some test runs under the scorching heat, our feet surprisingly stayed well-ventilated and sweat-free.

50 miles later, we can say that this shoe is a jack-of-all-trades. If you want one shoe for your runs, gym workout, and walks, you will be pleased with the New Balance Fresh Foam Arishi v3!

See our full review and facts

Seriously, we’re amazed with how much the New Balance Nitrel v4 can do for such little price!

This trail shoe is bonkers in the durability department. After going through a series of wear testing, it has withstood all the gnarly trail elements we threw at it, and it did so with ease.

To be quite honest, we didn’t expect much from this shoe. But miles after miles, it just continued to surprise us!

At 10.3 oz, it’s on our list of heavy shoes. But during the run, it didn’t feel heavy at all. There was none of that foot-dragging sensation.

Hands down, a VERY grippy shoe indeed! Some of the challenges we put the Nitrel through are some uphill running and some sessions on rugged terrain. And again, it does a wonderful job! It makes running so effortless even in the unfriendliest conditions.

If you want a cruiser that can take you from the road to the trail, the New Balance Nitrel v4 will fit the bill!

See our full review and facts

Road or trail? New Balance shoe types based on terrain

Here’s the quick comparison of the New Balance road and trail running shoes:

Road vs trail.png

Note: The ratings are based on how each type of shoe performs in general. This does not apply to a specific model that exists.

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Road running shoes prevail in New Balance’s selection. Some of the best-rated ones are those with Fresh Foam cushioning.

Arch support in New Balance running shoes

The level of arch support in NB shoes is tightly connected to the pronation degree. When you know how you pronate, it's easy to see which type of shoe you need - neutral, stability, or motion control.

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TIP: Buy a pair of neutral running shoes if you don’t have any visible foot issues.

To learn more about your pronation type and whether you need extra support in running shoes, see our in-depth guide on arch support.

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75% of New Balance shoes are made for neutral pronation, meaning they have no added arch support. Example: the popular 1080 series.

New Balance numbering system

Some New Balance running shoe models have numbers on their names, which can be confusing for those who are not familiar with the brand’s numbering system. 

Here’s how you read the style or model number:

New Balance numbering system.png

  • The letters represent the gender and sometimes the activity - M = Men’s; W= Women’s. Here are a few other examples: MT = Men's Trail, WT = Women's Trail, and US = Made in the USA
  • The level of performance refers to the number of technologies. However, New Balance emphasized that while most of their “higher-numbered” models feature more technologies than those “lower-numbered”, it is not always the case. 
  • The two digits refer to the shoe type as shown below.
  • Version (i.e. “v3”) number refers to the times the model has been updated.

Shoe types.png

Additional features of New Balance running shoes

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Some New Balance road and trail running shoes have waterproof features. These shoe models are equipped with a GTX membrane that keeps the feet dry in wet and rainy running conditions.

See waterproof running shoes from New Balance

boa.png

The BOA closure system allows runners to experience a more customized fit. It is a unique lacing system that is made of three integral parts: a micro-adjustable dial, super-strong lightweight laces, and low-friction lace guides.

It is easy to operate as well - just turn the dial to tighten and pull up for quick release.

See NB shoes with BOA

Author
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen

Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.