|Update:||New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon v2|
|Weight:||Men: 7.5oz | Women: 6.2oz|
|Heel to toe drop:||Men: 6mm | Women: 6mm|
|Arch type:||High arch|
|Strike Pattern:||Midfoot strike|
|Width:||Men: Normal, Wide | Women: Normal, Wide|
|Colorways:||Blue, Black, Orange, Grey, Beige, Green|
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93 / 100 based on 12 expert reviews
New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon – Simplicity and versatilityMore photos
According to Da Vinci, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” and if that’s true, then the New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon is an incredibly sophisticated shoe.
I’m sure that plenty of research and development has gone into the production of the Beacon, but the result is a simple, light, well-priced shoe that provides everything that I could ask of a road shoe: cushioning and comfort through long runs and responsiveness at faster paces.
- Lightweight (213g)
- Excellent cushioning
- Comfortable, breathable upper
- Versatile daily shoe
- Neutral runners only
- Durability not yet proven
In recent months, I’ve run a lot of miles in a New Balance Fresh Foam shoes, with mixed results. The Fresh Foam Zante is my road shoe for every occasion and has been my go-to shoe for fast running and races - everything from 5k to marathon.
By comparison, the 1080 v8 was reliable and durable but not particularly exciting. And despite being a road shoe, I’ve relegated it to runs on light trails.
The Fresh Foam Beacon promised to be every bit as exciting and responsive as the Zante while providing a little more cushioning underfoot, and an even lighter build. All this with a price tag of £90 amongst a range of running shoes priced at £120-150.
With a marathon coming up, I was really looking forward to trying this one out.
New Balance offers the men’s Fresh Foam Beacon in three colorways: essentially black, petrol and electric blue. It may not be a huge choice, but I really liked the petrol (with a hint of “flame” on the inside of the tongue and the rubber outsole).
It’s a great looking shoe which essentially comprises of a very simple knitted mesh upper glued onto a slab of New Balance’s new Ground Contact Foam. The upper feels extremely soft, with minimal overlays — almost the antithesis of some of today’s seemingly over-engineered shoes such as the 1080v8.
I was pleased to see that the “N” logo (the only overlay used) is very reflective – ideal for me as we approach winter and much of my running will be on dark, narrow country lanes in North Wales.
Visually, what strikes you most about the shoe when you first pick it up is the exposed foam midsole/outsole with its contrasting colored lugs.
This is one area in which the simple construction really shows. The Fresh Foam Beacon is listed as 213g (7.5oz), which despite all the cushioning provided is pretty close to the weight of New Balance’s 1400v6 racing shoe at 204g, and save a good chunk of weight off the Fresh Foam Zante v4 at 244g (8.6 oz).
As expected, my UK 13.5 (US14) shoe weighed in heavier than the standard shoe, at 267g, but the lightest shoe I have run in.
What is always more important than the numbers are how light the Beacon feels on the foot. It is barely noticeable when running despite the big chunk of foam underfoot that cushions every footfall.
Even towards the end of a marathon when everything else was hurting, the shoe still felt exceptionally light, and my footfalls didn’t feel as heavy as they often do when the finish line refuses to get any closer.
As with all New Balance shoes, I find that I need a ½ size larger (in UK size) than my normal size. The shoe then fit comfortably right out of the box.
In this case, I wear a UK 13.5 (US 14) which is the same size I’ve used in all other New Balance shoes, Hokas, and Salomon Trail. For comparison, I generally use a UK13 in Brooks, Inov-8, and Asics, though the last two can feel a little snug.
US readers, please note that despite the variation in sizing across manufacturers, I almost always require a US 14/EU 49. It’s quite possible that the differences in sizes, therefore, are due to conversions from US to UK sizing.
The foot slides into the shoe and feels comfortable right from the start. The upper is so simple that there isn’t anything for the foot to dislike. Just lace them up to your preference and hit the road.
My very first run in these shoes was a 16-mile marathon training run (at marathon pace), and I did exactly that; slipped on the shoe, laced it up and ran with no need to stop and adjust the shoe or lacing at any point.
Despite the simple upper, the foot seems well held throughout on either long runs or faster interval sessions.
Following a marathon race in these shoes, I found that the big toe and second toe had sustained some light bruising (and a blackened nail). I’m still not entirely sure whether this was due to some forward foot movement during the run (there were no steep descents, so that’s unlikely) or more likely. The shoe is slightly shorter than other NB shoes. If you have any doubt, I’d, therefore, suggest going up ½ a size
The toe box is also a little narrower than other New Balance shoes in which I’ve run to the extent that I experienced a mild flare-up of Morton’s Neuroma after each of the first few runs. The shoe did, however, seem to give a little in the toe box with use, and it was no longer an issue after the first 30 miles with the shoe.
The upper is made up of an incredibly simple “circular knit mesh” that wraps the foot with minimal overlays. The over-riding philosophy for the design of this shoe could be the age-old management adage “keep it simple, stupid.”
I’m still not entirely sure what type of mesh forms the upper. It feels more akin to fabric than an engineered mesh. It has very little elasticity which helps to maintain a comfortable fit around the foot once you’ve laced up and has a soft, comfortable feel which is at odds with most mesh uppers used elsewhere.
Despite this, it is a very breathable upper, and effectively wicks away moisture, seemingly managing to exhibit the attributes of both engineered mesh and fabric. Around the forefoot, the upper is comprised of a single layer of mesh, strengthened a little around the toe cap with a thin layer of foam.
Moving further back, the midfoot incorporates a bootie which holds the tongue in place, and which plays a part in wrapping the foot comfortably and securely. This is further supported by the only significant overlays, in the form of the “N” logo, and which are positioned to provide an element of support to the midfoot further.
The tongue is well cushioned, and is similar in feel and cushioning to the Zante v4. The lace holes are formed using a thin, flexible overlay for each hole. This is also used to provide a little detail around the laced section.
The cushioning around the ankle and heel is more than sufficient to hold the heel comfortably. If anything, the Beacon offers slightly more cushioning here than the Zante v4, with the cushioning extending a little further down towards the sole.
The heel cup doesn’t have the hard, plasticky feel that other shoes can exhibit, but feels as if the knit upper has been strengthened just enough to hold the heel in firmly, but comfortably.
The Fresh Foam Beacon is very much a neutral shoe while the simple knitted upper wraps the footwell. There is a minimal amount of support provided, and I’d suggest that it is therefore only suitable for runners who want a truly neutral shoe.
The midsole of the Beacon is formed of a single slab of New Balance’s “Ground Contact” Fresh Foam. The Ground Contact Fresh Foam is designed to be more durable than other versions while retaining cushioning. This eliminates the need for anything other than a very minimal element of a rubber outsole (more of that below).
The heel drop of 6mm is similar to the Fresh Foam Zante. So essentially, the Beacon has a very light and generous slice of foam glued onto a simple upper, with a few rubber lugs to limit wear on key areas of the sole. I hear echoes of the “keep it simple, stupid” mantra again.
There is, of course, a little more to it as with other Fresh Foam shoes, there are hexagonal patterns along the sides of the midsole. The concave hexagons on the outside allow the foam to compress more, providing greater cushioning, while the convex shapes on the inside cause the foam to compress less, offering greater support.
So how does it feel? In my experience, New Balance Fresh Foam seems to have the ability to change character depending upon the costume it wears. In the 1080v8, it cushions reasonably well but plays a dull, unresponsive role in the running experience.
In the Zante, it provides an impressive balance of cushioning and responsiveness. It may feel a little stiff to some, but I love the shoe, and a bit more cushion underfoot.
In the midsole of the Beacon, the Fresh Foam gives its best performance yet. It provides a level of cushioning consistent with a Hoka or a Brooks Ghost, delivering the flexibility and responsiveness required for tempo sessions and intervals in a package that could compete with a racing flat regarding weight.
New Balance development of their Ground Contact Fresh Foam has allowed them to join Adidas and Nike in presenting their “exposed foam” running shoe. In the case of the Beacon, the largely exposed foam sole is reinforced by 5 single rubber lugs located in the areas of highest wear: the heel and toe off.
The lugs are thick and durable, but also feel soft and cushioned to the touch. There’s little more to say about the outsole, but in the case of the Beacon, what’s more, important is what is not there.
I’m sure that it’s the absence of a full length blown rubber outsole in this shoe that allows the Fresh Foam to deliver its superior mix of cushioning, responsiveness and flexibility.
I’m sure that this is going to be a real concern for anyone considering the purchase of the Fresh Foam Beacon. I cannot honestly say how many miles I’ll get out of my Beacons. All I can do is report on my experience so far.
At the time these pictures were taken, I’d run approximately 70 miles in the shoe, including a full marathon race (I’m an 87kg/190lbs heel striker), and to be honest, there is very little wear showing to date. The lateral lug on the heel, as expected, shows the most wear (as shown below), whilst the rubber lugs at the front still show the light pattern which is part of the design.
Most importantly, the foam itself is barely worn other than a little sign of wear right at the front of the shoe from taking off. I will be wearing these shoes for a variety of runs in the weeks ahead and will update this review with my experience as I clock up the miles.
I would be surprised however if the shoe did not last to around at least 400km and longer for lighter runners. I feel that these shoes would not stand up well on hard packed or gravel trails.
Running shoes are highly personal, and so my experience of shoe performance should always be balanced against my own characteristics. I can’t speak for the front of a pack runner, but hope my views will be useful for both club runners and newer runners, as well as those on the heavier side.
To put my running in perspective, at the time of writing, I’m 47, about 6’2”, around 87kg (190lbs), running 50-60 miles pw. I tested the Beacons in a marathon race run in 3:13, and a recent Parkrun clocked me just under 19’ for the 5k.
You may have already guessed that I really liked these shoes. I’d hoped that they arrive in time for me to use them in the Chester Marathon, and they turned up on the day before my last long run. As mentioned above, I put them on and set off.
At that point in my marathon training cycle, there’s a lot of fatigue built up over some high mileage training weeks, and I was ready to ease off before the race. I’m sure you’ll appreciate the appeal of a highly cushioned, but light pair of shoes.
The Beacons didn’t disappoint. That first session involved one hour out, just a little outside marathon pace, followed by a faster return at sub-marathon pace. The cushioning was unbelievable in such a light shoe, and yet somehow I didn’t feel disconnected from the road, perhaps because of the lack of a traditional rubber outsole.
During the return leg, I felt fresher than I had any right to after an hour running and came back well inside my marathon pace. Over the last couple of years, my marathon training cycle has incorporated the Brooks Ghost for longer slower runs, and the Fresh Foam Zante for faster intervals and marathon paced runs. For those last few weeks, the Beacons replaced the Zante v4 for faster, and marathon paced sessions.
To cut a long story short, the Beacons did a great job for my marathon. They offered everything that the Zante had previously done, but the additional cushioning was very welcome in the later stages of the race, reducing fatigue caused by the pounding of the feet on the road for 26 miles. So far so good, but how about faster sessions?
This is where the Beacon really surprised me. It came alive for me when the speed increased. Just two days after the marathon I slipped them on for a recovery run, and feeling good after a couple of miles, decided to try some faster intervals.
Even on tired legs, I found it easy to ramp up to 5k pace and faster for half a dozen stretches. The response was far better than I expected from the chunk of foam that makes up the midsole, and the transitions from landing to take off were impressively fast.
Even at faster speeds, the Ground Contact Fresh Foam is effective at reducing the impact of each footfall to the extent that I felt surprisingly light on my feet in a way that I haven’t with other shoes. All this without feeling as if I’d lost contact with the ground.
Just a quick note about the sock liner, as this has been an issue in the last Zante v4 in which I eventually resorted to gluing down the liner to prevent it folding up underfoot during wet weather.
The Beacon seems to use the same sock liner as the Zante v3 which performed well and in which I didn’t experience any movement. For a brief moment at 8 miles in the marathon, I felt the front of the liner fold a little under my toes, but it moved back of its own accord after a mile or two, and I didn’t have any further movement.
But I needed to be sure, so I deliberately took the Beacons out in the worst weather we’ve had for several months, and ensured the shoes were thoroughly wet by running through a ford. A long ascent, and short, fast windy descent later I can confirm that the liner did not move at all in the shoe.
At its heart, running is an incredibly simple activity. In an era of technology and over-engineered shoes, the simplicity of the Fresh Foam Beacon provides a real breath of fresh air and makes it a real joy to run in.
In my opinion, Fresh Foam performs flawlessly in its Ground Contact guise. It offers a level of cushioning that can take you through a marathon while allowing you to turn up the pace for a faster interval session.
It offers a level of cushioning comparable to Brooks Ghost with the flexibility and responsiveness of a Zante that will deliver for those faster sessions, all in a package that could compete with a racing flat in terms of weight.
Up until now, the Zante has been my “all-around shoe of choice”. Now the Beacon and the Zante are very different shoes, but for me, they both fulfill a very similar role; that of a real all-around running shoe that can “turn on” to a faster pace as well as grind out the longer miles.
So whilst my hand may hover momentarily between the two shoes, the lightness and additional cushioning will now see me reach for the Beacon in preference to the Zante.
This expert has been verified by RunRepeat. Reviews are neutral, unbiased and based on extensive testing.
New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon: Perfection personifiedMore photos
New Balance has always advertised Fresh Foam as super soft and cushioned. Before the Beacon, this advertisement was completely false.
Fresh Foam used to feel dull, lifeless, and firm. It was just another EVA foam, which any other brand could do.
Beacon uses a new type of Fresh Foam called GC (Ground Contact), and it is a game-changer. What makes the Beacon so special is that it is cushioned and extremely light at the same time.
If I could choose any one shoe to run in for the rest of my life, it would be the Beacon.
The first word that came to mind when I saw the Beacon was “lifestyle.” It looks more like a casual shoe than a performance running shoe.
It is thicker and closer to mesh than a traditional knit. It looks warm, but my feet did not get any hotter than usual—breathability is fine.
It has ample padding and ample space in the forefoot. The heel does not slip, and there are no uncomfortable seams inside.
The “N” and the logo on the tongue are reflective, making the shoe suitable for night runs.
The padded tongue has an attached gusset, which prevents it from sliding laterally. There are no overlays or a midfoot cage, which makes this one of the most comfortable uppers I have ever worn.
You just forget that you are wearing the shoe.
The Fresh Foam midsole is the star of the show and is really something special. It is the perfect balance of soft and responsive.
The foam is very dense and does not compress much. Thus, it suitable for faster runs.
Beacon is a very stable shoe. Even pronators can wear it due to the midsole not compressing much on the medial or lateral sides. The base is wide and perfect for runners with flat or high arches.
The foot sits inside the midsole due to the raised edges of the rearfoot cup, which enhances stability.
The midsole flexes at the right point (in the forefoot) and has a nice snap. These factors make the shoe perfect for forefoot or heel strikers.
The forefoot is as cushioned as the rearfoot. Hence, I found that the shoe encouraged me to get onto my forefoot because of the springy toe-off.
The outsole consists of only five strategically placed rubber lugs. Two on the heel and three in the forefoot. I found the two in the heel to be in the exact right position.
However, but I would like to have two more lugs next to the three in the forefoot where I found accelerated wear.
The lack of outsole rubber makes the landing so soft that is why they call the shoe, Ground Contact.
I do find that the lack of outsole rubber makes the bottom of the shoes look “uglier” than most running shoes. This is due to the wear and browning after 100 km of wear.
I bought the Fresh Foam Beacon at 50% off from a New Balance Outlet store, and I regret not buying another pair. This might just be my favourite running shoe of all time.
It is everything you want from a shoe: comfortable, supportive, cushioned, and lightweight.
The beacon can also be used casually for walking or standing. If you haven’t tried running in the Beacons, you are missing out big time.
If there was one thing I would change, it would be the colour of the midsole. You can only buy it in white, making dirt visible. A black or dark coloured midsole would better hide the wear and tear.
This expert has been verified by RunRepeat. Reviews are neutral, unbiased and based on extensive testing.
This is a fantastic day to day running shoe for long-distance training, for tempo runs, for easy runs...
This could be good for those of you looking for a ride that doesn’t squish as much, giving you a shoe that is ready for the next stride sooner! This is awesome cushion.
- The New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon is a neutral running shoe that’s made for the roads. It’s also meant for a variety of activities like speed training and racing. When it comes to design, it brings a smooth and simple look that’s popular with many contemporary options on the market. Bright colorways make up for the lack of substantial overlays and other add-ons.
- The upper unit features an engineered knit material. This material brings a lightweight yet secure coverage. It’s also breathable and flexible. A set of synthetic prints bolster the eyelets while the ‘N’ logo graces both sides of the façade.
- Underfoot cushioning is the responsibility of the Fresh Foam technology. This full-length unit carries the foot throughout the running session. The high-wear points of the outer sole are reinforced by rubber.
- For durability, the New Balance Beacon makes use of a blown rubber material. The rubber placements are strategically attached to high-wear areas for increased durability.
The New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon is available in the usual sizes, and it follows the regular sizing expectations of consumers. The width options are D – Medium and 2E – Wide options for men, and B – Medium and D – Wide for women.
The VL-6 Last entails standard measurements in the heel and forefoot. The height of the toe box isn’t too high nor too low. It may satisfy those who have medium foot dimensions.
Blown rubber is the material that’s used in the outsole unit of the New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon. It’s only placed in areas that are most prone to wear, specifically the lateral side of the heel and the medial side of the forefoot. Its tasks are to protect against damage and to provide surface traction.
The rest of the outsole is comprised of ground-contact foam. The textured surface heightens grip while shallow grooves enable flexibility.
The Fresh Foam cushioning unit composes the midsole of the New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon. This full-length material offers a soft and springy ride. And though it looks like it has a substantial thickness, it doesn’t hold a lot of weight. This material is also present in the midsole of the Zante v4 and other popular New Balance running shoes.
This midsole foam offers featherweight feel while effectively disperses landing impact. This foam is lighter than the usual midsole foam and it aims to provide long-lasting cushioning throughout the run.
The engineered knit upper offers a soft and breathable wrap.This material is also lightweight. It’s capable of bending with the foot, thereby facilitating an in-shoe experience that adapts to the gait cycle.
The overlay system is made of synthetic prints that bolster some sections of the upper, namely the eyelets and the sides. These thin add-ons help in maintaining the structural integrity of the façade.
The tongue and collar of the New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon are padded. These parts of the shoe are responsible for holding the foot in place and preventing it from wobbling or exiting the foot-chamber accidentally. They also offer additional cushioning for comfort.
The shoe has a lace-up closure, which offers the foot a secure, comfortable lockdown. Runners can easily adjust the laces to achieve the right fit. There are extra eyelets to further secure the midfoot.