Our verdict

At only £90, the New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road is as easy on the wallet as it is on the foot, delivering premium levels of comfort to our daily runs. With its generous padding and luxurious midsole, this shoe is a true creature of comfort that pampers our feet from the moment we lace it up. The cushy and smooth ride is responsive enough for our low-intensity runs and feels delightful underfoot when just walking around town.

Pros

  • Marshmallowy plush cushioning
  • Great for recovery days
  • Extremely flexible and forgiving
  • Rockered midsole for smooth transitions
  • Above average breathability
  • Excellent performance in cold conditions
  • Provides good stability
  • Secure and comfy lockdown
  • Accommodating toebox

Cons

  • Lacks responsiveness for speedwork
  • Lacking in upper durability
  • Needs some breaking in

Audience verdict

78
Bad!

Who should buy

We recommend the Kaiha Road to:

  • Runners who want a maximalist shoe that’s and boasts plenty of plush foam underfoot for maximum comfort
  • Casual runners looking for a protective and versatile daily trainer that’s also comfortable enough for walks and all-day wear
  • Forefoot strikers who want a well-cushioned and forgiving shoe for recovery days
  • Pronating runners who prefer a neutral running shoe with enough stability to support overpronation. 

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 1

Who should NOT buy

While the Kaiha Road is perfectly capable of pushing the pace, it’s not responsive enough to be an efficient speed trainer. For those in the market for a true PB smasher, we recommend the shoe’s speedy cousin; the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v3, or the nylon-plated Saucony Endorphin Speed 3.

The Kaiha Road needed a few runs before we unlocked the true potential of its plush midsole. For a daily trainer that’s comfy and ready right out of the box, we recommend the New Balance Fresh Foam Arishi v4 or the Brooks Ghost 15.

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road cut

Breathability

We turn to our smoke test to get an idea of how breathable the Kaiha Road is. As we can clearly see, the smoke eases its way through the shoe in a steady and even stream. This was a tough call but we ended up giving the Kaiha Road a breathability score of 4 out of 5. 

Check out the plumes of smoke billowing out of the Saucony Triumph 21 to understand our criteria for a perfect score. 

Looking at a backlit cross-section of the upper reveals why smoke of the smoke gets choked up in the shoe. While the light shines through most areas of the toebox, the reinforced areas around the laces leading to the rear of the shoe aren’t nearly as permeable. 

Our mesmerizing microscope shot of the upper also provides further answers. The mesh is made up of regularly spaced braids woven to form lots of little vent holes. All these small perforations give the shoe good airflow, making it a good training partner for warm summer runs.

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road cu 1

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road

Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 4
Average 3.8
Compared to 189 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

We turn to our Dremel to simulate extreme wear and tear (and we do mean extreme). Spinning at 5K RPM, we applied the tool with 3.2N of grinding force onto the toebox and it immediately shredded its way through the material. 

The aftermath of the four-second test is a massive and unsightly hole at the point of contact, leading us to give the toebox a durability score of 1 out of 5. Many shoes suffer a similar fate, so this shouldn’t be a problem with normal use. However, this does mean that we don’t recommend going off-road with the Kaiha Road as an unlucky snag might spell the untimely end of its upper.

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road Toebox durability
Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 1
Average 2.2
Compared to 123 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

Now we turn our attention to the heel collar and fire up the Dremel once more. While the lining seems to resist our tool’s grinding element at first, it eventually relents and gives up the soft padding within.

This earns the Kaiha Road a heel padding durability score of 1 out of 5. It’s not looking too good for this shoe’s upper!

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road Heel padding durability
Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 1
Average 3
Compared to 119 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

To measure how hard the outsole is, we pressed our durometer against the rubber and got a reading of 77.9 HC. This is quite a bit softer than our current lab average which is great for traction as it means the outsole is able to bite into surfaces very well. On the other hand, a soft reading doesn’t usually bode well for durability so let’s see how the outsole fares against our merciless Dremel. 

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road Outsole hardness
Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 77.9 HC
Average 80.3 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 241 running shoes
Number of shoes
55.5 HC
Outsole hardness
92.8 HC

Outsole durability

Like the toebox, the outsole seems to hold up well at first until visible chunks start being cast aside toward the end of the twenty-second test. 

We used a tire gauge to measure the indent at the point of contact and found that we had sheared away 0.85 mm of rubber from the outsole. This makes the Kaiha Road’s outsole more durable than the average road shoe, which leads us to confidently predict that there won’t be many signs of wear and tear after 400 miles of use.

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road Outsole durability
Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 0.8 mm
Average 0.9 mm
Compared to 101 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

At 3.5 mm thick according to our caliper measurements, the Kaiha Road’s outsole is right on par with our current average.

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road outsole

There’s a good amount of coverage at the bottom of the shoe, and the outsole itself flares out slightly as a little bonus stability feature.

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road Outsole thickness
Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 3.5 mm
Average 3.2 mm
Compared to 261 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
6.6 mm

Weight

Weighing in at 9.9 oz (281g), the Kaiha Road is a little heavier than the average shoe. However, the shoe definitely feels lighter on the foot than the scale suggests thanks to its rockered midsole and lively ride. 

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road Weight
Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 9.91 oz (281g)
Average 9.42 oz (267g)
Compared to 261 running shoes
Number of shoes
5.26 oz (149g)
Weight
12.56 oz (356g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

Using our caliper, we measured the Kaiha Road’s stack to be 35.8 mm thick at the heel. This is quite a bit higher than the average road shoe, giving us lots of foam underfoot that really exaggerates the softness of the shoe’s cushioning.

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road heel

As such, heel strikers will enjoy extremely comfortable and protective landings in this shoe. 

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road Heel stack
Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 35.8 mm
Average 33.5 mm
Compared to 260 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Heel stack
42.7 mm

Forefoot stack

The stack is even more robust than average at the forefoot, measuring 32 mm according to our caliper. This means that forefoot-striking runners will enjoy similarly well-cushioned landings as their heel-striking counterparts, if not more so. 

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road Forefoot stack

For runners who prefer a mix of plush cushioning and ground feel for their daily runs, we recommend the Brooks Hyperion as an alternative.

Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 32.0 mm
Average 24.7 mm
Compared to 260 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Forefoot stack
34.8 mm

Drop

The difference in our stack measurements leaves the shoe with a drop height of 3.8 mm. This puts the Kaiha Road in the category of low-drop shoes which tend to favor runners with a forefoot striking stride. 

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road hdrop

However, the midsole’s pronounced rocker geometry made our transitions feel extremely smooth during our test runs despite the subtle offset in the shoe’s stack. This means that the shoe should still suit the needs of heel strikers who might be used to shoes with a higher drop.

Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 3.8 mm
Average 8.8 mm
Compared to 260 running shoes
Number of shoes
-0.8 mm
Drop
16.1 mm

Insole thickness

The Kaiha Road’s insole falls within the average range for road shoes at 4.3 mm thick according to our caliper measurements. This gives us an adequately padded landing surface within the shoe that feels nice and soft. 

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road Insole thickness
Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 4.3 mm
Average 4.4 mm
Compared to 256 running shoes
Number of shoes
1.5 mm
Insole thickness
9.8 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

The Kaiha Road’s eponymous Fresh Foam X midsole is definitely the shoe’s standout feature. Giving us a durometer reading of 13.3 HA, it’s decisively plush compared to our current lab average. This allows the midsole to compress quite drastically upon impact, completely masking the presence of the ground underfoot with heavenly levels of soft cushioning.

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road durmid

At the same time, the force of the impact seems to be stored as potential energy within the foam only to be released through the midsole’s springy rebound. This gives the Kaiha Road a ride that is protective enough to melt away the mile markers during long-distance efforts, while also being lively enough to facilitate speedy sessions.

Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 13.3 HA
Average 23.6 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 242 running shoes
Number of shoes
6.5 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
52.5 HA

Midsole softness in cold

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.
New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road Midsole softness in cold

Difference in midsole softness in cold

We popped the Kaiha Road in the freezer to see what effect cold conditions have on the shoe. Twenty minutes and one tub of ice cream later, we pressed our durometer against the Fresh Foam X midsole for a second time and got a reading of 17.6 HA. This is remarkably soft compared to the average shoe under similar conditions as well as at room temperature! As such, the Kaiha Road is a great choice for runners living in countries with frigid winters. 

A 32.5% increase in midsole firmness means that the Fresh Foam X isn’t quite as consistent as our current lab average between warm and cold conditions. However, we have no doubt that the shoe will feel extremely comfortable underfoot all year round. 

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road Midsole softness in cold
Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 32.5%
Average 26.3%
Compared to 241 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
125%

Stability

Lateral stability test

Despite its hefty stack of plush foam, the Kaiha Road feels exceptionally stable underfoot when shifting our weight from side to side. We will explore how New Balance achieves this mystifying feat in the next sections. 

Torsional rigidity

We were barely able to twist the Kaiha Road in our hands, leading us to give the shoe a torsional rigidity score of 5 out of 5; a level of stiffness normally found in shoes with carbon plates, but the Kaiha Road achieves this through pure foam. 

This amount of torsional rigidity helps in keeping the base nice and level for stable landings and toe-offs. Even runners with pronating strides will feel surefooted and supported in this shoe.

Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 5
Average 3.2
Compared to 238 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

The heel counter put up a mild level of resistance to our manual manipulations, earning it a stiffness score of 3 out of 5. This level of stiffness allows the shoe to lock our foot in place without putting too much pressure on our tendons. 

Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 3
Average 2.7
Compared to 222 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

It’s a simple fact that a wide base improves stability, and the Kaiha Road boasts an incredibly broad platform. Measuring 119.2 mm wide at the forefoot, the Kaiha Road is much wider than the average road shoe, giving us a robust landing surface that had us feeling surefooted and steady throughout our test runs. 

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 119.2 mm
Average 113.4 mm
Compared to 261 running shoes
Number of shoes
100.5 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
126.5 mm

Midsole width in the heel

At 100.1 mm wide based on our caliper measurements, the Kaiha Road’s midsole is also significantly wider than average at the heel. This means that heel-strikers will also enjoy stable landings in this shoe despite the abundant amount of soft foam underfoot. 

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 100.1 mm
Average 90.3 mm
Compared to 261 running shoes
Number of shoes
74.9 mm
Midsole width in the heel
106.6 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

We secured the Kaiha Road to our workbench and found that 25.5N of force is required to bend the shoe 90 degrees, making it more flexible than the average road shoe. This means that the Kaiha Road is able to bend along with our foot with relative ease which contributes to the shoe’s comfy ride. 

Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 25.5N
Average 29.0N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 244 running shoes
Number of shoes
2.2N
Stiffness
94.4N

Difference in stiffness in cold

We also repeated the stiffness test after letting the shoe chill in our freezer for twenty minutes, with the result being 37.7N of force now needed to bend the shoe to the desired point. 

Becoming 47.8% stiffer when exposed to cold conditions makes the Kaiha Road slightly less consistent than the average road shoe. While this means that the shoe will feel during frigid winter runs, it’s still more flexible than most shoes in similar conditions. 

Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 47.8%
Average 38.8%
Compared to 244 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
148%

Grip / Traction

While the outsole’s distinctive tread pattern provides us with reliable traction on asphalt, it didn’t feel as grippy on slick cobblestones. We therefore recommend avoiding rainy day runs with the Kaiha Road. 

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

We measured the Kiaha Road’s toebox to be 101.8 mm at its widest point, making it roomier than the average road shoe. This extra room was welcome during our long-distance efforts as it gave our feet some space to swell towards the latter mile markers without any hotspots flaring up.

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road toewide

It also means that the shoe should be accommodating enough for most foot shapes except maybe those with very broad feet. We recommend that those runners consider the Saucony Triumph 21 or the Adidas Ultraboost Light as even roomier alternatives.

Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 101.8 mm
Average 98.2 mm
Compared to 262 running shoes
Number of shoes
89.5 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
109.1 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

Moving up to the area around the big toe, we measured the Kaiha Road’s toebox to be 78.6 mm wide. This is also roomier than average and means that we were able to splay out naturally during our test runs with no fear of blisters. 

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road toetoe

Again, we don’t recommend this shoe to runners with very broad feet. Another interesting alternative is the zero-drop Altra Torin 7 which boasts an incredible amount of real estate in the toebox.

Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 78.6 mm
Average 77.8 mm
Compared to 134 running shoes
Number of shoes
67.6 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
90.4 mm

Tongue: gusset type

Despite the Kaiha Road’s tongue being non-gusseted, it managed to remain in place relatively well during our test runs. 

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road None

Comfort

Tongue padding

We measured the Kaiha Road’s tongue to be 5 mm thick which is just shy of our current lab average. This is still more than enough padding to ensure a comfy and secure lockdown that effectively shields our instep from any hint of lace bite. 

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road Tongue padding
Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road 5.0 mm
Average 5.7 mm
Compared to 258 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.5 mm
Tongue padding
14.2 mm

Removable insole

The Kaiha Road’s insole is fully removable so custom orthotics can be used with the shoe where necessary. 

Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

Despite the bright colorways, the shoe is anything but when the lights go out. With no reflective elements whatsoever, we recommend using high-vis gear when going out for a night run in the Kaiha Road. 

New Balance Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road Reflective elements
Test results
Fresh Foam X Kaiha Road No