Live Science Verdict
The Fresh Foam X 1080v12 is a neutral cushioned trainer, offering a comfortable ride for medium paced runs and anything up to marathon distance.
Good for wide feet
Size runs big
Not suitable for narrow feet
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Now on its 12th edition, the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v12 is the brand’s most popular running shoe, favored by beginners and advanced runners looking for a comfortable, everyday ride. We’ve been a big fan for a number of years, with the v10 being one of our favorite daily trainers to have on rotation. We even ran three marathons in them, so we can vouch that they withstand several kilometers.
The v11 disappointed fans somewhat, with users complaining about the slight change to the heel counter. For many, it caused discomfort, and some even found that the hard material cracked. So we were excited to try out the 1080v12 to see if this popular trainer lived up to the hype, and most importantly if it could rectify some of the drawbacks of the previous v11.
The 1080 is a neutral running shoe, making it one of the best running shoes for supination. While it's primarily designed for steady runs, it can still hold its own if you’re looking to push the pace. We put the shoe through its paces on a series of runs, evaluating the build, cushioning, design, upper, outsole and performance. Read on for our verdict.
Build and cushioning
We tested the women’s New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v12, which weighs 8.3oz (234g) with an 8mm drop. The men’s sneaker weighs in at 10.3oz (292g).
One of the most controversial changes from the v10 to the v11 was the heel counter. Many complained that the hard plastic of the v11 irritated the achilles, and some even found that it cracked completely down the middle. The good news is New Balance has listened to user feedback and rectified things with the v12 – the hard plastic has been replaced with softer padding, and we found absolutely no achilles irritation. In fact, we were able to run in these straight out the box without the slightest bit of rubbing or irritation.
The midsole contains New Balance’s Fresh Foam X, which is cushioned enough to make this a comfortable shoe for everyday runs, but responsive enough to turn your hand to a bit of speed work should you want to pick up the pace. The tongue is also nicely cushioned.
Design and upper
New Balance has gone slightly bolder with its design on the v12 and we’re big fans. Available in four colors, we tried the ‘night sky with vibrant orange and pink’ and received a number of compliments. It’s also available in vibrant apricot, but if you prefer a more understated design, white and black are also options.
The upper on the 1080v12 is made from Hypoknit material designed to provide strategic areas of stretch and support. It stretches right through the toe box and is more rigid in places where the foot needs more support. We thought it provided a good amount of stability, while still being breathable.
The bottom of the 1080v12 is made from blown rubber, which we felt had a good amount of grip and stability during our testing. While running over wet leaves or on sandy paths felt a bit more precarious, we were surprised by how ‘tacky’ the 1080v12 felt for a road shoe. This may be due to the fact that the v12 has larger lugs than the v11.
We didn’t notice any wearing of the outsole during our testing (which totalled around 75km) nor did any stones get stuck between the lugs. User reviews seem to indicate that the shoes can stand the test of time.
The 1080v12 is available in U.S. sizes 5-13 (UK 3-9) for women, and sizes (UK 6.5-14.5) in mens. The womens is also available in a standard, wide and x-wide fit, while the mens is available in narrow, standard, wide and x-wide.
We tried a UK 8.5 in wide fit, having previously opted for standard fit in older versions and finding our toes could get sore on longer runs. As it turns out, the v12 actually runs quite big, and the wide fit almost felt too generous. In fact, you could probably get away with sizing down an entire half a size. A narrow option in the women’s would also have been preferable, as we can’t imagine many people needing an X-Wide given how generous the sizing is.
The ride on this shoe is pretty much what you expect from the 1080: extremely well cushioned and nice and supportive. Having said this, we could comfortably hold a 5 min/km pace in these without having to put in too much work, so if you wanted to try your hand at a more pacey 5km or 10km, the 1080 wouldn’t be out of place. However, the shoe is 1oz heavier than the previous version, which we did actually notice.
While the cushioning is soft on the 1080v12, there’s surprisingly not as much bounce as you’d expect from the shoe, especially compared to the likes of the Brooks Glycerin 19. Then again, the EVA-based Fresh Foam is a denser foam so this may explain why.
The New Balance Fresh Foam x 1080v12 is a fantastic daily trainer for steady runs, and one that both beginners and more experienced runners will enjoy. It feels a little heavier compared with previous versions and we would seriously advise sizing down because of how roomy the fit feels. If you’ve got wide feet, you’ll love the 1080 v12, not to mention it provides a great level of comfort and stability. If you were put off by changes to the v11, you’ll be pleased to find these have been rectified in the v12 too.
Asics Gel Nimbus 24
If you prefer a more slimline feel, the Asics Gel Nimbus 24 fits true-to-size, which can be useful when you’re buying online. It also benefits from Asics’ Trusstic technology in the midsole, designed to flex safely under a neutral stride and becoming rigid if the arch of the foot rolls excessively.
Saucony Ride 15
For a more budget-friendly option, the Saucony Ride 15 ticks most of our boxes when it comes to a quality, everyday running shoe. It provides plenty of cushioning, feels lightweight and breathable, and has an upper that’s accommodating, yet able to wrap around narrow feet.
How we tested
To fully test the Fresh Foam X 1080v12, we wore the sneakers for a variety of runs and routes. First, we wore them for a steady 5km recovery run. Then, we tried them out during an interval session – this totalled around 10km in distance, but included rest periods and faster paces between 4:20-4:30 mins/km. In terms of terrain, it also involved a mix of concrete and grass. Lastly, we wore the 1080v12 for three longer runs, all over half marathon distance.
It’s worth noting that we mostly wore the 1080v12 for city-based raining, during a particularly dry time of year. However, on the few occasions that we got caught in a downpour, we were impressed that the shoe responded to the slippery surfaces.
Although we didn’t experiment on the trails as much, we’d say the 1080v12 can hold its own pretty well during dry season. On muddier terrains, you’ll want a sneaker specifically built for the trails.
Alice is the health channel editor at Live Science. She also reviews tech and fitness products for our buying guides, from air purifiers to treadmills. She has worked across multiple knowledge and wellness brands at Future, including Fit&Well, Coach, T3, TechRadar and Tom's Guide. Alice holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from City, University of London, where she spent a year studying nutrition, dietetics and public health at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. A self-confessed running fanatic, she's completed six marathons and qualified for the Boston marathon.