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New Balance 890 v4 Review: The Barcalounger of Running Shoes

Posted on January 14 2014

One of my top shoes from last year was the New Balance 1400v2. It’s a simple, comfortable, no frills shoe that provided just enough cushion – kind of like an Ikea Poang chair:

New Balance 1400 v2

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Ikea Poang

Given that I tolerated the 9mm drop 1400v2 just fine, I thought I’d give the 10mm drop New Balance 890 v4 a try as I know a number of people who think highly of the 890 line. The folks at Runningshoes.com were kind enough to send me a pair to review (Disclosure: this review pair was provided free of charge – you can read about my policy on writing honest reviews here), and I’ve now put enough miles on them to render a verdict.

The first thing I noticed about the 890 is that the heel collar and tongue are massively overstuffed. If the 1400v2 is an Ikea Poang, the 890v4 is more like a Barcalounger:

New Balance 890v4 Sole

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barcalounger

In a discussion of this shoe on Facebook, fellow shoe geek Seth H. posted the following photo, which demonstrates the 890 puffiness quite well (followed by another photo provided by Chris P. which shows the uncanny resemblance of the 890v4 ankle collar and tongue to a hippopotamus mouth):

890 fluff 890 hippo

And here is a view of the tongue with the shoe on my foot – comically huge!

puffy 890 tongue

Let’s move on from the puffy tongue/ankle collar (which didn’t really bother me from a functional standpoint) and discuss the nuts and bolts of the shoe.

The New Balance 890v4 is probably best classified as a lightweight trainer. It weighs 8.1oz in men’s size 9, and stack height is 28mm heel, 18mm forefoot. The 10mm drop is a bit higher than I typically like, but I wanted to review this shoe since shoes like this one represent a nice alternative to the typically heavier, more-highly-structured (brick-like?), 10-12mm drop traditional training shoes that make up the bulk of running shoe sales (I generally do not like running in such shoes at all).

My overall experience with the 890v4 has been sort-of uneventful. It’s not a bad shoe by any means, but it doesn’t particularly excite me. It’s not a shoe that calls to me and makes me want to head out the door for a run (Is that you 1400v2? Run time?). But, it’s a serviceable shoe that provides decent cushion and is capable of eating up long, easy miles.

The fit of the 890v4 is pretty good on me. I went a half size up and have plenty of room up front, and the upper is stretchy enough to allow my toes to move around. Actually, I quite like the upper of this shoe (minus that gigantic tongue). It’s made of a mesh that seems like it will be plenty durable, and the overlays provide adequate support. Internally, the lining of the upper is soft and non-abrasive, but I have not tried running sockless since all of my miles in the shoe have been in cold weather. The sockliner is thin, and the arch support is not overly obtrusive.

The sole of the 890v4 feels much firmer than I expected it to. This might in part be due to the fact that it’s so cold outside (EVA midsole foam firms up in the cold), but it doesn’t feel cushy even walking around the blessedly warm indoors. For some reason I expected this to be a softer shoe than it is. That being said, I have not had any issues with the sole on the run. It’s not so firm that it feels like a brick, and I’ve actually enjoyed the miles that I’ve run in them (enjoyed rather than loved being a key distinction here).

New Balance 890v4 Sole

One more point about the sole – I’ve actually found it to do quite well on the crusty ice that has so defined my typical running surfaces this winter. It’s not lugged, but the sole is arranged into pods with gaps in between, and these conform nicely to irregular surfaces underfoot providing traction as a result. I’ve actually specifically grabbed this shoe a number of times for runs this winter specifically for this reason. It’s a road shoe that can handle snow and ice better than some others.

Conclusion

The New Balance 890v4 is a decent lightweight trainer for long, easy miles. Could even be a marathon shoe for those in more traditional shoes who want a lighter race option that retains a similar drop and lots of cushion. It’s not a sexy shoe, and it’s not a perfect 10 for me personally, but I’m more a racing flat kind-of-guy so I kind of expected that. And, if you need extra protection for you anterior ankle, you need look no further!

For another take on the 890v4, check out this review on Believe in the Run.

The New Balance 890v4 is available for purchase at Runningshoes.com.

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