Shoe Review: New Balance Fresh Foam 1080

New Balance Men's Fresh Foam 1080 (M1080BK6)It’s one of life’s little ironies that having spent the first 30 years of my life trying to put on weight in order to avoid having sand kicked in my face (OK, it never happened, but Charles Atlas insisted that it was only a matter of time), my big problem now is in trying to reduce the bulk of my manly physique for the benefit of my long-suffering knees and ankles.

And so, like many big chaps who won’t ever blow out 50 candles again, the search for the most perfectly cushioned shoes possible takes up an improbably large proportion of my time and money these days.

I used to spend quite unfeasible amounts of take home pay on buying a new pair of Asics Gel Cumulus every 400 miles (which translated to every 8 weeks in the days when I ran marathons for fun), before they sadly turned away from cushioned neutrality and became something more akin to a control shoe. I even flirted a little with the ‘barefoot running’ revolution once upon a time; which is fine on the beach or for a fast few miles on the road, but really didn’t suit me on long runs. And so, my quest for a properly cushioned and completely neutral shoe has continued for many years and even more over-training injuries. Until now, that is. Because now, I have discovered Fresh Foam from New Balance.

Looking Under The Bonnet Of The Fresh Foam 1080s

At first meeting, I didn’t think the Fresh Foam 1080s were all that cushioned, as my usual running shop expedient of holding the shoes in both hands while prodding the insoles with my thumbs didn’t detect the luxurious level of ‘give’ I was hoping for.

Fresh Foam midsole

The one-piece Fresh Foam midsole

And then it was explained to me that while the insole wasn’t quite as plush as I might have expected, there was a lot of technology and, well, foam actually, going on under the bonnet, in the form of the neatly structured and incredibly spongy midsole you see here.

According to the manufacturer, this: ‘gives runners a continuously smooth ride without interference, while an intelligent emboss on the top bed of the midsole – in conjunction with data driven flex groove placement – combines to complement flexibility in this tremendously cushioned underfoot shoe.’

Well, colour me impressed with the tekkers. But does it deliver out on the road?

More Neutral Than Switzerland. More Lushly Upholstered Than Kim Kardashian.

Despite the promised technology – and the reassuring words: ‘Excellent Ride’ being printed on the top of one insole – my first few steps out of the front door were fairly tentative, as the Fresh Foam 1080s just don’t give off the same ‘bouncy castle’ vibe as most highly cushioned shoes the first time you wear them. And this was actually my first run since destroying a cartilage on the Rat Race Scotland Coast to Coast six months ago.

However, I only had to run a few hundred metres to realise that these things were quite capable of taking my much-abused knees and ankles to their happy place, as they feel just as neutral as any ‘natural running’ shoe, while plainly delivering all the cushioning you could ever ask for. Or as New Balance put it on their website, the Fresh Foam 1080 delivers: ‘…a supremely cushioned underfoot feel that respects and maintains a runner’s need to engage with the ride itself.’

To put it another way, running in the 1080s feels a lot like wearing a ‘natural running’ shoe, but on one of those springy foam tarmac surfaces they put in the adventure playgrounds of the very young.

Just as importantly, the bootie construction promises a highly adjustable fit that can even provide a neat and comfortable fit for my ludicrously high arches and finger-length toes. So much so that I have now completed several 10k training runs in these things, and while my long-neglected running muscles are none too happy with a return to 18 miles a week, I can honesty say that all of the joints that would normally be complaining at this point are still feeling pretty good about my long overdue conversion to Fresh Foam.

wholedamnbagSo while it’s early days in my return to anything resembling a decent road mileage, I have to say that if you need proper cushioning and a totally neutral ride, the Fresh Foam 1080s are just about the only game in town, and fully deserving of not just a prestigious Five Jelly Baby rating, but, indeed, the rare accolade of the Whole Damn Bag.


Deep Heat Muscle Rescue Review

Deep Heat Muscle RescueAs I may have mentioned in these pages a couple or three times, I love the smell of Deep Heat in the morning: largely because it usually means I’m in the changing tent at a big race, or am at the very least about to head out for a sweaty 10-miler along the beach.

However, having extolled the virtues of various Deep Heat products designed to warm, cool, soothe and otherwise pander to the vagaries of my aging body on a number of occasions, it seems that the company has just pulled the old switcheroo by coming up with some slightly cissified products in its seeming endless quest for perfection (not to mention range extension).

Do I love the smell of Vanilla, Orange and Rosemary in the morning?

Yep, that’s right, Deep Heat has now come up with a couple of products that not only look as if they belong in Jordan’s handbag, but no longer smell like Deep Heat should.

And yet, having broken all the rules of injury rehabilitation by pulling a sneaky 10-miler on Friday night, just to prove that I’m fit for 12 miles of mud in next Saturday’s Hell Up North, my aching body was in urgent need of a little TLC over the weekend.

Time then for a long, hot bath using Muscle Rescue Bath Soak, which promised to ease my muscular tension with ‘electrolyte minerals and essential oils of rosemary and orange.’ All of which left me feeling and smelling rather lovely, if I do say so myself; though obviously I don’t know how much of that was due simply to the hot water…

Then it was time for the judicious application of the rosemary and vanilla scented neck and shoulder cream before heading up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire. And how was that? Well, there were two surprises in store: the first of which is that there’s very little vanilla and a whole lot of rosemary going on here; ensuring that while I’m undoubtedly ‘mutton’, I smelled pretty much like a leg of lamb as I retired for the night.

The other surprise was that despite its much less medicated, and in fact very pleasant aroma, the cream delivered just as big a dose of heat to my aching neck and shoulders as standard Deep Heat.

The hugely cissified verdict

Let’s be clear about this: I’m no-one’s idea of a metrosexual. I’ve never moisturised nor waxed, and would almost certainly have assumed from the tasteful pink packaging that these products were aimed at ladies – had they not been given to me – and left them on the shelf.

However, the fact must be faced that using standard Deep Heat is only ever going to mean funny looks down the pub and huge unpopularity around the house. So I have to say that the bath soak was a delight and the neck and shoulder cream delivers all the heat relief you need. They also both smell pleasant enough to let any runner socialise as normal. So while I think that Deep Heat have gotten the packaging very, very wrong, these are great products for runners and keep fit enthusiasts of both persuasions. In fact, the only downside I can see is that I’m now desperately craving a rack of lamb…