New Balance 880 vs. 890 Running Shoes Comparison
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The New Balance 800 Collection features some of the most prominent running shoes enjoyed by many runners from all over the world. In fact, two models from the New Balance 800 Collection, the 880 and 890, are often compared by many due to their popularity.
So, what’s the difference between the New Balance 880 vs. 890?
The biggest difference between the New Balance 880 and 890 lies in the midsole.
The New Balance 880 uses the Fresh Foam X midsole which provides an ultra-cushioned ride. On the other hand, the New Balance 890 has higher arch than the 880 and uses the FuelCell midsole which is known for its lively and springy underfoot ride.
With that said, there is more to this comparison because both running shoes have different looks in the uppers and unique features in the sole units. In this post, I will compare the New Balance 880 vs. 890 to find out which running shoe is the perfect match for you.
New Balance 880 vs. 890 Comparison
For this comparison, I will look at the uppers and sole units of both shoes to determine which one is better. Here is the New Balance 880 vs. 890 comparison:
1. Uppers Comparison
New Balance 880 Uppers
Let’s start with the New Balance 880 uppers first.
Right off the bat, you can see that it’s not flashy in terms of design (unless you go for the bright colorway). It’s very unassuming at first, but don’t let its appearance fool you.
The upper is made of double jacquard mesh which is quite stretchy and very breathable. It’s also very comfortable on the toes because the material is relatively thin up front.
However, the further you go to the back of the shoe, the thicker the material is, especially in the heel area. It has an extended heel counter with a light amount of padding which secures your heels in place amazingly well. Overall, it’s not overly-cushioned and feels just right.
While you can benefit from a little bit of breaking in, especially in the midfoot cage, the uppers of the New Balance 890 is locking my feet well. It feels snug on my feet, but not in an overly-tight way. Basically, I can set it and forget it because the lacing system is very good.
So, while I think that the uppers are not flashy, they provide the right amount of cushioning, security, and flexibility. It’s not a puffy shoe, but it delivers amazing comfort. Overall, I’m really digging the comfort New Balance 880 provides, especially in the heels.
New Balance 890 Uppers
Now let’s move on to the New Balance 890 uppers.
Opening the shoebox for the first time, the New Balance 890 got me excited because of its looks. The overall design of the shoes is just fantastic. It’s sleek, streamlined, and sharp.
The upper is made of two layers: a mesh-like knit that covers a smooth, interior liner. It provides a snug, sock-like fit that is flexible and moves effortlessly with your foot.
The iconic N logo on the 890 is noticeably thinner and taller, providing the shoe with a unique look that is slightly different from other New Balance running shoes.
After putting on the shoes, the first thing I noticed was the slight bit of cushioning around the heel and ankle area. It provides enough cushioning for comfort, but not too much to make you worry about it becoming a “sweat sponge”.
There is also a bit of structure in the heel cup to keep your feet locked in place. Heck, even the toe box has a little bit of structure to it as well. The combination of structure in the heel and toe box lends the shoe an overall sensation of firmness in the uppers.
However, as I was running in the shoes, I felt like the New Balance 890 was a little bit too firm up front. Not that it was tight or snug, but it felt like the material was quite unforgiving, especially in the beginning. For me, it took about 10 miles to break them in.
There is also a little bit of padding in the tongue which is comfortable, but there’s not a lot of tension from the laces anyway, so the tongue padding is not necessary for me. In fact, some reviewers said that the tongue seems awkward and stiff.
That said, thanks to its sleek and modern aesthetics, you can easily wear them for a sporty-casual look, perfect to go along with a pair of joggers or jeans.
So, I think the uppers look amazing and pleasing to the eyes. However, for a shoe designed for faster days, the New Balance 890 does not have the most comfortable uppers because there are a couple of misses and little things that are simply out of place.
Final Verdict on Uppers
The New Balance 880 has more comfortable uppers than the 890. Thanks to the double jacquard mesh, the New Balance 880 uppers are not only more breathable, but they also have the right amount of padding which secures your feet well, especially in the heels.
The New Balance 890, on the other hand, feels too firm and stiff for me. The materials can be quite unforgiving at times and may need some time to break into. That said, the New Balance 890 has a sharp and modern look which is ideal for sporty-casual outfits.
2. Sole Unit Comparison
New Balance 880 Sole Unit
My first impression of the New Balance 880 is that it’s a workhorse. It’s not overly fancy at the top nor bottom, but this shoe is reliable and will show up everyday to support your runs.
The New Balance 880 midsole material is Fresh Foam X, which is precisely engineered for a lightweight and cushioned underfoot ride. It is a material I really enjoy, especially for my longer runs because it feels cushioned but not overly bouncy.
There is a substantial amount of outsole rubber on the shoes, which is very thick. The super thick rubber should help the New Balance 880 withstand the wear and tear caused by running hundreds of miles, based on my experience with Fresh Foam X shoes.
Because of the super thick rubber, it’s cushioned, but not as bouncy as the New Balance 1080. It does a great job of absorbing the impact from the miles I’m putting in, but it does so in a way that is not overly squishy. For me, it’s perfect for a daily trainer.
It has about 10 mm drop and about a 20 mm of stack height in the forefoot.
There is a flex groove on the outsole, which definitely helps to balance out the thickness of the rubber and provides much-needed flexibility. It also provides stability in the forefoot because it naturally forces you to land squarely instead of landing on the side of the foot.
The hexagon-shaped treads provide excellent grip and traction. In fact, more patches of rubber are placed under the area where it gets the largest forces during each stride.
So, taking everything into consideration, I only need to use two words to describe the New Balance 880’s sole unit: everyday durability.
You may also like: New Balance 880 vs. 860
New Balance 890 Sole Unit
As we’ve mentioned before, the New Balance 890 is designed as a faster day shoe.
It’s got a bunch of FuelCell foam in the midsole (which provides a springy underfoot), along with a little bit of REVlite on the outsole as well. The REVlite is the blue material you see on the front section of the outsole which is designed for responsiveness and durability.
If you’re familiar with New Balance running shoes from prior years, you'll know that REVlite foam can be found on shoes intended for fast training and racing. So to see the REVlite on the 890v8 outsole means that the shoe is designed for faster days.
Because of the abundance of foam in the midsole, the New Balance 890 has about 6 mm of drop and 18 mm of stack height in the forefoot. That just goes to show how much FuelCell is in the midsole of the shoes. It has a high arch too, which you may need to get used to.
The combination of the thick midsole and high arch results in more of a stiff ride.
It did mellow out for me after about 5 miles of running, and that’s when I thought I could run with the 890 as a daily trainer. While it’s a firm daily trainer, it’s solid, and enough for the job.
However, it was when I ran faster and got to my marathon paces that the New Balance 890 started to become more enjoyable. As I was spending less time in the heel area, and more in the midfoot and forefoot, the 890 started to feel more lively, lighter, and bouncier.
The best way I can describe it is that it felt like a little “bubble” from the toe to the midsole. That is the sweet landing spot for me, as I felt the perfect amount of compression when I land and the perfect amount of bounce when I lift off -- very pleasant.
I think it has something to do with the combination of the FuelCell and the REVlite.
In terms of the outsole, it’s not all REVlite that you’re running on. There is some FuelCell, but in areas with the most traffic you will land on either REVlite or some blown-rubber. It has good traction and is ideal on pavement, but I feel like the outsole wears down quickly.
Final Verdict on Midsole
The New Balance 880 has better sole units than the 890. I love the Fresh Foam X midsole! It delivers the perfect amount of firmness and stability, while providing the right balance of cushioning and bounciness. The unique design of the outsole makes the shoes flexible too.
The New Balance 890 is good too, however, the thick midsole and high arch result in a stiffer ride. While there are moments (during faster paces) where the 890 delivers the perfect bounce, I feel like the ideal speed window is too narrow, so the 890 may not be for everyone.
WINNER: New Balance 880
From the uppers to the sole units, the New Balance 880 is better in every way than the 890. It’s a workhorse shoe and will support your runs, thanks to the Fresh Foam X midsole which is ultra comfortable. In fact, I feel like it’s the ideal daily trainer that you can build a rotation around.
And there you have it, the New Balance 880 vs. 890 comparison. I had a great time researching and testing both excellent running shoes from New Balance, so I hope that my comparison review can be helpful for you. If you must choose one, go for the 880. 🙂
Reviewed by: Jason T.