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New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon
Compared to the grandiose fanfare that heralds the release of most new running shoes, the New Balance Beacon has slipped under the radar somewhat. However, it’s certainly an intriguing prospect once it comes to your attention.
That’s partly thanks to the sizeable chunk of Fresh Foam cushioning on the bottom – which makes it almost look like a Hoka One One shoe – and the almost complete lack of rubber on the outsole. Then there’s the fact that the Beacon weighs just 213g (men’s) despite all that cushioning. That’s lighter than some all-out racers like the Adidas Adizero Adios. Finally there’s the price – £90 at a time when more and more brands are pricing their pairs beyond £150 rather than under £100.
It all adds up to a unique, attractive package. The Beacon is a true all-rounder running shoe that doesn’t cost the Earth, and it even looks good enough to wear when not running.
Over my first weekend of running in the Beacon I tackled an out-and-back 16km, running the first half run easy and the second half at just slower than my half marathon pace, and a 15-mile run where I stepped up the pace every five miles to finish a bit faster than my marathon pace. It was a baptism of fire for the Beacon and I’d been sceptical about using the shoe for two tough runs straight off the bat. I needn’t have been concerned, though – the Beacon shone throughout.
The cushioning provides a good level of support for long runs but it isn’t mushy, with a firm ride that helps maintain a fast pace. It’s not bouncy ride like an Adidas Boost shoe – you just tick over nicely with a smooth heel-to-toe transition. The Beacon is certainly a quick shoe that would make a great pick for longer races.
I also tried the Beacon out on some short intervals on the track plus a couple of easy runs. In the former I’d say its bulk, which was never an issue over longer runs even at tempo pace, did hamper me slightly. It’s still light on the foot, but the large sole hinders a fast foot turnover when sprinting. It was a pleasure to wear on easy runs, however – not as soft and plush as a shoe like the Hoka One One Clifton or the Brooks Glycerin, but still comfortable enough that it quickly disappears on the foot.
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The Beacon is a shoe for the road and I found that on uneven trails it had a tendency to roll slightly due to the high stack of cushioning. There’s also very little rubber on the outsole, with the Fresh Foam moulded into shapes to provide grip. The lack of rubber might mean the cushioning wears down quickly, but it’s impossible to tell one way or another after only running 80km in them. There have been no signs of wear so far, though.
I’ve found New Balance shoes a bit hit and miss in the past, especially when it comes to Fresh Foam which always felt a bit flat compared to other proprietary midsoles like Adidas’s Boost or Saucony’s Everun. However, while the Beacon still doesn’t exactly feel springy underfoot, it’s offers an enjoyably firm and fast ride that makes the shoe a great all-rounder. The Beacon is one of the most interesting new shoes launched in 2018, especially taking into account the relatively low price of £90.
Buy from New Balance | £90
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.