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New Balance 880v13 Vs New Balance 860v13: Our Shoe Guru Breaks Them Down

The New Balance 880 and 860 models are two of the most popular shoes from the brand. While they share many of the same features, they are aimed at very different runners.

The shoes look pretty similar too, so it could be easy to mistake one for the other and I’ve had several customers come into my specialist running store and ask for one shoe when they actually want or need the other.

Here, I’m going to look at both models and explain the features they share, what makes them different, and help you decide which you should buy.

Key points:

  • The 880 model is better suited to runners with a neutral gait,
  • The 860 model has some extra support,
  • There are a few other design differences to consider – as we’ll get into below!
New Balance 880v13 Vs New Balance 860v13

The stats:

880v13860v13
Weight:Men’s 300g / 10.6oz Women’s 238g / 8.4ozMen’s 309g / 10.9oz Women’s 243g / 8.6oz
Stack Height: Stack Height: 34mm heel, 24mm forefoot = 10mm dropStack Height: 34mm heel, 24mm forefoot = 10mm drop

New Balance 880v13 Vs New Balance 860v13 Shared features:

Cushioning

The first thing that the shoes have in common is the FreshFoam X midsole cushioning. 

FreshFoam X is New Balance’s proprietary cushioning material. Many shoes in the brand’s running family of shoes share this cushioning, but it’s important to remember that it is an umbrella term for cushioning in general.

Midsole foams are made up of a blend of rubber and polymers.

These mixtures create the cushioning material, and it’s usually injected with air. The air creates tiny bubbles in the foam, and that allows it to squash and absorb impact.

Small variations in the ‘ingredients’ that go into the shoe’s midsole can give each different shoe a slightly different feel.

So, if you were to inject more air into a midsole, it would create more air bubbles and make a softer and lighter material. Less air would give us a denser material and a firmer feel.

With this in mind, both the 880 and 860 use a very similar FreshFoam X midsole, but each shoe has a couple of slightly different densities of the foam and provides slightly different overall rides.

The midsole cushioning units both contain approximately 3% bio-based materials. While this is only a very small amount, it does go some way to providing an acknowledgment from the brand that more should be done in the way of sustainability.

New Balance 860v13

Upper

The uppers of both the 880 and 860 are constructed with an engineered mesh design.

Both are soft and breathable and both feature very similar amounts of padding in the tongue, ankle collar, and Achilles area.

Both shoes feature a slightly flared Achilles heel tab. This curls away gently from the Achilles tendon to reduce any potential irritation. It’s a nice design feature and one that I find most welcome. 

After many years of somewhat tender Achilles (due to my track running past) I find a soft padded heel area and the shape of this type of heel tab is a welcome addition to any shoe.

The only minor difference, but important one, in the upper of the two shoes is in that of the 860v13.

In this, supportive model, the medial side of the upper features some reinforced, stitched sections that provide a little more shape and structure and hold the arch of the foot a little more securely.

This structure contributes to the overall nature of the shoe, being the more stable option.

New Balance 880v13

Sole

The sole pattern of both the 880v13 and 860v13 is very similar.

In the heel of the shoe, the sole uses the brand’s NDurance rubber material. This is a carbon rubber and provides a harder-wearing material to make the first point of contact for many runners.

In the forefoot, a softer, blown rubber material is used. With the air ‘blown’ into this rubber mixture during the manufacturing process it creates a softer and more flexible material. 

There are plenty of flex grooves cut into the soles of the shoes and both provide a smooth toe-off experience.

860v13

New Balance 880v13 Vs New Balance 860v13
The Ride

The Ride – 880v13

The New Balance 880v13 is the brand’s most popular neutral cushioned shoe.

Part of its popularity comes from its price point, being priced in the same ballpark as shoes like the Brooks Ghost 15, Saucony Ride 16, and Nike Pegasus 40.

It’s not an overly complicated shoe, but then again many of its competitors aren’t either.

In this type of shoe, a runner simply wants a reasonable light shoe that fits well, is flexible, and is comfortable from the word go.

The 880v13 ticks all these boxes and many runners that I recommend the shoe to are happy to take the shoe without even trying alternatives! 

The cushioning hits the spot perfectly, not too soft and not too firm, it feels very runnable from the moment you pull it on. 

The shoe uses two very slightly different densities of the FreshFoam X midsole material. A slightly firmer foam in the rear of the shoe with a softer layer sitting under the forefoot for a smooth forward motion and toe-off.

That said many runners may not even notice a difference and you have to closely examine the shoe to see the different densities of cushioning.

It’s a shoe for those with a neutral foot strike, so the cushioning is the same density across the width of the shoe. This said, the shoe is reasonably stable and is by no means soft and flimsy. It’s a well-put-together model that holds the foot very well.

880v13

The Ride – 860v13

The New Balance 860v13 is the brand’s most popular support or control-type running shoe.

For those that overpronate the shoe features a medial post as well as a more structured midsole shape around the base of the foot to stabilize it and reduce the rate of pronation. 

The midsole of the shoe uses the FreshFoam X foam with a firmer density piece of cushioning set into the medial side of the shoe under the arch of the foot.

As the foot pronates (rolls inwards) it will ‘hit’ this post and the degree of roll will be reduced.

As well as the medial post the midsole ‘cups’ up a little around the sides of the foot.

These sidewalls work in much the same way as the GuideRails in the Brooks range of GTS models and in providing this support close to the foot, the medial post can be kept to a small unit that’s effective enough to function without being too big as to cause irritation.

The support in the 860 is very effective and I find it to be one of the best shoes for overpronators on the market right now.

860v13

Which should I choose?

Your choice of the two shoes will really come down to your support or control needs.

This is often referred to as pronation.

Pronation is the natural inward roll of the foot upon contact with the ground. When the heel strikes the ground when running it will do so slightly on the outside (lateral) edge of the foot.

The foot is a rather clever piece of engineering, with 26 bones and 33 joints making up its structure that is generally focused around the arch and its function to help absorb impact.

The foot lands slightly to the lateral edge in order to create more space under the arch and as it rolls forward, it will also roll inwards, into the arch. This is known as pronation.

If the foot rolls inwards excessively, the arch will ‘squash’ a little and this has become known as ‘overpronation’. If your feet overpronate then the 860v13 would be the best option.

If you keep pretty ‘straight’ or ‘vertical’ (when viewed from behind) then your foot remains in the neutral position and the 880v13 would be the better option of the two models featured here.

880v13

Conclusion

Both the New Balance 880v13 and 860v13 and great shoes for everyday training at any speed. Both are capable of covering around 400 to 500 miles of use without any signs of excessive wear and should remain very comfortable for every one of those miles.

If you require a little control or additional support, the 860v13 is the shoe to choose, and for those with a neutral running gait, the 880v13 is the shoe to pick.

Photo of author
Paul Freary really does have a lifetime of experience as an athlete. Paul’s father, Mike was British record holder over 10,000m in 1966, so Paul was almost born to run. With best times ranging from 3:56 for the mile to 13:55 for 5k, and ran 2:40 at the 2023 Berlin Marathon at age 55. Having worked with several leading brands as well as in retail he also knows running footwear inside out and also has experience in gait analysis and orthotics. Paul writes regular running shoe reviews for our site and our Youtube channel!

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