A windfall of trail running shoes hit my closet this winter; I could have easily been mistaken for a hoarder. Despite an unprecedented abundance of options available, the three pairs I’ve been recently rotating between are all New Balance with Fresh Foam X midsole technology — including this New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7 ($140).
My current affinity for cushion undoubtedly has a lot to do with my running style as of late, which is all about resuming my social running circles and re-establishing my base post-partum, injury-free. Speed and agility are not currently a priority. Building up for long-haul local weekend adventures and maintaining my sanity as a mother of two very small children is my reality!
Despite looking pretty clunky, I really did love the New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v6, which we named as one of the best cushioned trail running shoes. You can also read our in-depth New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v6 review.
The New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7 experienced some updates from the previous model that honestly make it feel like a pretty different shoe. Fresh out of the box, I recall the Hierro v6 feeling very well cushioned, which is not the case with the Hierro v7, and no doubt contributes to the fact the newer model weighs in lighter than its predecessor — with an actual weight of 10.2 ounces (290 grams) versus 11.4 ounces (323 grams) for a men’s size 9. Great grip and a resilient upper remain in place with some modification from the previous model.
New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7 Upper
The synthetic and mesh upper on the New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7 is breathable, yet resilient to abuse. A gusseted tongue is nestled under traditional laces. My backyard peak has taken some stabs at beating up the Hierro v7 when I ran into significantly more snow than I was expecting and I spent a fair amount of time post-holing around through crunchy spring snowpack. Twenty miles and plenty of ice shards later, I was impressed to notice a mere handful of fabric strands whisker-ing out of the lateral side of the upper.
Like the Hierro v6, New Balance’s Toe Protect technology remains in the Hierro v7 and continues to guard your feet from whatever you might kick up on the trail. I have a narrow foot and prefer a roomy toebox to accommodate toe splay and bunions. Though unintentionally, I ended up testing the wide version of this shoe, which actually worked really well with an orthotic and is true to size.
New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7 Midsole
When I took the New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7 on its maiden voyage, I was expecting a well cushioned and comfortable ride. I was surprised to not experience the same caliber of cushion as was in the Hierro v6, and also that my feet actually felt a bit achy afterward. Historically, I’ve done the majority of my running in custom orthotics that provide very good arch support and prevent overpronation. It seems as though updates to the Hierro v7 have resulted in less substantial arch support, which may work for someone with a more neutral foot strike or a favorite orthotic or insole to slip in. I’ve since ran over 200 more miles in these shoes with my orthotics and have had zero issues.
Like previous models, the Hierro v7s retain an 8-millimeter drop. Cushioning, previously known as Fresh Foam, has been updated to Fresh Foam X. Fresh Foam X aims to provide an even softer, plush ride while preserving responsiveness — and also reduce the overall weight of the shoe. Some have criticized decreased cushioning in the forefoot of the Hierro v7. As a heel-striker, I have found the shoe to have sufficient cushioning in the heel for pounding downhill, and enough cushioning in the forefoot to protect while also enabling me to feel the ground. The bed of Fresh Foam X is certainly firmer than not only its predecessor, but also the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v12 road shoes I’ve tested. I would liken the feel to past models of the Brooks Cascadia, but with less arch support.
New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7 Outsole
The redesigned outsole on the New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7, featuring Vibram Megagrip, is an impressive update that results in both improved traction and a lighter shoe. I have ran into both snow and mud in the Hierro v7 and have been impressed by their versatility as an affordable “workhorse shoe,” and not one specifically designed for especially challenging conditions. The 4.5-millimeter lugs are designed to maximize traction for climbing and descending. A significant number of my dirt miles occur on a loop that involves a couple miles of paved road to start, followed by a couple thousand feet of climbing and descending on jeep road and trail. Therefore, trail shoes that can accommodate a seamless transition from pavement to dirt but retain enough adhesion to climb and descend confidently tend to log a lot of miles around here! The relatively wide base of this shoe further lends to a stable ride.
New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7 Overall Impressions
Like their predecessor, the New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7 is marketed primarily for hiking and trail. I’d vouch they’re a great option when your route also involves some road. Unlike the Hierro v6 model, the standout feature for me is not the Fresh Foam X cushioning, but rather the durability and versatility. If you’re looking for a trail shoe that holds up well, is versatile on and off pavement, and marketed at a competitive price point — consider the New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7. Alternately, if you need reliable arch support or your goals are all about being light and fast, this model might not be for you!
Call for Comments
- Have you tried the New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7?
- How do you think it compares with previous versions of the shoe?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]