The New Balance 800 Series features some of the best running shoes in the market today. Two of them, the New Balance 880 and 860, are often compared to each other by many professional runners and shoe experts. So what are the differences between the two?
New Balance 880 vs. 860 Comparison:
While both the New Balance 880 and 860 have Fresh Foam X midsoles, the 860 has a medial post within the midsole to help control pronation. As a result, the New Balance 860 is denser and heavier, while the 880 is more cushioned and lightweight.
The New Balance 860 also has the Ultra Heel design which hugs the back of the foot for a snugger, more supportive fit. But some people may find it too tight.
With that said, there is more to this running shoe comparison than just heel design. After all, both of these running shoes are popular in the New Balance collection. In this post, I will compare the New Balance 880 vs. 860 to find out which running shoe is better.
New Balance 880
- Midsole: Fresh Foam X
- Category: Cushioning
- Weight: 10.5 oz (298 grams)
- 10 mm drop
New Balance 880 vs. 860 Comparison
Comparing two amazing running shoes from New Balance is no easy task.
But to help you decide which pair is right for you, I will compare the top and the bottom of both shoes. Here’s the New Balance 880 vs. 860 comparison:
1. Shoe Uppers
New Balance 880 Uppers
Let’s take a look at the New Balance 880’s upper first.
Opening the shoebox for the first time, there was nothing crazy that jumped out at me, even though the New Balance 880v11 got a complete makeover from its previous design.
The overall design of the shoe was “sensible” in my opinion, although the 880 I had was bright blue in color with a touch of yellow, which is pretty nice.
The newly-redesigned upper of the 880 uses engineered double jacquard mesh which promotes amazing breathability. It’s cool enough for my feet, but I can feel like my feet are well-protected by the mesh uppers because they don’t let everything in.
As I got further to the back of the shoe, the material became noticeably thicker, especially in the heel area. Just like the previous 880 models, it has an extended heel counter with a light amount of padding which secures my heels extremely well.
Compared to the heel clip of the 880v10, the TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) heel clip of the 880v11 has been reduced in size, promoting amazing heel security without the feeling of being restricted in any way. Overall, it’s not overly cushioned and feels just right.
Just like most running shoes, they will get better as time goes by, especially in the midfoot area. The lacing system is very good too, as I feel like I can set it and forget it because it secures my feet in a pleasant way. It’s snug, but not overly tight for me.
So to summarize the uppers of the New Balance 880, I think that the shoe delivers the perfect balance between foot security and cushioned comfort. I’m really loving the way the 880 hugs my feet ever so gently, without the feeling that my feet will slip away.
New Balance 860 Uppers
Now let’s move on to the New Balance 860’s uppers.
Slipping into the New Balance 860 for the first time felt heavenly for me. Thanks to the thin pull tab in the heel area, I was able to slide my feet effortlessly into the shoes. The pull tab is part of the Ultra Heel design which hugs the back of your feet for a snug, supportive fit.
The heel pull tab is the highlight of the New Balance 860 in my opinion.
I also like how the N logo catches the light so anyone wearing the 860 can run safely at night.
Based on my experience with New Balance running shoes, they tend to rub a little bit on the inside of the foot, but I haven’t experienced it in the 860, which is a good thing. That just goes to show that the New Balance 860 is designed for stability.
However, unlike the 880, the New Balance 860 runs a half-size smaller for me. Even after breaking into the shoes, I feel like the 860 had a narrow midfoot and heel fit.
Compared to the previous New Balance 860 version, not only is the upper tighter, but it’s also heavier (which makes sense because it’s a stability shoe). I think this is because of my experience from wearing the popular, yet wider NB 1260, which is already discontinued.
So if you’re going for the New Balance 860 and you want a little bit more space, I recommend checking if the wide version is available (which I think they have).
All in all, I think that the 860 is very snug, but can be too narrow for some people.
Verdict on Uppers
I like the New Balance 880’s shoe uppers over the 860. Not only is the 880 more breathable in my opinion, but the extended heel counter secures my feet very well. The 860 gets more comfortable over time, but you do need some time to truly break into the shoes.
Kudos to the Ultra Heel design of the New Balance 860 though, because it makes it easy for me to slide my feet into the shoes without much hassle.
You may also like: New Balance 880 vs. 890
2. Sole Unit of the Shoes
New Balance 880 Sole Unit
If there are two words to describe the New Balance 880 after trying them on for the first time, they are consistent hard-worker. There’s nothing flashy about the shoes at first glance, but I feel like I can count on this shoe to show up any day for my runs.
As for the midsole technology, the New Balance 880 uses the Fresh Foam X midsole, which is designed for a lightweight and ultra-cushioned underfoot ride.
You can definitely tell that there is a huge amount of rubber in the outsole, which is pretty thick just by looking at it. And based on my experience with Fresh Foam X shoes from New Balance, the 880 should last for a very long time, over hundreds and hundreds of miles.
I really like the Fresh Foam X because it provides me with a plush ride paired with a responsive midsole, which creates a smooth, rebounding run experience.
Compared to the New Balance 1080, which is quite bouncy, the 880 is slightly firmer even though it has a thick rubber in the midsole. Because of this, it absorbs the impact from all the miles I’m putting in, so I can definitely wear the 880 as my daily trainer.
It has about 10 mm drop and about 20 mm of stack height in the forefoot.
Another important aspect of the 880 is the flex groove on the outsole. In my experience wearing running shoes with thick midsoles, you need flex grooves to help balance out the thickness of the rubber and provide much-needed flexibility.
The 880’s flex grooves deliver in the flexibility department because I didn’t feel restricted in any way while I was running at slower or faster paces.
In fact, the flex grooves of the New Balance 880 helped me to land squarely, instead of landing on the side of my foot, which I often do with not-so-flexible shoes.
As far as grip and traction go, the New Balance 880 is simply exceptional.
The outsole features hexagon-shaped treads which vary in size. Bigger patches of rubber are placed under the area where it gets the largest forces during each stride. This is a result of its data-engineered design which helps runners achieve their best performance.
So, to sum it up…
The Fresh Foam X midsole is soft to your feet but is firm and responsive enough that it helps you “bounce” off your feet quickly. Pair that with the lightweight mesh upper, and you’ve got a solid pair of running shoes that is perfect for long-distance and regular runs.
In fact, some runners dub the 880 as “one of the most complete running shoes” from the New Balance collection. That puts it in an elite company.
New Balance 860 Sole Unit
Just like the 880, the New Balance 860 also has the Fresh Foam X midsole.
The Fresh Foam has about 0.4 inches layer of Fresh Foam on top of the midsole layer, which delivers a firm underfoot ride with a slight touch of the cushion.
It has 31 to 21 mm of stack height and a 10 mm drop.
It is very common for customers to find the New Balance 860 through a doctor’s recommendation because it is comfortable stability running shoe. The New Balance 860 can help runners and walkers with their ankle pain and plantar fasciitis.
In fact, I reached out to New Balance and asked them about the difference between the New Balance 880 and 860. Here’s what they said:
While the New Balance 880 has neutral stability, the New Balance 860 has a medial post, which is a device within the midsole to help control pronation. A medial post is often made of EVA, which is denser and firmer than the rest of the midsole.
Thanks to the medial post found within the 860’s midsole, it is amazingly stable.
I went for my first run (light and easy run of 30 minutes, not going above zone 2) and the New Balance 860 allowed me to get into a nice flow. The medial post sits in the middle of the midsole and gives a little bit of support under the arch, which doesn’t feel intrusive at all.
For me, the shoe feels very nice and is one of the most stable running shoes out there.
However, for those of you who are not used to running in stability shoes, the 860 can be a bit clunky, especially compared to the 880, which is more cushioned and lightweight.
For those of you familiar with the Fresh Foam X midsole, you know that it needs a little bit of a “warm-up”. While the 880 feels bouncy straight out of the box, the 860 isn’t because the midsole is a lot denser. But 30 miles in, the 860 should soften and feel less clunky.
So to sum it up…
The New Balance 860 is an amazing pair of running shoes, but I feel like it needs a lot of time to break into. While it’s stable for slow running, it’s not light enough for sprints.
This makes sense, as the 860 is designed for the ultimate stability.
It also features blown rubber outsoles (but not at the forefoot) for added durability. Overall, the 860 offers stability and would be a great addition to any runner’s collection.
Verdict on Bottom of the Shoes
While both the 880 and 860 have Fresh Foam midsoles, I prefer the cushioning of the New Balance 880 better. It delivers a plush underfoot ride that is surprisingly lightweight. On the other hand, the 860 is much firmer and maybe better for runners looking for stability.
WINNER: New Balance 880
Top to bottom, the New Balance 880 is better than the 860. Thanks to the Fresh Foam X midsole, the 880 delivers an ultra-cushioned and lightweight underfoot ride. The New Balance 860 may be for you if you crave more stability and need a shoe to help control pronation.
And there you go, the New Balance 880 vs. 860 comparison. I had a blast trying out and running in both amazing New Balance shoes, so I hope that not only will this comparison review be helpful to you, but can make your daily runs much more enjoyable.
Reviewed by: Jason T.