New Balance 870v3 Review


I’ve officially run 65.66 miles in my New Balance 870v3s (note: I purchased these shoes myself) and I feel ready to render my verdict on them. I’ll start with a one-sentence review, gloss over a couple of specs, and then dive deeper (much deeper, seriously, grab an oxygen tank) into how I arrived at my opinion. This is, after all, merely my opinion. Your mileage may vary. I subscribe to the belief that there are no bad shoes, just shoes that aren’t necessarily right for you.

One Sentence Review: The New Balance 870v3 is an excellent lightweight mild stability shoe that disappears on my feet.

Specs: Weight

Per the New Balance website, the 870v3 weighs in at a svelte 9.8 ounces. Generally, the weights provided by manufacturers are for a men’s size 9. Naturally, the weight varies across the sizes, and sometimes due to manufacturing differences. My version of the 870v3 is a men’s size 8D in the creatively named “Silver with Yellow & Red” color scheme (I often opt for men’s models in order to steer clear of pink overload), and I imagine that it’s less than 9.8 ounces. I don’t have a postage scale and I don’t obsess over shoe weight (I raced my PR 5k in the Brooks Glycerin, which is by no means a lightweight shoe), so I’m not going to check this. In my mind, a shoe with stability features that is under 10 ounces is a light shoe for the category.

Specs: Drop

The New Balance 870v3 has a ~8 mm drop.

The minimalist/natural running craze of a couple of years ago (I think we can partially attribute this to Born to Run) brought about a focus on the heel-to-toe midsole stack height differential, also known as drop. Traditional running shoes have a heel that’s significantly higher than the forefoot (as much as 16 mm higher in some examples), which promotes heel striking because there is so much heel to the shoe, it hits the ground first during the gait cycle. Conversely, low drop and zero drop shoes promote a midfoot or forefoot strike. Minimalist runners maintain that a midfoot or forefoot strike is more natural and more efficient than a heel strike. There are forefoot- and midfoot-strikers can run with a forefoot or midfoot strike, respectively, in both low- and high-drop shoes, just as there are inveterate heel-strikers that will heel strike no matter what type of shoes they wear. Shoes don’t always make a difference in gait, but they can have an effect.

About Me

Knowing a bit about me will help you evaluate my opinion of these shoes, and how it may line up with (or not line up with) your own.

I’m 5’4″ and 127 pounds. As far as I can tell, I’m a mild pronator, which means that my feet roll outwards during my gait cycle than slightly inward as I make contact with the ground, with most of the motion happening in my left foot. Rather than toeing off directly at the front tip of my shoe, my left foot will often toe off on the left (outside) edge of the sole. Likewise, the right foot will sometimes toe off on the right (outside) edge of the sole. The pronation is relatively mild and causes me no discomfort, so I generally wear neutral shoes, or shoes with minimal motion control features.

Perhaps due to the pronation, I’m hard on the soles of shoes — the rubber gets chewed up very quickly.

I prefer long distances and I am currently training for my first ultramarathon, which will be a 50k race. This fall I completed too many races for me to remember offhand, including eight weekends in a row with races of at least ten miles, including a four week stretch in which I ran two marathons, a half marathon, then another (and fastest of all!) marathon.

Because of my penchant for high mileage, I tend to prefer cushioned shoes, and I like to have as much material protecting me underfoot as is feasible.
However, my tastes run the gamut. My running shoe geekery is really just beginning. When I first started running in 2008, I wore innumerable pairs of the Mizuno Wave Rider 12, 13, 14, and I think maybe even the 15 — and while I believe in not fixing what ain’t broke, how boring is that?! I’ve since come to appreciate different styles of shoes, and I now employ a [large] rotation of different models that meet my varying day-to-day needs.

Runs I Logged in the New Balance 870v3

In order to accurately represent how extensively/not extensively I wear tested the New Balance 870v3, below are the eight runs I completed in my pair:

  • December 3, 2013: 4.12 miles, 37:33.57 (9:07/mile average pace) on mostly hilly roads and sidewalks
  • December 4, 2013: 6.27 miles, 56:00.70 (8:56/mile average pace) on mostly hilly roads and sidewalks
  • December 10, 2013: 9.05 miles, 1:25:57 (9:30/mile average pace) on some hilly roads and sidewalks
  • December 13, 2013: 4.12 miles, 41:22.55 (10:02/mile average pace) on mostly hilly roads and sidewalks
  • December 14, 2013: 10.30 miles, 1:31:54 (8:55/mile average pace) on mostly steep, hilly sidewalks
  • December 18, 2013: 3.30 miles, 27:02 (8:11/mile average pace) on a treadmill
  • December 21, 2013: 18.44 miles, 2:58:39 (9:41/mile average pace) on a paved trail, a hardback/gravel trail, and some hilly sidewalks
  • December 22, 2013: 10:06 miles, 1:37:01 (9:39/mile average pace) on hilly sidewalks and a paved trail

I didn’t do any speed work and I didn’t run on any technical trails, so those are two gaps in my testing (and really, in my training as I would probably benefit from both).

Comfort: 9/10
The 870v3 has a medium-cushioned heel collar and a lightly padded tongue. It’s not plush, and it’s not spartan either. It’s just right, and it’s comfortable. It’s comfortable to the point of being difficult to review because after the first run, I didn’t notice the shoe during my runs; it melded so seamlessly with my feet that I simply didn’t think about it.



During that first run in which I somewhat noticed the shoes, what I noticed most was the marshmallowy softness of the heel foam. It wasn’t that the midsole foam was too soft, or lacked responsiveness — it was just cushier than I was accustomed to.
The tightly woven exterior mesh has managed to keep my feet comfortable through chilly winter mornings. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that if I’m dressed appropriately for a run in the cold, I’ll be uncomfortable for the first mile or so and then warm up to the approximate temperature that I’ll be at for the duration of the run. I can accept a cold face, and to some degree, cold legs, but I just can’t countenance overly drafty shoes. The 870v3 hasn’t let in a single gust and my feet haven’t sweat any more than usual in them. I may not be so appreciative of this warm construction during blazing summer runs, but I’m thrilled with it for winter comfort.
Until recently, I didn’t wear running shoes casually. I now exclusively wear running shoes as my casual sneakers. I like the look of retro runners and I like the supportive comfort they offer. Since I don’t like putting unnecessary wear on my gear, I stick with a pair of Nike Pegasus 83/30s that I bought for a song (between My Coke Rewards points turned into a Nike gift card and a warranty voucher for a product I’d originally bought using a Nike gift card obtained with My Coke Rewards points, these sweet retro mashup Pegs cost me $12 and were shipped free — running gear isn’t cheap, so I save where I can).
However, when traveling light a couple of weeks ago, I wore my New Balance 870v3s in order to save space in my overnight bag. They have a very different feel as a walking shoe — the two tread pods under the lateral side of the arch are somewhat noticeable. I consider the feeling more reassuring and supportive rather than irritating, but I found myself stopping to check my soles for pebbles until I figured out what was creating the nagging sensation of something under the arch.
After spending too long in a pair of boots, I stepped into a pair of ultra-cushioned running shoes and literally sighed, “Ahhhhhh” in relief. That feeling is my benchmark for a perfect comfort score (10/10). The 870v3 hits the Goldilocks sweet spot of unobtrusive comfort, but isn’t quite enough shoe to be my go-to choice for a recovery run, so I give it a 9/10 — very high marks for comfort.
Responsiveness: 8/10
The flexible forefoot of the 870v3 has plenty of zip for me. You know that joyful, light-footed, bouncy feeling you get during the best part of your run? For me, that’s usually at least eight miles into a run; I suffer through my first three or four miles so I can get to that joyful place. These shoes are good for that: when you’re feeling it, they can fly high and, to steal a phrase from the marketing folks at Brooks, they can run happy.
I like feeling the road, and feeling connected to it. The 870v3 has plenty of midsole and outsole material to protect feet from harsh rocks and cracks, but still allows for ground-feel.
Matched up with the shoe’s overall light weight, the soft (but spring, not mushy) midsole material lends this shoe a very nimble feel. I had no trouble dodging thick crowds of pedestrians, even late into my longest run in the shoes.
These aren’t the lightest or pop-iest shoes around; I tend to think of firmer shoes as being zippier. When I first stepped into a pair of Mizuno Wave Elixir 7s, I thought, “Now this is my running shoe!” I immediately fell in love with the Elixir 7’s mostly-firm feel underfoot and the bank vault-like heel lockdown. For me, the New Balance 870v3 isn’t quite that much of a lean, mean performance machine, but it is my current favorite high mileage option for its adequately responsive, bouncy midsole. I give it 8/10 for responsiveness.
Durability: 6/10
I can’t fault New Balance for the construction of the 870v3. No seams are ripping and no parts of the sole are delaminating — it’s put together well, but the materials themselves aren’t particularly durable.
However, the outsole is far more chewed up than I’d expected it to be at this point. I know I’m hard on outsole rubber, but I’ve never gone through the forefoot of a shoe as quickly as I have in the 870v3. When I blow out a shoe, it’s usually in the lateral heel first.


The rubber is soft — grippy and sticky, rather than hard and tire-like. If the wear decelerates throughout the life of the shoe, I may get more miles out of it, but at this point, it looks like a 250-mile shoe, maybe 300 miles if I’m lucky.



Another negative surprise with the 870v3: the upper over the lateral forefoot, just below the pinky toe is starting to fray slightly. I’ve never busted through an upper in a shoe ever, so this is completely unexpected, and completely disappointing if it turns into a hole.



Given the chewed up upper and chewed up outsole, I had to dock this shoe several points: 6/10.

Looks: 8/10



I like loud, flashy running shoes. The 870v3 is fairly conservative, relative to some of the other shoes in my collection. The yellow midsole of my pair gives this colorway some interest, but isn’t a real wow factor. However, the clean lines and silvery mesh make this shoe look sharp, so it earns its 8/10.

Overall: 9/10
Comfort and responsiveness push this score into the excellent range. So far the New Balance 870v3 is proving to be a stellar lightweight, supportive distance trainer for me. I’m hoping that it continues to hold up…in the long run.

I Hate Treadmills

Hate is a strong word, but not too strong for how I feel about treadmills.

I hate how loud they are. I hate how I never get anywhere. I hate how they turn running into merely a clock-watching, calorie-burning activity because there’s nothing worthwhile to see, hear, or feel on a treadmill besides discomfort because the motor and my footfalls drown out music or television.

On Wednesday morning I put in a little over 5k on a treadmill while on a business trip in New York City. I’d headed up to the Big Apple with good intentions to run a loop from my hotel to and around Central Park. When I woke up, I was too spooked by running alone in the dark to head outdoors. The odds of being one of those Central Park runners to whom something unthinkable happens are low, but I still didn’t want to roll the dice. While I was chastising myself for wussing out, I checked the weather — mid-20s. Much older than I’d packed for, so I was off the hook for that reason, but I still had to put in some miles.

That’s all treadmill running was, and ever has been, for me: marking time until the goal is met or I succumb to mental fatigue. Without the spontaneity and ever-evolving landscape intrinsic to outdoor running, or what I’ve termed the check writing of running a long way from home and then having to get back, running on a treadmill bores me and doesn’t last long.

This workout was no exception. Of the eight miles I hoped to run, I ran just over three, and I didn’t enjoy a step of the experience.


Shorts on the Solstice

Saturday, December 21, 2013 was the winter solstice and I wore shorts during my 18-mile run. Shorts and a T-shirt. And it wasn’t as if I was rebelling against Jack Frost or I’d lost my mind — the temperature in Washington, DC was in the 60s. How sweet is that? It was so warm that I sucked down my 40 ounces of water around the half marathon point and stopped in at Jenny’s around the 15.5 mile point to refill all four of my bottles.

Spring-like weather made the run even more fun. I wasn’t dreading lacing up after a round of BFit in the morning (I figured out kettlebell swings and they don’t hurt anymore!), and not only that, but I was downright giddy around mile 11.

I ran hard, to the point that stopping at traffic signals was harder than continuing to run. When I got back to Jenny’s I was hobbling/limping around as subtly as I could and with as much dignity as I could muster. When Jenny asked me if I planned to run the next day, I allowed, “Maybe,” but I had every intention of logging the ten miles prescribed by my training plan.

And log it I did! The first few miles on Sunday were rough, but I soon picked up speed as Saturday’s lactic acid flowed out of my legs. In principle it was a recovery run because I was recovering from the previous day’s long miles, but it wasn’t done at a plodding pace. Even better: it was still warm enough for a T-shirt and shorts.

On Sunday I eclipsed the 60-mile mark on my New Balance 870v3s, so I’ll try and get a review out soon. As far as I’m concerned, the more honest detail the better, so I’m going to be really thoughtful and careful in my analysis. Check back soon!

Merry Christmas!

First Look: Adidas Adios Boost


The Adidas Adios Boost is the shoe that crossed the finish line first in the 2013 New York City Marathon, strapped to the fleet feet of Geoffrey Mutai. Because it was the shoe of choice for a major marathon winner, the Adios Boost has surged in popularity and can be a bit hard to find in the United States. I managed to snag a pair, and I’m adding them to my rotation with the goal of posting an informed review in time for you to decide yay or nay when these beauties are back in stock.

In the meantime, here are some detail images.




















Brooks Launch: We Have Liftoff

20131216-224823.jpgI really need to get a shoe caddy to hang over my door. As it is now, I’ve got a huge pile of colorful running shoes in the corner of my room (“There, that’s clean! It’s clean now!”).

Running nutrition arguably makes a bigger difference in my running performance, but no other running gear item excites me quite like running shoes do — each model is a design and engineering marvel. There’s only so much apparel companies can do with tights and shirts, but there are limitless possibilities when it comes to shoe innovation.

When I see that pile of running shoes, I get motivated to run. Running, even in the bitter cold, feels like a ‘get to’ rather than a ‘have to’ — I get to wake up at 4:00 am and play outside while everyone else is sleeping!

The Brooks Launch, the shoe so beloved by runners that they convinced Brooks to un-discontinue it, has been sitting in my pile for about a week. The just-short-of-rioting-in-the-streets furor surrounding the planned demise of the Launch piqued my interest. There’s inevitably grumbling when a company updates models in its line, but this was beyond grumbling, and it was loud enough, and passionate enough, that the company capitulated. I wanted to see what all of the fuss was about.

There are other shoes in my pile that I need to run in, so I can write informed reviews of them sometime this…decade. (I’m getting close with the New Balance 870v3 and I’m thinking about doing a video review. Chew on that crumb of teaser!) But the Launch has been calling to me, insofar as a shoe can call to a not-insane person. With a bright teal and salmon colorway straight out of Miami, the Launch not only has the mystique of a shoe brought back from the dead, it looks like fun.

So I gave in: against my better judgment, I took my brand spanking new Launches out for a ten-mile run without even walking around in them first.

The running gods didn’t strike me dead. Even better: I get it now; I get why people lost their freaking minds when this shoe was pulled. The Brooks Launch is an awesome shoe. One run, and a mere ten miles in, I’m calling it. Awesome.

Some thoughts:

-Firm ride with good road feel, but enough material underfoot to protect my feet and joints during the punishing downhills on my running route.

-Lightweight upper with few overlays — the lightness of the Launch was most noticeable, and appreciated, during the turnover part of my stride.

-Cushy heel cup — I’m a sucker for a plush heel cup. This isn’t the most cushioned heel cup I’ve encountered in a shoe, but it manages to be plenty soft, supportive, and cozy without being huge or overstuffed.

We’ll see if/how my feelings evolve as I get to know this shoe, but as with all launch countdowns, the Brooks Launch started with a ten.

“To Build a Fire”

You may have read Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” in high school; oddly enough, I didn’t encounter it until I took an Aesthetics course in college. It’s worth a read I’d you’re not familiar with it, and you can easily find the full text online. The story details the ill-fated voyage if a man and his dog during the man’s first winter in the Yukon. After falling through ice into water and watching his first attempt at a fire be extinguished by falling snow, the overconfident man is finally betrayed by his fingers, which were too numb to build a fire, so he succumbs to the extreme cold.

My Thursday morning run kind of felt like that.

The temperature was in the 20s and the running gloves I donned are not lined. I wasn’t fatigued and the rest of me wasn’t cold, but I seriously considered turning around at the three-mile point in order to save my frigid digits. Through sheer force of will I managed to postpone my turnaround to just after the four-mile point so my whole run totaled over eight miles. When I got back to Jenny’s I was thrilled to see her car still in the driveway. Although I’d brought keys, I didn’t trust myself to manipulate them, so I banged on the glass to get her attention.

Once inside, my first instinct was to run my hands under warm water. That elicited nothing but pain: a deep, aching soreness unlike anything I’d ever felt. The kind of cold I’ve felt in my fingers after packing and slinging snowballs with bare hands pales in comparison to what I felt this morning.

Always one to take thoughtful care of me, Jenny put a towel and a sheet in the dryer to get warm, and gave them to me after a few minutes when they were nice and toasty. The gentle heat restored my fingers to life and I was able to get ready for work.

I hate running on a treadmill (I get so bored!), but I’m seriously considering it for short runs when it’s as bitterly cold as it was yesterday morning. Running on a treadmill seems like a chore rather than a privilege, so we’ll see how desperate I get to avoid the winter weather.

Running in the Snow and Other Musings

Since my office follows the lead of the federal government’s OPM, today is a snow day for me. Woohoo!

I checked the OPM guidance before heading out on my run. When I stepped outside, I laughed inwardly a little about the government’s temerity: it wasn’t that cold and the wet patches on the roads and sidewalks weren’t icy. My run was going great for the first 7.5 miles, until the sky opened up and started pelting me with sharp needles of snow. I squinted through bombarded eyelids and managed to run the 1.5 miles back to my house as the sidewalks and streets quickly acquired a crusty layer of snow. My hoped for 14-mile run was curtailed into a 9-mile run. Oh what might have been!

In the same “oh what might have been!” vein, I realize that I missed out on a chance to do some interesting reviews based on the OG versions of two popular models and updated versions. I had the OG New Balance 890 and the OG Brooks PureFlow. It’s been too long since I last ran in either pair for me to make any meaningful comparisons to the 890v4 or the PureFlow 2, both of which I recently picked up.

OG New Balance 890

OG Brooks PureFlow

And it’s not just a matter of dusting off my old shoes and taking them out for a few runs. It’s been so long since I wore those shoes that my feet have changed shape. They went from a women’s 9.5 to a women’s 8.5 and back to a women’s 9.5/men’s 8 (if the men’s colors are better; read: not pink) and these shoes were from my size 8.5 days. Consequently, I donated them to a shoe drive for Soles4Souls held by Jenny’s Crossfit gym so someone who needs them can enjoy them since they’re still in good condition. So really, this musing about a missed opportunity has a happy ending! And besides, there’s plenty of shoe review goodness coming down the pipe for your reading pleasure: New Balance 890v4, Saucony Kinvara 4, New Balance 870v3, New Balance 1400v2, Brooks PureFlow 2, Brooks PureCadence 2, the resurrected Brooks Launch, and maybe a few others.

Staving Off Runner’s Cabin Fever by Remembering to Appreciate Other Things


I turned 24 this week. My friends and family have always done a great job of making sure that my birthday doesn’t get forgotten in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and this year was no exception. I enjoyed a tremendous dinner at Brian Voltaggio’s restaurant Range on my actual birthday: lamb so tender I could cut it with my fork, savory roasted carrots, chewy chocolate and peanut butter cookies sandwiched around peanut butter and salted caramel ice cream, and a smoky mezcal drink to wash it all down. This past weekend Jenny and I traveled to New York City for an even more sumptuous meal at the Gotham Bar and Grill. I started off with a vibrant beet salad and a beet-enhanced margarita made with jalapeno-infused tequila, which was followed by a hearty duck confit rissoto. I would’ve been perfectly satisfied had the meal stopped after the rissoto, but I managed to stretch my stomach still further for a piece of delicate red snapper paired with a tomato confit. Dessert was a rich, smooth flourless chocolate cake that texturally had more in common with custard than with traditional layer cake.20131209-230614.jpg20131209-230251.jpg



I love to eat, so these special dinners were beyond awesome.

I’m not so serious in my training that I can’t have fun or eat food that isn’t strictly healthy. I also acknowledge that I won’t sacrifice other things for my running, for instance, I don’t want to be rail thin and have no upper body strength. I can do 19 full lock-out reverse grip chin-ups and 12 full lock-out forward grip pull-ups — I like having that skill, and if having the upper body mass to do it holds me back, so be it.

I was feeling a little cabin feverish today since the DC area got a bit of snow and ice yesterday. (All it takes is about three inches of snow for the city to lose its freaking mind.) The poor weather nearly doubled my bus ride back from New York, so I wasn’t able to do my long run.

Friday is usually my rest day, but knowing I’d be in New York for such a short time, I didn’t want to waste any of the trip doing long runs, so I planned to fit my 14 miles in before work. Life has a way of intervening with the best laid plans, and I ended up sleeping horribly on Thursday night: couldn’t fall asleep until after 11:00 pm, woke up around 2:00 am sweaty and burning up. My sleepy self thought it’d be a good idea to apply a sample packet of Icy Hot Naturals to my back in order to cool off, so I went from too hot to FREEZING in no time flat. Rough night. I wasn’t able to haul myself out of bed in time for 14 miles, but I did get in 10, which was more than enough to cover the 8 miles my training plan required of me for Sunday, so I figured I could accomplish 14 on Sunday after getting back from New York, or at least 12, for the same mileage total.

That obviously didn’t happen.

And this morning the sidewalks were treacherous with a layer of sleet, so I couldn’t reasonably skip my Monday rest day and turn it into a 14-mile day. Early morning dark plus ice doesn’t add up to any good outcomes. So I’m looking at swapping the run in later this week, in place of either my Friday rest day or one of my short mileage days. We’re expecting 2-4 inches of snow tomorrow and I’m headed out of town this weekend, so getting even one long run in may prove to be a challenge.

*rapid breathing* *accelerated heart rate*

I had to remind myself to not get panicky about missing scheduled workouts. Missing a run isn’t going to destroy my fitness. Enjoying a couple of celebratory dinners isn’t going to pack the 37 pounds back onto my frame. A single day inside shouldn’t give me cabin fever. I have a life outside of running, replete with other things I love to do, and sometimes, something has to give. This time, my long run got axed from the schedule and it’s not the end of the world. I lifted my nose up from the proverbial grindstone to enjoy some other things, and like that heavenly chocolate cake, it was sweet.

First Impressions of the New Balance 870v3


Today I took my New Balance 870v3s for a test drive — probably my first-ever pair of American-made running shoes. My first impression was very favorable.

This past Saturday I went to a Crossfit BFit class (not even actual Crossfit) which kicked my butt pretty soundly. Later that day I went for my 12-mile run. Sunday morning I hurt. I complained to Jenny that I might be “grievously injured.” But I still went for my 8-mile run.

(Turns out I wasn’t grievously injured.)

I rolled my legs out with a lacrosse ball during my Monday rest day, which helped a lot, so I was at about 70% for my run this morning. Still some nagging tightness in my legs. I preface my impressions with these comments because I think it’s important to note that I wasn’t trying these shoes on my best day. Not every running day is going to be my best running day, so I think that’s reasonable.

Bottom line up front: I liked these shoes.

When I first laced them up, I really noticed that the interior wasn’t very roomy. I don’t have tall or high-volume feet, but I felt that the 870v3s short height-wise: sole up to laces (not short toe to heel, the length was good). The low interior volume disappeared during the run into snug comfort. I expect more roominess as the shoe breaks in. These shoes aren’t as plush as my Brooks Glycerin 11s, and I didn’t expect them to be, but they do boast a cozy and supportive upper.

Best of all: no pain, even with a creaky body and a probably messed up stride. I enjoyed smooth transitions and a soft heel. The Abzorb foam in the heel is mushy to the touch and that softness is felt underfoot. Nice and soft, not sloppy. The heel isn’t exactly a push-off zone in my stride, so I’m not worried about responsiveness there.

First shoe impressions often hold, but my opinion of the 870v3 may change when I put more miles on it. Check back later for a full review.