Max cushioned running shoes are on trend, and New Balance is delivering on consumer demands.
Next month, the brand will release the Fresh Foam X More v4, a road-ready shoe equipped with plenty of plush cushioning underfoot. The look arrives on Sept. 1 via Newbalance.com in men’s and women’s sizing, and will come with a $150 price tag.
The shoe is equipped with the brand’s softest Fresh Foam X midsole foam to date, and also features an increased midsole stack height from the Fresh Foam More v3 with optimal comfort in mind. By the pairing the foam compound with an increased stack height and an updated midsole geometry, New Balance said the shoe has 5% more energy return than its predecessor.
Aside from the midsole, New Balance focused much of its attention on aesthetics. The look features engineered mesh uppers with reflective detailing, and midsoles designed to also be visually appealing.
Below, New Balance senior global product manager of performance running Paul Zielinski revealed Fresh Foam X More v4 design insights to FN.
The Fresh Foam X More v4 was made for runners, but New Balance also expects it to appeal to walkers, which is an activity that has grown tremendously since the pandemic. Who exactly is this shoe for?
“I would say it’s for both. Walkers and runners are searching for some of the same comfort features that this shoe can provide. We see so many walkers and runners alike gravitating to shoes that are built with max cushion, high cushion and high amounts of comfort in mind. What’s also important is as we continue to build our product to be softer and higher in the midsole stack heights, is that we’re making sure we’re also considering stability at the same time. When we built the Fresh Foam X More v4, we added additional comfort and cushion to the shoe versus the previous version, but we also made sure the platform was a tick bit wider in both the heel and the forefoot to make sure we’re providing a nice stable experience. If you and I are going out for a run, we don’t want to feel like we’re all over the place and squirrely in the shoe, we want to feel supported in the platform, and we know that walkers want that same feeling and experience.”
Are consumers today looking for a max cushioned shoe? What consumer trends, if any, led New Balance to add ample midsole foam to this shoe?
“It is an experience that consumers are seeking, and we don’t think that that’s changing anytime soon. The Fresh Foam X More v4 fits an important consumer need that has grown substantially over the years within our range and is the most robust example of us feeding into what that consumer is looking to experience — high comfort, high cushion in a stable and supportive platform. Across our entire Fresh Foam X range, some shoes are going to provide the most cushioning and some shoes will have a little bit less for a different experience where you might feel the road a bit more, or it might feel a more balanced or more responsive. For us, it’s about making sure we have multiple experiences that we’re communicating and making sure we’re feeding into the consumer needs within our Fresh Foam X range of footwear.”
How long has the brand been using this softer version of Fresh Foam X midsole foam?
“It’s something we introduced into a shoe in season one for ’22, a couple months ago in the Tempo v2. The big difference here on the More v4 is that the Tempo v2 was a much thinner and much smaller stack height. What’s really exciting is even though we’re adding such a generous amount of cushion under foot, it’s not going to necessarily feel like you’re running or walking through molasses. It’s going to be something that still has some spring back, some energy return and responsiveness to it.”
What adjustments were made from the v3 to create the v4?
“With the v4, we wanted to focus on two or three different things. The first was creating a striking visual to match up with the striking underfoot experience of the shoe. When this shoe is sitting on an online page or being printed up and shown in Footwear News or with a retailer across the globe, we wanted it to stand out on the wall or on that page. This striking midsole design was the first thing we looked at. It has amazing, exaggerated zones of cushioning in the heel, in the midfoot, in the forefoot. We wanted to make sure that the consumer recognized this as a unique New Balance shoe that stands out from the crowd. What may be more important is when you’re trying the shoe on that the striking visual is matching the experience under foot. Slipping the shoe on and sinking into the cushioning and feeling the soft Fresh Foam X under foot is really going to help do that. Also, we expanded the platform a little bit in terms of width. We wanted to provide a bit more stability, a more stable platform versus the previous version of the shoe. Another thing that stands out between version three and version four was the channel area in the heel. What this did is allowed for a more cushioned feeling and more cushioned experience under foot because of some of the compression of this foam.”
Runners primarily seek function, yet you led the discussion of what makes the Fresh Foam X More v4 special with looks. Why were aesthetics such a priority when designing the shoe?
“We believe that there shouldn’t be a dividing line between comfort and aesthetics, there shouldn’t be a dividing line between performance and aesthetics. The More v4 is one of the most incredible running experiences we have within our line, but we also needed to make sure that the consumer didn’t have to compromise on the aesthetics when wearing the shoe either. Without a doubt, with all of our technologies and things that we build into a shoe, there are so many incredible technical ingredients that make this an incredibly cushioned running and walking experience, but that should pair well with the aesthetics that consumers want to wear at the same time. Aesthetics needs to play a role because if there’s versatility and issue, there’s of course going to be consumers are going to wear this every single day. They want to look good and feel good and be comfortable in the shoe at the same time.”
New Balance also created “fingers” with the midsole and outsole design. How does this improve performance?
“To boil it down to two or three sentence conversation, we use the fingers to provide articulating zones of comfort, cushion and flexibility. The fingers, which is kind of our little joke or term that we use to describe what these pods [on the outsole] are doing. What these pods are doing is articulating when you have pressure moving through them. It’s creating an additional compression and flexibility zone, but then also providing smooth transition because the fingers are almost moving with the foot as it is guiding through the shoe. It’s really just flexibility zones, which also makes it a little bit lighter because we’re using individual fingers instead of one large slab of outsole rubber.”
There is also an increased width, but not in terms New Balance consumers have grown used to. How did the brand approach increased width with the Fresh Foam X More v4?
“In regards to width, it’s describing the platform width under foot — the width in the forefoot, the midfoot and the heel. We’re using the platform to provide cushion, as well as support and stability. With the More v4, what we wanted to almost counterbalance some of the softness and cushioning that we added, we wanted to make sure the platform was stable enough.”