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New Balance 790 Runners Guide

Updated on November 15, 2010

There are a certain group of shoes that seem to develop a cult following among a particular set of runners it may be a standout performer in terms of its weight, durability, racing or off road performance. The New Balance 790 is a mixture of all of these parts and is put together well enough to have generated its own following. This article will take a look at what makes the shoe and if you should be wearing it.

What type of shoe is it really?

Is it a trail running shoe or a racing shoe? The answer is a bit of both and not all of either. A trail running shoe is make for running off road and with that in mind the design elements of the shoe have to be able to handle running on surfaces that are uneven and so they cannot be too built up so as to keep your feet too high off the ground because you may fall easier. On the other hand, if the shoe is too minimal then you wont have enough cushioning and protection from what you may step on when you are running on the trail.

To make the above a little clearer we need to look a bit more closely at the shoes main features. You will see how these are great for off road but also how they can be effective as your casual shoe by providing you with a level of comfort and protection that you can take anywhere. The features below will tell the whole story;

Light as a Bunch of Feathers

The New Balance 790 weighs in at only 226 grams (8 ounces). This makes them popular with the marathon crowd and other distance runners. Being this light does mean that like all racing shoes, they will have been stripped somewhat of the cushioning and support. New Balance have added features to this shoe to ensure that it is still comfortable enough to give your foot a good level of protection. Because the shoe is so light and thin there isn’t much in terms of support. If you are thinking or using them with running shoe inserts be sure to consult your Podiatrist first.

New Balance 790
New Balance 790

Acteva Foam

This is New Balance’s premier midsole foam. Like the Mogo foam from Brooks or Asics Solyte, Acteva is lighter than conventional EVA foam and also resists compression. This means that the life of the shoe is prolonged slightly and shoes can be made with a more svelte profile ideal for keeping the weight down to a minimum.

N-Durance Rubber

New Balance 790 shoes have an N-durance rubber outsole. Running shoes commonly use 2 types of rubber on the outsole, one which is more durable and placed in high wear areas and the other which is lighter. The 790’s have the hard wearing but light N-durance rubber on its entire outsole because of the unique pattern. Harder rubber compounds are meant to withstand the abrasion that comes from running on hard surfaces like roads and pavement which wear out shoes faster.

AT Tread

One of the things that really set’s this shoe apart aside from its weight is the tread pattern. The AT tread has a lattice like appearance somewhere between an ordinary running shoe tread and the lugs on some football boots. The tread combines features of a running shoe and a trail shoe so it can be used both on and off the track where the ground may not always be paved or entirely even.

Rock Stop Protection

Because you may be running off road the 790 has Rock stop which is essentially a plate in the midsole that will protect your foot from and sharp rocks or sticks. Rock stop works by evenly distributing the pressure across the midsole so you don’t feel any sharp objects. This is an almost universal feature among trail running shoes and is part of what differentiates them from running shoes.

Gusseted Tongue

The tongue of the 790 is fully attached to the shoe providing an extra level of protection against foreign debris from finding its way into your shoes. This has the added advantage of keeping the tongue from slipping or sliding. You want to avoid any movement inside your shoes to prevent blistering and any other irritations to your feet.

Synthetic Mesh Upper

The shoes upper is made from a synthetic mesh that unlike racing shoes is slightly more durable and tear resistant. The upper is breathable but doesn’t have large open vents where debris can get caught so your foot is kept secure over the midsole and is well vented.

What the 790 Isn’t So Great At.

The one size fits all adage is definitely not the case with shoes and the 790 is no exception. If you are looking for a shoe with exceptional cushioning like the Asics Kayano running shoe you will likely be disappointed. Likewise if you are after any significant motion control features like you will find in the Brooks Beast this is not the shoe to give you that.

The New Balance 790 is a good shoe if you are after something lightweight and relatively minimal. Though it is marketed as a trail shoe if you are regularly running on what looks like the set of the Twighlight Saga then there are better dedicated trail running shoes for the job. Though the shoe does lack some of the more supportive and cushioning features of others, its geared towards a runner who is more interested in getting somewhere in a hurry, be that on the road or off it.


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