New Balance Beacon – 50 Mile Review

At some point after all the hype and hoopla dies down about a new pair of running shoes, I finally get around to getting a pair to see what all the hootin and hollering was about.

Last summer I heard a lot about how great the New Balance Beacons were from a variety of sources, but unfortunately New Balance running shoes have historically not been a match made in heaven for me and I was skeptical that the Beacons would be any different.

However, all the reviews of the Beacons indicated that these were not your usual New Balance running shoes and so when I figured out that I needed a shoe with a little more forefoot cushioning and Running Warehouse had a closeout sale on exactly the Beacon colorway that I wanted – I bought them. Which definitely means that all the comments made in this post are my own and not influenced by any commercial interests.

Short Version

I love the Beacons.

They have performed well and were comfortable on all the runs that I have done in them.

As can be seen I have primarily used them for the exact reason I got them – the treadmill. I have done quarter mile repeats at sub 7:00 paces, shorter tempo/race pace runs, fast strides – sub 6:30, an outside 10K and a 10.5 mile long run outside.

I cannot ask any more of a pair of shoes and know that I will be using them for more than just treadmill miles going forward, especially after feeling great for that 10+ miler.

Which does mean that I will be buying another pair of Beacons for my rotation when these do wear out – I cannot give a pair of shoe any higher recommendation than that.

Long Version.

Okay, you know that I like the Beacons – a lot.

So what did New Balance do this time that was so impressive to me.

Instead of attempting to add unnecessary bells, whistles, technologies and features – New Balance focused on keeping the Beacons simple and from where I sit focused on being shoes that are no fuss, no muss and are fun to run in.

It does help that the Beacons came in at 6.9 ounces for my men’s size 8.0, have 26/20 stack heights for plenty of cushioning, used a Fresh Foam derivative innovatively and designed a simple “looking”, but comfortable upper that doesn’t get in the way when you are running.

From my first run to my most recent one, the Beacons have been a put them on, tie them up, go run and focus on the run, not how the shoes are doing, except that after the run is over, you think about how great they felt during the run.

The Bad

When I am running at a sub 6:30 (yeah I can still do it for a short ways) pace, they don’t feel quite firm enough and I would prefer the Adios 3s, if I could maintain that pace for a race. Since I don’t run that fast for any kind of distance at this point, I prefer the protection that the Beacons provide for most everything else. Not really a bad thing for me, but for some faster runners it might be a consideration.

When the temps are below 20*F I noticed that the midsole is definitely firmer than when it is warmer. Not quite rock hard, but the cold does affect the midsole’s cushioning properties.

The Good

The Beacons are comfortable. I have had zero issues with blisters, hot spots, them bothering my balky Tailor’s Bunionette or finicky Plantar Fascia (which has historically been a problem with New Balance running shoes and my left foot).

Almost Ninja quiet (they compare to the GoRun Ride 2s in this respect). I can usually tell when a shoe is working with how I run by the amount of slap or heel drag that occurs. No issues with the Beacon here.

Outsole wear has been next to none after more than 50 miles, which surprised me, since there is very little material besides the midsole there. Most of my miles have been on the treadmill, which usually tears up shoes for me, but the Beacons have done well. Although I will be interested in seeing how the wear is on the dirt road down-back after mud season is over and things dry up.

The upper on the Beacons is understated (which I like), with just the New Balance “N”s as overlays. All the extras and other nonsense that New Balance and other brands tend put on too many of their shoes just isn’t there on the Beacons and is in my opinion addition by subtraction.

The cushioning on this edition of Fresh Foam is just right – firm enough to want to run fast in them, but soft enough that running long is not an issue either. I wanted a shoe for the treadmill that had low weight and higher forefoot stack height. In this regard they do as others have said remind me a little of the original Hoka Clifton, but with a more refined feel to them and definitely a more comfortable fit for me, especially in the forefoot.

The reality is that

I may have found my Cinderella shoes.

As usual I am behind the popularity curve and most everyone has moved on to the next great thing in running shoes. The Beacons had their moment in the sun and there was a good reason for it – they are a great running shoe.

What is the Beacon best at? It depends on what kind of runner you are and the kinds of paces you typically run. For a younger and/or faster runner they are a great long tempo, easy run shoe. For the slower and older (like me), they could be a 5K or longer race day shoe, that does well on faster training runs or even just using them for daily easy runs.

I am pretty sure that I wouldn’t want to do too many trail runs in them or head outside in crappy weather, there just isn’t enough outsole there to provide good grip, although they pleasantly surprised me in wet, slushy conditions at about 20*F with how well they did.

Honestly, I when I got the Beacons I was not expecting them to “Wow” me as much as they have. I was extremely happy with my adidas Tempo 9s and didn’t think any shoe was going to supplant them anytime soon as my favorite rotation shoes. However, I when I look at my running log since I got the Beacons I don’t see too many other shoes being worn and I look forward to running in them.

Like I said, when these wear out I will be buying another pair, I like them that much and I can’t give any pair of running shoes any higher rating.

New Balance, you done good and finally provided me a pair of running shoes that I love.

Nike Rival 6 – 50 Mile Review

This is the story of a pair of running shoes that deserve more run time from me than they have gotten. The Nike Rival 6s are shoe that I run very well in (a 22:33 treadmill 5K today) and don’t have anything really bad to say about them other than they are fugly when you look down at them in my opinion.

The truth of it is that their place in my running shoe rotation was taken over by the shoes that are more than likely going to be my running shoe of the year and probably one of the best pair of running shoes that I have ever run in over the 40 plus years I have been a runner.

It was just bad timing for the Rival 6s. Continue reading

Topo Ultra Fly v1 – 50 Mile Review

Another review of the previous version of a running shoe. I figure that a lot of runners buy the older shoes, like I do, once they go on sale.

The Topo Ultra Fly v1 is a shoe that I have wanted to try since it came out. However, I couldn’t justify the full retail price to experiment with sizing and feel, on shoes I had never seen in person.

So I have been waiting for the price point to get down to the $50-70 price range that is a little easier to swallow when experimenting with a shoe I haven’t been able to put my hands on or feet in. Especially, if they do not work as planned for me.

Continue reading

Saucony Zealot ISO 3 – 50 Mile Review

Have you ever had a shoe that you bought, loved the initial step-in fit and feel that you decided that your first run in them was going to be your weekly long run. After about 3-4 miles in you go to yourself “you really are stoopid aren’t you!” Then you suffer more than you want for the rest of the run.

That is pretty much how I introduced myself to the Saucony Zealot 3’s a few weeks ago and since then I have been struggling to find that happy place of being able to run in these shoes without forefoot discomfort. Now to be honest, some of my discomfort with the Zealot’s is a function of how I run and how the Z3’s reward a slightly different running style – probably not really a bad thing.

However, there is just something that is “right” about the Zealot’s that I want to keep tweaking things to help me run more comfortably in the shoes.

Disclosure: These are a personal purchase through Amazon, all opinions and observations are definitely my own. Continue reading