I recently bought a pair of the latest version of the New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro. This v4 was released early this 2019 and I couldn’t find a lot of reviews on it yet. But since it was stocked at the local shoe store, I had the time to fit it and was happy with how it caressed my foot. So I got the pair with the help of my friend Nik, and I broke it in on a fast hike through Mt. Ulap and an ultramarathon up Mt. Apo. Here are my impressions.
I’ve been using my NB 590 v3 shoes for all my hiking and trail running needs. After a recent hike to Mt. Tapulao, they’ve started showing some wear and tear and this got me thinking that I need another shoe in my rotation. Not having a spare one would be trouble, especially since I have a 100-kilometer race coming up soon. So after trying this in-store at NB BGC High Street, bebelabs and I bought a pair each.
I’ve already heard of the Hierro from my friends because they have used the v3. Most of their concerns was that the v3 would get super hot and in a climate such as the Philippines, no one needs an oven for a shoe. But with the release of the v4, New Balance seems to have listened and changed the shoe for the better. Here are my observations after taking them for a stroll.
Fit and Comfort
Just like every other New Balance shoe I’ve tried, wearing this for the first time is super comfortable. But there is one caveat. When I’m running on the trails, I’m not used to the maximalist-cushioning that this shoe has. With 28mm heel and a 20mm toe, I had to adjust to what felt like walking on heels. This is not a deal-breaker though, as after some time, I got used to it and was bombing the downhills with ease.
Wide Toe Box
This is always the first factor I consider when trying on a shoe. Once again, New Balance has offered a good model for those with wide feet. My feet are comfortably snug on a size 10, the same size I have for the NB 590 v3. They have ample room in front of the toes without letting my feet slide around inside. On the downhills, they don’t bump around the front of the shoe so there’s no chance of any dead toenails. Even after an ultramarathon where my feet would have expanded, there was no discomfort in terms of fit.
Unlike the 590v3 where I can sometimes feel the terrain under my feet, the hierro negated pretty much most of the bumps of the trail. It was a smooth run and once I was able to get my footing adjusted to the block of Fresh Foam, I was flying. There is a noticeable bounce and you can feel the energy return with every stride. Running was very comfortable and for a whole day and more out on the trails, the cushioning was good enough that I didn’t feel any pain from my feet whatsoever.
Breaking in the shoe, I didn’t have any problems after the initial adjustment phase. Running the trails of Mt. Ulap was just as fun as any other. You know it’s good design when you barely notice it, and the Hierro v4 really does its job well.
With the Vibram Mega-grip outsole, this shoe impressed me with its grip. Although I did not try it out yet in wet conditions, it did its job in the high trails of Benguet. Not once did I feel it slipping and although I had to re-learn my footing because of the tall midsole, once my foot was placed on the ground, it was as firm as ever.
I did have some slight problems with wet roots and mud, but it’s hard to find a shoe that will not slide on those terrain, especially when worn by heavy runners like me. Aside from that, the lugs aren’t very aggressive, but I found this a good thing for most of the trails I run because they don’t retain a lot of mud and dirt when slogging through wet trails.
Because of the Fresh Foam midsole, the shoe looks bulky and heavy. But after trying it on, it’s just as effortless to use as the Fresh Foam Beacon. Although being a trail shoe is certainly heavier than a road shoe, I’ve never been bothered by the weight. Even after running a hundred kilometers, I have no complaints.
This is my concern before buying the pair. But since I didn’t have prior experience wearing the v3, I couldn’t compare the temperature. So I’ll just have to base it on my experience in Mt. Ulap. My feet were never in danger of overheating and never reached an uncomfortable state. To be fair, it was tested in the very cold temperatures at more than 1,000masl. After taking it out on the hot trails of Davao, it didn’t get uncomfortable at all and my feet were the last to complain about the heat. They did a great job improving this shoe especially in the thermal department.
This is a new feature I’ve never tried before. It’s like a gaiter sock for the shoe entrance and while it sounds good and does well, bebelabs experienced some discomfort with it. Wearing the shoe with socks that aren’t high enough to cover the bootie band leads to some chafing in the Achilles tendon area. So I advise users to buy long and thin performance socks to avoid the skin-to-bootie contact that leads to discomfort.
Aside from that, I was happy to report that there weren’t any rocks or dirt that went into my shoe after the hike. And even after the rough and raw trails of Mt. Apo, the only time that I got debris inside the shoe was when I crossed a muddy river. This is good news as one of my main concerns with the 590 v3 was that its opening allowed a lot of mud and rocks to get in.
Durability and Protection
The Hierro v4 is a really well-built shoe. It feels premium and the stitches are secure. There’s no give when I tried to fold it and when even the bootie seems to have a durable yet stretchable material.
I like the upper of the Hierro v4 because it looks easy to clean. The forefoot upper is stretchy but also breathable while the heel is wrapped with the hypo-skin present in the v3 model. After a lot of wear and tear in the boulder face of Mt. Apo, there are some marks, but the upper has held up well. Lesser shoes would have been split open, but this one kept together and was barely fazed.
This is another feature that’s new to me. There’s a piece of rubber in front of the shoe that works as a shield from the elements. As a downhill bomber, this feature is a saving grace. I’ve always found my toes to be the victims of jutted rocks when running, so with this new feature, I feel safer. During my breaking in, I still stubbed my toes a lot of times, but there was 0% pain every time! I believe this is a feature all trail running shoes should have. The extra (marginal) weight is worth it just to feel protected. Now I can be even more reckless on the downhills! jk
This Fresh Foam model is different in that the outsole is made from a separate material developed by Vibram. There is no Fresh Foam making contact with the ground, so it is a midsole made just for cushioning and providing bounce for my feet. The outsole and midsole are bonded together almost seamlessly. The outsole looks durable and since Vibram is a big name in the industry, I’m sure they’re not making any sacrifices on this one.
The upper and the hypo-skin look to be water-repellent and even when I dipped my feet into a river, it took some time before my feet got wet. They don’t seem to absorb water easily but it still gets a bit heavy when wet. The good thing is that the fabric feels like a thin wetsuit and also dries easily. It definitely does at least the same job as the 590 v3 in keeping water out.
+ Comfortable fit
+ Amazing cushioning and bounce for a trail shoe
+ Good grip
+ Bootie keeps most debris out
+ Durable build
– Bootie chafes with short socks
– Takes time to adjust to the maximalist sole
– No quicklace system
– Expensive af
Something else I did to get used to the height of the sole was to use this pair on my daily routine. Commuting and walking in this pair helps me to adjust and it’s comfortable enough to even be used as a daily driver. So far, New Balance hasn’t disappointed me with their offerings. They’re not as popular in the trail running community as Salomon, Hoka One One, or Altra, but they are quietly putting out quality shoes that make my runs better than ever.
Run hard, eat harder.