I’ve been testing out a fair bit of kit recently across various brands, which is lucky as I’ve also been doing a fair chunk of racing this year (41 so far) – the best time to test a bit of kit out. Trust me, if something is going to go wrong with a bit of kit, it’ll be during a race. That slight rubbing that you’re getting on your trainers? Yeah, you’re not going to be able to stop and buy some plasters to stick on that during a half marathon. Those itchy shorts? They’re going to be itching for a while, bud.
Basically, if something is wrong with a bit of kit during a race, you’re going to really hate it by the end of it. Blisters, cuts, chaffing. You name it.
And yes, I’m aware that you need to break stuff in before you risk wearing it for a main event. You’d have to be pretty confident in something to wear it for the biggest race of the year without testing it. But for those little races, the parkruns or the 10k you’re not too bothered about – perfect testing time.
For the last few weeks I’ve been testing out some New Balance kit. Which to be honest I was pretty excited about. The only time I’ve ever worn New Balance was a pair of cheap trainers I bought about 20 years ago that looked like the kind of shoes an 8-year-old would draw. I’m fairly certain they were one step up from plimsoles. As a result I’ve been pretty excited about how they’ve come along in the past two decades.
I’ll break each product up into a summary of what I thought of it. Minimal technical information and maximum honesty on if I actually liked it and why. Two reasons for that: 1) How many of you read technical specs on running shorts? and 2) I don’t know enough about technical specs to comment on it.
Also, some of the colours featured are no longer available. Looks like New Balance change the range quite often.
Fresh Foam Zante V4 Trainers
Now, I actually like these, but I did have an issue with them. They’re a very nice light shoe designed for faster running but still maintaining a fair bit of cushioning. I like the design of blue ones, however when I see a trainer I really like the look of, I’m sceptical as to whether they’re designed for runners or for lifestyle consumers. I ran a couple of 10ks in these and they felt really nice, similar to the adidas supernova’s that I spent a good couple of years obsessed with. I was almost on track to get a PB, without even thinking about it, so they’re definitely good for the support/speed runners doing shorter distances (5k – half marathon). I did, however, get a fair bit of rubbing on a couple of my toes initially. This seems to be lessened now, but from the looks of it they do need a bit of wearing in.
Price: £42 (reduced from £60)
These are a ruddy nice pair of shorts. I can be ridiculously picky when it comes to shorts as they’re such an important race item, and if you get it wrong you’re looking at a fair bit of time in the depths of chafe hell (ever tried running a marathon in a pair of short inners that keep sliding down?).
They’re light and comfortable, long enough to be used in the gym and also have two pockets; one with a zip on it, another a small drop in pocket with a small loop for popping your keys on. Pretty much everything you’ll need in a race short in fact. I’m a big fan. Used them for quite a few runs recently.
Seasonless Long Sleeve Shirt
I’ll be honest, I’ve only used this for some short distance training so far, as there’s no way I’m wearing a long-sleeved top in 29 degree heat. It’s called seasonless because the fabric is designed to work in the warm and the cold. Don’t think they were prepared for the summer we’re having though.
It’s a nice material that seems to fit me really well. I have an odd body shape as I’m technically a small but I’m actually a bit stocky (possibly slightly over my preferred body fat at present). Sometimes a small on me is ridiculously tight, other times, like this, it fits me perfectly. It’s called athletic fit apparently, which I’ll take.
Also has little thumb hooks inside to keep your sleeves nicely held in position or to keep your hands warm in the winter. Again, can’t really test that at the moment. It looks nice though and comes in a delightful set of colours.
Seriously, this is the best bit of kit I’ve tried out for a while based on my shape and size. It’s a really light material and is very well-shaped for the stockier man. Design-wise it’s a nice, subtle option that can be used for pretty much anything from running to the gym. Nice snug fit around the arms but a bit more forgiving on the stomach area (not sure what athletes the fit is for). Also has some hidden reflector stripes in the design for safety purposes. Really nice material which doesn’t feel too technical and scratchy, like some other kit I’ve tried. Definitely my favourite bit of the lot.
Fresh Foam 1080v8 Trainers
Really nice pair of support trainers that will be good for training runs or for anyone that needs a bit more cushioning when they race. Like the Zante V4s, they’re comfortable and I didn’t get any rubbing from these (the same size). Design wise there are more options, but I much preferred the style of the Zante’s to these. A good option for longer distance runners, especially marathons.
To see the full range of New Balance kit, head over to the website here.