words and photography // Shawn Datchuk
New Balance has made an incredibly light-weight running shoe in their New Balance 1420 race-day road flat. When I opened the box, the bright red base and silver “N” caught my eye. The jet-black tongue and laces matched a nest of black accents along the heel. A circle of white punched along the sole, wrapping around the entire shoe.
As I removed each shoe from the box, I was surprised that they each felt light as feathers. Grabbing the heel and tip of one shoe, I compressed it, and the midsole bent easily. For those of you who tend to underpronate during running, the flexibility signaled a great find (a quick test to see if you underpronate: the outer heel of your shoes wear down first). Many running shoes feature a stiff, cardboard-like bottom that reduces flexibility and increases discomfort, forcing your stride into their pronation. The REVlite midsole of their 1420 model was rubbery, allowing your stride to freely strike the ground without a stiff feeling. My excitement quickly gained thinking about running in these shoes.
Inspired by the best-selling 890 running trainer, the 1420 has a welded upper, welded seams and no-sew material application to reduce chafing, which was certainly the case. The synthetic/mesh upper felt soft and smooth. In the past, I had mesh shoes that felt abrasive and rough to the touch. This was not the case as the mesh did not brush roughly against my hand. I instantly thought: Another good sign for long runs – this shoe will not grind against your skin. For anyone who has run a 5K, half or full marathon, a smooth inside lining of a shoe is worth its weight in gold.
All the design elements of the shoe suggested a minimalist design, which means less cushioning and less shoe details that could weigh down the running experience. What the New Balance 1420 lacks in cushioning and detailing, it makes up for in fit. The shoe rested comfortably on my feet. Many minimalist shoes can feel skin-tight and stick closely to the sides of the foot, but New Balance has struck a nice compromise. The shoes did not have a lot of wiggle room, but they had enough cushioning to make a comfortable fit and offer just the right amount of support without restricting movement.
The fit confirmed my initial impressions: I have never worn such a light shoe. As a lightweight performance shoe, there is minimal cushioning, but the REVlite foam did offer a thin layer of cushioning. I did notice that the thin tongue felt a little too thin. I could feel the laces cradle against the top of my foot, and I wondered if it would dig into my feet during long runs. I tend to tie my laces fairly tight, so I loosened them a bit. The thin, silky mesh allowed plenty of air into the shoes, and I did not feel warm or uncomfortable. And as an added bonus, the tongue tag doubles as a pin loop, so if you need someplace to put your racing bib pins, you’ve got it!
I jogged on three difference surfaces: concrete, pavement, and indoor track pavement. The shoe reacted well to each surface and the laces did not dig into my foot. New Balance constructed these shoes to provide a pleasing amount of support to the feet. Quick turns or slight gradients in the ground did not result in a tight or snug feel along the outer walls, common in many cheaper running shoes. My foot did not slide along the bottom of the shoes, meaning the snug fit stabilized my foot and I did not get any blisters.
The sole of the shoe had a surprising amount of traction. I ran on a rainy Sunday morning, and I experienced only a small amount of slipage on the blacktop. Rain did easily soak through the mesh lining, making my socks fairly wet, but that’s understandable for a shoe with such a breathable upper. Not the most ideal shoes during jogs in the rain, but the excellent traction made up for my wet socks.
I jog with a weekend warrior mentality: routinely through out the week but get in 5k’s and half-marathons a few times a year. These shoes rocketed to the top of my list of preferred jogging shoes, by far the lightest shoe I have ever worn. The fit and flexible mesh provided comfortable support. I highly recommend these shoes to other weekend warriors or those looking for an ultra-light race-day flat.