New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon – 120K Review

The Beacon may be well received by the running shoe geeks (RSG), but they weren’t really in my list of to-try shoes simply because I already have more than enough for the current training cycle. But as fate would have it, while poking around Rakuten, as any RSG worth his salt is wont to do, I spotted the shoes going for just RM260 including shipping! It was quite an easy decision to make *shrugs*.

9 days later, the package arrived. I did the usual unboxing just to check the product, marvelled at their lightweight feel and excellent upper construction but resisted taking them out for a run. I fully intended to use them only post-GCM19 as recovery shoes.

As luck would have it, the shoes were called to active duty just a month later. It was clear by then that the Rival Fly (RF) that I bought (also very cheaply from Japan) needed more time breaking in and the Zoom Fly (ZF) would not be working as go-fast tempo shoes on the roads that I run. My daily route consists of 12 90-degree turns each 2K loop, and the ZF isn’t suited to quick and constant changes in direction. I’d long ago retired my tempo shoes for GCM18 which was the Zoom Elite 9 (ZE9), something I initially hoped the RF would replace once broken in. Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait for the breaking-in period and after testing the Beacon out on an easy 10K, I was knew enough to know that they would be great for tempos.

The shoes are everything that others have written about – light, superbly constructed upper that’s breathable, accommodating fit. At 7.5oz (US9), 26mm/20mm stack heights for a 6mm heel to toe drop, (per Runningwarehouse specs), there’s nothing superfluous about the Beacon. They fit true to size too. You would think that not having any overlays would render the shoes unstable and sloppy but you’d be wrong. It could take the twisty roads, return a good feel of the road for a fast push-off yet providing adequate cushioning for races up to the Half Marathon from the get-go. They’re surprisingly stable too. Efficient and lighter runners will have no problems taking them to the full distance.

As mentioned earlier, the mesh upper is light and breathable. I believe they’re even lighter than knitted options that we see so prevalent these days. The stock laces are rather long and has a bit of stretch. I found myself having to tuck the extraneous parts under to prevent them flopping around. The padding around the collar and on the tongue are just nice and I’ve absolutely no complaints there.

For midsole duties, NB uses what they call Fresh Foam Ground Contact (FFGC) and they’re essentially a more durable version of the traditional FF. Visually, the stack height of the Beacon appears thick but they don’t feel that at all mainly because they’re anything but mushy. They don’t ride anything at all like the Pegasus Turbo nor Clayton 2 but there are some similarities to the Epic React, which incidentally was one of my favorite shoes.

The lateral side of the midsole features concave hexagonal cut-outs.
The medial side, on the other hand, has convex cut-outs, hence the stability without the need for a medial post.
Another view of the convex design of the medial side. Clearly shows how NB builds stability into a neutral shoe like the Beacon.

I’ve only ever worn 2 other NBs the past 5 years – the OG Zante and the Vazee Pace. Of these 2, only the Zante is made of FF, with the Vazee built on top of Revlite midsole. While I prefered the Zante over the Vazee, running in both always beat up my legs. The Beacon’s FFGC, however, has that extra bit of cushioning and over the several 13-14K tempos I’ve ran in them, my legs didn’t protest as much compared to the Zante days. I was still able to resume my easy running the very next day. The sweet spot of the Beacon is really in the midfoot area. If you’re predominantly a midfoot striker, you’re going to be in for a treat – that’s where the shoe’s cushioning and responsiveness are best experienced.

Just like the upper, the Beacon’s outsole is also a design in simplicity. 90% all-foam with the 2 small areas of rubber plugs, to provide durability on take-off and landing. The exposed foam areas wear rather well. Even though there’s noticeable wear in the center of the push-off area, I suspect the phenomenon is akin to that of the Epic React where the rate of wear tapered off after the initial 100km. Photos below show their state of wear after 120km. There should be no problems hitting 350km and, if lucky, 400km. It’s appropriate to mention that I’ve yet to run in wet conditions in the shoes to be able to comment about their traction.

While I’ve mostly employed the Beacon as faster paced shoes, they’re versatile enough for easy days as well. That said, I prefer softer shoes for those ambling miles.

Other than online sources, and perhaps NB’s factory outlets, good luck finding the Beacon now. You might as well wait for the Beacon 2 coming out sometime Q3 or check out the Fuelcell Rebel. The New Balance Beacon gets my firm recommendation.

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