New Balance 870 V4 Review

My second pair of running shoes for the first half of 2017 was New Balance 870 V4. I bought my pair right after 2016 Thanksgiving day from Eastbay at $74.99 excluding tax. It was the more expensive pair of running shoes. (The other pair was Asics Gel-Contend 3, which set me back $39.23.)

When I ordered the New Balance 870 V4, I was attracted by the discount. Normally they sell for more than $100, and I must have thought that it was a good deal at the time.

New Balance has particular numbering scheme for their shoes. The last two digits signify what type of shoe it is. For example, 70 means that the shoes are designed to have light stability. The first digit signifies how much technologies went into manufacturing the shoes. In case you want to browse what each number means, you can find the list here.

After ordering I remember thinking that they must be high-end New Balance running shoes because of price tag, and 870 number. It only goes up to 900 range, so the second best must be pretty good, right? I tried New Balance 490 and 780 earlier, and they were pretty good shoes, I thought.

The shoes had good stable feel to them. According to Strava, I have put on 345 miles or so since January 1st, 2017. It almost felt as though they were full-on stability shoes. They gave me controlled gaits, and each step felt as though they are getting planted with solid rolling resistance. But when it comes to cushioning, I felt it could have used a bit more in the mid-food area. During initial break-in period, I had to remind myself that this pair was almost twice more expensive than Asics Gel-Contend 3, and there must be something that I was missing from my initial break-in.

After running 300 more miles on them, I still couldn’t find that something that made this pair more special than $40 pair running shoes. I thought I would get a bit more lighter steps with more bouncy feeling. Maybe it’s just New Balance’s way of designing light stability shoes. They are more geared towards stability shoes, than being light.

Don’t get me wrong. They are good pair of shoes. But given what I know about how good $40 pair of running shoes can be, I don’t think I would fork over twice that much for features that didn’t translate to how it felt on the road.

One thing that I did with this pair of shoes that I did not do was to run on the trails. I had a good fortune of living close by single track trail near Lake Chabot, and I wore my New Balance on dirt road quite a bit. I must give some credit to how well it held up.


As shown in the picture, it lost treads outer edges of shoes due to my supination. However, they were able to take the punishing rocky trails of Lake Chabot hills quite well.

My verdict? I think New Balance 870 V4 is really a pair of stability shoes. If you are looking for high performance running shoes with cushion, control, and stability, you’ll probably walk away not completely satisfied.

Happy running, everyone.


ASICS Gel-Contend 3 Review

TLDR; I ordered ASICS Gel-Contend 3 on Amazon 12/31/2016 for $39.23. It was the cheapest pair of running shoes that I have bought to date. But after running 50 miles on the Gel-Contend 3, I’m very satisfied with its performance as training shoes. Very highly recommended.

In keeping with two-pairs-of-running-shoes-every-6-months plan, I was ready to retire my old pairs, ASICS Gel-Nimbus 17 and New Balance 490v3. (They have served me well, and you can read my reviews of them here and here.)

So I began searching for my next pair of running shoes. After trying two budget shoes earlier (I define budget shoes as $50 or less including tax), I was ready to try another. Since I tried two New Balance budget shoes, I thought I would try Asics budget shoes this time.

I have been a big fan of Eastbay when buying my running shoes. But I realized last year that there are lot of times when Amazon has better deals than Eastbay. So I started searching on Amazon. There were two shoes that I was eyeing on. One was Asics Gel-Excite 3, and the other was Asics Gel-Contend 3. Both shoes retailed at around $40 – $60, so both were within my budget as long as I land a good deal.

Since I wear out my outer sole faster (I’m an under-pronator), I wanted to get a pair of Excite 3. Excite 3 is advertised on Asics website as under-pronator or neutral runner’s shoes. But I couldn’t find anything lower than $50 when I was shopping late last year on Amazon.

Fortunately, I was able to find a pair of Asics Gel-Contend 3 for $39.23. To make it even better deal, the price included the tax and shipping. (Great deal!) I ordered on the spot, and I received the shoes a couple of days later, thanks to Amazon Prime.

As I mentioned it was the first time ordering a pair of shoes for $40, so I didn’t know what to expect. Drawing from my past experience with budget New Balance shoes, I was thinking there must be some catch when a pair of shoes sell for $40. Either upper sole will be made out of flimsy vinyl, or shoes will lack structure to hold on to my feet and ankle, so I thought.

Well, guess what. I just ran 56 miles on my Asics Gel-Contend 3, and I just cannot tell what the catch is. Shoes are solidly constructed. Unlike New Balance 490v3, it grips my heels really well. In fact so well that I couldn’t tell the difference from much more expensive Asics shoes when it comes to heel grips. When putting on, you can feel that the build quality that are found in premium shoes.

It did not end there. After the smashing first impression, I decided to wear them out on my trail running, and I have been thoroughly impressed. It had very predictable and solid feel to them. Cushion is firm yet supportive. It needed a little break-in period (maybe around 10 miles or so), but once broken-in it gave me just enough cushion and balance for me to run 7 miles without feeling all beaten up.

Honestly, I don’t know what the catch is. It looks great. It feels great. It gave me just as good support and balance as $100+ shoes. I have been buying wrong running shoes!

Oh, there is one more plus: Unlike Asics Gel-Nimbus 17, it did not give me any blister since the day one!

If you are on a budget, and looking for a running shoes, you must try Asics Gel-Contend 3. Even if you are not on a budget, I think you should try Asics Gel-Contend 3 just to try them out and see how good they feel on the road and trails.

Highly recommended.



New Balance Men’s 490v3 Review

I replace my running shoes every 6 months with two pairs of shoes. One of the pairs that just retired as of December 31, 2016 was New Balance 490v3. It’s the first pair of budget running shoes that I got.

Up until 2015, I have been a staunch fan of Asics running shoes, and have been shopping my running shoes exclusively from Asics. On average, I was spending about $100 per a pair of Asics, and was replacing them every year or so. But since last year when I switched to four-pairs-of-running-shoes-a-year plan, I started to experiment with other brands and also budget shoes.

When I think of budget running shoes, I am thinking about a pair of shoes under $50 including tax. That means the shoes cannot be any more than $45 or so before tax.

Until I looked for budget running shoes, I didn’t even realize there were shoes available under $45. But surprisingly there were number of running shoes available from many well-known manufacturers.

New Balance 490v3 is one of such budget running shoes. I bought a pair from Amazon at $37.99 before tax on June of 2016. (My other pair for the second half of 2016 was Asics Gel-Nimbus 17, which retailed at about $100, which I wrote a review earlier here.)

Honestly I did not expect much from New Balance 490v3. It did not look to have much cushion even from the look of it. It had single rubber sole cushion that seemed like it will wear out after a few runs on asphalt. So I was thinking of 490v3 as my treadmill running shoes. My plan was to use Asics Gel-Nimbus 17 for all my outdoor running on hard surfaces, which looked to be much more durable and springier.

After putting on about 300 miles on both New Balance 490v3 and Asics Gel-Nimbus 17, I am not sure if I enjoyed running on Asics twice more than New Balance. If pricing is all the indicator, I should be feeling better after running on Asics. But I can tell you that it was not the case.

First, New Balance 490v3 proved to be quite stable on all kinds of surfaces. Even though it had single white rubber sole, it provided adequate and stable cushion. It felt light on my feet, yet gave me assurance that it would bounce back with predictable stability and quickness. Even after running on hard asphalt surface for miles and taking them out on easy trails, the cushions held up quite well.


Even on my right feet, which tend to underpronate, New Balance 490v3 bottom sole was showing a reasonable wear compared to Asics, as shown above.

Budget construction shows, of course. Shoe laces look rather flimsy to hold the shuffling feet in their places. Heel supportive grip was not noticeable when you put on the shoes. Cushion is not much to write about when compared to Asics. But hey, at half the price I think New Balance 490v3 was great training shoes whether you train indoor or outdoor.

One thing I must mention on 490v3: When I ordered my usual size of 10 4E (extra wide), I noticed that it was a bit too tight for my feet. I ordered size 10 thinking that New Balance will have uniform sizing (earlier I ran on New Balance 780 V5 size 10 4E, and felt that it was the right size), but I think 490v3 ran about half size smaller. I wish New Balance would be consistent with their sizing.

Overall, my first budget running shoes experience was positive. I would recommend New Balance 490v3 to anyone looking for budget running shoes. Just remember to order a half size larger pair.

Happy training.


Asics GEL-Nimbus 17 Review

July 1st marked my first 6 month mark to switch out my running shoes. Starting 2016, I’ve decided to switch out my running shoes every 6 months. To follow the expert advice, I decided to get two pairs and rotate them on my each run. As I increase my weekly mileage to 30 miles in my forty-something, I thought my body will need every possible edge to minimize the possibility of injury. Well, it’s been working okay so far. *Fingers crossed*

So I went ahead and got myself two pairs of shoes. One of them was Asics GEL-Nimbus 17. I found this impossible-to-resist deal on Amazon early June, and had to get a pair. I got mine for $77.24 including tax and delivery. Asics GEL-Nimbus 17 usually sells for $110 plus tax. It was a great deal. And I could not pass the opportunity.

When I first unboxed the shoes, I was surprised how bright green it was. I saw the color a few times on websites, but the actual color was much brighter green than the color shown on my laptop LCD. If you are picky about the color, I suggest that you check out the color at a local shoe store before ordering it on the web. This is actually second time that I got a color surprise from ordering a product online, and I now think about the possible color difference when buying something on the web.

Although it was a surprise, after holding it and examining the shoes for a few moments, I must admit the beaming green color grew on me. They are flashy, yet very well constructed and had much attention to details that it didn’t feel like the catchy color was over the top. Just by looking at the overall construction, I could feel that they were premium running shoes.

Stitching was right on the mark, multiple cushions in the sole were perfectly aligned and symmetric, and all the markings were perfect down to the detail, they all made the shoes that much more attractive and well-balanced to look at.

Come to think of it, I think I am appreciating all these details much more because I have bought a much cheaper pair as my second pair of shoes. More on my second pair in my later post.

When I put them on for my first run early July, it felt just right. The shoes perfectly hugged my feet. They felt really light at the same time. Not only the weight, but they had incredible cushion right out of the box. It literally felt like stepping in the cloud, and I could feel the bounce under my feet.

Running the first mile in the brand-new Nimbus 17 was euphoric. I could feel each step settling in to the cushion, and loading up the next step nicely.

But as the mileage increased, my feet started to feel more bumps and slides. It felt like the insoles were too soft to resist all the pounding, and giving in too much to my feet. At the same time, the soft upper mesh were getting stretched to provide more room to my feet to move around. As a result, my soles felt like they were getting blistery. Into Mile 6, it got to a point where I had to start walking to give my soles a break from super mellow insole.

Come to think of it, I think I had a similar issue with earlier Nimbus pairs. I remember having to switch out the insole to get better support to my feet, and having to give extra tight lacing to compensate for soft upper mesh.

Since my first run, I logged about 34 miles on the Nimbus 17. Its soft and bouncy feeling has died down a bit. Yet it still has the great cushion that feels a bit too soft by the end of my 6-mile run.

Will keep you posted whether I still have the blistery sole issue as put on more miles.


New Balance 780 V5 Review

After many years of running on Asics, I decided to try other brands. That other brand turned out to be New Balance. So effectively I’ve relaxed my running shoe buying criteria, but the other two still remain in effect. (Was it on Sale? Yes. Was it available in extra wide width, 4E? Oh yeah.)

The shoe that I got was New Balance 780 V5. It is entry-level neutral cushion shoes that’s available at around $70.

I have been running on it for about 37 miles, and I can feel the difference from familiar Asics running shoes.

Here are some notable differences that I saw.

At first glance, it felt cheap. New Balance 780 V5’s retail price is $85, and generally can be bought around $70. Compare that with Asics Gel-Cumulus 16 which retails at $115. 780 V5 is $30 cheaper.

And it shows.

When I unboxed it, I must admit, I felt disappointed. Upper shoes were made of some nylon mesh with printed logo, instead of stitched logo that I was used to with Asics. It didn’t have firm heel grip either. Overall the shoes had no contour, and looked like a pair of colorful booties.

But my disappointment ended there.

When I put them on and went out on the road, I was pleasantly surprised with its road manner.

Cushion and sole were much softer than Asics Gel-Cumulus from the get-go. Unlike Gel-Cumulus 16 that required a bit of break-in period (about 20 miles or so), 780 V5 was ready to rock and roll right out of the box. As soon as I stepped out to the street, I could immediately feel the soft cushion under my feet, supporting my each landing.

It was also light. At 9.8 oz, it’s less than 1 ounce lighter than Gel-Cumulus, which is 10.6 oz. But somehow it felt lighter on my feet. Its soft cushy sole might have made it feel lighter than what it really weighed.

My gaits felt springy and well balanced. Note that other runners with pronation might not feel the same way.

780 V5 is definitely for neutral to under-pronating runners. If you are okay without pronation support, but looking for soft cushy shoes on a budget, I think you’ll be happy with how it feels on the road.


Oh, and that cheap mesh top was actually quite breathable as well. It easily absorbed puddle of water that I stepped in even after a couple of steps, and I could feel my socks get soggy. Consider that for what it’s worth. 🙂


Asics Gel – Cumulus 16 Review


As I was saying earlier on my last blog, I have been a die-hard fan of Asics running shoes. And the shoe that I ended up buying the most often was Asics Gel – Cumulus.

When I went back to my online order history of the past few years, I found out that I bought Gel-Cumulus 11, 12, 14, and 15. I didn’t realize that I had been buying that many Gel-Cumulus shoes.

Looking back, I think it’s because of two reasons.

One was that it is good neutral cushioned running shoes. I tend to under-pronate, meaning I land on my outer sole when running, and to compensate for all the pounding my outer feet take, I usually look for well cushioned shoes made for neutral to under-pronating runners. Gel-Cumulus was one of the popular models made by Asics for neutral to under-pronating runners. It’s good great cushion and built quality.

The other was that it had been within my budget at around $110 retail. By the time I ordered one pair online, I usually ended up paying around $70-$80 including tax and shipping.

For these two reasons, I had gotten many Gel-Cumulus shoes over the years. And 2016 was no exception. I ended up getting a pair of Gel-Cumulus 16, the previous model of Gel-Cumulus. I think the latest model is Gel-Cumulus 17.

Since I tried the shoes for the first time on January 1st, I have been running on it for 31 miles, and here are some things that I noticed about the shoes. Some of these are observations that I had for many years when I tried earlier versions of Gel-Cumulus shoes:

  • It’s a well-built pair of shoes. Considering Gel-Cumulus shoes can be had for about $70-80 online, I feel that I’m getting a great value. Especially I like the solid feel that it gives me when I put them on and lace them up. They hug my hills snug and secure, and I get a psychological comfort of knowing that they are there to provide support when I need to land on my mid-foot and rely on hill cushion.
  • It’s very breathable. I never had a problem of feet getting hot or trapping moisture. In fact I was reminded of its breathable upper shoes on occasions when I ran through grassy field early morning. Even with a few steps of running through wet grass, I could feel the wetness coming in from outside. It’s really breathable.
  • It does take a few runs to break in the cushion. I always felt, Gel-Cumulus 16 included, that it takes at least a few weeks of running to unlock the cushion so that landing feels more supported. I thought this was the case with all running shoes, but realized that it was not so when I tried New Balance. May be the gel inserts need to be pounded for a while to get loosened up? I don’t know.
  • It gives me a structured feel to my gaits. When I land on my foot, I get lot of supports (once properly broken in). When I spring off from my foot to switch my leg, I get the well-balanced feeling coming from the shoe sole flexing just the right way to give me the propulsion that I need. Combined with ample cushioning and secure foot holding, each step feels really solid.

On my next blog, I’ll share a few observations about New Balance 780 V5, the second pair of running shoes that I got to rotate shoes. I found that there are a few things that are really different from Asics.