New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe

If you were a teenager in the 90’s you will at some point have had your favourite TV show set on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. A quirky comedy about a typical mischievous and rough around the edges teenager who get’s thrust into the high life when he moves in with his wealthy Aunt and Uncle who live in Bel Air. Just why it was such a big hit I believe is that in some ways we can all relate to Will Smith’s character. Even if we weren’t a teenager at the time it is highly likely that we secretly dreamt to be a youth again. You have to admit it, being a teenager is pretty exciting, fun and carefree. As a teenager you have very little responsibilities, you think you know everything, and life is a beach. It is fun not being grown up, to have an excuse for your wild behaviour. I mean when did we as adults become so serious about everything? Maybe it’s the bills to pay at the end of the month, or the car or house we want to buy so we work extra hard to get it. I don’t know about you but I constantly need to remind myself to slow down once in a while and actually have some fun, to not take life so seriously..

Enter The Fresh Prince of Boston. The quirky, mischievous and a little rough around the edges teenager of the running world. The Fresh Prince of Boston, also known as the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe (this particular review is about the trail version hence the name of the site). When New Balance first brought out the Fresh Foams they had an air of mischief to them, in many ways they were nothing like New Balance had ever brought out before. Moving from it’s Rev-lite and minimus mid and outer soles New Balance was taking a gamble, in a sense rewriting it’s legacy in an over saturated industry. A bold move that is not unlike a teenager who is not afraid to challenge the status quo, not afraid to try something fresh, throw off the mundane and have some fun. I mean just look at the colour options you get with the shoe, if that doesn’t scream a wild carefree teenager like spirit then I don’t know what will.

Don’t get me wrong, just because I am comparing this shoe to a wild and fresh teenager doesn’t mean the shoe shouldn’t be taken seriously! In fact this shoe, while being wild and fresh, is very serious about it’s business and it’s business is performance.

Bearded Brother taking the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe for a test drive.

Lets look at some of the specs:

The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe Upper:

I have to admit I was a bit surprised to see that New Balance went with a singular stitch mesh design for the Fresh Foam Trail 980 Upper. It does breathe nicely which is great but it also hamper’s it’s strength and durability on the trail, I am happy to report though that the v2’s will come out with a cross stitched dual density mesh which will make it much stronger on the trail. Along with the padded heel bridge and the ‘Gusseted” tongue which very effectively keeps debris out of the shoe the Fresh Foam Trail’s hug your foot very nicely. Out on the trail I experienced very little niggles to my feet inside the shoe, the fact that the overlays are not sewed makes a massive difference and enables the shoe to comfortably be worn without socks.

The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe Midsole:

As mentioned before New Balance has gone with a foam design on the midsole, this according to New Balance allows you to “Experience the science of soft — off road. With the same impossibly plush and natural underfoot feel as the road version, the Fresh Foam 980 Trail delivers a smooth yet stable ride.” The smooth yet stable ride comes from a ground clearance of 29.3mm at the heel and 22.7mm at the forefoot. This equates to an approximate 4mm heel to toe drop which for me is my most favourite feature of the shoe. New Balance have kept their philosophy from their more natural running inspired minimus shoes and kept the drop as minimal as possible while still offering a smooth and comfortable ride for the longer runs.

The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe Outersole:

Any trail shoe worth it’s salt will always be graded according to grip and ride-ability. The fact that the Fresh Foam 980 Trails has a full ground contact out sole with multi-directional lugs which ensure fresh grip on even the most mischievous uphill and downhill tracks is a massive plus for this shoe. A “fast finish” angle to the outsole gives the shoe a great ‘roll-on’ effect as you run along the trail which I enjoyed quite a lot.

Good looking shoe – New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe

New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe Performance:

So how does it perform? It’s one thing to list a bunch of fresh sounding specs but out in the real world, on the trail, does it all come together like an inside out California roll or is it a fresh flop? First let me give you some context to my running, I am and always will be a ‘running with the fairies’ minimalist runner. For me less is always more when it comes to a running shoe so it is safe to say I was little skeptical of running in a ‘maximal’ shoe again. I was not disappointed. In fact I literally had to hide the Fresh Foams away after two weeks so I could go out in my minimus shoes again. Out on the trail they are incredibly comfortable, and at 8.9oz (230g) they are mischievously light! They handled the rocky, technical sections of the mountain really well and I felt very confident in their grip. They were, simply, a breathe of fresh air! The ride was soft yet surprisingly responsive and on the steep descents they were care free and agile. On hard pack and tar they were fantastic. The one thing to consider though is they do ride about a half size too small so if you are looking at them then try a size up as the toe box is a bit narrow.

Bearded Brother review – New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe in Action

I do still find my minimus shoes faster at higher speeds through the really technical stuff but for holding a consistent pace over the long haul the Fresh Foam 980 Trail Shoe is about as comfortable and responsive as you can ask for.

So I guess the question you need to ask yourself is how seriously are you taking yourself? Do you need a bit more fun in your life, a bit more foot loose and fancy free vibes? If so then you need to meet The Fresh Prince of Boston, the quirky mischievous and a little rough around the edges teenager of the running world.

Can I perform on a Low Carb High Fat Diet?

A Low Carb High Fat diet (LCHF) such as Paleo, Banting and Atkins is all the rage at the moment. Can you race and perform on such a diet though?

Well, I think it depends on who you talk to. In my opinion you can definitely train on on a Low Carb High Fat diet. Racing depends on a couple of things, such as the type of race, duration and how fat adapted you are.

One of the best resources on the subject I have found is a book “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance” (by Steve Phinney and Jeff Volek). These guys have been researching the topic of Low Carb High Fat diet and endurance sport performance for a long time and in their opinion it is very possible to perform on a low carb high fat diet.

My Experience on a Low Carb High Fat Diet

I found (as was to be expected) that at first my performance definitely took a big dip. The first couple of weeks, especially the first couple of days were very hard. I had zero energy. After a while though my body did become more fat adapted and as long as I did not push myself into the red (anaerobic zone) I was fine. The overall improvement in terms of weight loss and energy levels over a couple of weeks were remarkable though. After about two weeks training at anything but really hard efforts became easy and very enjoyable.

I completed a number of multi-day trail running and multi-sport events on a LCHF diet and I think it works for me. I still battle with sugar cravings and occasionally succumb to the temptation. My overall fitness levels and general health is very good and I have more energy than before.

Some Help From My Friends

I stumbled on VESPA Power, an amino acid supplement that worked really well for me on a LCHF diet ( VESPA assisted my body to metabolize fat at higher intensity levels.

What are the pros doing?

Many pro athletes (including some pro continental cycling teams) now use a middle of the road strategy of train low (carb intake) and race high (carb intake). If you have to push into the red during your race this might be an option.

Race Duration and a Low Carb High Fat Diet

During long races you will need to supplement with carbs if you are not fat adapted. Your body can only store a limited amount of carbs. Your fat stores are vast however and so if you are fat adapted and can use your fat stores and will be less reliant on carb supplementation and you will be able to go longer and feel better.

Race Intensity and a Low Carb High Fat Diet

Intensity is the killer though. The higher the intensity the less the body’s ability to burn fat (unless you use something like Vespa Power). You can however through conditioning make your body “better” at burning fat and to some extent overcome the intensity issue.


My suggestion is to try LCHF if you are battling to keep the weight off even though you are active. Stick with it for a couple of weeks, it is hard in the beginning. Don’t cheat, if you do you will not transition your body from preferring carbs to burning Ketones, and do your research, many will tell you that you are going to die of a heart attack which is an unsubstantiated claim…

#BestGiftEver: Fuel to Conquer South Africa’s 100km Ultra Trail

Rae Trew-Browne, a 29-year old South African native, was a fierce competitor on his high school cross country team growing up. After falling out of the running routine during post-graduate life, a friend asked Browne to compete in a sprint triathlon with him a few years ago. He struggled and was unable to finish the race. Now Browne is competing in 50km trail races in his hometown of South Africa and gearing up for his first 100km next year. “If I had finished that first triathlon I had attempted, I don’t think I would’ve been so motivated to start running again,” says Rae. “Because the race beat me I was so determined to come back and conquer it.”

Originally from Johanessburg, Browne moved to Cape Town three years ago and started trail running on their famous stunning mountain terrain. The high peaks and spectacular views gave him the running bug. Now he runs 12km both to and from work almost every day, does five-hour mountain runs/hikes on the weekends and has competed in numerous mountain races. “I experienced some painful setbacks in my personal life and being able to push myself, only to discover you can always go further was a great accomplishment,” says Rae. “Conquering physical mountains gave me the confidence to conquer the emotional mountains I was also facing at the time.”

As we approach 2015, Browne is gearing up for a 60km race on the Swellendam Hiking Trail – one of South Africa’s most sought-after trails,where he’ll aim to qualify for a 100km ultra trail race in Cape Town. “Competitors only have 15 hours to complete the 100km, so it will be a decent challenge,” says Rae. “Finishing in the cut-off would be a dream come true!”

We want to help Rae cross the finish line so we sent him a care package with some specific brand new running shoes and apparel including the Minimus Zero Trail, the Fresh Foam Trail and the glow in the dark Minimus 10v2 (Rae snapped these shots of him in action with his gifts right after they arrived). “Being able to compete in the mountains is an amazing gift,” says Rae. “Running can be tough at times but to be able to race in an ultra would be a huge gift for me.”

We can’t wait to see what mountains Rae conquers in 2015! At the very least, we hope the new gear inspires him in his endeavors and is the best gift ever this holiday season.

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Ode to Adventure

“Written by Rae but originally posted as a guest post on US based site: a site well worth a visit if you have a passion for adventure”

Devote (verb ) – give entirely to a specific person, activity, or cause.

Have you ever stopped and looked at the word, ‘devote’? It is not a word used very often yet every single one of us, in some way, is devoted to something or someone. I think the reason why the word is not used in most people’s vocabularies these days is because society in general is hell bent on convenience and comfort.

There is no devotion in convenience. Devotion speaks of commitment, perseverance, an ability to remain patient and consistent through difficult circumstances or situations while pressing on to achieve a goal or purpose.

When my Grandfather was my age he would go down to his local food market which was run by a close knit family that knew each of their loyal customers by name, they knew what they liked and how they liked it.

They were devoted to providing their customers with consistent personal assistance. Nowadays I go down to my local supermarket, no one knows my name, no one takes an interest in what I might be needing, everything is processed and vacuum packed for ‘convenience’.

The only focus is ‘dollars and cents’. The only commitment, the profit margin. The only devotion, making something as cheap as possible to sell it as high as possible.

So what does all this have to do with adventure, or running or actually anything outdoor related? Well you see as everything around us has become convenient the concept of an ‘adventure’ as been so diluted that nowadays a trip to a different hair stylist is considered an adventure. Where are the Sir Edmund Hillary’s, the Ernest Shackleton’s, or the Ranulph Fiennes’s of today? Some people would argue that great feats of the past have been conquered, and there is nothing left to explore. We can see it all on our TV’s so why should we venture out. In one day we can see the vastness of the Grand Canyon, the peaks of Everest and the depths of Great Barrier Reef, all from the comfort of ones own living room.

No wonder devotion has been replaced by convenience. In the days of Sir Edmund Hillary anything short of a radical devotion to ones goals would mean, to them, a life of mediocrity and never having the chance of experiencing something great. Convenience didn’t cause Ranulph Fieness to become the first man to cross Antarctica on foot. Nor did it cause Reinhold Messner to become the first man to summit Mount Everest without the help of oxygen tanks. Convenience would have kept them at home, comfortably next to their fire place, warm and nestled up while they watched others achieve their life’s ambitions. It was nothing short of a radical devotion that enabled them to achieve the impossible. While everyone said it could not be done, they devoted themselves to finding ways to get it done. They were committed almost to the point of what some would classify as insanity, they persevered through failure and overcame great trials when everyone else gave up.

One of my favourite accounts of die hard devotion is one I heard of Scott Jurek at the Badwater Ultra Marathon, as far as I remember he collapsed on his face around half way totally dehydrated and spent. The distance between him and the leaders growing further and further apart. Instead of abandoning like most people would he got up, collected himself, started running again and went on to win the race when everyone said he wouldn’t be able compete against the roadies conditioned for that amount of pounding on the tar. That for me is a classic example of devotion. It would have been convenient for him to allow his support crew to carry him to the support vehicle and transport him back to the finish, it would have been convenient for him to skip a training session because it was raining or because he wasn’t feeling up to it but I guarantee you he had a goal to win and he was devoted, come hell or high water he was devoted to achieve it. Someone once said, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” I disagree, I prefer to say, “Suffering is inevitable, the key is to suffer well.” Devotion will see you persevere through suffering, it’s not to say that you won’t suffer if you are devoted but it will keep you consistent, it will keep you committed. Convenience will give you the easy way out.

What if the Sir Edmund Hillary’s of today are the ones who courageously throw off the comforts of today’s convenience and devote themselves to making adventure. True adventure, not the ‘bolt on’ kind like those who kit their trucks out with the best expedition gear known to man yet their tyres never leave Hollywood Boulevard and their reserve tanks never see a drop of fuel. Their eyes never see the real thing, only a replica. Their faces never get covered with dirt from a place most people will never know existed. What if we devoted ourselves to the kind of adventure that gets your palms sweaty and raises your heart rate by just thinking about it. The kind of adventure that no matter what life throws your way, like Vincent Van Gogh you can press on and say, “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”

If by our lack of devotion we teach the next generation that convenience is better than devotion, that comfort is better than commitment. I am afraid the wide eyed hunger for adventure, the zealous passion for what’s beyond the horizon, the depth of the wandering spirit of the human race will quickly become as deep as the bottom of a wet grande half-caf skinny cappuccino to go.