Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Shoe Review: New Balance 1400 v2

One of these days (hopefully not TOO terribly far away), I will be ready to race the hell out of 10Ks & half marathons again. And while I love my Kinvara 5's for every-day easy running & long runs/marathons, I don't currently have a shoe that I love for running fast in that mid-distance, six-to-thirteen mile range. This shoe has been on my radar as a potential candidate for a while, and then a few weeks back I stumbled across a crazy deal on them at Amazon.

Now, normally when I buy shoes on a crazy discount, it's because the version is or is about to become outdated, but as far as I can tell, this is the current model, so I'm not entirely sure what's up with that. The color scheme was not my first choice, but at nearly 50% off, I can deal with it. (I wanted the tasteful, demur turquoise ones. And I'm not even kidding that just a couple of weeks after I bought the ugly neon purple ones, the price on the turquoise ones dropped to nearly as low as the ones I bought. Then again, I'm loving them so much that maybe it makes sense to just grab another pair while they're cheap.)


The 1400 v2 has stack heights of 23mm in the heel & 14mm in the forefoot, for a heel drop of 9mm. (I've seen it listed as 9 in some places and 10 in others; these are the numbers Running Warehouse lists. The New Balance website says 10mm, but also says, "Due to variances created during the development and manufacturing processes, all references to 10 mm drop are approximate." A millimeter is a pretty tiny amount of distance, so perhaps RunningWarehouse got one that measured closer to 9mm. I don't have calipers, but I also don't kid myself about actually being able to feel a difference of 1mm.) For those keeping score at home, those numbers are identical to the Mizuno Hitogami.

The 1400 v2 is made on a combination NB-J last, which according to the New Balance website is a semi-curved, racing-specific, high performance last. The upper uses what they refer to as welded, "no-sew" seams for comfort and is mostly covered in open mesh, with strobel lasting. The midsole is made from a material called RevLite, "an innovative foam compound that provides lightweight, responsive cushioning;" the outsole is mostly blown rubber, with a few carbon rubber overlays for durability and traction.

They don't look it, but these shoes are super light.

At 5.6 ounces, they are the lightest shoes I've ever bought with the exception of the Mizuno Universe and my high school racing flats. (Which....had spikes. So they were actually probably heavier, now that I think about it.) They were so light, in fact, that it kind of startled me when I took them out of the box.


Once again, these shoes may look like regular trainers at first, but they are actually fairly flexible compared to other mostly traditional-looking shoes.

RunningWarehouse & Road Runner Sports list the 1400 v2 as a neutral racer/performance shoe, but on several different sites where they're sold (including the New Balance website), there were bullet points mentioning that the shoe does have some stability to it. The NewBalance site says it features "REVlite midsole cushioning with stability," Believe in the Run mentions "Intelligent geometries for inherent stability," and Road Runner Sports describes "more stability with a bottom unit that allows full ground contact with each foot strike." Now, I don't know for sure what any of that really means structurally, and I can't comment on its effectiveness because I tend to do fine in neutral shoes & probably wouldn't notice the presence or absence of stability features anyway. But if you're looking for a responsive shoe on the lighter side and like a little extra stability, maybe they're an option.

They are actually a lot less flexible torsionally than front-to-back, which is
maybe another potential plus for folks who like just a little bit of extra stability.

Sizing & Comfort

My default with brands I haven't run in much or in a while (of which New Balance is one) is to order a size 8, which fit just about perfectly. The first time I slipped my feet into them, the 1400s reminded me a little of the Kinvaras in the way they felt almost perfectly molded to my feet. I think this is party due to the semi-curved shape of the last (the Kinvaras use a semi-curved as well, and it just seems to match the shape of my foot) and partly thanks to the super-flexible, mostly mesh upper.

They do fit a little on the narrow side, which I normally hate. Not as narrow as the Hitogamis (where I felt like my foot was spilling over the edge of the soles), but just enough to make me want to get them "punched out" a bit inside. Luckily loosening the laces seems to have solved this problem for me, but if you REALLY want a wider shoe, this one may not be for you.

My only other complaint is the seams on the tongue inside the shoe. The rest of the fabric in the upper may be "no sew," but the construction here seems a bit shoddy in a way that would have been pretty easy to fix (it seems to me). It's as if the material for the inside of the tongue was just sliced off & left hanging, without anything done to deal with the remaining sharp edges of nylon.

The black material makes it difficult, but see the rough,
scraggly bits sticking out on either side of the tongue?

This means that it sometimes feels sharp & occasionally scrapes uncomfortably against the top of my foot. I haven't tried to do anything about it yet, but I'm hoping it's something I can fix with a piece of duct tape or a nail file or some such.


I will be honest with you that my first run in these shoes was not awesome. They felt very tight and very low and hard compared to my Kinvaras; two miles in I felt like my right Achilles was going to snap, and by the time I got back home my left foot had gone completely numb, either from the tightness of the shoe or the repeated impact against the ground (which feels pretty up close and personal) or both. I was super excited to get them off and also kind of afraid that I was going to end up hating them.

But honestly, I never know when my feet are going to freak out for some random reason or possibly no reason at all, so I didn't blame it on the shoe & gave them the benefit of the doubt. Since they are a bit narrow, I loosened the laces considerably before my second run, hoping that would help.

And damned if I didn't suddenly feel like I was running in a completely different shoe. While the upper is mostly mesh, there's still enough structure there that I didn't really need the laces pulled snug for them to fit my feet. Suddenly they felt light and responsive, and gave me just the perfect combination of ground feel and cushioning.

One of the reasons that I didn't snatch this shoe up months ago is because of the relatively high drop (9-10mm) compared to what I typically run in (2-4mm). Being a mid/forefoot striker, having too much heel sometimes makes it a little more difficult to land exactly right, and I've just been trying to wear shoes as close to flat as possible, as much as possible, in general. Also the fact that the stack height in the heel (23mm) is slightly greater than the Kinvaras (22mm) and I was looking for something with slightly less cushioning.

But guys, these shoes DO NOT ride like they have a 9-10mm drop. I don't know if it's the light weight or the flexibility or what, but I never find the heel running into the ground when I land the way that sometimes tends to happen when I run in shoes with more than a little drop. (I suspect this may also have to do with the fact that the forefoot is actually 4mm closer to the ground than in the Kinvaras, because of the larger heel drop.) They feel good, so numbers be damned.

(This post from RunBlogger does a good job of explaining why different amounts of drop may feel different to different people depending on how they run and how the shoe is made, so it could be that some of those factors are in play here.)

I bought these shoes as potential mid-distance racers & never really intended to just wear them as trainers, but I have to admit that the more I run in them, the more I want to run in them. I am being a little cautious about how far I go in them right now (that's gotten me in trouble before), but so far, even at super slow, easy paces, 7-8 miles seems like no problem.

Bottom Line

I am loving these shoes significantly more than I was expecting to. I'm curious to see what it feels like to run fast in them as I haven't done much of that yet, but they are super responsive and, like I said, have the perfect combination (for my tastes) of ground feel & cushion, so I'm optimistic that the six-to-thirteen mile range might be right in their wheel house. (And hey, they're ~$60 on Amazon right now for most sizes, so it's not a crazy insane risk if you're on the fence.)


  1. Ha! I have a pair of these too (sorry - I haven't posted a shoe review in about a year now :P). I got them to replace the previous model, which I bought and loved early last year. I completely agree about the seams - I wear rather thin socks so my feet got scratched up. It does get better and I like everything else about them, but I used to use them for track workouts rather than longer runs. These days I cycle between these (firm, more ground feel), the Hitogami (firm but softer, a little higher-riding) and my elderly Kinvaras (squishier, less ground feel but lower overall drop) depending on how I feel. I've come to accept there ain't no One Shoe to Rule Them All.

  2. How do these compare to the Mizuno Wave Musha? That's my current race shoe, but as you know, it's discontinued.

    1. I've been trying to remember, but it's been long enough since my last pair that my memory is a little fuzzy. They do remind me of the Mushas in some ways (ground feel / amount of cushion / responsiveness), but the Musha was definitely a bit heavier, & I think they may have been a little harder & slightly less flexible front-to-back. Totally just going off memory, though.

  3. I have a pair myself and have done a couple 5ks and 5 milers in them. They do take some getting used to, but feel like slippers once you do,And they're pretty. But not that that's important or anything....

    1. Lol. I agree. I think I'm getting used to them more, but I ran 9 miles in them on Tuesday with four at race pace & that was probably a little too much too soon. I can definitely see them for the 5K-10K range; we'll see if I ever get comfortable enough with them for a half.