I’m a distance runner. As any distance runner knows, it takes time to find the perfect shoe, and when you do find it, you hope that the manufacturer keeps it around for a while. Most manufacturers these days feel a need to revamp their styles/models year after year. I’ve got one thing to say HEY! IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT!
I’m tired of it already!
When I first got into running 25 years ago, my co-worker (Rich Mendelowitz) said “Howard, trust me, just get the Nike Air Pegasus”. I did, and for a couple years, it’s all I ran in. It was a great shoe. Now, with every year, they come out with a new Air Pegasus – and these days Nike sizing runs narrow…so I’m no longer a Nike man.
For the past 10 years, I’ve pretty much been solely with New Balance. They provide more room, and excellent cushioning. For the last 3 or 4 years I’ve only worn the 883. I remember going to our local New Balance store and thought they looked kind of strange with the full flat sole, but boy were they comfortable. So, since then it’s all I’ve run in. I’d go online once or twice a year and purchase from my favorite shop and made sure I always had an extra pair or two in the closet.
Then, maybe a year or so ago, they began to show up being discounted and a note that they would soon be discontinued. OH CRAP! I immediately bought an extra 4 pairs. Now at the end of my stash, I had to find an alternative. Luckily, last week a 15% email coupon showed up from the local New Balance store, so I figured it was time to bite the bullet.
Yesterday, I made my trek to the shop, checked out what was there, and was told the 840 was the replacement for the 883. The shoe looked very similar, but there were some distinct differences. I went on the New Balance site, and I was surprised to find complaint after complaint about the shoe. Some seemed like reasonable complaints and left me wondering if I should just return them. However, I figured I had the shoes already, got them for 15% off, and they did feel good when I tried them on, so I’d give them a shot.
Today, on my daily run I did a 6 miler at a pretty good pace. The shoes felt good, and I didn’t have any negative thoughts. Granted, it was just one run, so who knows how well they’ll hold up. I have a half marathon in two weeks, so I’ll break them in between now and then, and then use them in the race.
Anyhow, I figured while they’re still new, and I do still have a new pair of 883s in the box, I’d provide a short comparison for anyone else who may find themselves in a similar situation.
Click on any photo for full size view
883 on the left, 840 on the right. First notice, the 883 is size 8.5, 840 is 9. I always knew the 883 was so strange because I normally wear 9, but when I put them on the first time, 9 was too big, 8.5 was the size. So, 840 is sized correctly, 883 ran large by a half size.
1. Laces – 883 has the wavy, 840 has plain old one. I like the wavy ones – when you tie them, they stay tied better.
2. N-Lock – you can see it on the 883 with the laces going through the four loops in the 2nd and 3rd row.
3. The lace pass-through on the tongue on the 883 is further down than on the 840.
4. On the toe box, the 883 has silver material, the 840 has this gaudy/shiny pseudo/faux patent leather – it’s fugly and makes it look cheap. Hopefully with some break in the shine/luster will dull. There’s more of this ugly material in black and red along the side trim and rear. Maybe New Balance got a truckload of this garbage material at a bargain price? The best way to describe it in comparison to the 883 is analogous to a glossy finish photo (the 840 in this case) vs. a matte finish photo (the 883).
1. The bottom of the shoe has a different pattern on the 840. The 840 has slightly more surface area on the ground.
2. The 883 has horizontal ridges on the ground under the flat part of the foot – for better traction I suppose. The 840 has more uniformly flat surface. The 840 does have the horizontal ridges here and there, but they are deeper/embedded so they would never make contact with the ground.
1. Clearly there are some changes here. Again, N-Lock is gone. Where the N-Lock pulled the shoe around the mid-section of the foot, the 840 has some additional silver bands that are pulled taught with the laces. The silver banding looks like it is over a different/wider region of the foot and might be better than the N-Lock.
Similar differences as the other side.
1. The 840 appears to have a bit more room widthwise – that’s most likely because I ran in them today where I pulled the 883 out of the box brand new.
2. The toe box is the biggest difference – the 883 is much wider and squared across the front like a U, whereas the 840 is more narrow/pointed like a V.
3. The material around the ankle/achilles is very different. In the 883 it is the nylon/perforated mesh, whereas in the 840 it is more like velvet/velour/polartec. The 840 is definitely softer with more cushioning – off the bat, I can’t say whether that’s a big benefit around that area of my foot. My only real concern here is that the 840 may not breath as well as the 883 on those long/humid runs – that velvet material may act just like a sponge and absorb it all, without dissipating/drying. We’ll see.
The inserts are quite different.
1. On the 883 the material is like foam with a cloth on the top. The 840 appears to be a similar foam, but the bottom seems to have a thin coating which seals it (see next photo), while the top has a thin layer of velvet/velour. Again, as with the cushioning around the ankle/achilles, I have some concern about the breathability and ability to dry. I have been on long runs in very humid weather where at times my feet would feel so wet and waterlogged that when my foot would hit the ground, it would sound like a squeegy. A few miles later and they would be pretty dry. We’ll have to see how the 840 does.
Notice bottom of 840 does not look like foam, but has more of a plastic/rubber shine to it. However, if you look at the 840 insert from the side, you can see that it is a foam layer pressed between the other two.
The bottom layer on the inside of the shoes are quite different as well. On the 883, it is basically the bottom of the shoe, it’s hard, you see the stitching down the center, and there are some additional inserts/supports surrounding the bottom of the heel. The major difference with the 840 as you can see, is that there is another layer of foam – that’s what the aqua colored layer is with the stitching going around the perimeter. Clearly this adds additional cushioning to the 840.
So, having owned my pair of 840s for a bit more than 24 hours, I don’t have anything negative to say at this point (besides the fugly faux patent leather strips). The build of the shoe is similar, though different and clearly, there is additional cushioning in the 840 around the ankle/achilles as well as the bottom of the shoe with that extra layer of foam.
I won’t pass judgment at this time, but again, I have nothing negative to say.
If you are looking to get a replacement for your old 883s, I’d say to give the 840s a try.
Update May 13, 2012
So, having run in my 840s for the past month I’m in a better position to provide some first hand experience. I’ve averaged between 25 and 30 miles a week and had a half marathon in there as well.
Sizing – as most all people who purchase the 840 and provided reviews, the sizing is somewhat annoying. My size 9 has my toes periodically brushing up against the front of the toe box. Not in a major way that would indicate the shoe is too small, but just enough that I notice it. When I lace up I find myself periodically smacking the back of my heel to get my foot a bit more room at the front. You might think, well, just get a 9 1/2. Problem is, 9 1/2 is much too big. When I went in to the store, I tried 8 1/2 (my 883 size), then 9 1/2 (what they sized me for), and lastly the 9. I felt like I was swimming around on the 9 1/2.
Wear – after running solely on the 840s for a month, I’ve put between 100 and 125 miles on them. Looking at the bottoms, it appears that they are not wearing as well as the 883s. We’ll see how they hold up over the next month or so.
Insole – for the most part, the insole is very good. However, in the heel, the form isn’t very good. It’s not smooth and well rounded. It’s a bit crumpled up on the sides – like there’s too much of it in the form. It’s not very noticable, but at times, I do feel like my heel is being pinched a little.
Overall, my view is that the shoe is just ok. Knowing what I know now, I won’t be buying another pair or stocking up on them – I’ll just run these out, and then throw them in the pile which I use for landscaping around the house. As much as I believe in going in to the store to try/purchase the first pair, I’ve reverted to my favorite online discount/closeouts store. I received a pair of closeout 580s and after the first run on them, like them significantly better than the 840s. The fit is much better and they are very light. They also put 790s on clearance, so in a few days I’ll be able to try those and then make my big purchase to stock up…but so far, the 580 has pleasantly surprised me…at less than half the price of the 840s.
Bottom line, if you really love your 883s, the 840 may be a reasonable replacement if the sizing works out for you. Personally, for me, overall, I can’t give it a thumbs up.
Update May 27, 2012
My discount pair of 790s arrived and after trying them on, I immediately placed my bulk order for an additional 5 pairs of the 580. Cushioning/stability of the 790 is good, however, the heel is significantly higher than the toe – while wearing them I felt as though I was leaning forward.
Anyhow, I’m very happy with the 580 and along with my two remaining pairs of 883s and the 840 I should be in good shape for the next two or three years.
Update January 2, 2013
In early October I ran my annual marathon in my 580s and set a PR chopping 15 minutes off the PR I set on the same course 3 years earlier. My training was good, about the same as in the past, maybe slightly better. I’m convinced that the 580s had something to do with it.