New Balance 904 Trail Running Shoe

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Introduced earlier this year, the 904 is bound to become a trail runner favorite. Built with a Strobel last to give the shoe a mix of stability needed on uneven trails and flexibility a runner wants for performance, the 904s can take you over dirt, rocks, and mud and then return you comfortably to any pavement you need to traverse on the way there or back.

One SNEWS tester -- someone who insists never to have met a trail shoe that was up to snuff -- now refuses to take them off. "Not only are they really comfortable, but they provide excellent support and stability. I've never really been a big fan of trail running shoes because I've always found them too stiff and too heavy. But New Balance has definitely done some great things with this shoe!"

Another SNEWS tester liked how they could be comfortable on roads with a relatively low profile fit, while still offering grip and stability needed for trails. We've even seen them on the feet of runners at the starting line of road races. Not their normal setting, for sure, because if you want truly lightweight, these have an ounce or two more than that.

They also aren't waterproof, only moderately water-resistant, so you will get wet feet in a steady rain or if you miss the jump across a creek, so these may not be the best winter choice depending on your needs and preferences.

Oddly, the women's 904 is built on New Balances' SL-2 last, which means it's designed for a woman who needs a shoe for a narrow heel, high instep, and wide forefoot, while also demanding a wide toe box. The men's, on the other hand, is built on the company's SL-1 last, which is for a standard foot across the board. We're not sure if that's because the company thinks women trail runners have different feet than men trail runners do? One SNEWS woman tester likes the shoes stability but found she had to get them laced snugly to fit her more standard foot. Normally, a woman with a more standard foot or needs may need to turn to the company's less technical 804 trail shoe with its SL-1 last.

Nevertheless, the shoe's extra heel and forefoot cushioning (with Abzorb), medial posting, trademarked Tru-Trak outsole, and molded TPU overlay can satisfy many runner's needs -- especially one who needs different widths since of course per New Balance tradition, these too come in narrow, regular, and wide widths for both men and women. Weights -- women's 7, 11.1 ounces; men's 9 .5, 13.8 ounces.

SNEWS Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection.

Suggested Retail: $100

For information: www.newbalance.com

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