Light, Soft, Fast, the New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon V2 Does It All

The thick sole remains unchanged but tweaks to the upper improve the fit.

The RW Takeaway: High mileage and competitive runners will love this soft, zippy trainer.

  • Lightweight midsole is soft but not mushy.
  • The upper fits a little loose and breathes well.
  • Don’t sweat durability—the foam sole held up well in our testing.

Price: $170
Weight: 218 g (M), 187 g (W)
Type: Road
Drop: 6 mm


I have a type, I’ll admit: soft, light, and fast. The New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon V2 delivers in all three areas, which is a rare feat for a running shoe. I loved the debut model a year ago because it reminded me of the original Hoka One One Clifton and Saucony Kinvara, two longtime favourites that also hit those marks.

New Balance kept things largely the same this year, but really improved the fit. The original model ran small and short—up to a full size for some runners. This model dials in the length, so you can order your traditional size online without worrying about a site’s return shipping policies. We appreciated the extra room in the forefoot and really loved the new heel. It has a molded construction to cradle your foot without using rigid heel counters, and the top of the shoe curves away from your Achilles so you don’t get any hotspots there.

The midsole and outsole are identical to the previous version. In this case, that’s a good thing because the Beacon works. I love new tech and innovative shoes, but also appreciate when good ones are left alone. This is one such model I hope remains unchanged when v3 is unveiled this time next year.

New Balance

Fresh Foam Beacon V2
  • Soft and light
  • Can be used for long runs and speed sessions
  • Upper fit has been improved


  • Try before you buy: might fit large
  • Exposed foam shows small signs of wear

The Sole Shines

To keep the Beacon as light as possible, New Balance used as little rubber as possible underfoot, limiting it to the areas of highest wear. That means you’re only going to find a couple hex-shaped patches under the heel and the forefoot. The rest of the sole is made up of the brand’s Fresh Foam Ground Contact compound. It’s a slightly more durable midsole foam that can handle extra abuse from pavement.

Testers initially thought that lack of rubber would mean reduced traction and premature wear, but were pleasantly surprised after 100 or more miles. “The outsole looks great, no signs of early wear on the heel pad or the forefoot,” said one longtime tester who runs 45 miles per week at 7:45 pace. “I tend to rotate outward when I push off and outsoles usually show signs of this—but not this shoe.” After a couple of more months, we do see the foam showing signs of wear, but not enough to warrant any real concern over durability.

The sole is mostly foam with just a few patches of rubber for durability.

A Roomier Upper

A year ago, we were recommending you size up in the Beacon. This year, we might suggest you go the other way. Most of us found the shoe fits comfortably roomy. The toe box, in particular, is accommodating for wide feet on long runs; the first model really felt cramped toward the end of the toes. Credit that to the new engineered mesh upper at the front of the shoe. It’s thin and flexible, but also breathes well.

The back half of the shoe is a new construction for the Beacon, using what New Balance calls its “Ultra Heel.” Essentially, it’s a 3D-molded cup that eliminates the hard plastic parts used internally to cradle your heel. Testers appreciated the slight bit of padding within that heel, which boosted comfort slightly without making the shoe feel too plush and bulky.

All praised the shoe’s ability to dump water when it got wet. We tested the Beacon during a hot summer and it kept our testers running cool.

How It Runs

The thick sole underfoot is deceptive. It looks as if it might be Hoka-like squishy, but isn’t. To be sure, there’s plenty of cushioning there, though it has a firm feeling that really works well for everything from a long run to a spirited “dash for the barn”—those otherwise easy daily jogs that end with a good burst of speed. And that’s exactly how I used it. One run was the day after a hard 10K race, when my legs were shot, but the Beacon let me put in 11 miles without too much trouble. Though, more often, I’d reach for it when I headed out on a lunch run with a couple of the speedier Runner’s World staff. Then, I wanted a comfortable shoe but was fully aware we were going to run faster than I’d planned. The Beacon always kept up with the pack.

Wear Tester Feedback

Renae P., tester since 2017
Arch: Medium | Gait: Neutral | Footstrike: Midfoot

“This shoe takes the prize for being my favourite shoe. It is lightweight, cushioned, attractive, and comfortable. I get a lot of compliments when I wear them. I do not like to untie or retie my shoes, and the way the collar is designed—it has an extra long heel tab which I was able to use to pull the shoe on without untying—is perfect for me.”

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