Review: New Balance NewSky

As more athletes embrace the ethos of good-form running, the trend of barefoot-inspired footwear is spilling over into new areas. The craze that started on the beach soon moved to the streets and sidewalks, then the trails and mountains. Now, it’s landed on the sofa.

The NewSky is an everyday, around-the-house barefoot shoe from New Balance — a company that already makes a raft of barefoot shoes for running on the pavement and in the hills. The NewSky is designed to be worn as a minimalist recovery shoe, not a running shoe. You change into them when you get home from your run — presumably one you just completed while wearing some other minimalist model.

It’s minimalist in another sense, too, since it makes extensive use of post-consumer recycled materials. The shoe’s upper is fabricated using 95 percent post-consumer recycled PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) bottles, and the outsole is held in place with a layer of water-based glue. On average, each pair of NewSkys uses the equivalent of eight 20-ounce PET bottles.

The NewSky also uses the absolute minimum amount of material necessary to craft a piece of footwear, and ends up using 73 percent less material than the average New Balance running shoe. You can see this in how slender the NewSky is, and you can feel it when you pick it up. It’s extremely lightweight — the women’s size 7 weighs in at 4.1 ounces.

The design is stylish almost to the point of being elegant, at least for a sneaker. The PET fabric resembles dark grey felt. Unlike felt, it has a stiffness that wears well and shows great stain resistance. My tester shoes have remained new-looking for the past month, and I’ve worn them more frequently than any other shoe in my closet. The fabric seems to fold or crease rather than wrinkle. Laces are either black, or a contrasting color that provides a visual pop when matched with the color of the outsole and sole. While wearing these around, I’ve received compliments from people as varied as twenty-something hipsters to my 90-year-old grandfather.

The shoe earns as many points for comfort as it does for style. The foam sole has a 4mm drop from heel to toe, similar to the New Balance Minimus and many other barefoot-style running shoes. Prior to receiving this pair of NewSkys, not having seen the design in person but knowing it’s meant to be worn as a recovery shoe, I was expecting the sole to resemble the Nike Free. The sole is actually much different in that it is very minimal and just padded enough for wearing as an everyday shoe. The parts of the shoe that contact the ground are made of EVA nubs.

The end result is something that just feels really good. And not only are they supremely comfy to wear, they’re smart-looking and sustainable. An all-around winner.

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