I was in the market for a shoe that was lightweight but had a good tread pattern for both roads and trails. While shopping in the New Balance store, the salesman explained that they have a new shoe that is named “2015 Shoe of the Year” by Competitor Magazine. Could this be the “Saucony Kinvara Killer” so many companies have tried to make? I was a bit skeptic since the Zante was only on the market for 2 days but I decided to check out what all the hype was all about.
The New Balance Fresh Foam category got a nice facelift this year coming out with two new Fresh Foam models: the Boracay, which basically a revamped Fresh Foam 980, and the lighter, more race-friendly Zante. Measuring 23mm in the heel and 17mm in the forefoot making for a killer 6mm drop half-marathon, marathon and possibly beyond shoe! Weighing in at 8.1 ounces (men’s size 9) the neutral support Zante is a great option for a lightweight shoe that can go the distance without weighing you down. Is it the right shoe for you? Continue reading to find out!
Upper and Fit
My immediate reaction upon sliding my foot into the shoe was, “Holy smokes this upper mesh is soft!” The no-sew upper truly wraps around your foot, hugging it snug while leaving plenty of room for your toes to splay in the toe-box while running on technical terrain or roads.
The upper breathed well in both humid East Coast heat and dry California heat. My only concern is that the upper is so minimal that your feet would not be too happy in the winter months in the more frigid temperatures.
Midsole and Ride
My experience with Fresh Foam midsole material began with the 980 last year. They marketed the shoe as a highly cushioned, soft shoe but yet this was not the case. The Zante feels more cushioned than the 980 with a more supple and responsive ride making for a great race or up-tempo shoe.
Overall the midsole is softer in the heel and firmer in the forefoot to create a more responsive ride. When I run I usually am a midfoot strike and there was plenty of cushion to support a runner wanting to use these in marathon distances.
One word of caution: there is a very distinct bump, called the Toe Spring by New Balance, near the forefoot. This bump feels like your foot is hanging off a ledge and does not feel natural but the feeling dissipates while you run. The bump put my foot in a mid-foot gait more naturally than with other shoes.
A fascinating feature of the Zante is how the weight can be 8.1 ounces yet have a full outsole. Many shoes in this category feature little pods of rubber for traction and the rest of the outsole is EVA foam like in the Saucony Kinvara and Hoka One One Clifton.
The full outsole is a low profile tread that can take the abuse from many road and trail miles. I ran a lot of trail miles in this shoe both in dry, dusty and sandy California as well as muddy Virginia trails after a fresh thunderstorm and the shoe gripped very well in all conditions for a road shoe.
I bought this shoe as a “door-to-trail” shoe meaning I can run on the road to the trails and back all in the same shoe. I decided to wear this shoe at my last trail 50k while visiting family in California and the shoe held up wonderfully. The lightweight upper allowed my feet to stay cool and the full tread gave me plenty of confidence on the fast and steep downhills. The Fresh Foam midsole was protective enough on the rocks and roots to not leave my feet feel banged up after so many miles. It passed my final test with flying colors.
Is this the right shoe for you? The answer is yes if you are looking for a shoe with:
-A soft yet responsive neutral ride that can double as a daily trainer and race-flat.
-Has an upper that is sock-like.
-Has enough room in the toe-box for good toe-splay.
-You can run on the road or the trails with a full tread that will protect your feet through the miles but only weighing in the low 8-ounce mark.
This new lightweight cushioned option is what I believe to be the “Saucony Kinvara Killer” that New Balance needed to produce to stay relevant in today’s competitive shoe market.
You can find the New Balance Zante at our affiliate Amazon link below: