New Balance Fresh Foam Zante

I can’t imagine how long I’ve put off this review. Now, before that statement made you think that NB served up a lemon in the form of the Zante (pronounced “Zantay”), let me assure that it’s not the case. It’s been one of my firm favorites in the last 2 months of my GCAM15 training. I liked it so much that I wanted it to be my marathon race shoe but it wasn’t to be. It’s evident from the photos below how much I’ve put the shoes to use.

Named after a gorgeous island in Greece, the Zante was one of two shoes launched by NB early 2015 (the other being the Boracay, another famous island destination in the Philippines) that saw a departure from the confusing nomenclature used by NB.

If the term Fresh Foam (not related to a certain golden hop/malt based beverage) sounded familiar, you’d be right. The midsole material was first used on the NB 980. I’ve not worn the 980 and although reviews were generally OK, it was widely panned for wrong marketing – it was neither as plush nor soft as the marketers made it out to be. The Boracay, with a retweaked midsole, has since replaced the 980, while the Zante is an entirely new shoe marketed as a go-fast option.

Link to the Irish eBay site.
M625. Be very afraid of the asking price!

It’s been ages since I last owned a pair of NB. I was a fan of the venerable brand back in the days (my favorite was the M625 you see above, a lightweight performance trainer). NBs were still made in the USA then and had a classy boutique in the KL Plaza. And they were the Volvo of running shoes – built like a tank.

Fast forward 23 years later, my idea of fun shoes are those made with simplicity in mind. Keep the upper design and construction simple, avoid excessive overlays, do away with plastic inserts here and there, and I’m generally good. Which is why I reach out to the GOrun 4, Boston Boost 5, Kinvara 5, Ultra Boost (for recovery runs) the most often. The Zante joins this list of favorites.

The Zante is a really simple shoe. Very simple breathable upper that fit like sock, single density foam, full contact outsole. Herein lies the mystery. Despite the simple take on the construction, the shoe weighs in at 8.25oz for US10, which is around the Kinvara 5’s. 8.25 is still light but if you’ve ran in the Zante, you’d have thought it was a sub 8oz shoe.

The front mesh is  very breathable while the dark section has a tighter weave.

There’s only a sliver of reflective element resides on the lateral side of the toebox in the form of a two-pronged fork. The upper is stretchy and never once did my toes felt cramped. I like how the tongue padding is kept just nice to prevent any pressure from the thin laces on top of the foot. The tongue is connected to an inner sleeve which means no sliding around – no stopping to readjust the tongue which means the wearer can just enjoy the running experience.

Tongue is integrated with the inner sleeve.

 

The internal heel counter is soft compared to the monstrous types seen on the Kayano 21, for example. There’s no rubbing whatsoever, and the best thing is the absence of unnecessary weight. The collar isn’t notched, and the padding not overboard. Heel lock down is fantastic as it is.

The removable insole is soft and perforated, and feels like that of the DS Racer.

The Zante has stack heights of 23mm and 17mm (heel/toe) for a 6mm drop, not too low to turn off traditionalists. The midsole foam has a honeycombed pattern – concave on the lateral side, convex on the medial.

As mentioned earlier, the outsole is a full contact one, made up of hexagonal lugs. The lugs aren’t that deep nor are they of the hard-wearing variety. They have a nice grippy feel on all the surfaces (wet or dry)  I’ve run on, from synthetic track, sandy road shoulders, hard tiles to tarmac. After 190KM logged, you can see that it wears better than Skechers’ foam but inferior to the Continental rubber used by adidas in the higher end models. I reckon I could push the mileage to 400KM before the forefoot lugs are sheared down to the base.

Forefoot wear is obvious but quite even.
Wear signs on the outer heel of the left shoe.

With the full contact outsole and a substantial toe spring, which you can see from the photo below, the Zante treats the wearer to a fast and smooth ride. The Zante feels more balanced shoe than the heel-heavy Boston Boost 5, more responsive than the Kinvara 5 and fits better than the GOrun 4. There’s not a stitch on the Zante that’s wrongly put together and it’s easy to see why that even at the beginning of the year, Competitor.com awarded it their Road Shoe Of The Year. I’ve ran my 10K PR and have enjoyed nearly every run from track workouts to 23K in them.

It’s unfortunate then that I’m unable to wear them for the marathon owing to its firmer forefoot cushioning. While ideal for races up to the half marathon, I’ve experienced some forefoot soreness after 21K. Faster and more efficient runners may be able to take it further than I could. If you belong in that category, you’re going to really enjoy the Zante for all its worth.

The New Balance Zante retails at RM439.00 (going rate for shoes these days!) and is already available at all NB and MarathonShop outlets.

Originally published: Jun 23, 2015