New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v4 Review
Cons: Not as comfortable
Manufacturer: New Balance
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Fresh Foam Zante v4 took home our Best Buy Award for its all-around performance and excellent price tag. Even though its overall score seemed fairly low when judged against its closest competitors, the Zante is the least expensive shoe that we tested and is far better than its numbers might imply.
Check out the metrics to see how the Zante v4 ran away with our esteemed Best Buy Award.
A shoe can be intriguing in many different ways, but if it isn't comfortable, we're just not buying. That being said, running shoes are available in a wide variety of cushioning styles, and the most padded shoe is not always the best choice for the average runner. Our favorite all-around shoes had a medium amount of cushioning that didn't interfere too much with the shoe's responsiveness. Like its predecessor, the Zante v3, we found the Zante v4 to be a great middle ground between these two opposing metrics. Its comfort is without a doubt one of our favorite features of this Best Buy Award winner.
Unlike some characteristics, like durability, a higher score does is not always a good thing. For example, the Hoka Bondi was the most cushioned shoe in this review, but as such, we found it only appropriate for a specialized audience looking for a high-mileage long distance shoe. After this, we tested shoes like the Hoka Clifton, Brooks Ghost, Brooks Glycerin, and our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS.
All of these products have very cushioned soles, making them decent choices for long runs, new runners, injured athletes, or anyone looking for an exceptionally soft stride. Following these comfortable rides, we have the Zante. With similar performance to the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus and Adidas Ultraboost X, this budget-friendly competitor has ample cushioning without sacrificing weight or responsiveness.
While perhaps not suited for marathon-level training runs, the Zante v4 is constructed with New Balance's patented "Fresh Foam" and we were impressed with how comfortable we were mile after mile. Pounding pavement can be tough on the feet, knees, and hips, and the "Fresh Foam" of the Zante kept us pleased.
Responsiveness and landing comfort are often thought of as opposing qualities. The more cushioned a shoe, the less like it is to propel you down the track with speed. Generally speaking, our testers noticed that the average runner is shopping for a blend of these two characteristics. After many miles in each pair, we believe that the Zante v4 does a great job at finding this middle line.
Models that scored highly in this category tended to be lightweight and less cushioned, and the Zante is an excellent example of how a shoe can find the balance between two essential qualities. While not quite as responsive as the Pegasus or Ultraboost X, the Zante does have a rapid step that is vastly superior to the Bondi, our Top Pick for Going the Distance.
The "Fresh Foam" sole material is comfortable without falling flat, and the bounce in our step kept us coming back for more as long as our speed workouts would allow.
While some metrics, like responsiveness and landing comfort, require our testers to spend hours upon hours testing and really getting to know the shoes, we can start judging upper comfort as soon as we take the shoe out of the box. For this category, we look at the padding in the tongue, heel, and sides, as well as breathability and material softness.
The Zante v4, like the v3 before it, is a relatively comfortable shoe, but without the supple padding of the Brooks models, it was difficult to settle for a lighter, more minimalistic design. Similar to the Altra Escalante, the Zante has barely any padding. The material was soft, but if we were going to spend all day in running shoes, we'd usually prefer a model like the Brooks Adrenaline GTS to keep us comfortable. The inner material is stiffer than we might have liked, and while we appreciated the snug fit, the Zante's narrow profile may be a deal-breaker for some buyers. For this reason, we highly recommend trying this shoe on before purchasing.
As far as the upper is concerned, one of the Zante's redeeming quality was its impressive breathability. Compared to the thick materials of the Brooks Glycerin or Hoka Clifton, the upside to the Zante's minimal padding was great airflow, making this Best Buy winner a solid choice for quick, fast runs in warm weather.
One of the more complex metrics in our testing, stability can refer to a specialized type of shoe design engineered to keep runners who overpronate in a healthier stride, or it can simply refer to the structure that keeps the foot in line. While New Balance doesn't stress stability as a major design feature of the Zante, we were still impressed with its solid lateral reinforcements that kept us feeling confident in our steps.
Similar to the v3 that we originally tested, the printed overlay found on the side of the Zante v4 provides excellent support even for runners with neutral strides. Though there was little reinforcement in the toe, the laces allow the lateral overlays to be pulled in tightly for a very snug and controlled fit. We found the support in the Zante to perform similarly to the Bondi and Glycerin whose midfoot constructions have a similar feature.
The weight differences in the shoes we tested are a matter of just a few ounces, and we find that most runners should be more concerned with design features like comfort and responsiveness before they get overly paranoid about ounces. That being said, we couldn't deny the refreshingly lightweight build of the Zante that earned it the highest possible score in this category.
The Zante weighs in at just 7.4 ounces per shoe, putting it in second place, right behind the Altra Escalante. Interestingly enough, the fits of these shoes are entirely different. While the Zante is firm and supportive, the Escalante is minimal and soft. We usually prefer to shave ounces wherever possible, but it should be noted that with running shoes, weight is a definite compromise to other vital attributes. For the Zante, upper comfort was compromised for this weight, which may or may not make it a good fit for you.
Because of the Zante's supportive build and great balance between comfort and responsiveness, we would recommend this shoe for the average short- to middle-distance runner looking for a bouncy step. The light weight of the Zante puts it in the running for a potential racing shoe or speed workout companion. We would not, however, recommend doing our long, slow runs in this shoe, as the snug fit and lack of underfoot padding wore on our feet after too many miles.
At $100, the Zante is the least expensive shoe we tested this year. While the average price of our favorite shoes was around $130, we found the Zante to be a great value, especially for its decent scores across the board. In every metric we tested, the Zante was above-average, and while it may not excel in any one category, it does do a solid job getting us from point A to point B quickly and comfortably.
Here at OutdoorGearLab, we like to judge a product based on its performance before we look at its price. Were it not for its $100 price tag, we would likely continue to recommend the Brooks Adrenaline GTS over the Zante because of its superior comfort, or the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus for its great bounce. However, its position as the least expensive shoe we tested helps us promote its truly solid balance between all five scoring metrics. If weight is important to you, or if you're concerned about investing too much money in a product you may not use that often, the Zante is a great buy. We always recommend trying on a shoe in person before purchasing, and we reinforce this here because of the Zante's tighter fit. At the end of the day, we were happy to award the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante our Best Buy Award for its great performance across the board and excellent balance between cushioning and responsiveness.
— Lauren DeLaunay
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