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New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Review: A Better Fresh Foam

New Balance Fresh Foam ZanteEarlier this year I reviewed the New Balance Fresh Foam 980. It was an interesting shoe in that it was far more responsive than the marketing associated with the shoe would have suggested. The 980 was firm, not soft and foamy, and I liked the ride. Unfortunately it suffered from a cramped toebox that left me with toe blisters on longer runs. I’d heard rumors that New Balance would be addressing the toebox issue in future members of the Fresh Foam line, and I was excited to hear that one of the next releases would be a lighter, speedier model called the Zante.

The Zante is the third addition to the Fresh Foam collection (the FF Trail was released earlier this year). The Zante isn’t actually going to be available widely until next year (now available at Running Warehouse), but they released a special edition version of the shoe for the NYC Marathon. I purchased a pair and have put enough miles on them now to share some thoughts.

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante

Specs

Stack Height: 6mm drop (I measure roughly 26-27mm heel, 21mm forefoot)

Weight: 7.5oz

To get an idea of how New Balance is positioning the Zante, here’s an excerpt from the description on their website:

“The Fresh Foam Zante NYC fits like a supportive sock, hugging your arch while allowing your toes to spread out comfortably. Compared to the original Fresh Foam 980, it’s sleek fit feels more like a racing flat. The toe spring helps the shoe look fast and feel fast, assisting with the quick transition of the foot from heel to toe.”

Unlike the marketing for the 980, I’d say they are pretty spot-on in describing the Zante. It’s like a sleeker, better fitting version of the 980, and I’ve really enjoyed running in them.

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante

Upper and Fit

Compared to the 980, the both the upper and fit of the Zante are much improved. The front half of the upper is composed of a stretchy mesh that feels quite soft and stretchy. This allows for a much greater degree of toe wiggle than in the toe squishing toebox of the 980. It also feels as if there might be a tad more room up front, and the fit is near perfect on my average width foot (I did go a half size up as I did in the 980).

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Top

There is minimal structure to the upper over the forefoot, just a few welded overlays. One possible point of concern is that I am seeing some tearing of the upper just in front of the arch on my right foot (see image below). In fairness, I’m not sure if this is due to wear and tear from running, or if I might have snagged the upper on something. There is no evidence of tearing on the left shoe. I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has experienced this? I’m hoping I just snagged it as I’d hate to see an upper flaw ruin an otherwise solid shoe.

Zante Upper Tear

The back half of the upper is slightly thicker and more structured, and the heel counter, though present, is soft and very flexible. Internally, the Zante is soft and comfortable. I haven’t tried running sockless in them, but I’d be willing to try once things warm up where I live.

The tongue of the Zante is attached to the upper on both sides, giving the shoe a bootie-like construction. It hugs the foot nicely, and I’d have to say that this is one of the best uppers I have seen on a New Balance shoe in awhile.

I also want to add that I really like the look of the Zante – it’s not a flashy shoe, but the upper has a really nice design and the NYC colorway is pretty sweet.

Sole

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante

This is where things get interesting. I’ve talked to a few other people who have run in the Zante and the comparison I am seeing frequently is a a cross between the Pearl Izumi Road N1 and the Saucony Kinvara. My initial thought was a cross between the Skechers GoRun 1 and the PI Road N1. The reason being is that it has the firm sole feel and smooth transition of the Pearl N1, and a midfoot bump and upper reminiscent of the Skechers GR1.

One of the first things I noticed upon putting the shoes on my feet was the distinct midfoot bump. Some might call it arch support, but to me it feels more like a bump or ridge that extends across the width of the shoe under the arch. In this sense it’s like the GR1 or maybe the original Brooks PureConnect (the PI N1 even has a bit of this type of feel). It was a bit disconcerting at first, but like the bump in the GoRun the sensation went away after running in them a bit. You will feel it while standing in them, but it has been a non-issue for me on the run.

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante My first run in the Zante was on a very cold day, and I felt that the sole was very firm, much like that of the 980. After running in them in a variety of temperatures for the following several weeks I’ve come to think that the Zante is a tad softer than the 980, moreso under the heel (as with most shoes, the sole feels firmer in the cold). The midfoot through forefoot are firm and responsive, and unless you are a heavy heel striker that’s probably how you’ll describe the Zante experience. However, when forcing a harder heel strike (I’m a light heel striker) I was better able to feel the softness of the heel and the smooth transition from heel to forefoot. I think the Zante will appeal to both types of runners, and it’s interesting how different the ride feels depending on how you contact.

The outsole of the Zante is full coverage rubber – as a result, I expect durability should be decent.

Conclusions

The New Balance Fresh Foam  Zante is the kind of shoe that will work well when you pick up the pace due to the firm and responsive forefoot, and it’s also well-cushioned enough to handle longer runs. Overall it’s a very versatile shoe that should appeal to a wide range of runners. If the upper tear on my shoe is not a widespread issue I’d rank it among the better shoes I have reviewed this year. I highly recommend the Zante!

For other takes on the Fresh Foam Zante, see this review by Sam Winebaum and this review by Peter Stuart on Believe in the Run.

Purchasing Options

The New Balance Fresh Foam Zante is available at Running WarehouseNewBalance.com, and Zappos. Outside of the US the Zante is available at Running Warehouse EU. Purchases made via these links provide a small commission to Runblogger and help to support the production of reviews like this one – thanks!

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Recent Posts By Category: Running Shoe Reviews | Running Gear Reviews | Running Science
About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. David Henry says:

    Nice review Pete! I did try the NYC Zante’s on and while I liked the new VL-6 last I was a little turned off by what seemed to be excessive toe spring to me so didn’t end up running in them. Did you get any of that? I did notice the midfoot bump too which I didn’t expect after trying the 980, but overall I’d agree that the shoe would probably work for many runners, although for me with the adios boost for longer efforts and many other lighter shoes for faster stuff, it felt like it would sit too much in the middle on the fast/long continuum for me. For someone looking for one shoe to do a lot various work though it could be pretty appealing.

    • Toe spring didn’t bother me, but I would agree on the difficult positioning for this shoe. In that sense it is much like the Kinvara – a racer for some, trainer for others.

  2. Michael Grant says:

    I’m now primarily running in the Zante. I have two pairs in rotation. I absolutely love it. Light and fast, while soft and cushioned. Great for the track/tempo or the long runs. I was very concerned about the arch support while standing, but it disappears on the run, agreed. No issues with upper tears..

    I was a long time NB 890 guy, but never took to the v4. Really thrilled with the Zante…a home run for me.

    • David Henry says:

      Good to hear and makes sense coming from the 890…I could see the Zante moving in a nice direction if you like the light and softer ride the 890 usually gave (I too haven’t run in the 890v4 although I liked the feel of the upper on the v4… I’ve just run in the 890v2 actually and haven’t since that one)

  3. Steve Drouin says:

    I have over a 100 miles on my Zante. I love the fit and the feel underfoot. I have no issues with tearing. I use these for training, and race in the 1400s. Not a fan of the 890s. They just didn’t feel right. The Zante is a great shoe to run in, even my long runs…

  4. I’ve tried to love, even like, the 980 FF but I just couldn’t get past the lack of flexibility in the midsole. Felt like running with two planks of wood strapped to your feet. And I struggled to feel much cushion – just firmness. Are the Zante any more flexible and softer? Pete, how would you compare them to, say, the NB1400? Big fan of the revlite midsole; not so sure about the FF. Currently loving the adidas boston boost. But sometimes feels a little too soft and they’re narrow around the toes. On balance though, still my favourite, most versatile shoe.

    • Michael Grant says:

      I didn’t like the FF 980 at all, either. For me, the only thing similar between these two shoes is the fresh foam name. The Zante is much softer under foot, but it’s also responsive. I ran my last marathon in the 1400v2, but this quickly unseated my 1400v2 for my tempo and speed days. I love the 1400’s heel cushion, but out past mile 18 I found the forefoot cushioning to be lacking. My forefoot really took a pounding…

      I have not run further than 11 miles in the Zante yet, so I can’t say for sure, but I don’t see any issues, as they really have a nice soft feel underfoot.

      The booty construction and stretchy flat laces really lock in the midfoot, and there is ample room up front for toe splay. It feels, and looks, fast.

      My size 10.5’s are right at about 8 ounces…which is great for the amount of cushion they provide.

      My 1400v2 are 6.3 ounces I believe…so I am giving up over an ounce on each foot, but I’ll make that trade for the level of comfort the ride is providing.

    • I like the Zante upper a better than that of the 1400, but still prefer the sole of the 1400. I agree that the 980 felt like wood planks, the Zante is better in this regard, though I still feel like the forefoot is quite firm.

  5. Hi Peter,
    Thanks for the review!
    How is the forefoot and heel cushioning of the Zante compared to Adios Boost?

    • Feels like a little more stack under the forefoot, heel has a similar softness. Big plus for the Adios for me is that in winter the sole does not firm up as much due to the Boost material, but if you live in a warm area that’s a non-issue. I like the upper and fit of the Zante better than that of the Adios 2, but I prefer the sole of the Adios 2.

  6. Hello, I really liked the review. I just wanted to see if you have tried the 1500v1 at all. If so what were your thoughts?

    • Not yet, but tempted!

      • I was rather surprised to see the 1500v1 on running warehouse. I own both the 1600v2 and Zante which are also in the 6mm drop range, and I find them great shoes for training and racing respectively. While I’m guessing that the ride of the 1500v1 would be pretty similar to the 1400v2, I’m thinking that the Zante would already be a pretty good choice for someone who prefers a firm yet more cushioned ride, while the 1600v2 would do for somone who wants a lighter shoe while racing. For all that I’ve written, the blue/white colourway of the 1500v1 looks really neat, and I would be hard pressed not to get them myself.

  7. Could you give me an estimated size suggestion for the Zantes based on following info Pete?

    I had the new balance mr10’s in uk11 but think they were a tiny bit tight. Im perfect in saucony a6 uk11 and find kinvara 5’s (long runs) slightly loose in uk11.5. have the adios boost 2.0 in uk11.5 which is pretty good fit.

    im looking for a sub 3 marathon shoe and find the boost rigid and heel-to-toe too big, seem to get shin and knee issues with them. A friend has the Zantes and finds them great, was looking at GoRun 4’s but swinging towards Zantes, hope they are flexible and also responsive. A quick comment on size would do me. Cheers

  8. Hi Runblogger! Im interested in buying either the Zante or the Zealot as a replacement for my Kinvara 3, which has been my go-to for daily neutral training. I’m a novice and definitely not fast, but the Kinvara gave me the confidence to push for a faster pace. Would either be a good pick? Thank you.

  9. Hello my comment earlier didn’t seem to post so I’m asking the same question again: what are your thoughts on the Zante vs the Zealot? I’m interested in a more responsive shoe than the Kinvara 3 but lighter than Glide Boost. Thank you Runblogger!

    • Sorry, have to approve first time comments manually and was away on vacation last week. Personally, I would choose the Zante. Feels snappier, and very smooth from heel to toe. Nice upper as well. The Zealot fits great but is a tad on the firm side for my taste. If you like the Kinvara, go with the FF Zante.

      • Richard L says:

        Thank you so much Peter! It perfectly sums up all I’ve read about the Zante. Does it weight about the same as the latest Kinvara 5? Can’t wait to try on a pair.

  10. Hello Peter!

    Would these shoes fit a 210lb guy as daily trainer? In almost every review I’ve read (but yours) recommend them for light runners.

    Kind regards from Spain!!!

  11. Pete,

    love your blog and have always had great results with your shoe recommendations. I have a pair of NB 1400v2 size 13 that fit perfect. when I tried on the zante it fit comfortably but the welded overlay around the toes felt like it would cause toe nail discomfort. has this been an issue with you? should I size up, or possibly go wider? never tried 2E but not opposed to it.

    thanks,
    Eric

    • Thanks Eric! I haven’t had this issue. I did go up half size from normal in both the 1400 v2 and the Zante, 1/2 size up might be worth a try but not sure they make a 13.5? I think a 2E might give a bit more vertical volume so could work as well.

  12. About what you said about the tearing of the upper, I’ve been wearing a pair of Zantes as my regular shoe for the past three months or so and the same spot you highlighted there has torn right through on both feet for me as well as a friend of mine who also has them. Granted I probably have about 1500 km on them in that time but my last few pairs of 890’s before that held up quite a bit better. It does seem like it is a recurring issue though I’s say.

  13. Chris Park says:

    Hi, I’ve been looking into getting a new pair of shoes. I run daily on grass, the road, and compressed dirt trails. And I was wondering if you could help me choose between the New Balance Zante, 1500v1 or the Nike LunarTempo. Like which pair would last long, be comfortable and yeah. Right now I’m wearing the Nike Free Flyknit 4.0.

  14. Great post! Come back to your blog whenever need to buy new shoes .

  15. taucan62 says:

    Well, at least the pair I purchased were garbage. Fake/knockoffs? who knows. Just one nine mile run and the shoes are horribly contorted. The shoes forces my foot-and ankle inward causing some pain after about five miles. One run-a single run and I already see wear in the soles. And I’m talking erasing of the tread. Very flimsy. I can’t stay on top of the sole. But I’ve had bad experiences with NB before. This should just about do it for me. Back to Adidas.

  16. David Burns says:

    Pete have you tried the Vazee Pace, and how would you compare to Zante

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