Fresh Foam Zante v4 – a shoe made for every run, from a 5k to a marathon.
Light and responsive enough for speed sessions and a fast 5k, and yet with sufficient cushioning for mile after mile of a marathon training cycle.
A stiffer sole than in the model 3 which may take some running in, but otherwise a great choice. If I was allowed only one road running shoe, then the Fresh Foam Zante v4 would be it.
- Fantastic all-rounder ∼ 5k to marathon
- Seamless upper
- Suitable for neutral runners only
- Sock liner moves in wet weather
- Stiff Sole until run in
- Road Use Only
I’ve now run 250 miles in these shoes, including a half marathon PB. They’ve been used as the primary shoe in my latest marathon training cycle, build up and have performed well in both speed sessions and long runs.
Through this review, I have made comparisons with the Zante v3 for the benefit of those who have worn the previous model and are interested in any differences.
I was really pleased to find that New Balance has retained pretty well everything that was good about the v3 (with just a couple of minor glitches) and that at the risk of repeating myself, I concluded that once again the Fresh Foam Zante may be the only road shoe you’ll need.
New Balance offers the Fresh Foam Zante v4 in three colourways: Black, Dynamite Orange, or Maldives Blue. I do like brightly coloured running shoes, and having chosen the orange in the v3, went for the blue on this occasion.
When they arrived, I was really pleased to find a great looking shoe in what is a fairly unusual colour. The shoe looks great; it’s sleek, simple and well designed, without any unnecessary bulk. I’m sure it’d look just as good with a pair of trainers as on the road.
At first glance, the Zante v4 is pretty similar to the v3 (shown here in orange for comparison), though there are some differences which I’ll cover shortly.
In terms of appearance, I was disappointed to find that New Balance had removed pretty well all of the reflective elements that were so welcome on the v3; running through the winter on dark narrow country lanes in North Wales, I always welcome any extra reflective panels that any shoe and clothing manufacturer can provide.
The Fresh Foam Zante v4 is listed at 244g (8.6 oz), which is nice and light for a shoe that provides such cushioning and versatility. New Balance has even managed to shed a few grams off the listed weight of the previous model (250g).
As expected, my UK 13.5 (US14) shoe weighed in heavier than the standard shoe, at 321g (11.3oz). Oddly, this is 20g heavier than my v3 despite it being listed as a lighter shoe!
Whatever the number on the scales, the important things is that the Fresh Foam Zante v4 feels light and ready to go when I put it on, and even at the end of a long run, the weight of the shoe isn’t noticeable.
As with all New Balance shoes, I find that I need a ½ size larger than would be my “normal” size. The shoe then fits comfortably right out of the box.
In this case, I wear a UK 13.5 (US 14) which is the same size I’ve used in all other New Balance shoes, Hokas, and Salomon Trail. For comparison, I generally use a UK13 in Brooks, Inov-8, and ASICS, though the last two can feel a little snug.
The foot slides into the shoe and feels comfortable right from the start in the “no sew” construction, with no noticeable seams to for the foot to rub against.
The heel feels “locked in”, and with the new Hyposkin wrap around the midfoot (more later) the foot feels as if it is held a little more firmly than in the previous model.
The fabric of the shoe molds to the foot in such a way that whilst the toe box couldn’t be described as roomy, there is plenty of movement allowed, even for a runner such as myself with a wide foot and a tendency towards Morton’s Neuroma.
Once again, the shoe feels just as comfortable at the end of a long run as at the beginning.
In their marketing spiel, New Balance describes “engineered mesh, bootie construction and a HypoSkin upper that adapts to the shape of the foot for a flexible and natural movement.”
The engineered mesh enclosing the forefoot consists of a double layer of fabric, the upper layer of which is “slitted”. This allows the foot to breathe effectively, but also seems to be a factor in the way the upper moulds well to the foot. As with the previous model, the front appears almost ‘baggy” when not being worn, but fits well once the foot is in place.
The Hyposkin is used to form the majority of the upper, including the lace holes and continuing right around the heel at the back of the foot.
This Hyposkin is a type of lightweight rubber which holds the mid-foot more securely that in the v3, providing a greater feeling of security, which continues with the heel counter.
This is still however very much a neutral shoe; there is really no stability provided in the shoe and is therefore only suitable for runners who want a truly neutral shoe.
The cushioning around the heel collar feels really comfortable as does the tongue.
There’s no “lace loop” to hold the tongue in place, but to be honest I didn’t notice until I looked closely for this review. The tongue has felt comfortable throughout all my runs, and I’ve never noticed any movement.
The midsole of the shoe is constructed with a single piece of New Balance’s “Fresh Foam”. This provides a comfort and cushioning without sacrificing responsiveness.
In utilizing a single pieces of foam, rather than sections as used in some other shoes, the Zante can initially feel a little stiff until you've got a few miles under the belt; more of this in the performance section below.
The Fresh Foam has hexagonal patterns along the sides of the midsole; convex along the inside and concave on the outside. The concave pattern, in particular, is more pronounced than in the v3.
These various patterns in the foam are placed to ensure that the Fresh Foam compresses in a particular pattern through the placement and push off of the foot.
Towards the forefoot, the concave hexagons give way to perforations to allow greater compression of this section of the sole on forefoot landing and take-off.
The heel drop on the Zante remains at 6mm, with a stack height which keeps to foot close to the ground (23mm heel – 17mm forefoot), especially when compared to most cushioned shoes such as New Balance’s 1080v8 which has an 8mm drop from 27mm to 19mm.
Given the low stack height, and a layer of foam somewhat narrower than a traditional cushioned shoe, I was a little concerned initially, having done most of my early marathon build up in the fantastically comfortable Brooks Ghost 10.
After a few weeks of rotation between the shoes, however, I found the Fresh Foam Zante v4 has provided plenty of cushioning for even my long runs.
The outsole itself doesn’t require a great deal of explanation. It’s simply a single piece of blown rubber.
My understanding is that the coloured sections are simply a design factor rather than denoting particular types of rubber.
It’s very similar to the v3, and hence well suited to road running, providing good grip on all road surfaces, in both the wet and the dry. It could be used on light trails, but in my opinion, neither the upper nor the sole are designed for the particularly demanding terrain.
I’ve shown a comparison with the v3 in the image (I’d run in this v3 for approx. 500 miles). Interestingly, the v4 has a slightly wider footprint than the v3.
This will vary by size, but in my shoe, this amounted to approx. 6mm (1/4”) at the widest point both at the forefoot and the back of the shoe.
This combines with the more secure upper fit provided by the Hyposkin to contribute to an extra feeling of security within this shoe compared to the v3; it limits the potential for the foot to roll on uneven surfaces.
My experience of shoe performance should always be balanced against my own characteristics, so I should mention at this stage that I don’t fit the stereotypical image of a lithe, sleek runner.
Just for the record, I’m 47, about 6’2”, just under 90kg (almost 200lbs), running 50-60 miles pw.
The HM PB achieved in these shoes was just over 1:25, and my current marathon training cycle sees me chasing a 3:15 marathon. In light of this, I can’t really comment on the performance of these shoes for the elite but hopefully, this can be of use to most runners.
First thing to say is that I really enjoyed running in these shoes, and both fast and comfortable, responsive and cushioned, whatever distance and speed I run.
I did, however, find that with these shoes I took a bit of getting used to them. I usually put on a new pair of shoes and just go ahead and run most of my training runs in that shoe. I attribute the “getting used to” the shoe to two factors:
As mentioned, the shoe that formed the “sandwich filling” between the FF Zante v3 and v4 was the Brooks Ghost 10. When I reviewed this shoe, I stated that it was the most comfortable shoe I had ever run in.
Now, whilst the Zante v4 is a cushioned shoe, it has a much firmer ride than the Ghost 10, and so that took a little getting used to.
The second factor is difficult to describe, but I’ll give it a go… the sole of the Zante v4 is fairly stiff and quite inflexible.
After the first few runs, I experienced something I’ve never found before in a running shoe; the joints at the base of my first and second toes ached a little. This soon eased and hasn’t occurred since, but I can now attribute it to my having to form the sole into the right shape.
The images shown may help to illustrate this; the bottom picture shows the v4 before running, and the top is a recent picture with around 200 miles on the shoe.
I hope that the pictures illustrate how the sole of the shoe has now formed a significant curve up at the front.
I appreciate that this does happen with most shoes, but I’ve personally never found it to this extent, and provide a comparison picture with my Zante v3 shoes which have over 500 miles on them and do not show such a marked curve.
I describe this experience simply in case it helps anyone else who purchases the shoe and finds a similar ache; it doesn’t mean the shoe isn’t for you, and will soon disappear as the shoe finds and retains its running shape.
Versatility is the Key to the Zante
I can’t help repeating some of the thoughts I had with the Zante v3, and that is that once again, the beauty of the Fresh Foam Zante v4 is their versatility.
I wore the v3 for both a 5k PB and a Marathon PB. Whilst I haven’t run an all-out 5k in the v4, I have found the same level of responsiveness and speed in these shoes during speed sessions as I did in their previous incarnation.
On long runs, these shoes come into their own; light enough so as not to weigh you down, and cushioned enough to protect the legs and feet. Furthermore, and again it’s odd to put into words, but I felt as if the shoe propelled me forward mile after mile, and has less time in contact with the ground than some others.
This compares to some more cushioned shoes such as the 1080 or the Brooks Ghost in which I’ve felt myself almost sinking back as the runs get longer, which has somehow made the forward momentum that much harder.
As with its predecessor, this is a road shoe and is designed as such. If your running route includes anything off-road other than very light trails, then pick another shoe for that run.
The lack of segmentation within the outsole provides little grip off-road. The wider foot and Hyposkin wrap improves the stability a little compared to the v3, but this shoe isn’t designed for rough terrain.
This lack of support within the upper would also lead me to recommend this shoe to Neutral Runners only. If you feel that you are susceptible to any degree of pronation, or need support for any other reason, then you’d be better to look elsewhere.
Beware the Sock liner…
Something that New Balance really seem to have slipped up with on this shoe is the sock-liner. I genuinely don’t know how they managed to get this one so wrong, but in very wet weather, I found that the insert moves around and even folded up under my foot several times during a run.
I should add that this was a steady run, primarily on a flat, straight cycle path, and yet, I had to stop on at least 3 occasions to take off my shoe and re-insert the sock-liner.
Here they are compared to the liner from the previous model (left); you’ll see that the base of the v4 liner is almost smooth compared to the v3.
The v3 liner is also much stiffer which would prevent it from folding under the foot even if it had been inclined to slip.
New Balance seems to have found an extremely durable compound for their blown rubber outsole. In my experience, it worked well in the 1080 v6, the Zante v3.
With 200 miles under the belt, the Fresh Foam Zante v4 is showing a little more wear on the outer heel than their predecessor. I assume that this is due to the slightly different profile of the outsole rather than the compound itself. I’m pretty confident that I should be able to get close to 500 miles out of the Zante v4.
In the Fresh Foam Zante v4, New Balance has once again designed and built an incredibly versatile road running shoe for all occasions.
It is light, comfortable, responsive and durable, and as with its older brother, the v3, I’d have no hesitation to put on this shoe for any training runs and races on the road.
The stiffness of the sole did require some wearing in, and the sock liner problem is a real faux pas from a shoe manufacturer as experienced as New Balance, but neither of these issues will prevent me from putting on the Fresh Foam Zante for another few hundred miles.
I've always dreamt of finding a lightweight shoe that could get an average runner like me through the marathon distance in a new personal best but to date, no success.
Yes, I found a few that could get me through the half-marathon distance. Shoes like the Salomon S-Lab Sonic, the Asics Hyper Speed and the Adidas Adizero Adios but when the miles crept up and the running form went down, I just needed that extra bit of support and cushioning.
I have to admit I’m now at that time when the days of chasing a ‘personal best’ is becoming more about avoiding a ‘personal worst’. But hey, the principle is still the same, right? It’s just a different goal.
And in my quest to find the ‘holy grail’ of running shoes for the average Joe, I looked at the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Version 4.
The reviews I read and watched were all promising. Could these shoes be my dream come true? Could these be the wonder-shoes that make me run faster for longer? And can I get them for under £70?
Well, in terms of the last point, yes you can! And what’s more is the choice of colors. With the Zante V4, you have the choice of 14 color options. I decided to buy and try the snazzy blue ones.
And like every runner, the minute I unboxed them, the first thing I did was to put them on the scales.
Ok, maybe just the ‘every sad runner’ but true to what New Balance and the reviews say, they’re not super light, but they are light. They are at 8.6 ounces (size 9 UK).
This looks promising but before I tell you about how the road tests went, let’s talk about specifications.
The Zante Fresh Foam Version 4 from New Balance has a mesh upper in the forefoot and wraps the rest of the foot in a material that New Balance calls Hyposkin.
This Hyposkin technology from New Balance says, secures and supports the foot through movement in all directions.
The Zante V4 sits on a single piece of New Balance’s unique Fresh Foam. Fresh Foam is designed to give the runner a soft & cushioned feel, suitable for longer runs or easy recovery runs, but at the same time retains a snappy feeling, with a responsiveness that encourages the runner to push for fast running.
Fast and snappy for those of us that are slow and floppy. The Zante V4 is for the neutral runner and has a 6mm drop (differential 23 mm/17mm).
Midsole & Insole Cushioning Systems
Finally, it has this convex and concave pattern along the sides and sole of the shoe which is supposed to make the shoe more stable at the heel and softer at the forefoot.
There are perforations along the side of the shoe which makes this part of the Fresh Foam sole, even softer. So, in simple terms, a targeted, firm and cushioned sole.
I’m a standard 9 (UK) fit and I found the step-in feel was great. Everything felt comfortable and snug without being tight. The only exception to this was the height of the toe box, which was quite low.
This made me wonder if the shoe would put pressure on my big toes, especially over the longer runs. If you’re a tight size 9 (UK), you may want to think about going a half-size up. The heel counter had some cushioning but not plush cushioning but would be enough especially for those longer runs.
I have to say, I loved the Hyposkin. It was like a soft sock on the inside and really felt comfortable.
I've never run in any of the previous versions of the Zante, so I’ve nothing to offer in terms of how version 4 compares to other versions. I can only tell you how I found the New Balance Zante Version 4.
The Road Test
Time to hit the road, and for testing purposes for this particular shoe this would mean a minimum of 250 miles on a combination of the road, the treadmill and the light trails with the longest run being the full marathon distance.
I began the testing with a variety of 5k and 10k runs on both the treadmill and the road, and the results were great. I found the Zante V4 was a beautifully soft and cushioned shoe, and true to its word, did retain a snappy and responsive feel.
I did actually feel like I wanted to push for it on those faster runs. Now, when I say faster, I’m talking about a 45 minute 10k.
And as a pleasant surprise, they were really quiet. Some shoes make me sound like a ‘crazy-horse’ coming down the road, but these beauties were soft and quiet, they made me feel light and graceful, it is a wonderful sensation.
Greatly encouraged it was now time to move up to the half-marathon distance. The result is the same. Zante V4 easily got me through the distance at a steady 8-minute mile pace, on both the road and the treadmill.
I upped the distance to18 miles on a combination of light trails, sandy beach, and some tarmac. The result again is the same. The shoe coped really, really, really well with the light trails.
Remember that surprise I mentioned about the Hyposkin? Well, about a mile of this run is on a sandy beach and about 15 miles on light trails, and when I came to take the shoes off, there was not one bit of sand or debris on the inside of the shoe.
I’ve run these trails on many different trail and road shoes including the Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra, one of the best but this was utterly amazing. The design of the shoe and the Hyposkin in my view is sensational.
I went on to do several reruns of this route, and on up to the marathon distance on similar terrains, and each and every result was the same. A really smooth, cushioned, fast-feeling, ride on a shoe that let no debris in at all. A truly beautiful shoe that gave me a beautiful experience.
My final test was a marathon on a tarmac, and sadly, I have to confess for the last 4 miles or so, my feet were beginning to hurt. In saying that, I’m confident that a more efficient runner could do the marathon distance in these shoes on a tarmac.
Here's the biggest surprise I got with these shoes. I recently took part in the Buff Joust 24 Hour Ultra Marathon. It’s a 24-hour race run over a circuit of 5.5 miles. The route is made up mostly of undulating/hilly light trails, grassy fields, and a little tarmac.
After the first 2 laps, my feet began to hurt, so I decided to change into my (now 250 + mile) Zantes, thinking I would just use them for a couple of laps to ease the soreness.
I ended up wearing them for the rest of the run, which equated to 66 miles of running/walking over about 20 hours. And I’m not talking about hobbling around with inappropriate shoes.
I actually managed a total of 77 miles and finished 3rd for my category. I truly didn’t see that coming! The shoe was that good for me, on that type of terrain and distance, that I’m now re-thinking my approach for a 100 miler I’ve got coming up.
The actual wear & tear on the upper after 300 + miles is minimal.
The soles are a little worn at the forefoot as I’m mainly a forefoot/midfoot runner, but nothing drastic. Apart from that, they still look and feel great. Good for a few more miles yet.
It seems silly to even ask the question if I would recommend the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Version 4. Of course, I love the shoe and I’ve already bought my second pair.
The New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Version 4 for me, is simply the best value for money and most versatile shoe I have ever had.
I am a huge fan of New Balance trainers. Now, I’m not saying that I would never try another brand, but at the moment, these seem to suit my feet.
When I first bought my first pair of running shoes, I did not know that I have quite wide (fat) feet!
Also, I'm still a newbie to the world of running. Thus, I didn’t realise then that different brands design their shoes with different toe box widths.
I tried one brand and found that they cut too tightly across my foot and squeezed my toes together. It was massively uncomfortable, especially on the long runs.
I then tried a pair of the New Balance1080. Wearing those felt like I was walking on air. I loved them and used them for Brighton Marathon.
However, ever since I bought my first pair of New Balance trainers back in 2017, I have owned six pairs! The latest pair that I bought is the Zante V4. I got these in both grey and bright orange!
I find that New Balance trainers are great for me as they have a wider fit. The Zante V4 Fresh Foam, which I have at the moment, is really comfortable to wear.
These have a sock-like fit, and the no-sew material reduces the risk of irritation, which is always a bonus.
The engineered mesh Hyposkin upper adapts to the shape of your foot. It enables more flexibility and natural movement. Hence, your foot can breathe well.
Meanwhile, the perforations in the fabric help increase airflow, meaning your feet shouldn’t sweat or smell as much!
The soft but stable Fresh Foam cushioning helps to protect your joints from the pounding on the unforgiving roads and concrete. It also gives you a bit of a spring in your step.
I have been really surprised by my V4’s. Not only do I adore the colours, but the fact that they are lightweight really helps me on my runs.
Plus, I feel it gives me a bit of bounce. I like to think that I look a little like Tigger when I have these on. I'm not sure if that’s how I look in real life though.
The lightweight solid rubber with its hexagonal pattern gives you added traction on both the road and track. This added traction is great if you are a little on the clumsy side, like me.
I have had a few issues with the odd kerb, tree root, small dog, two left feet, and others.
- No-sew material
- Engineered mesh upper, adapts to shape of the foot
- Great for anything up to a half marathon
- The inserts do slide a little
- I am usually a 6 but I wear a 7 in these
- For anything over a half marathon, I would say more cushioning is needed.
I have used the trainers for various distances, everything from 5k to my latest half marathon. I found that they are really comfortable.
There is also plenty of room in the toe box, so it allows my fat feet to spread out. Thus, I have had no blisters or rubbing.
However, if I were using them for anything above a half marathon, I would want something with more cushioning.
I would recommend these trainers to anyone. I am not saying they are the best on the market. In fact, I haven’t tried everything else out there in that price bracket. But, they work fine for me.
At around £60, originally £100, they aren’t a bad price either. Hence, it doesn’t hurt that bad in the wallet department, which helps an awful lot in the long run! (pun intended)
Good to know
- The New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v4 is a road running shoe that is ideal for those who have neutral foot motion. It uses the restructured Fresh Foam midsole which aims to improve the overall performance of the shoe.
- The upper, particularly in the forefoot area, utilizes the updated jacquard mesh material. It provides the foot proper ventilation for a more breathable foot coverage.
- Integrated into the midfoot area of the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v4 is the HypoSkin wrap. This technology is designed to act as a second skin without sacrificing the shoe's breathability.
The New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v4 follows the standard shoe measurements when it comes to sizing. The shoe has a VL-6. It is described as a running-specific last that has a standard forefoot, heel, and toe-box height. Because of its HypoSkin upper, it can easily adapt to the natural shape and movement of the foot. The New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v4 is available in standard medium width for both the women’s and men's version.
A single piece of Fresh Foam is utilized in the Zante v4. It is composed of concave and convex hexagon patterns which are located along the sides of the shoe. The placement of these hexagons aid in compressing the sole of the shoe to a specific pattern throughout the push off and foot strike. In the forefoot area lies the blown rubber. This material is essential in providing additional cushioning and responsiveness. It also offers improved traction. Located in the heel area is a hard carbon rubber for added durability.
The Fresh Foam is integrated into the shoe. This single-piece midsole compound has geometric shapes that provide a more natural underfoot feel and support. This foam is also present in the midsole of the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 v9.
Laser engravings can be found in the forefoot landing zones. This technology aims to provide the runner with a softer landing experience.
Additional underfoot cushioning is offered by the traditional sock liner.
The upper of the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v4 uses the jacquard mesh material that provides lightweight breathability. It also adapts to the natural shape of the foot for an unconstricting fit.
For an enhance fit and midfoot security, the shoe also employs the HypoSkin wrap. It delivers a second-skin style fit without affecting breathability.
Along with the cleatie construction that aims to deliver a comfortable in-shoe feel is the no-sew upper design. It offers an irritation-free and soft foot wrap.