Let’s say that you’re a mild to moderate pronator. When you go out running with your buddies, you’d like to use a shoe that provides you with a modicum of stability but you do not want that fact to be advertised.
And so, a shoe like version 2 of the New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo (hereinafter, Vongo) would be perfect for you.
The shoe feels light on the road, so if I’d been asked to guess the shoe’s weight, I would have said 10.4 ounces.
The Vongo has a 4mm heel drop and a Fresh Foam midsole, an innovative midsole created from a single piece of foam that provides a plush, more natural ride.
It’s been my experience that the New Balance shoes with Fresh Foam midsoles provide a different ride than the models that utilize REVlite midsoles.
(I’ve tended to gravitate toward the latter shoes for their protectiveness, but it’s possible that some Fresh Foam models will provide just as much protection against the agonies of the feet.)
The Vongo’s FantomFit mesh upper is wide up front which allows for maximum toe splay. The fit is comfortable and true in the sense that most runners will be able to rely on their standard running shoe size.
There’s a lace tab which keeps the tongue in place and using 6 of the 7 available eyelets works to lock the foot in place quite nicely.
The Vongo’s sole offers full ground contact from the heel all the way forward to the metatarsal area.
Although there’s no visible medial post, there’s a firm 2-inch long area under the midfoot and arch that assists to keep one’s feet moving straight ahead. There’s also a guidance groove cut into the sole that runs from the heel forward to the toes.
I suspect this also helps to keep one’s feet locked onto an invisible set of rails.
On the Road
The Vongo’s magic is that it provides a minimal amount of stability while not interfering with one’s natural foot strike pattern.
I suspect that runners who spend their time in neutral shoes could run in the Vongo without feeling anything obtrusive or unnatural.
This is a shoe that relies upon hidden tricks – including a wrap-around post that extends from the rear of the lateral side, around and behind the heel, and on to the front of the medial arch, to complete its mission.
The Vongo feels protective on sidewalks if a bit firm. The heel strike is what I call softly firm.
The shoe feels more natural and cushioned on asphalt, and it’s easy to settle into a set training pace. The low heel drop keeps the feet close to the ground, which is fine for midfoot strikers, but it may be somewhat frustrating for high kickers.
As you speed up in the Vongo, the amount of bounce back appears to increase – setting up a small trampoline effect, and this makes it a good shoe to use for fast training runs.
On a warm to hot day, a runner wearing the Vongo will notice that the upper’s mesh breathes quite well and invites in cooling air.
Grading the Vongo
B+ to A = In the white colorway, the Vongo may often be mistaken for a tennis shoe. It has a clean, yet slightly retro, look and the stylish mesh upper makes for an easy transition to post-workout rest and relaxation activities.
B to B = Most everyone will be satisfied with the amount of responsiveness delivered by the Vongo’s Fresh Foam midsole. However, the shoe does not provide an especially springy ride.
B = The Vongo’s cushioning gets the job done for training runs, but I find this shoe’s midsole to be firmer than I anticipated. (It feels firmer than its trail mate, the Fresh Foam Gobi v2.)
B to A = The Vongo does not look like a fast shoe but it facilitates rapid feet turnover when a runner hits the gas pedal. Keep in mind though, that one’s feet remain extremely close to the tarmac.
B+ to A = The Vongo is a highly attractive, well-built shoe – there are no visible defects on it, with a sole that displays virtually no wear after several dozen miles.
C to C+ = $135 for this training shoe appears to be high. It’s a quality product, but I expected it to run in the $115 to $120 range.
New Balance Rotation
The New Balance loyalist might use the Vongo as part of a four-shoe rotation. The Vongo can be used for standard training days.
The Vazee Prism v2 (which will disappear in the near future) can be used for longer run days. It offers both more stability and flexibility than the Vongo. The 1500 v3 light stability flat can be used for track workouts and race days.
The Fresh Foam Gobi v2 can be used for trail running. The Gobi v2 feels like a cousin to the Vongo, but it has a minimally higher heel drop (6mm) and sits even lower.
The Vongo 2 is a good choice for the mildly pronating midfoot runner who wants a high quality, durable trainer. This runner must, however, be willing to invest a few additional dollars when selecting this covert support shoe.
The Vongo is a dependable daily trainer that can be used by most on race day distances of between 3.1 to 13.1 miles. A few – including some neutral runners – should be able to use it in marathons.
Good to know
- Most of the second version’s updates can be found on the upper of the shoe. Formerly, it had more structural lines, with a midfoot saddle overlay that extended towards the heel. In this new version, the air mesh upper was retained but combined with a FantomFit overlay. A heel counter was added to aid in keeping the heel in place during the running session. New Balance basically simplified the upper, giving the shoe more of a lifestyle feel.
- Despite the minimalist upper, the second version of the shoe is heavier than its predecessor. The Fresh Foam Vongo 1 was around 300 grams (10.6 ounces) for men. Currently, the men’s version weighs in at 329 grams (11.6 ounces).
- The Fresh Foam cushioning on the midsole was preserved, but the visible pattern was updated from hexagonal and diamond-like deep indentions to vertically elongated and horizontally stretched hexagons.
- The flex line on the outsole was lengthened, and New Balance made it so that the tread on the outsole mimicked the pattern on the midsole.
Standard sizing and a snug fit can be expected from the New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo 2. Runners are able to order a pair in their usual running shoe measurements. For the width, runners have more of a choice. The width measurements of this shoe are medium or regular (D for men and B for women) and wide (2E for men and D for women).
The outsole of the Fresh Foam Vongo v2 is made up of a 2-piece rubber. Each kind is indicated with a different color. The first type of rubber is softer; on top of its protective capacity and its traction-ready nature, it also reduces the rate of overpronation. The other rubber is firmer. The purpose of this hardy nature is to enhance the protective purpose of the outsole while also ensuring traction.
The tread pattern mimics the midsole patterns. Individual hexagonal shapes, some indentions, some protrusions, have been stretched and collapsed to form a multidirectional, asymmetrical tread. They help in keeping the sole unit flexible and agreeable to the natural movements of the wearer’s foot.
The midsole has the Fresh Foam, a patented cushioning technology created with EVA and molded with various convex and concave shapes. Used in the manufacturing of the midsole, the chemical properties of the EVA compound have been tweaked to produce a springy yet stable foam. Then, it’s molded into different shapes on various zones to alter its level of compression and resistance. The Fresh Foam ultimately serves as an agent for energy return and as a means to give the runner a comfortable ride. It is also added into the midsole of the NB Vongo v3.
Included in the whole package is the molded sock liner found inside the shoe. It sits on top of the footbed, providing extra cushioning for the foot. This add-on’s molded distinction means that it follows the natural contours of the underfoot, so not only is it for cushioning, it also helps to enhance the comfort within the shoe.
The upper material is made of engineered mesh which is tougher than the mesh material found on the shoe’s predecessor. This mesh upper is able to retain its shape while still giving some degree of elasticity to cater to the runner’s foot shape.
There are fewer overlays on the upper. In fact, the only overlay takes the form of the letter “N” on the sides of the shoe. These “N” add-ons on either side keep the foot in place, and, at the same time, provide some much-needed structure to the lightweight upper. Despite this, the structural support it gives is insubstantial, but it does its job in forming the shape of the upper in a way that hugs the midfoot.
At the back, a heel counter can be observed. This feature also does its part in keeping the foot in place during runs. The material is much stiffer compared to the overlay. Strategically, it targets a key area of the foot that needs the most steadiness.
For optimum comfort, the entire upper was manufactured with a cleatie-like design that utilizes a no-sew technique. Fit-wise, the combination makes the shoe comfortable, while also lessening the chances of irritation caused by stitches that are exposed.