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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Switching shoes: How I like the New Balance Zante so far

Remember my rules for staying uninjured, which include not switching shoes? Apparently, money matters more to me than health. It's eating me alive that my last Kinvaras only made it for 400 miles. That's why I'm giving the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante a chance (watch them die at 300 miles. It will kill me).
Here are my observations so far:
Fit: I like the foot-shaped fit of the Zante. As I mentioned, I got a mens 8.5 wide. I have really wide feet, and these are the first running shoes that don't pinch at the sides. The shoe looks to be built on a semi-curved last, which is good for people with bunions like myself (I like curved lasts. I also have very high arches, and I think there is a correlation there). The shoe has a wide toe box, although it is not very deep, and a more fitted midfoot. The collar is low-slung. The shoe is not a high-volume shoe: any less depth to the upper and it would be tight. But it's almost a glove-like fit, which I like.
A note for low-arched people: I definitely feel like there is some support in the arch of these shoes. Now, New Balance mentions nothing about this, and these are by no means any sort of support shoe. But I feel an arch. This is not a problem for my mountain arches, but I bet it would bug a low-arched individual.
Feel: This shoe is right between "firm ride" and "cushioned". It's not as soft as the Kinvara, and you ride close to the ground. The forefoot feels firmer than the heel, which seems very padded to me. You could totally get away with a long run in these, but I did start to feel the ground underfoot at about mile 10. Because there is little to no structure in the upper, you will have to engage some auxiliary muscles or your form will suffer (you should also ensure a correct fit, as the structureless upper allows a lot of movement within the shoe - a too-loose shoe would let your foot slide around).
Flexibility: The shoe's sole is an all-over pattern that allows some flexibility, but also a little stiffness - which helps with rebound, I believe - since the same material covers the whole bottom. Some shoes only have small areas of firmer rubber and the rest foam - this increases flexibility. The reduced sole flexibility is not a problem for the Zante, though. It adds just enough control to the shoe, which is otherwise almost sock-like.
Uses: I would not use these shoes for speed work on a track, because they feel a little too bulky, but I did wear them for a road tempo and they were just fine. I'd say they'd be fine for anything from a tempo run to a long run. I would not recommend them for runners with oversupination or overpronation to any appreciable degree - they are best for an efficient, neutral runner. The low fit, flexible upper, and wide toe box all add up to very little support for the lower legs and feet.
Weight: Mine are a little over 8 ounces according to my postal scale, which is about half an ounce heavier than the Kinvara. As long as I'm under 9, I'm happy.
Pros: I really like the foot-shaped fit and I'm ecstatic that they're in wide. So far I love the price, but let's wait and see how the shoe holds up!
Cons: The same-material-all-over sole makes these slippery in wet weather. The forefoot is a little too firm for my bunion, which is bearing most of my weight. The upper is marginally warmer than the Kinvara, although nowhere near as stifling as some shoes, like Brooks. Less support than even the Kinvara, which may matter over time.
The next day: It's always better to review a shoe the day after a run. And I'll tell you what I discovered: my calves hurt in the front. Something about the heel-to-toe drop, the firm forefoot, and the unrestrictive upper created a problem. I wasn't used to the fit or feel and laced them too tightly, and my muscles and tendons complained. Even after adjusting my lacing and adding an arch wrap for some support (a trick I use in light, flexible shoes to prevent medial tibial stress syndrome - see it in picture above), I do still feel like my lower legs and feet get more pounding in these compared to the Kinvara. I am sure I will get used to it, but I thought it was worth a mention, and it's one reason I'm trying to slowly work the shoe into rotation instead of switching over all at once.

1 comment:

  1. Haha - fwiw, I never got more than 250 out of a pair of Kinvaras. I went through them like paper cups.

    If you're ever looking for something else to try that is Kinvara-like, the Mizuno Hitogami seems pretty similar. Of course, I don't get much mileage out of them either.

    The Adidas Boost stuff seems to last forever, so that's also worth a try if you want to branch out.