2015 Road Shoe Of The Year: New Balance Fresh Foam Zante

The featherweight New Balance Fresh Foam Zante offers plenty of cushioning without inhibiting its go-fast demeanor. Photo: Nick Nacca

The Fresh Foam Zante earned our Road Shoe of the Year award not only because our wear-testers absolutely loved it, but also because it epitomizes the ways running shoes have evolved in the past several years. New materials, new construction techniques and, perhaps most importantly, new ways of thinking have led to lighter, better fitting and functionally enhanced running shoes. In addition to serving as a lightweight, flexible, performance-oriented trainer that offers just enough cushioning for high-mileage training, it’s also chock-full of giddy-up for faster workouts like tempo runs and fartlek sessions. One run in the Zante and you’ll want to ditch the clunky trainers you’ve been running in.

The Zante’s raison d’être can be found in a new, lower-to-the-ground iteration of the lightweight Fresh Foam midsole that debuted last year. New Balance used biomechanical data from runners to engineer the foam undercarriage with an optimal balance between cushioning and stability—testers fell in love with the result. The simple but smartly designed upper features two harmoniously integrated airy meshes, a seam-free interior, subtle heat-welded overlays, a lightly padded tongue and a fit-enhancing inner booty that all serve up a comfortable fit and just enough support and structure without inhibiting the ride. And the $100 price tag means it has everything you need and nothing you don’t.

Fit: A comfortably snug, low-volume interior is complemented by a foot-wrapping bootie that provides incredible foot-to-ground proprioception and agility, making up-tempo running a breeze. (Like many New Balance shoes, it’s offered in two widths.)

Feel: The comfy interior—enhanced by a premium footbed—and lightweight materials give this shoe an energetic demeanor from the moment you lace it up.

Ride: The combination of the resilient Fresh Foam midsole and considerable toe-spring design encourage a quick cadence, which can ultimately inspire faster, more efficient running—both in workouts and on race day.

Wear-Tester Comments

“The Zante has a balanced fit from front to back. The heel and midfoot were snug while the forefoot was wide enough not to feel cramped. The shoe has a really responsive, energetic ride and the fit felt just as comfortable and consistent while running as it did standing in it.” — Mario Fraioli

“These feel like light, zippy racing flats, yet pamper the foot with cushioning and soft materials. A fantastic combination of function with comfort.” — Casey Blaine

“These are a great shoe for a quick speed workout, but have sufficient cushioning and energy return to make for a comfortable ride for runs over an hour.” — John Tolbert

“Everything I want in a trainer and nothing more.” — Kate Woodward

This is the shoe for you if: … You’re looking for a lightweight, versatile training shoe for a wide range of training, from long progression runs to tempo efforts and short and fast interval workouts.

Price: $100
Weights: 7.6 oz. (men’s), 6.3 oz. (women’s)
Offset: 6mm; 16mm (heel), 10mm (forefoot)

RELATED: 2015 Trail Shoe Of The Year—Hoka One One Challenger ATR

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