First Impression: New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v4

The New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v1 is one of my hall of fame shoes. Light, smooth, and so good looking that my first pair survived Mardi Gras 2015 in New Orleans and still drew compliments when I wore them with jeans. I have two pairs stocked, but I love them so much I can’t bear to waste them on unworthy runs. Unworthy runs? I’m glad that I can pass off being weird as “just a runner thing.”

I have run in every version of the Zante. The v2 just didn’t connect with me — it felt surprisingly heavy and the upper seemed like a huge step back from the sleek, race-ready fit of the v1. Fortunately, the Zante got back on track with the v3. The upper was still beefed up over v1, but the snappy ride felt more lively and directed than the ponderous v2. Not only that, but the looks of the v3 rivaled the classy style of the v1. I fell in love all over again. But the model lifecycle kept rolling on and the Zante v4 came out before I had a chance to pre-order it. How will it stack up against its predecessors?

I have exactly one run in the Zante v4 and I have some thoughts.

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v4 First Impressions

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Weight: Just under 8 oz for each shoe (16 oz for the pair — why does nobody ever express it like that? It doesn’t sound nearly as appealing to haul a pound of footwear with you on your run.) They feel supportive enough to give me confidence, but they still disappeared on the run. I’m happy so far.

Fresh Foam Zante v4 weight

Ride: Buttery smooth through the gait cycle, as is typical of the Zante for me. The high toe spring keeps me light on my feet and turning my legs over quickly.

Fit: Dialed in. The secure midfoot hold and somewhat roomy (albeit pointy) toebox suits my foot perfectly. I’m not swimming in this shoe like the disappointingly slipper-like Saucony Kinvara v5 — this is a precision fit that’s still forgiving and comfortable.

Comfort: I don’t have enough miles in these to know how beat up my legs will feel after a long run. So far they feel great. Not pillowy soft, but not harsh. I expect they’ll work well for me for up to the half marathon distance, but won’t be quite enough shoe to go 26.2 for me.

Traction: Damp roads (not all the way wet — damp roads are way more slippery in my experience) will be the true test. No complaints on dry sidewalks after the first run.

Flexibility: I didn’t feel the shoe fighting me at any point. Must be good!

Durability: Questionable! I have a long history of chewing up soft blown rubber on many Brooks models. The cushioning properties of this kind or rubber comes at a cost, and the soles of my shoes look alarmingly well-worn after a single 4-mile outing. No issues with the upper, which seems far more solid.

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Looks: Simply gorgeous. The scarlet colorway will readily pair with casual clothes. I fly frequently for work, and being able to pack just one pair of casual sneakers is a huge plus.

Price: These retail for $89.95 at Running Warehouse. I used a discount code from a bigger, cooler blog for 10% off. Many shoes constructed with premium materials are priced well above $100, so durability concerns aside, these do seem like a good value. They don’t feel like a budget model.

Overall: I expect the Zante v4 to be a fun shoe for uptempo efforts and low double-digit outings. I’ll write an update once I’ve logged more miles in them.
 

Hoka One One Hupana Review

temporaryTL; DR: Not your mama’s marshmallow-y HOKAs. Light, fast, and responsive enough for fast efforts, the Hupana is a model I find myself reaching for over and over. Love it. (Click here to jump to the overall rating if you aren’t down for the full 1,200-ish word review.)

After some major missteps with the Clifton (making a near-perfect lightweight do-anything model heavier, more structured, and decidedly un-Clifton-like) HOKA One One gets its act together with the Hupana. This shoe has a sleek knit upper plus sole geometry and stack height comparable to a “regular” running shoe. A firmed up version of HOKA’s RMAT foam does double duty as both midsole and outsole, lending the Hupana a quiet, smooth ride. I put over 75 road and treadmill miles on these before I knew it — despite having loads of shoes in my collection (a truly unhealthy number of pairs), these were the ones I consistently wanted on my feet. It’s not all sunshine and roses with these, but it mostly is. Read on for my review of the Hupana in ten key areas, ultimately arriving at an overall numerical score out of a possible 100 points.

Disclosure: I bought these shoes myself and my opinions are entirely my own.

Weight
In the same way that I failed with my Saucony Freedom ISO review, I did not weigh the Hupana before I ran in them, and weighing them now after a fair amount of use is not only a gross way to use my food scale, but doesn’t give the model a fair shake. As much as it pains me to do it, I have to rely on the stated catalog weight. I have some reviews in the pipeline with at-home weigh-ins, so I won’t always make excuses! Running Warehouse has the exact same women’s model weight below listed for a size 8, not the size 7 specified by HOKA One One, so I’m leaving their specs out this time because I suspect that’s a mistake, not some different size, same weight sorcery cooked up by HOKA.

Per Hoka One One: 8.2 oz (men’s size 9)/6.3 oz (women’s size 7)

For about half an ounce more than the Saucony Kinvara 7 (Kinvara 8 review coming soon), you get a densely woven upper (will run warm in the summer, for sure), a semi-plush inner lining, and a thick, protective midsole. While the Hupana isn’t as lean as the Kinvara 7, it’s easily as spry and willing to pick up the pace. Its 8.2 oz weight matches that of the Nike Zoom Elite 9 (review coming soon) and is a couple tenths of an ounce lighter than the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v3 (review also coming soon). The Hupana is in good — FAST — company with these similarly lightweight models. 8/10

Ride
You already know what I’m going to say since I’m barely holding myself back from gushing on this point. Smooth heel to to transitions. Quiet footfalls (noisy shoes are a pet peeve of mine as they make headphones-free running less than serene). Good groundfeel and feedback without being bone-jarringly firm or harsh on my legs. In short, the ride is superb. 10/10

Fit
No-fuss fit with excellent lockdown thanks to the stiff knit upper. The heel is adequately plush without being skate shoe-like, allowing for secure foot hold at minimal weight.  Logos printed on both insoles are completely intact, so I know my feet aren’t sliding around. Pull the laces and these are good to go with no fine tuning needed. 10/10

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Comfort
The Hupana is another shoe that disappears on my feet so my thoughts don’t run to “ahh, so comfy!” as I’m running, but it’s also plenty cozy enough that it’s a delight to slip into after a long day in high heels. No complaints, but the comfort isn’t something to write home about. The Hupana is performance-oriented, so I don’t think that’s a knock against it at all. 8/10

Traction
The grip is surprisingly excellent. I felt as surefooted as a billy goat on wet roads and sidewalks in these. I was pleasantly surprised that midsole foam could grab the ground so well. Even wit some areas of moderate wear in the toe and lateral heel, the traction is undiminished. However, one thing to note about the Hupana’s midsole-outsole: it builds up static like crazy. Shuffle across a carpeted floor in these and you’ll turn yourself into a weapon. Worse, run on a treadmill and you’ll shock yourself over and over if you reach for a water bottle or incidentally touch the machine with your hands. I released a shock so powerful on my home treadmill that it actually turned the machine off. You’ve been warned! That said, I’m still very impressed with the traction and I can live with the perils of using the Hupana on a treadmill. 10/10

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Flexibility
It’s not reasonable to expect much flexibility out of a sole that’s just a thick slab of foam. Even with a number of flex grooves carved out, the Hupana is hard to bend, with a flexion point just in front of the first row of lace eyelets. I don’t think this negatively impacts the ride character, but it’s not an asset either.  7/10

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Durability
This version of RMAT foam is way more resilient than the easily shredded RMAT found in the Clifton 1. My pair of Hupanas is showing a bit of wear in the toe (light wear), forefoot (light wear) and lateral heel (moderate wear), but otherwise looks great. Much of the shallow texturing on the “outsole” is still intact. No creases in the midsole and no fraying in the upper or laces. The upper is stiff enough that it holds a sharp crease at the flexion point just in front of the first row of eyelets, so that may be a failure point in the future. 9/10

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Looks
The two-tone blue knit upper on my pair is accented with orange at the toe, heel, and eyelets. It’s more sophisticated for a HOKA (who has produced a veritable glut of garish models, like the Speed Goat), but it’s not quite there for me. You could slap a Skechers logo on the side and I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. A truly monochrome knit might have been more sleek. I don’t totally hate the looks of these, but they don’t excite me either. 7/10

Price
I’m pretty accustomed to spending between $120-$140 for running shoes. The Hupana’s MSRP is $115, which is pretty great. It’s not the cheapest performance model out there (that title probably belongs to the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v3), but it’s reasonable and given its durability and excellent ride, it’s a great value. 9/10

Suitability for Intended Purpose
HOKA bills the Hupana as an all-day shoe that can carry you from the grocery store and daily chores right through to your run. It’s meant to be as performance-oriented with its RMAT outsole as it is stylish with its knit upper. I agree with the performance side of this, but am disinclined to wear the Hupana with anything other than running clothes. However, it gets the uptempo running part of the equation so right that I can’t fault it too much for getting the lifestyle shoe part wrong. 9/10

Overall
To recap for you TL;DR folks:
Weight: 8/10
Ride: 10/10
Fit: 10/10
Comfort: 8/10
Traction: 10/10
Flexibility: 7/10
Durability: 9/10
Looks: 7/10
Price: 9/10
Suitability for Intended Purpose: 9/10
TOTAL: 87/100

I’m a tough grader, but in my defense, there are a lot of excellent shoes to choose from, so it’s important to know where a particular model shines and where it stinks. Overall, the Hupana is great and will likely be on my feet for a marathon this spring.

Until next time, happy trails!

-Ultrarunner Hope