By Austin Bonds
Though runners are known for staying with a particular shoe (and a specific version I might add) for the fullest length of time, I’m partial to trying on completely new models on a regular basis to discover what sets them apart in a crowded marketplace. The Asics fuzeX is one such shoe for 2016, as is the Neuro from Brooks. I recently had the chance to take a gander at the Fresh Foam Vongo by New Balance, and here is a rundown of what matters most in this new trainer.
The New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo is the first structured (stable) shoe in the Fresh Foam collection. Unlike the 870 or 860, which utilize a medial post to increase stability, the Vongo is devoid of the post. According to a December 2015 “Sneak Peek” of the Vongo from a Runner’s World article I perused a few weeks ago, the midsole is “higher on the arch side” and “overstuffed” with foam under the arch to provide some additional stability in the shoe. This approach to the Vongo reminds me of the Ultra Boost ST by Adidas. The “multi-density Boost” gives the ST extra stability under the arch as well.
Out of the box, I’m intrigued by the lighter weight of the Vongo (10.1 ounces in a men’s size 9). The Ultra Boost ST, as a point of comparison, clocks in at 11.4 ounces in the same size, though I’m inclined to speculate that the Boost midsole is likely to last longer from a total mileage standpoint than a Fresh Foam midsole. This assertion is based on my personal experience running in numerous Boost shoes, including the Adios, Energy, and Glide.
The upper in the Vongo should also be highlighted as the construction is noteworthy. A light mesh is complemented by heated overlays and a secure midfoot wrap. The design is striking too as New Balance has made some remarkably good changes to the looks of their running shoes as of late, including the Vongo, 1080, Zante, and the recently updated 880. In short, the designs are sharp, and I hope this continues with future updates.
As to the outsole, it appears to be comprised of blown rubber, separated into two pieces by a split in the shoe extending from the heel to the midfoot. As to the inclusion of the split in the Vongo, I have the sense that it was included to provide a touch of extra stability and facilitate a better transition through the gait cycle. As to the tongue and laces, there’s nothing distinctive; the tongue isn’t too thick or thin, and the laces are flat.
Like other Fresh Foam models, the Vongo has a firmness about it, notably in the forefoot – and yet I still found it to be a soft shoe. This is undoubtedly based on my perception of soft as yours may be remarkably different (like that of the Nimbus, Glycerin, or Clifton). The heel cushioning in the Vongo feels softer than the forefoot, so runners who make initial contact with the ground from a midfoot or forefoot position may observe the firmness of the Vongo more as I did.
As to the name, Vongo is a strange choice for a shoe, much like the Zante. But New Balance seems to be moving away from numbers and towards names – at least with these two models. When I first heard about the Vongo, I did a Google search on this word to see what information on the shoe might be unearthed. Apparently Vongo was also a video on demand service that no longer exists, and users of this service are glad it is now in the grave. The Urban Dictionary defined “Vongo” (the video service) as a “complete and total rip off.”
Thankfully, the Fresh Foam Vongo by New Balance can also be located in the search results, a shoe that offers “proof that you don’t have to sacrifice cushioning for stability” (according to the New Balance website product page). I don’t foresee the Vongo as a rip off like that now defunct video service – according to the users anyway). I see this shoe as one more step (pun intended) in the right direction by New Balance as they find their way in a cramped market of shoes. The fit is improving across all models, as is the design. Furthermore, the Fresh Foam midsole is striking a chord with runners. New Balance is making strides, and I hope that this particular model will become a mainstay in the Fresh Foam lineup.
Photos courtesy of Running Warehouse