RoadShoe ReviewsSite Feature

New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo 4 Performance Review

What You Need To Know

  • Major update to the ankle collar yields mixed opinions
  • Heavier than version 3, but still on par with most stability shoes
  • Same midsole as V3
  • Can be worn with a tuxedo t-shirt and blazer

Austin: I’d like to say off the top that I’m simply amazed at the New Balance running division. With all the new shoes coming out, in addition to their tried-and-true legends, New Balance is excelling in the footwear race.

A recent Boston Globe article says as much about the company’s prospects for the future. New Balance is currently building out a new shoe factory in Methuen, Massachusetts, to test “advanced manufacturing techniques, 3-D printing, and research and development.” We the people, runners and walkers alike, will be the beneficiaries of this emerging technology and the corresponding kicks that will be made in the good ol’ USA. Will future versions of the Vongo come off the Methuen line? I suppose that depends on whether it’s liked enough. Have a look for our thoughts.

Jarrett: The New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo 3 was the shoe I picked as the best running shoe for wide feet last year. I loved the fit, upper, and ride. Not a super fast shoe, but just an insanely comfortable stability shoe and a joy to use during my marathon training long runs.

When I got put on to review the Vongo 4, I was hyped, but also a bit skeptical. Change scares me. And there are changes in this shoe.

Where’d my honeycomb 3D printed upper go? What’s this sockfit collar thing?? Why is this shoe heavier?! The only way to find answers was to put the v4 to the test with lots of miles.

The Good

Austin: I reviewed the first Vongo for Believe in the Run in April 2016, so I’m sorry I’m unable to provide you, faithful reader, with any remarks about the versions in between. What I did like about the first Vongo is retained in the fourth: a single piece of Fresh Foam that’s “stuffed” under the arch to provide stability without the need for a blocky media post.

According to New Balance, the Vongo 4 weighs 10.7 ounces in a men’s nine (a small weight increase from version three). That’s not overly bulky for a shoe that provides moderate stability. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19, in comparison, weighs 11 ounces (and also dropped the medial post I might add).

After unboxing the Vongo 4, two concerns were immediately visible. The sock-like heel collar and the ASYM (asymmetrical) heel counter. Between the two, I figured that I’d wind up with a hot spot or blister or the shoe wouldn’t secure the heel.

I’m happy to report that I completed multiple runs at slower and faster paces with no sense of heel slippage or skin irritation. I love the mid-foot wrap too. I further wondered whether the Vongo would be too wide, but the bootie construction and saddle locked my feet down for every mile. Toe box space is glorious.

Though I don’t normally run in structured (stable) shoes, I love the Vongo 4. In fact, I was beyond irritated that I kept incurring heel blisters in the first Fresh Foam Beacon. I traded socks and tweaked the lace configurations. Nothing helped. Ugh. The Vongo 4 is a great substitute, even if it’s heavier. Hey—everyone needs a comfortable shoe for long runs, whether it’s 6, 10, or 24 miles. Lastly, who else is simply digging the colors that New Balance is dropping these days? Wow. Just wow. Simple but sick.

Jarrett: I don’t hate that the midsole is the same Fresh Foam as the previous version. It’s a smooth comfortable ride that transitions well from heel to toe. It works well for cruising. The same outsole provides a ton of grip no matter if it’s wet or dry out.

Now let’s talk about the new stuff I like. In Baltimore, it’s reaching 90 degrees with stupid high humidity. The new upper is definitely comfortable while also providing solid breathability to keep cool. I’m a fan of the toe box as well.

The Vongo 4 is a good-looking shoe. Not overly flashy, but upon a second look, you’re like “Damn!” It’s hard to mess up a black shoe, and the sockfit collar adds an extra touch of fanciness. Like a blazer worn over a tuxedo t-shirt.

Erin: I don’t have much good to say about the Vongo 4, which is somewhat surprising since I’m a huge fan of New Balance in general, but this shoe just doesn’t fit my running needs (I’m typically not a stability runner).

Shop New Balance Vongo 4

The Bad

Austin: I honestly have no criticisms for the Vongo 4. Most runners favor lighter weight shoes, even ones that provide moderate stability. That’s a tall order for shoes of this sort as only so much can be done to reduce weight. If the Vongo 5 lands with any weight drops, great. If not, it still weighs less than the Brooks Adrenaline and ASICS Kayano.

Jarrett: The outsole of the Vongo 4 is the same width as the V3. I know because I measured it. So why does the midfoot fit for my wide shoe seem so much tighter?! It’s actually unbearable after upping the miles. Which is odd, because New Balance is usually very accommodating to the wide people. However, this seems like a step backwards.

When walking around casually, I noticed my heel slightly slipping. I figured I would just heel lock lace the shoes and I’d be fine. In the 1-6 mile range, I forgot about any slipping. However, once I got in to the 6+ mile range I noticed the heel slip again and it got more and more noticeable. There’s a very small amount of padding inside the heel, and that coupled with a stiff counter didn’t allow it to contour to my foot. Also, the collar does nothing as far as I can tell, but at least it does look nice like I said above.

I know shoes fluctuate in weight, but I’m bummed about the new weight for the Vongo 4. My 10.5 2E weighs 11.5oz whereas the V3 weighed 10.8oz. The FuelCell Rebel and Fresh Foam Beacon 2 are stupid light. Incorporate some of that genius in to the Vongo!

Erin: I’m not exactly sure what the point of a 4 mm drop stability shoe is. Every run I did in these (let’s be honest, there weren’t that many) was kind of miserable. The heel feels so heavy to me that the drop is not really even noticeable.

It’s hard to pick up the pace in this shoe. They’re also wide, but it’s only the midsole that’s wide, because I found the knit upper to be tight and I could never get a good fit. I never bothered to double knot these because I’d inevitably have to stop two to three times during the first mile to adjust and readjust. I just never found a way that they worked for me.

Shop New Balance Vongo 4

New Balance Vongo 4 Conclusion

Austin: Do yourself a favor and have a look at what New Balance is putting out for runners right now. The Vongo 4 is just one example of a powerful lineup that’s landing in 2019. We’ve given the first couple releases rave reviews–the Fresh Foam Beacon 2 review and the FuelCell Rebel are both live on the site now. “New Balance is simply spitting fire this year,” says Thomas. Clear a path for the blaze that’s coming folks.

Erin: Hopefully there’s a group of runners out there for whom the Vongo works: maybe someone who typically runs in stability shoes who is looking to transition to something lighter, or maybe looking for something to race in. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t the shoe for me.  

Jarrett: This is exactly why I’m skeptical about change. I just can’t get down with the new upper of the Vongo 4. The midfoot is too tight on the wide version and the heel slip gets progressively more annoying as the miles build up. As good as the shoe looks, my #2ETeam may be disappointed. That said, if you liked the feel underfoot of the V3 and are looking for a different take on an upper, this could work for you. You can pick it up at Running Warehouse for $139.95 using the shop links below.

Shop New Balance Vongo 4
Women’s Vongo 4

Austin, who lives north of Atlanta, is also a husband, father, and writer. He loves Christopher Nolan films, NBC sitcoms, peanut M&M’S, and a good playlist for long runs.

As the wide-shoe reviewer for BITR, Jarrett is on a never-ending search for the Cinderella shoe to fit his Yeti feet. He currently lives in Baltimore where he enjoys running roads and trails with November Project and Faster Bastards. He also loves craft beer, donuts, and pretending to be elite in his NormaTec boots.

Erin is our resident female trail runner and enjoys running ultras all over the East Coast, in addition to her hometown of Baltimore. Check out her gnarly review of the Georgia Death Race here.

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