Testing 3 New Balance Shoes: Zante, Boracay, 890v5

Testing 3 Neutral New Balance Shoes For Spring

The Fresh Foam Boracay and Zante in action (Photo: New Balance)

New Balance shoes have been a part of my running shoe rotation for two years now. Last fall, I included the 890v4, 1400v2 and Fresh Foam 980 in my Guide To Neutral Running Shoes. In the last few weeks, I’ve been trying out the three newest New Balance shoes in the neutral running category: Fresh Foam Zante, Fresh Foam Boracay, and 890v5. How does each pair stack up? I’m happy to report that these are three excellent updates that will suit different types of neutral runners.

The shoe vitals are as listed by New Balance for the women’s version. I tried each pair in a women’s size 9, courtesy of New Balance, and listed them from lightest to heaviest.

Testing 3 Neutral New Balance Shoes: Fresh Foam Zante, Boracay + 890v5

Fresh Foam Zante

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante

MSRP: $100
Weight: 6.4 oz
Drop: 6 mm
Colorways: 3 standard

The New Balance Fresh Foam Zante is for folks who want to run—or feel—fast. The lightweight shoe rivals the New Balance 1400 in responsiveness, but with feel-so-good cushioning and an insole that cradles your arches like your favorite pillow. The Fresh Foam’s midsole design of interlocking convex and concave shapes means the shoe gives where you need flexibility and holds firm where you need support, much like the Fresh Foam Boracay. But New Balance used biomechanical data from faster runners to build the Zante.

Testing 3 Neutral New Balance Shoes: Fresh Foam Zante, Boracay + 890v5

Fresh Foam Zante

The result? A shoe that rides like a dream—a dream where you’re setting PR after PR. You may not run a 5-minute pace, but you can imagine what that feels like in these shoes.

Springy and speedy, the Zante promises a quick heel to toe transition with an “aggressive toe spring.” It delivers. The shoe is light, supple, and downright fun to run in.

The upper is a soft and flexible mesh bootie that hugs in all the right places—at the heel, arch, and outer ball of the foot—while leaving breathing room in the toes. In short, this shoe fits like a glove and responds like a race car.

The stripped down design has just what you need and nothing more. Best of all, it has enough cushioning to take you on long runs too.

I love everything about this shoe, and don’t have a singe critique for it. I totally see why Competitor Magazine named the Fresh Foam Zante the 2015 Road Shoe of the Year. It’s earned a spot in my personal shoe rotation and might even be my favorite pair of New Balance shoes yet.

Will you love it as much as I do? Yes, if you like to feel the road under your feet in a light and soft ride. Maybe not if you prefer a beefier or more plushly cushioned shoe.

Testing 3 Neutral New Balance Shoes: Fresh Foam Zante, Boracay + 890v5

New Balance 890v5

New Balance 890v5

MSRP: $115
Weight: 7.34 oz
Drop: 8 mm
Colorways: 3 Standard, 1 Pink Ribbon

The beloved New Balance 890 series got yet another update. I’m happy to report the 890v5 is as comfortable and cushioned as its predecessor. The ABZORB crash pad feels fantastic under heel and the REVlite cushioning is downright plush throughout. Add in an OrthoLite insole for an ultra comfortable ride. The no-sew two-way stretch mesh upper moves with your foot while being highly breathable and fits even better than the previous version. The fit is true to size.

Testing 3 Neutral New Balance Shoes: Fresh Foam Zante, Boracay + 890v5


New Balance added nearly an ounce to the shoe, bringing it from 6.4 to 7.34 ounces. Honestly, I wouldn’t have noticed the difference if I hadn’t looked it up.

My only complaint about the 890v4 had been a toe box that was a touch tiny for me. Of course, it hasn’t stopped me from logging long runs or doing races in the shoes. And the 890v5 didn’t change in that area.

If you already love the 890v4, then you’ll also love the 890v5. This is a high-mileage design with excellent cushioning and a finer fit than its predecessor.

Is this the shoe for you? Yes, if you’re looking for a traditional trainer to carry you through some serious miles. Maybe not if you prefer a barely there or more responsive shoe.

Testing 3 Neutral New Balance Shoes: Fresh Foam Zante, Boracay + 890v5

Fresh Foam Boracay

New Balance Fresh Foam Boracay

MSRP: $120
Weight: 7.69 oz
Drop: 4 mm
Colorways: 4 Standard, 1 Limited Edition

The Fresh Foam Boracay is a superb update to the original Fresh Foam 980 New Balance shoes that debuted last summer. The new model is softer, smoother, and roomier—all in a good way.

Testing 3 Neutral New Balance Shoes: Fresh Foam Zante, Boracay + 890v5

Fresh Foam Boracay

With its Fresh Foam line New Balance took biomechanical data from runners to create a single-piece midsole and outsole. Like the original, both the Boracay and Zante use a mix of convex and concave hexagons in the midsole. The concave shapes collapse to create flexibility where you need it, and the convex layers hold steady to give support where you need stability most.

My major critiques of the old shoe had been a narrow toe box, stiff sole, and firm—rather than soft—cushioning. I called it a “neutral shoe that rides a bit more like a stability trainer.” The Boracay update largely solves these issues.

The shoe now comes on a wider platform with plenty of wiggle room in the toes. New Balance adjusted the hexagon pattern based on biomechanical data from average paced runners. The result is a softer cushioning that feels like it could carry you for miles and miles and miles. The shoe is still a bit stiffer than say, the 890v5, but not to a fault. Plus, the two-way stretch mesh with no-sew overlay is sparkly—sparkly! These put a smile on my face every time I wear them, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

What will you like better—890v5 or Fresh Foam Boracay? The Fresh Foam Boracay is roomier and lower to the ground. The 890v5 is the cushier and more traditional shoe with a higher heel. Mid-foot strikers might prefer the Boracay, while heel strikers might prefer the 890v5. I’d suggest a side-by-side comparison on your foot of these two New Balance shoes. These are two very different trainers designed with the same purpose—to see you through heavy training.

New Balance gave me complimentary shoes to try. As always, all opinions are purely my own. Just read my critique of the original Fresh Foam to see. I’m always honest about my experiences. Seriously. For more information, read my Disclosure policy.

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Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


03 2015

17 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    I recently got to the 400 mile mark in my New Balance Fresh Foam 980 trail shoes. Very comfortable!
    Tina@GottaRunNow recently posted..Race Volunteering & To Carry a Cup, Bottle, Belt, Pack or NotMy Profile

    • Arun #

      Tina, how do they feel? I tried the trail version in a store and was disappointed by the stiffness of the sole and firmness of the cushion.

      • Karla Bruning

        I have the trail version too. I liked the trail version much better than the original road version and I’ve worn them a lot. I find that I like having a stiffer sole on the trail (feel more stable), whereas I want something more responsive on the road. My only complaint about the trail version is it has a small toebox.

    • Karla Bruning

      Glad you like them! I’ve been wearing and loving them too.

  2. Arun #

    Thanks so much for this review. I have been looking for a new cushioned shoe for my upcoming training for Marine Corps Marathon (!!!!). For years, I have worn the Brooks Ghost as my long-distance trainer/racer in a size 14 (even though my feet are more like 12, 12.5) so I tend to have a LOT of room in front of my toes — perhaps too much. But size 13 tends to be too crowded, especially when my feet swell. I also run shorter distances in Skechers GoRunRide, Altra Instinct, Brooks PureCadence, and others.

    Recently, I was advised to try a shoe in size 13 but 2E or 4E width so that I have room for my forefoot without too much dead space in front of my toes.

    So I tried the Ghost in 13/2E but it just didn’t fit right. Still felt crowded. I tried the Asics Gel-Nimbus in 13/4E and it fit like a dream but I wasn’t in love with the “ride.”

    Then last week, I tried the Fresh Foam Zante in 2E and really liked the fit and the cushion. I also tried the Boracay in 2E and liked the cushion but the fit actually felt more crowded than the Zante. I see that the Boracay is available in 4E but I can’t find it in stores. So I may roll the dice and order it from Zappos and see what happens.

    I still like the idea of running some shorter distances in more minimal shoes, but I know for all those brutal long runs of 14, 16, 18 and more miles I think I do need some cushion. From the sound of your review, perhaps the Zante and Boracay might be worth adding to the marathon season rotation.

    Sorry for the long comment!

    • Karla Bruning

      Finding the perfect shoe can be such an ordeal can’t it? I know a few wide-shoe wearers who swear by New Balance for that reason. The Zante has a really roomy toe box, which I love. The Boracay is a big improvement on the original Fresh Foam, but does have a slightly narrower box than Zante. Zappos is great with free returns, so it can’t hurt to try! Hope you find something you love!

  3. karen #

    Thanks for the review! I too am a NB fan have been using 890 for couple of years have just got the Zante and love them also. As a slower runner (10min mile) I currently find the lower drop of the Zante gives me much tighter calfs … At least I think that is what it is ! Your write up of them is excellent and very accurate. I’ve worn out my 890s and because of toebox issues have been trying the 1080s but they are so clunky comparatively I’m not enjoying them! Back to the 890s for me with a bit of zante mixed in! Thanks for the review!

    • Karla Bruning

      Thanks and hope you enjoy the new 890s!

  4. 9

    I haven’t tried alternative running shoes and I always stuck with nike and Adidas but this post made me think of trying out New Balance and Sauconys. Thank you for this review, will let you know if I get to buy mine soon!

  5. 10

    I would like to test tinket bell anf pluto shoes

  6. Patricia Mish #

    Enjoyed your review! I am a longtime 890 wearer and had considered the Zante but picked up the Brooks Launch 2 instead. They feel a bit heavy on my feet, and I’m thinking of returning them in favor of the Zante. Have you tried the Launch 2 and can you tell me how it compares to the Zante and 890? I am a mid-foot striker.
    I have ankle and achilles issues from time to time, and was a little scared off by the low heel to toe drop on the Zantes. Did you notice a difference between the heel-toe on the 890v5 and the Zante?

    • Karla Bruning

      Patricia, I have not tried the Launch 2 but I’m familiar with them. They are heavier than both the 890s and Zante. So if they they feel a bit heavy on your feet, you might like the Zante, which IS a lighter shoe (1.5 oz lighter) and FEELS incredibly light on your feet. Like the Launch 2, the Zante is a zippy/springy ride. They also feel lighter than the 890s underfoot. I’d also recommend trying the New Balance Vazee Pace, which I’ve tried since writing this rundown. It’s as light as the Zante, but feels more substantial underfoot. It’s the marriage of the 890 and Zante. I’ve done runs longer than 9 miles in them and my feet were really happy. Hope you find the right pair for you!

  7. 13

    Is the New Balance Boracay named after one of the places located here in the Philippines?

    • Karla Bruning

      Yes, named after the island Boracay!

  8. Susan #

    I found out yesterday that my trusty walking companion the Boracay has been discontinued. :( By far the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn. I can walk 20k in them without a hint of foot pain.

    I was able to find two pairs and bought them both. But I don’t know what I will do when they’re worn away. Do you know of a very similar running shoe?

    • Karla Bruning

      I’d try the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080. It’s a step up in cushioning from the Boracay, and an updated version of the Fresh Foam. I personally find it *more* comfortable than the Boracay (and roomier in the toes). I’ve run a half-marathon in mine and put a lot of miles on them. It’s a great shoe. Hope they work for you!

  9. Adena #

    Im a neutral shoe gal and wonder if the Boracay is right for me.. mostly half marathons. Have been wearing Pegasus 33 but need something else to try


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