New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo v4 Intro
New Balance has been known for quality and innovation right from the start of the running shoe industry, and five and a half years ago (Feb 2014) they continued in step, launching their new foam, Fresh Foam, in the NB980.
This 3D-printed foam is one piece front to back and delivers cushion with springy energy return.
Four years ago Vongo debuted as the first stability shoe in the Fresh Foam line-up, bursting on the scene with high reviews to join New Balance’s stability offerings which include the popular 860, 1260, 1500, and the Rubix which came out last year.
The seamless varus wedge midsole has a higher medial aspect, to counter overpronated foot motion.
Its outsole and upper have undergone changes, this year boasting the mild stability of the wedged midsole together with a more secure lock-down than we saw in the second version.
Vongo V4 has a new “soft fit” upper design and is a touch heavier than v3, though still lighter than Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19.
It looks fabulous and was my shoe choice when coming back off of 7 weeks of non running, as I let an emerging stress fracture heal after running a marathon on it in early June – but that’s a whole ‘nother story!
The cushioned Brooks Transcend 6 together with extra customized Orthotics from my podiatrist took the pressure off the injury enough for me to complete my race.
Vongo offers cushion and support similar enough to Transcend, that it’s given me the tentative edge to step back out on the road with it.
My physiology tends to favor a mid-drop shoe, so returning from injury in Vongo’s 4mm. offset meant my Achilles felt some strain, but I eased in. “Keep after it,” one of my coaches used to say.
I did a better warm up, iced after the run, and did eccentric heel lowers on a step, to ward off Achilles injury.
This upper has a few awesome benefits in that there is no tongue just an internal sleeve, as we’ve seen in the ISOfit shoes from Saucony and Nikes Odyssey line, for stability shoes.
New Balance also added an extra pad around the inside of the heel cup, for comfort and hold to keep the heel in its pocket. Even with the extra stretchiness of the upper around the ankle, my heel stayed in place.
The closest match to Vongo that I’ve run in is HOKA ONE ONE’s Arahi. Both are well-cushioned and deliver a stable ride, with a 4mm. drop.
Vongo is heavier but more durable. Many Altra shoes also give runners high cushion with low offset (0 mm.) heel to toe.
New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo v4 First Impressions
“Ooh, these slide on nice. And wait, are they [half size bigger]?” The length fits like a shoe half size bigger, but the width is true to size.
The upper has enough “give” to it to accommodate variations of foot shape in narrow-medium width feet. I have a genetic odd little shape to my otherwise narrow feet, and this shoe fits perfectly for me without going up half size.
On my first run I found that the comfortable stretch of the upper had enough mid-foot support to it to still hold my foot secure, while the snug initial feeling around the ankle did stretch a bit.
I decided to tighten the upper part of the laces a bit more, for the next run.
The subtle slope of the varus wedge helped me hold my foot in a more neutral position, which is part of my continuous form check.
up tempo, chest up, shoulders back, slight forward lean from the ankles, mid-foot land and keep foot neutral. (At least that’s what I try to think about, some of the time – not sure it always looks that way when I’m running!)
New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo v4 Sole Unit
In the sole we find consistency in Vongo. The varus wedge—an angle made by more height medially with a thinner lateral edge—effectively counters an overpronated foot motion and also holds the midfoot moderately stiff.
It’s made of a single piece of Fresh Foam material with no added heel or midfoot structure, yet it still maintains a stiff midfoot.
The innovative wedged design is New Balance’s answer to producing a stable shoe without the bulk of medial posts, and so far so good, as far as I’m concerned.
Why change what works? (Don’t you wish all of our favorite shoes would take this approach?!)
One aspect has changed since the first version, though. The outsole is split by a guidance line that runs from heel to just before the toes.
In the first model this line ended just past the center, but it was extended to the base of the toes, in v2.
I’m positive that this modification contributed to the overly-flexible 2nd edition, but it’s not a problem with the better lock-down of the 4’s upper.
The v4 has the same sole unit as the v3, which as similar to the v2 but with a slightly different grip pattern.
Significant grooves dice up the solid rubber base to aid traction and durability, but if coming off some gravel, you’ll get the click-click-click of a stone or two.
The guidance line keeps force applied to the outside of the foot from transferring fully to the medial aspect, which joins with the wedged shape to counter excessive pronation.
Vongo v4’s “ride” is well-cushioned, secure, and “grippy,”; I feel taken care of and prepared, in these shoes.
The gait goes on smoothly for steady-paced runs, but the sole is too heavy and thick for speedy runs with lots of direction changes.
New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo v4 Upper Unit
This upper is the best yet for Vongo. The secure fit I loved in its first version is maintained, yet aspects of the flexibility that showed up in v2 are added in.
I missed out on v3, but as much as I love the v4’s upper, I’m positive this one’s better.
The biggest change from a standard running shoe that you’ll see when glancing at the v4, is the knit collar and inner sleeve that wraps the foot in place of a tongue.
This stretchy collar covers enough of the ankle opening to keep dirt out and feels gently snug with no hot spots for me.
Engineered mesh overlies the base flexibility and provides structure to the upper, especially the midfoot where a soft “suede” piece is added between laces and sole; it complements the varus wedge midsole well, to limit foot motion.
The double layer is surprisingly breathable, too, during summer runs.
The shoe’s ankle opening offers a soft hug all around while slightly stretchy laces lock it into a heel pocket reinforced by an added “bump” of padding sown around the back of the heel curve.
The toe box offers not too much, not too little, but just the right amount of toe room. This shoe fits almost half-size long, but the width is right on. I don’t notice the extra length while running.
A final note about this upper is about the fabulous color options. My Sedona (reddish) shoe surprisingly looks great with many of my casual outfits in addition to running apparel.
The aluminum with pink accents, and black for women also have an appealing look. Men have choice of black, aluminum with black and red, and a light blue (chambray with lyon blue) not often seen in running shoes.
New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo v4 Conclusion
Vongo is very comfortable without sacrificing secure hold and structure. The toebox is only 4 mm. lower than the heel.
As with any low drop trainer, if you’re used to a standard stability shoe (10 mm. drop), ease in to running in these so that your calves can adjust to the increased workload.
Keep Vongo in your rotation for daily and long runs, but try something like ASICS Gel DS Trainer 24 or Brooks Ravenna for a snappier ride during speed workouts.
This is my favorite version of Vongo yet. What do you think of the new upper? Does the wedged midsole work for your stability needs? What color option grabbed your fancy? Let us know in the comments!
We purchased a pair of New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo v4 from runningwarehouse using our own money. This did not influence the outcome of this review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.