Monday, February 03, 2020

New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo Review: The Zante is Dead, Long Live the Zante!

Article by Jacob Brady & Peter Stuart

New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo ($110)


Official Weight:: men's 7.3 oz  / 207 g women's 6.1 oz / 173 g
  Samples: 10.1  oz/ 285g (US Men’s 12)
Offset: 6mm
Available February 2020.  $110


Jacob: The Tempo is a totally new shoe from New Balance and part of the Fresh Foam X line. The Tempo is a fairly lightweight, mid-to-low stack shoe which feels somewhat like a continuation of the Zante line. It features New Balance’s new trace fiber upper stitching—a similar look (and support function) to what we see in the 1080 v10. The Tempo is somewhat of a companion shoe in intended purpose as well. Both can work as a daily trainer, but the 1080 is on the higher mileage/longer runs side while the Tempo focuses on workouts, and speed.

While I did run in the Zante v3 a couple years back, lower drop, firmly cushioned shoes are not usually my preference and not the current design trend for a fast shoe. These days, most shoes built for speed feature a high-energy midsole and are often higher stack as well. I was looking forward to seeing what New Balance could do with a fairly “classic” mid-stack, plain old EVA midsole.

Peter: These dropped onto my porch without warning and it took me a minute to figure out what the heck a NB Tempo is. Turns out it’s the replacement for the Zante...but different. Interesting to see how these new Fresh Foam Tempo’s are going to slot in with the other fine NB lightweight racer/trainers such as the Fuel Cell Rebel, the 1400 and the OG Zante.


Jacob: Disappears on the foot, flexible, great fit, versatile
Peter: looks great, great fit, fun shoe


Jacob: Barely a con, but for a shoe intended for faster running, “just” EVA is a bit of a negative
Peter: a tiny bit firm, especially over long distances. 

Tester Profiles

Jacob runs a mix of roads and trails in the Portland, Maine area. He runs every day and averages 50 miles per week. Jacob recently ran a PR 2:51 marathon and just wrapped up his first season of ultra/trail running which included two 50km trail races and two mountain races.

Peter: Runs roads in Austin, Tx. PR  includes a 2:57 marathon and just ran a 1:23 half in Austin last month. Run in lots of different shoes and always looking for the one that makes me smile the most while I run. 

First Impressions and Fit

Jacob: The styling of the orange and yellow support stitching and lack of other structure in the upper mesh are immediately apparent—the toe box especially is very unstructured, and notable just by looking at the shoe. The colorway is reminiscent of animal print and is kind of cool, but some may find it a bit childish.

In hand, the Tempo feels lightweight; a good sign and pretty critical to the success of this shoe. It is fairly flexible with a single flex point early in the forefoot—I can even flex the forefoot midsole just by moving my toes.

The Fresh Foam midsole feels softer to the touch than I was anticipating. On the foot, it feels more characteristically firm, though the midsole isn’t hard and there is even a slight sinking feeling on step in. The outsole rubber in the toe/heel is quite sticky on a hardwood floor. I’ve been loving New Balance’s outsoles in all their recent road shoes and expect this to be another solid one. The upper disappears on the foot with no pressure points. The sizing seems perfect and the heel really locks in even before lacing—a great fit. No new tech but fairly lightweight with a great fit—good start!

Peter: Sizing is right on, shoe feels and looks great. Very excited to get out and do some workouts in them. 


Jacob: The Tempo upper is composed of a thin, floppy engineered mesh supported by a single overlay above the toebox, New Balance’s new trace fiber stitching in the midfoot, and a mid-height, hard rubber-like heel cup. The heel collar and tongue are fairly padded and unremarkable, though they work well as part of the overall great fit of the shoe.

The lack of structure in the toebox mesh is visually apparent and provides a very unobtrusive fit as well as enhancing flexibility.

The lowest eyelet can collapse the upper mesh which then presses uncomfortably into the top of the foot if I lace too tightly. This said I found that level of tightness not necessary for a secure fit. The step in fit of the Tempo is awesome; the heel slips in and locks into place perfectly. With the beginning of winter, I’ve been experiencing some discomfort on the outside of my feet in many of my shoes that were fine during the warmer weather. The Tempo isn’t remarkably wide, but the soft and pliable upper puts no pressure on the outside of my feet at all—I’m a big fan.

Peter: The NB Tempo upper is a nice use of engineered mesh. They’re calling it a HypoKnit. It’s a great, thin mesh toebox and midfoot with some patterned overlay at the midfoot. The heel is more rigid and holds the foot well. There’s a loop at the back to pull the shoe on--how did we ever live without those? It’s one of those uppers that just works for me. Laced it up and went on a run. Simple. 


As part of the Fresh Foam line, the Tempo midsole is composed of the newest iteration of New Balance’s Fresh Foam midsole—a somewhat firm, stable, solid but “standard” foam. The Fresh Foam in the Tempo is less firm than in past New Balance shoes I’ve run in (Beacon 1 & 2, Zante v3) and even with the relatively low stack does not feel at all hard. 

The midsole is the weakest point of the Tempo, but is not bad, it's just unremarkable. There is no noticeable rebound and no “fun factor.” However, the midsole lends a very noticeable ground-feel without being harsh or hard. 

Peter: Yup, it’s still Fresh Foam. It feels good--if a bit of ‘same as it ever was’. I haven’t gotten to run it side by side with the original Zante but to me it seems a bit firmer. I’m a bigger fan of Fresh Foam than some other folks are I know. Like much in this shoe, the midsole is good, it works and adds to the overall harmony of the ride. 


Jacob: Many of New Balance’s shoes such as the Zante line used a firm rubber, full-coverage outsole. This trend is definitely ending with all their recent releases: in the FuelCell line as well as the 1080 v10, and now the Tempo have decoupled, softer rubber outsoles with a bit of exposed midsole.

The Tempo outsole employs two pieces of less-dense, softer, pretty sticky rubber with a patch of exposed EVA beneath the midfoot. The outsole is quiet and is quite flexible given the significant coverage. Grip is also top-notch on the road. Two of my test runs were in heavy rain and I had no issues on brick sidewalks, painted lines, or a puddled track. With less than 30 miles on the shoes so far, I can’t assess the wear rate, but the traction and ride of the outsole are great. 

Peter: Full coverage with differing densities of rubber and some exposed Foam in the middle. It rides just like a Zante, holds the road great and has plenty of flex. 


Jacob: The Tempo ride is stable and smooth. The lack of any bouncy, squishy, or propulsive effect from the midsole is kind of nice—along with the good road feel, flexibility, and light upper, running becomes just me and the road.

I was concerned that I would either find the Tempo to feel too harsh or too boring, but was pleasantly surprised with the level of cushioning and consistency of stride. I had no pace or workout planned for my first two test runs, and both ended up being solid mid-6min/mi pace endurance runs (on the upper end of my endurance zone) that felt pretty chill. I did a handful of 10 second “all out” strides at the end of one as well and the Tempo was solid and stable even when my heel was never touching the ground.

The Tempo don’t encourage speed but also don’t hold me back at all; they are unnoticeable above and below the foot and don’t not get in the way at any pace.

I took the Tempo for a real track workout as well—some high effort 200s in the pouring rain. The grip was awesome on the puddled track and the workout went smoothly. Aside from completely filling with water, which is expected of a highly ventilated road shoe, the fit was great and I had no issues with security, harshness, or really anything. In fact, despite wearing the Tempo specifically for testing, I forgot about them during much of the workout. This is a defining characteristic of the shoe: it doesn’t get in the way of the run.

Peter: The Tempo rides nicely. It wakes up and really delivers when you go fast. I like them just fine at easy speeds, and they ride well, but hit the gas and they disappear. They’re not quite the all-arounder that the 1400 is, and they’re not quite as forgiving as the Zante or the Fuel Cell Rebel, but they’re a quick transitioning tempo day shoe. 

Conclusions and Recommendations

Jacob: For what it is—lowish stack, relatively inexpensive, all EVA midsole shoe—the Tempo does everything right. It is light, comfortable, secure, stable, and smooth. It runs well at all paces though is geared towards faster running . For recovery I’d prefer more cushion, but the Tempo definitely works for easy runs and could be a do-it-all trainer for those who prefer a lower stack and more pronounced road feel.

Even though it does everything well, the Tempo is unexciting. When compared to several other recent releases from New Balance, such as the FuelCell line, the Tempo seems outdated. The Fuelcell Propel specifically has been a core trainer for me the past few months and for the same price as the Tempo has a dramatically more modern feel with a fun, high-rebound foam, sleek styling, and a soft and bouncy ride. 

Overall, however, the Tempo exceeded my expectations and will keep a spot in my rotation for days when I want a firmer, lower-feeling shoe. 
Jacob’s Score: 7.9 /10
Ride: 7 (50%) Fit: 9 (30%) Value: 9 (15%)  Style 7 (5%)

Peter: I really like the Tempo. They look great, they run really smooth and they like to go fast. They bump into other NB shoes in a similar profile though, and that’s where they fall a tiny bit short for me. They’re quick like the 1400, but the 1400 has some sort of weird magic that makes me happy every time I put them on. I love the 1400. It is probably my favorite all-around running shoe ever. The Tempo aren’t quite as soft and easy on the feet as the Zante--but they look better. They’re also a bit firmer than the Fuel Cell Rebel--but the Tempo grips roads WAY better. Overall I’m a fan of the Tempo, especially if you’re looking for a shoe for quicker workouts. 
Peter’s Score 8.5/10 
really fun, but outclassed by some other New Balance


Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

New Balance Fuelcell Propel  (RTR Review)
Jacob: The Fuelcell Propel is another recent release from New Balance and for the same price as the Tempo has a strikingly different feel. The Propel is soft, bouncy, and fun while the Tempo is firm, stable, and straightforward. Both shoes are accommodating and very comfortable--the Propel is more plush and slipper-like though a bit shorter. The Propel is always a joy to run in, including on recovery days, though is less suited for speed. The Tempo is better for workouts though I wouldn’t race either of these shoes. Thus, the Propel is more versatile and I’d recommend it over the Tempo unless you’re specifically looking for a low, stable ride. Try them both out!
Peter: I totally agree with Jacob. Propel is my choice for longer, easier days and the Tempo for workouts. 

New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon v2  (RTR Review)
Jacob: The Beacon and Beacon v2 are fantastic all around shoes in New Balance’s Fresh Foam line and favorites of the RTR team. The Beacon is a better all-around shoe as it is lighter and has more stack/cushion to go the distance. The Tempo upper is more comfortable, the grip is superior, and the road feel dramatically different, but unless you specifically want a lower stack feel, the Beacon is the better call. The Tempo is a mix-it-up shoe, the Beacon is a daily driver that can also race. Both fit true to size.
Peter: Beacon is the better all-arounder. The Tempo for speed. 

Nike Epic React Flyknit 2  (RTR Review)
Jacob: I didn’t anticipate the Tempo to feel like the ER2, but they’re in a kind of similar category. Both are lightweight, unstructured, firm and stable but soft enough, and have a similar forefoot stack. The ER2 is softer, a bit more “fun” running, and more cushioned overall but the road feel is muted. The Tempo disappears on my foot more and is ready to run faster. Both shoes fit true to size but the ER2 is less comfortable or accommodating. I prefer the ER2 as a daily trainer due to a bit more cushion and ability to go long, but the Tempo is a better, more enjoyable shoe for workouts or shorter days.

New Balance 1400 v6  (RTR Review)
Peter: as mentioned above, I love the 1400. I love it at all speeds. I even love it up to 23 miles into a marathon! The Tempo lacks that special sauce for me, but it’s a damn fine shoe. 

New Balance Fuel Cell Rebel (RTR Review)
Peter: the Tempo disappears a little more underfoot. It’s more old school tempo day shoe. The rebel is softer, bouncier and newer tech. Pro tip—don’t race the Rebel in the rain. Grip is not great. Tempo if you like a firmer ride, Rebel if you want some bounce to your pounce. 

New Balance Zante (s) (RTR Review)
Peter: The original Zante had some magic. the NB fuel cell Rebel reminds me a little more of the OG Zante. The Tempo is more like the 1400. There’s definitely some shared characteristics in Zante and tempo and if you’ve been a Zante loyalist you shouldn’t freak out—the tempo will make you happy.
Jacob: I only ran in the Zante v3 but compared to that version the Tempo is softer and more flexible with a smoother and more comfortable upper. Both shoes are in the same class being mid/low stack and on the firm side, but the Tempo is more polished. I didn’t care much for the Zante v3, too hard and the heel collar was annoying, so the Tempo would be my pick, though the Tempo is more of a faster runs shoe than a faster runs + daily trainer like the Zante. 

Skechers Performance GO Run 7+ Hyper (RTR Review)
Peter: TOTALLY different shoes. Upper holds a bit better on theTempo, but the GoRun 7 is a springy and cushy ride. 

Skechers Performance Razor 3 Hyper (RTR Review)
Tempo is firmer and a little more accommodating for bigger feet. Razor is more fun for me at all tempos

Skechers Performance  Go Meb Speed 6 Hyper (RTR Review)
Peter: Pretty different shoes. Speed 6 is a bouncy racing flat. Very much the new tech in a low profile package. Tempo is the old tech in a pretty and pretty standard package. 

Shoe Reviews YouTube playlist HERE

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review 😊

However, wish there would be an updated comparisons with the Zante Pursuit, the model it directly replaces.


adic said...

I'm running in Zante 3, Zante 4 and now running in Zante Pursuit. For me it’s a great training shoe, nothing fantastic, but it works. I am interested in a more specific comparison with these models)

Unknown said...

I believe you meant "The Zante is dead, long live Tempo!" In the title, right? Anyways, great review! Excited for these to release in time for the track season!

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How does NB Tempo compare to the K11 and GRR8? Thanks!

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