New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo Intro
The New Balance Zante was one of the most popular New Balance shoes. Runners loved its lightweight, soft and responsive ride and it gained a cult following over the years.
However, in recent times, the Zante has been overshadowed by New Balance’s own Beacon: another versatile, lightweight trainer.
When I ran in the Zante Pursuit, the newest and last version of the Zante line, I was amazed by its seamless, soft upper and its smooth ride but I felt like its Fresh Foam midsole was too dull and lifeless.
I also wished that it would have had a couple more millimetres of midsole stack height so that I could use it for my longer runs.
It was not a big surprise when news broke that the Zante was being discontinued and replaced by a new shoe, the Tempo.
The Tempo shares nothing in common with its predecessor, the Zante Pursuit. Its extreme makeover consists of a brand new Fresh Foam X midsole, a new upper and a new outsole.
So can the Fresh Foam Tempo, the new incarnation if the Zante, rise from the ashes and return the Zante line to former glory?
Can the Tempo take back the crown from the Beacon as the best New Balance lightweight trainer?
New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo First Impressions
From looks alone you can tell that the Tempo is the spiritual successor to the Zante. Everything from the mesh, to the synthetic strip on the toe box, to the colour schemes are reminiscent of the original Zante.
The Tempo’s midsole looks beefier and more substantial than the Zante Pursuit but the stack height of the Tempo is 24mm in the heel and 18mm in the forefoot, exactly the same as the Zante Pursuit.
Last year’s Zante Pursuit looked more like a causal or lifestyle shoe with its soft, knitted upper but the new Tempo looks like a traditional running shoe again.
The first thing that I noticed when trying on the shoe for the first time was the built-up heel counter. The external plastic counter makes the shoe look and feel more premium.
The Fresh Foam X midsole felt soft to the touch but as soon as I put the shoe on, the foam felt firmer underfoot.
New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo Sole Unit
The 1080v10 was the first shoe to get the latest version of Fresh Foam, Fresh Foam X.
When I ran in the 1080v10, I felt that Fresh Foam X was a massive improvement but it wasn’t soft enough for a max cushioned category shoe.
Fresh Foam X is much better suited to a shoe like the Tempo that is meant to go fast. There is no sink-in softness and the forefoot is firm enough for an efficient toe-off.
After a variety of paces and distances in the Tempo, the shoe feels the best on mid distances from 5km to half marathon at moderate speeds between 4 minutes 30 seconds per kilometre and 5 minutes 30 seconds per kilometre.
The midsole doesn’t compress much with each footstrike but it offers enough cushioning for distances up to 21km.
Responsiveness is lacking in the Tempo and you won’t get the same level of bounce or spring that you get in a modern TPU or Pebax midsole.
I find the FuelCell foam from New Balance to be a lot more responsive than Fresh Foam X.
Transitions in the Tempo are smooth, which has been a trademark of the Zante line due to the single density piece of midsole foam. The outsole is also full contact which makes transitions smoother.
Rubber is only used on the forefoot and rearfoot of the outsole with the midfoot foam exposed in order to save weight.
The heel rubber is hard carbon rubber and the forefoot rubber is the softer blown kind. Wear first starts to show on the exposed area of midfoot foam but it doesn’t alter the ride characteristics.
The exposed foam on the outsole results in two changes to the ride: it makes landings softer and more padded and it also gives the shoe better ground feel.
With the better ground feel, runs in the Tempo feel very engaging and I feel more connected to the shoe than shoes with thick, hard rubber lugs.
For a neutral shoe, stability is excellent in the Tempo thanks to the firm midsole with no lean bias and the low stack height. My feet feel very planted as a result of the low stack height and the full contact outsole.
The 6mm drop of the Tempo’s midsole is a unique offset. I’m used to running in 8-10mm drop shoes but I enjoy the 6mm drop of the Tempo. It feels easy to get onto my forefoot and increase the speed.
Flexibility is high in the Tempo thanks to the thin forefoot stack height and the soft forefoot outsole rubber. The shoe flexes up in the front of the shoe.
The insole of the Tempo is very thin and flimsy. It doesn’t add any cushioning to the ride so all the cushioning is contained in the Tempo’s midsole. The thin insole makes the shoe suitable for short, fast-paced runs.
Underneath the insole, the strobel lining is made of rough textile which makes the shoe ride firmer than if it were made of foam.
New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo Upper Unit
The upper of the Fresh Foam Tempo is made from a breathable, double-layer mesh. It has a sleeved tongue so no tongue slide occurs.
The tongue and the heel counter are adequately padded and no heel slipping occurs. There are double last row eyelets if you need a more secure lockdown.
The thick plastic external counter on the heel provides extra heel structure and support but it does make the shoe rear-heavy.
There are stitched-on Trace Fibre details on both sides of the shoe for midfoot support and structure: a similar design to the 1080v10.
The N logo, eyelet reinforcements and toe box synthetic strips are all reflective for night time visibility.
The toe box of the Tempo is snug but with enough depth and width for most feet but it also comes in a wide version if you need the extra room.
The fit of the Tempo is true to size but with a snug racing fit so that your foot doesn’t move around during quick runs.
I find the upper of the Tempo to be excellent. It doesn’t cause me any blisters or hot spots and I experience a superb foot lockdown.
The only thing I don’t like on the upper is that the heel collar comes up too high and rubs my ankles so I have to wear longer socks.
New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo Conclusion
The Fresh Foam Zante has died and has been reborn as the Fresh Foam Tempo. It ticks all the boxes which lovers of the Zante have come to expect: it’s lightweight, cushioned and has an excellent upper.
In a world of carbon-plates and super foams, the Fresh Foam Tempo is nothing special. What makes the Tempo so good is that it’s a solid trainer that does exactly what it’s supposed to do and does it well.
So where does the Tempo fit in my shoe rotation? The Tempo pairs perfectly with the 1080v10. I use the 1080v10 as an everyday trainer and the Tempo for shorter speed workouts.
The Tempo is not a true racing flat but blurs the line between racer and daily trainer so it can be used as a daily trainer.
And yes, when it comes to lightweight New Balance trainers, I prefer the Tempo to the Beacon V2. It has better ground feel, is more durable and is more fun to run in.
In the next version of the Tempo, I would love New Balance to change the midsole from Fresh Foam X to FuelCell to make it more bouncy and more cushioned. I also wouldn’t mind the upper collar being a couple millimetres lower.
We purchased a pair of New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo from runningwarehouse using our own money. This did not influence the outcome of this review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.