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Road Running Shoes • February 18, 2020

New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo Review

new balance fresh foam tempo - feature

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 8.6 oz./244g for a US M9.0
  • Replaces the much-loved, but now extinct New Balance Zante Pursuit
  • Utilizes Fresh Foam X midsole, but kind of a weird stage between soft and firm
  • In a time of midsole pop, the Tempo is more Rage Against The Machine than Harry Styles

THOMAS: Someone alert Greta Thunberg– climate change is having a massive effect on the “tempo”-rature of the running shoe industry. In 2020 alone, there will be at least three shoes with Tempo in their name.

We reviewed the Brooks Hyperion Tempo, the Nike Tempo is coming out later this year, and here we have the New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo.

Beware of tidal waves, and don’t buy any shoreline property.

The New Balance Tempo is basically the Zante Pursuit under a different name. I loved the Zante. I had my second-fastest marathon in the third version. But since then, trends have changed.

Much like it used to be cool to coal-roll a jacked-up pickup or take the restrictor plate off the red dragon Trans-Am and let the emissions fly, today’s shoes aren’t just all Zante-like anymore. Instead of lower stacks and firmer rides, we’re well into the higher stacks and softer foams. We’re living in a time of Teslas– unassisted rides of quiet comfort.

DAVE: Lightweight performance trainers are quite the category of shoes nowadays in the run market. Maybe even a category that gets overlooked a tad in the realm of “toy” shoes. Literally, every run brand has a hand in this category and I can tell you it is making running shoes pretty damn fun! The competition is fierce and if you wanna play, you better have cash and a good idea of how to make a smooth transitioning shoe.

This new diddy from New Balance is supposedly quick enough for those speedier days of training, or the runner looking for a far more efficient shoe than some of their “heavier” more traditional workhorses.

new balance fresh foam tempo - stacked

The Good

THOMAS: Let New Balance show you how to put a shoe together. The Tempo has a breathable engineered mesh upper that has enough stretch to accommodate most feet. Embroidered reinforcement on the lateral and medial side helps lock the foot down, while the slightly puffed attached tongue adds more security and comfort with the forefoot booty.

The lacing setup is pretty standard and works well so why mess with it? The heel cup is a treat, the structure is provided by an external TPU cup. The upper fits well and it is easy to adjust with the lacing to find your perfect fit. The Tempo fits true to size, if not a little roomy. No heel lift in these babies.

I love Fresh Foam  X (FFX); if anything, I just want more cushy stuff. The Tempo has a simple midsole of FFX, and New Balance gets fancy by lasering little holes into the foam to give it more places to flex under the weight of the foot strike, while cutting down a little bit on weight. A blown rubber forefoot grips and rips while the tougher rubber on the heel helps with durability. Less than a quarter of the shoe is exposed on the bottom but if you remember the Zante, the whole bottom was a slab of rubber. In my opinion, less is better.

The ride of the New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo is smooth and on the firmer side. This is one of those shoes that floats between racer and daily trainer. For a size 10.5, she weighs 9.35 oz/265 grams and sports a 6mm drop.

DAVE: For a performance trainer, the weight on this pretty solid. No, it’s not in the Razor 3 category, but it’s still light enough that on your foot it doesn’t feel like a brick.

While the tongue is not 100% perfect for my liking, it’s finally not overly thick like in traditional New Balance fashion, and it does wrap the crest of the top of your foot nicely (lacing is another story).

You wanted more? Sorry, I can’t go there on this one. It didn’t work for me.

Shop New Balance FF Tempo

new balance fresh foam tempo - heel

The Bad

THOMAS: I wanted more Fresh Foam  X, but I guess that would turn the Tempo into the 880. I found myself craving just a touch more cushion under the pads of my forefoot. This may have been an easy fix with a thicker insole, but I like to review the shoes without modifying them. The weird thing is the forefoot is actually 2mm thicker than the last Zante. Maybe my feet are spoiled after all these cushioned shoes we’ve been reviewing.

With narrow feet, I had a lot of room up front in the toe box, which is good for daily runs, but not as good for racing or faster training runs, like a… tempo.

DAVE: Fresh Foam X: It’s funny, I just wrote a review for the 880v10 (out soon) and praised the new Fresh Foam X midsole like I would an East LA burrito joint. I drooled. But something went wrong here from the get-go on Tempo. While the shoe transitions nicely from heel strike (yes, we all touch our heels) to mid-load, and gets you to the forefoot rather quickly, it forgot the forefoot.

Wait, really? Yes.

New Balance claims they added 2 mm more of Fresh Foam to the topsole, but I just didn’t feel it. The shoe feels about as dull upon toe-off as the lineup for Coachella 2020 (minus Rage Against The Machine, obviously). On initial step-in, it looks and feels like it could be an explosive shoe in the style of a Tom Morello guitar riff; instead, it turned out to be more of a sad trombone. I worked out in it and I ran easier in it. Same result. No spice. Weird, because in the 880v10, Fresh Foam X is quite the powerful midsole.

In terms of the upper, any time I have to use all of the eyelets, or go very high in lacing to get a secure fit, it usually means my foot isn’t sitting too pretty in a shoe. The toe box on the Tempo is longer and more pointy, leaving more wiggle room for me than I’d like in a performance trainer. (NOTE: I do have a narrow foot.)

Point being, if you’re going to make a performance trainer, I want it to be locked and loaded from heel to toe and want to use as little of the lace offered as possible while feeling like I have a classic track spike on my foot. The Tempo leaves a bit too much excess material up top, along with just too much width for my foot.

Shop New Balance FF Tempo

new balance fresh foam tempo - toe upper

New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo Conclusion

THOMAS: The Tempo fits in the same category of shoes I love regardless of trends. Put it in the basket with Saucony Kinvara 11, Skechers Razor 3, adidas adizero Adios, Brooks Hyperion Tempo. All have a lower stack height with a moderate drop. All of the shoes can be used for daily mileage and faster-paced workouts. Of the trainers mentioned above, the New Balance Tempo is closest to the Adios in firmness and only slightly heavier. The price of the Fresh Foam Tempo ($110) is closer to Kinvara ($110) and the Razor 3 ($130).

Running in the Tempo had me a little lost. While a stripped-down trainer is usually my favorite style of faster workout shoes, the Tempo sorta floated between traditional trainer and speed day shoe. It didn’t deliver the fast feel I like in a more minimal trainer and conversely, it wasn’t cush enough for easy days. Switching out the insole for something with more cush might do the trick, but there are other New Balance trainers that work great out of the box. I prefer the FuelCell Rebel and the Beacon. They cover the same running needs.

Pick up one of those shoes and wreck some ozone with the extra CO2 emissions coming from your lungs. That’s science, right?

DAVE: We live in a time of “pop.” Taylor Swift and Harry Styles are owning the charts, and if your shoe doesn’t provide it, we’re going to toss it aside. The Tempo didn’t have what I was looking for. From a “less than 100” secure fit, to lack of “tasty explosiveness,” it didn’t want to work. Could just be me, my foot, or I’m completely losing it (def the most viable option)– but this one is going to sit on the rack for a while. Mentally, maybe I was looking for a new and improved 1400? I dunno.

No doubt, New Balance is doing some really, really solid things. I like the direction their technology has taken, totally dig the marketing and the badass NB Teams, and love the aggressiveness of their array of available options. For whatever reason, the Fresh Foam Tempo just decided not to haul on my foot. There are some far faster shoes for my liking right now, like adidas Boston 8, Skechers Razor 3, and Atreyu Running (coming soon).

You can pick up the New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo, or any other model we mentioned, at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

Shop New Balance FF Tempo

new balance fresh foam tempo - shoes


Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Marko says:

    Really, You thought you would feel those extra 2mm of hopefilullnes and generosity..hahaha from new balance?
    5mm perhaps!
    Try hoka one one there’s some rubber to write about

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