By Austin Bonds
According to the New Balance website, stealth, utility, and style form the backbone of the Hanzo S, a flat “built for the most discerning road racers.” Unlike other high school and collegiate runners who pursued track and field or cross country, my personal experience with flats is minimal as I didn’t run in school. But it is expanding more and more each year. In 2015 and 2016, I repeatedly pulled the Adidas Adizero Adios Boost for races, but this popular model is now going to be competing with the Hanzo S for the remainder of 2017.
The Hanzo is my first New Balance flat, and from what I have read concerning the production of this shoe, it is replacing the 1600 – a favorite among many runners. A colleague of mine loves the 1400 based on the lighter weight (7.2 ounces in a men’s nine) and peppy REVlite midsole. At 7.2 ounces, some runners might dismiss the 1400 as a true flat, but this might be why the Hanzo S is a model worth considering for hard workouts and those days when a starting line is present. And since the 1600 is no longer available.
Back to that remark on a racing flat’s weight. How much should it weigh? If the answer is in the 6-ounce range, the Hanzo S fits the bill at 6.5 ounces. In spite of the lower weight, I was struck by the amount of cushioning (comprised of REVlite and Rapid Rebound). Sam Winebaum, the author of the Road Trail Run blog, describes Rapid Rebound as a mixture of the traditional EVA foam and TPU (which is used in the Adidas Boost line). He goes on to add that Rapid Rebound has “17% more energy return than the other New Balance midsoles.” REVlite plus Rapid Rebound makes for snappy training runs and rapid foot turnover.
As to how the Hanzo fits, this is my assessment of the heel, midfoot, and forefoot. The Hanzo will accommodate medium to narrow heels well, though the volume in the midfoot is on the lower side. The forefoot skews narrow too. The outsole, dubbed Dynaride, utilizes a sticky rubber for superb traction along tight turns. Finally, a FantomFit upper with minimal stitching keeps the feet securely inside the shoes.
Having only owned the Adios Boost, Hanzo S, and GOmeb Speed 4, I’m struck by the fact that all three of these flats are fairly narrow from a midfoot and forefoot standpoint. As someone who has narrow feet, this isn’t problematic, but it does seem reasonable to suggest that the Hanzo will not be an ideal fit for runners with wider feet. I’d be curious to know if this characteristic of race flats – a tight and narrow fit – extends into other brands and their respective models. I looked at a few running forums for wider flats, and the selection appears to be limited.
As for the Hanzo, I’m glad to say that the critiques are minimal. Having owned the 870 and Fresh Foam 1080, I thought I might encounter some heel slippage as I did in these. But since the Hanzo is a racing flat, both heels stayed locked down mile after mile. I might soften the tongue fabric a touch, but aside from this observation, the Hanzo S shines (the bright lime color helps with that).
Between the Adios, GOmeb Speed 4, and New Balance Hanzo, I’m fortunate in saying that race day coverage is adequate. In consideration of these three models, I give the Hanzo a slight edge in terms of comfort and cushioning. Like any flat, I will be curious to see what the total mileage accumulation will be before complete midsole breakdown (I’m thinking 150-300 at most). Another point of note will be maximum race distance. I anticipate the half marathon to be my longest race in the Hanzo, but with one coming up soon, gauging the condition (i.e. soreness) of my feet after 13.1 miles will prove to be excellent feedback on whether to use it for shorter races instead.
Between the coming heat and humidity of a Georgia summer, the bright lime color, and the fact that the Hanzo exists for nothing but speed, all I can do now is quote fashion designer Jacobim Mugatu as his words having been ringing in my ear since I first heard the name of this shoe.
“That Hanzo is so hot right now.”