by Chris McClung
Your grandma’s pie. A snow cone on a hot Austin day. Deep conversation with old friends. A dip in the Springs. Coffee and a good book in your favorite chair. Your own bed after the perfect vacation. There are certain things in life that make you feel at home. For those who love a light, firm, and perfectly cushioned (not too much, not too little) shoe, the New Balance Vazee Pace is here. You can come home.
A firm, responsive shoe is a dying breed, and, even if you don’t know it, that’s sad news for the runners out there. The trend in running retail is to make midsoles softer and softer because that’s what sells – the plush, “oooohhh-aahhhh” feeling of the initial step-in (thats a tech term). The problem is that running in a soft midsole is like sleeping on a soft mattress, leading to a sore back. Your muscles and tendons are working over time to pull you out of that soft foam, which can definitely increase fatigue and potentially increase injury risk whether in your back or feet. Plus, in a soft shoe, you become more disconnected with the ground, making it more difficult for your body to adapt to what’s under foot.
Adidas running used to lead the charge with predominantly firm midsoles in their line-up, but sadly, they were losing the battle of the shoe floor (b/c it is harder to sell a firm shoe) and, thus, opted to switch to the softer Boost midsole foam. And while the current Adidas Boston Boost and Adios Boost are still pretty firm (thanks to the mix of Boost and more traditional EVA foam their midsoles), the shoes are indeed softer than their pre-Boost counterparts. Those of us like me, who loved the firm, poppy-fast feeling of the old Adidas line-up, have been largely without a home in the past few years. [Note: a few have migrated successfully to the firm, Mizuno options like the Wave Rider, Sayonara, or Hitogami but none of those work well for me personally.] After trying other options, I came back to the Adidas Adios Boost and Boston Boost as the best available options for me, but something has still been missing in my life.
“Last week I ran in this shoe twice, on back-to-back runs….straight out of the box. It could not have been better. Smooth. Disappears on-your-foot good.”
Enter the New Balance Vazee Pace. Last week I ran in this shoe twice, on back-to-back runs; the first run was 10 miles and the second was 17 miles. And, by the way, this was, straight out of the box. It could not have been better. Smooth. Disappears on-your-foot good. As I alluded above, it was like I had been on an amazing, long vacation and was reminded how good my own bed felt again. The vacation was great too, but boy did I miss my own bed. If the Adidas Boston 4 (pre-Boost) died and was reincarnated with a wider toe box and a New Balance logo, the Vazee Pace is it. Firm, light, responsive. It would be perfect as a lightweight trainer for anyone already comfortable training in the Brooks Launch, Adidas Boston, Mizuno Wave Sayonara, or New Balance Zante, OR as a speed shoe for anyone already going long in the Brooks Ghost, Mizuno Wave Rider, Saucony Ride or Adidas Glide Boost.
The shoe weighs only 6.5 ounces for women (size 7) or 7.5 ounces for men (size 9), but it feels like more cushioning than the weight implies thanks to the super light RevLite foam (which has been in the NB 890 and 1400 for a while). The heel-toe drop is 6 mm, which is relatively flat for those that like low drops but won’t shred the calves for those dropping down from the traditional 10-12mm drop options. The toe box is wide giving your toes plenty of room to splay and work independently, but it isn’t too wide for someone with a narrow foot like mine. Although I didn’t need to, you might consider going down a half size if you like a snugger feel in the forefoot. One other highlight is the soft, stay-tight, silky-smooth laces, which are often an afterthought on most shoes these days.
This shoe has similar specs (both weight and heel-toe drop) to the New Balance Zante, and although they are built on the same last, the two feel distinct. The Zante is softer, less responsive, fits snug throughout the foot and has an interesting “rocker” feel in the transition (which doesn’t exist for the smoother Vazee Pace). For those that love the Zante, the Vazee Pace might still fit in your portfolio of shoes, perhaps for your faster days.
For me, the more-cushioned Vazee immediately enters the regular rotation for my easy runs while, also, stepping in for a long run on occasion. However, the Adios Boost stays as my trusty quality-workout shoe – at least until the original Adios comes back in January (yes, you heard that right!). At that point, my shoe rotation will be back where I need it – light, firm, and responsive all the way through… like déjà vu with my favorite comfort food. Join me for a taste. You won’t regret it.
Chris McClung is our fear-less leader at Rogue Running, our CRO (chief running officer). You can find him on the roads, leading his Morning Show crew or chasing his kiddos. Or, possibly, looking for the next pecan pie.