From Tiger Onitsukas to Merrill Vapor Gloves, many shoes are excellent choices for taking on a ninja obstacle course. Depending on what you’re looking for in a shoe, any of these will do just fine, but one shoe is currently valued as number 1 by more members of the ninja community than any other; New Balance Zante V4.
Zante Fresh Foam began distribution late 2014, and immediately were marked as a great shoe for runners. The lightweight design and soft grippy blown rubber outsole made running long distances with relative ease enjoyable.
It was roughly 1 year later that the Fresh Foam Zante V2 were released. It was at this iteration that ninjas began to really take notice of Zante’s. To the runners’ dismay, the shoe was slightly firmer and heavier than the original, leaving some disappointed. To ninjas however, the redesigned pattern of the rubber outsole was quickly recognized as one of the best for scaling obstacles set on various angles and made from various materials.
Roughly 1 year later, the V3’s made their way onto the scene, this time leaving runners and ninjas alike with a sense that something wasn’t quite right. This shoe retained the weight and rigidity of the V2, making it less than ideal for distance runners. Unfortunately, the outsole design was once again changed, this time to something less suited to those of an obstacle training athlete. While still a great shoe, most ninjas preferred the previous year’s model.
Most recently, New Balance released the Fresh Foam Zante V4 in early 2018. With an outsole much more similar to the V2, ninjas all over who had moved onto another brand of shoe flocked back to the New Balance Zante.
Some of you may be asking, “What makes one shoe better for ninja than any other shoe?” There are many aspects of a sneaker that determine how much they can assist a ninja on the course; flexibility, duration, heel cushion, arch support, etc, etc. Some athletes prefer a minimalist style shoe for the lightweight, almost barefoot feeling. But ask nearly any ninja what the most important part of a shoe is for obstacle training, and most will tell you the same thing. The design and material of the outsole (the bottom layer of the bottom part of the shoe) is the number 1 determining factor in how well the shoe sticks to the surface of obstacles, and how much traction you get when speeding between obstacles.
The outsole of the New Balance Zante V4, as well as the V2 of two generations ago, is viewed as one of the best on the market today. The midsole is made of a white foam compound which provides cushioning and allows foot flexibility. This foam plagues many lower quality shoes by acting as not only the midsole, but also the outsole. Like many running shoes, the outsole of the Zante is made from soft blown rubber. The softness of this rubber comes into play big time, as it increases traction between the outsole and floor or obstacles. But the real secret of the V2 and V4 is the design of the outsole. The blown rubber is shaped into stretched hexagons across the bottom of the shoe, leaving little space where the rubber is not in contact with the ground, and maximizing traction.
Size and Color Variation
Sizes for New Balance sneakers are pretty standard. If you happen to be new to purchasing shoes for ninja, keep in mind that they’ll need to hug the foot tightly. You don’t want loose fitting shoes that are going to fall off while you’re working on the perfecting your warped wall run. I would recommend going into a brick and mortar store to try on shoes and figure out exactly what size works best for you. Shoes I wear for athletic purposes like ninja are generally half to a full size smaller than shoes I wear day to day.
The color selection across all new balance shoes is wide. It satisfies all styles and fashion senses. From those who want to stand out rocking coral colored sneakers, to the more monotone black, gray, or white shoes and everything in between, New balance produces the colors you’re looking for.
The trade off for such a lightweight shoe and soft blown rubber outsole is that it is worn through easily. While every other part of the shoe is perfectly durable, regularly training in these shoes will wear the outsole down until you break through to the layer of foam in the midsole. As a full time coach who wore his Zantes throughout all of my coaching, training, and competing, my V4’s lasted about 5 months. If you plan on competing in Zantes, I recommend wearing them only until they are worn in; anywhere from a few weeks to 3 or 4 months depending on how often and at what intensity you train. You want the lines between the hexagons from the toes to the ball of your foot to begin to fade, at which point the shoe will provide the most traction. Once they are worn in, switch your training over to another pair of shoes, and save the Zantes for competition. If you have tried other shoes and prefer Zantes, this is a great opportunity to begin breaking in your next pair for competition!
Should You Buy?
If you’re a ninja looking to up your game to the next level, you’re going to need a good pair of sneakers to help you get their. New Balance Zante V4 are the ideal choice for scaling warped walls and conquering courses.