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New Balance Vazee Summit v2 Review
Cons: Not much protection in the forefoot, 10mm heel-toe drop is slightly unstable
Bottom line: A high performing shoe in a lightweight and low-profile package.
The New Balance Vazee Summit v2 is a lightweight and very sensitive shoe that somehow still manages to sport a 10mm heel-toe drop. In many ways, it reminds us of the Salomon Speedcross 4, and indeed these two shoes ended with the same score in our overall rankings, but the Vazee Summit is far lighter, more sensitive, and more stable. We liked its "HydroHesion" rubber outsole, which gripped well on virtually every sort of terrain, and ended up using this shoe often as a scrambling and off-trail adventure shoe. Despite a ¾ length flexible rock plate, the biggest disadvantage to this shoe was the level of foot protection that it offered, but for those who want a very lightweight and comfortable shoe that can handle all terrain, we encourage you to check this one out.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Trail Running Shoes for Men of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
As the second lightest shoe in our review, it is only natural to compare the Vazee Summit v2 to the ultralight La Sportiva Helios 2.0, which weighed only 17.0 ounces per pair to the Vazee Summit's 19.9. It hugs the foot in a slipper-like way, like the Helios 2.0, due to the stretchy spandex tongue gusseting that wraps around the midfoot. With a truly seamless inner, we could imagine running in this shoe sockless without a problem. But where the Helios is perhaps too sensitive (not offering enough underfoot protection for running full speed on rockier and more technical terrain), the Vazee has a ¾ length flexible rock plate and 27mm of heel stack height. This is mostly REVlite EVA foam — that while light and sensitive, ensure that your feet are protected enough for rocky descents. In summary, if you are attracted to the lightest and most responsive shoes, but don't want to damage your feet on technical mountain terrain, the Vazee Summit v2 should be on your short list of shoes to try out.
With only 17mm of stack height in the forefoot, this shoe was one of the thinnest underfoot in this test. Correspondingly, we felt that it offered close to the least amount of underfoot protection, as verified by our comparative tests where we ran back and forth on jagged talus to assess for underfoot feel. While it does have a 10mm heel-toe drop, ensuring that there is significantly more padding under the heel than the forefoot, this model also employs a ¾ length rock plate that adds little in the way of rigidity to this shoe. We never-the-less felt a lot more of the pokey rocks in our feet while running in this shoe than the comparable Speedcross 4. We did like how hard and rigid the toe bumper is but also found that while the generous overlays do a decent job of protecting the upper mesh, they do little to nullify the impact of a blow to the top of the foot. We gave this shoe a score of 4 out of 10 for foot protection, which was better than the Altra Superior 3.0, but nowhere near as good as the New Balance Leadville v3.
The outsole of this shoe is made of "HydroHesion" rubber that is noticeably sticky to the touch. It features large, 4.5mm deep lugs evenly spaced through the forefoot and heel in a multi-directional pattern that did a great job gripping all different surfaces. Indeed, this was one of the best shoes regarding traction, although it did not stick to wet rock quite as well as the Inov-8 Roclite 290. That said, after many scrambling and rocky ridge running missions, the soles show virtually no sign of wear and no lug tearing, which couldn't be said about the ultra-aggressive tread on the Saucony Peregrine 7. 8 out of 10 points.
We loved how comfortable the stretchy spandex sock-like inner was, but found that much like what we discovered with the Inov-8 Roclite 290, it didn't offer quite rigid enough support to hold the foot solidly in place during our side-hilling tests. We also appreciated how it has a much lower stack height than the Speedcross 4, and so was noticeably more stable than that shoe, but still found that with 10mm of extra material beneath our heel, stability was somewhat compromised. We gave it 6 out of 10 points, which is above average, despite these few downsides.
There is no arguing — this is a very comfortable shoe. As we already mentioned, we love how the seamless, stretchy inner liner hugs our foot without feeling too tight or putting undue strain on the top and sides of our feet. Length wise, it seems to fit true to size, and we felt that much like the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3, it runs slightly narrow in the forefoot. If you have a wider foot, like we do, rest assured that the upper is flexible enough to accommodate you without feeling cramped or pinched, something that cannot be said about the Speedcross 4. This shoe also ranked near the top of our water bucket test, absorbing very little amounts of water, and doing an effective job at shedding it after the five-minute run. We must point out, though, that when waterlogged, the inner liner tends to slide around within the shoe. As one of the more comfortable options available, we gave it 8 out of 10 points.
Our pair of size men's 11 shoes weighed in at 19.9 ounces on our independent scale. This was good enough for second best in the entire review, but so far behind the featherweight La Sportiva Helios 2.0 that we gave it only 8 out of 10 points. We can honestly say that the numbers on the scale do translate, and much like our best overall trail running shoe, the Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4, our feet did feel lighter when running in these shoes.
Over the years of testing and running on the trails, we have noticed that sensitivity and underfoot protection are two attributes that are often at odds with each other. In the case of the Vazee Summit v2, this is certainly the case. While it felt like one of the least protective underfoot, it was also one of the most sensitive, ranked the same as the Altra Lone Peak 3.5 as well as the Saucony Peregrine 7. While this shoe is probably not protective enough to simply stomp over any obstacles in its path, it has fantastic trail feel for those runners who enjoy a dancing cadence. 8 out of 10 points.
The Vazee Summit v2 is a lightweight and low-profile shoe, despite its larger heel-toe drop, that will favor the more mature trail runner. It is a fast shoe that is well suited to any trail running but was also one of our favorites for off-trail missions, especially scrambling, due to its very sticky and durable outsole.
This shoe retails for a mere $100, making it the most affordable shoe in our review. We think it is a fantastic shoe with many positive attributes, and the low price is just one more reason to give it a shot. Great value.
The New Balance Vazee Summit v2 is a very comfortable and lightweight shoe that falls at the exact opposite end of the spectrum from its cousin, the New Balance Leadville v3. Despite its large heel-toe drop, it maintains a low stack height, reasonable stability, but offers the runner great traction and a very sensitive feel for the trail. We think it is an excellent choice for runners who value light weight but don't want to sacrifice any performance.
— Andy Wellman
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