A few weeks ago, I would have told you that I do not like running shoes with soft heel cushioning and a bouncy ride. That was true until I wear tested the Zoot Tempo Trainer model provided to me by Zoot Sports. That shoe is impressive, and so I decided to purchase another model from Zoot, via Road Runner Sports, to see if I would be equally impressed with it. I selected the Zoot Banyan. Read on to see the verdict.
The men’s version of the Banyan comes in a tri color scheme that Zoot describes as black, green flash, and safety yellow. I would describe the colors as bold black, lime green and electric green. But I’m color blind. The color scheme in the women’s version is so jumbled that I won’t even attempt to describe it. (My wife says the color mix on the women’s version reminds her of Disney toys.) You can look it up online at the Zoot Sports site.
The Banyan has a virtually straight last, which means this neutral trainer can be used by some minimal to moderate pronators. The Banyan’s fit is excellent and the shoe is comfortable; neither tight nor loose. The lacing system is off-center to relieve top-of-the-foot pressure, and it has a secure gusseted tongue. The shoe has a firm heel counter, which is protective, but you will not feel it as there’s plenty of interior padding around the ankle. The Banyan’s soft heel padding carries on a family tradition.
This model has a low to the ground feel but it is not a minimal shoe. After a number of runs in the shoe, I thought of a way to describe its ride. If you could breed a Mizuno running shoe (with a traditional 12mm heel drop) with a current Asics running shoe (most of which have an 8mm heel drop), their offspring would feel like this. It may not be totally coincidental that the heel drop on the Banyan is right in between the Mizuno and Asics levels at 10mm. Heel strikers will feel right at home in this shoe.
The Banyan is lighter in weight than the Tempo Trainer (9.4 versus 10.3 ounces). You might think this difference cannot be felt on the road but it is most definitely noticeable. The Banyan has a blown rubber forefoot, a ZVA midsole and a set of durable rubber pads in the heel. There are a total of 8 pads or pods underfoot, five up front and three in the rear.
There is a concern about these pads/pods, which is that they are glued on to the sole. Will they stay on for 300, 400 or 500 miles? I don’t know. (If you’ve run in a pair of shoes from Zoot for several hundred miles, feel free to post a comment below regarding the durability of their materials and construction.)
One consumer noted on the company’s website that the Banyan running shoe is “a bit stiff out of the box.” This is a statement I disagree with. I found the shoe to have an almost broken in feel right from the start. And the sock liner seemed to be perfectly matched to the shoe, something that seems increasingly rare these days.
The Banyan’s forefoot sole looks like those found on a more traditional running shoe as compared to the Tempo Trainer. The appearance and feel of the forefoot sole reminds me of early ’90s running flats, and the shoe appears to be more flexible than the Tempo Trainer. The Banyan is a less expensive shoe, but for the savings, you get a reduced amount of protection for your feet.
The Banyan is well padded enough to provide an enjoyable and bouncy ride on concrete. On asphalt, the ride is comfortable and steady. This would be a fine shoe to use for a 5 or 10K organized run.
The Banyan feels competent on crushed gravel, but the features that make this shoe special do not stand out on this surface. Because of this, I would choose another shoe for long training runs on crushed gravel trails or tracks.
The Banyan shines on a hard-packed dirt trail, as it’s both flexible and stable enough to provide for a fun run. If this was a car, we would say that it has a great suspension. I’m looking forward to locating a grass-covered trail for a Sunday drive in the Banyan.
Verdict: The Zoot Banyan is a very good to excellent shoe for urban and suburban pathways. It will appeal to those who like a bouncy ride combined with a soft heel strike, and those who prefer a lighter, non-minimalist, shoe for fast-paced training runs.