Vans has and will always be a brand in skateboarding that has an iconic product portfolio of classic heritage models. Just last year, Vans celebrated the 30th anniversary of their Half-Cab shoe model, with a release of colorways and collabs that instantly became timeless classics. During this time, Vans was also busy developing a new shoe that had the technical specifications fit for the modern day of ripping we’re seeing from their heavy roster of riders. With that, the Zhaba was born, a shoe boasting “next-level impact protection”. Even better, Vans just released a colorway specifically for Zion Wright, who left Nike in 2021. Usually a move like this, results from a brand offering more promotion and development for their athletes; could this be the first step in Zion attaining his first pro model shoe? No matter the case, Zion is a ripper, skating both transition and street fluidly, at only 24 years old. From dropping a gnarly REAL skateboards street part, to joining the US Men’s Olympic team for park skating, Zion has racked up an impressive list of sponsors (Vans, Real, Red Bull, Spitfire etc.) who are backing his versatility on the board. Just recently, Vans released a specific Zion Wright colorway and we got our hands on a pair to put the new shoe model to the test. Read on below to see how it performed.
The Vans Zahba fits true to size.
One of the biggest assets for the durability is the suede one-piece toe box, in combination with the outsole. The smooth and consistent surface minimizes the areas of attachment, so that the wear and tear from griptape gets distributed evenly across the shoe. During our 10 hour test, no holes developed on the shoe. Vans even added their long proven DURACAP technology, which is a reinforcement layer under the suede to enhance the durability and structural stability of the toecap. With all the flip tricks, this is usually the most critical area of the shoe to test, and it showed very good durability. The same is true for the sole, which barely showed signs of wear.
Besides the toe area, there are two elements of the shoe which did show wear; the stitching of the Vans logo and the lace panel, which are placed on top of the one-piece toe panel, ripped within the first four sessions. This is more of a visual durability flaw because it actually doesn’t really affect the performance of the shoe’s durability.
Overall, the Vans Zahba demonstrated an impressive cushioning performance. Vans introduced its new ImpactWaffle technology, which is two bio-based EVA cushioning elements, called VR3Cush, held together by an outsole, called SickStick. The design team put a lot of thought into this design, and it shows. Literally. From the cross-sectional cut, you can see show the tech and cushioning, with the the yellow EVA piece visible through the outsole in the heel area and the white EVA element visible in the arch. In our hour 10 wear test, it was very noticeable that the EVA elements provided a solid cushioning feeling in the midfoot and heel area, while the outsole’s thickness contributed for an overall good impact protection.
The Vans Zahba has a clean and classic toe design, with the more technical design elements found in the midfoot and heel area. The rounded toe area has no overlays or stitching. This, in combination with the outsole, provided a direct flick for flip tricks. The tongue and heel step in have a padding but isn’t overloaded, which lets the Zahba sit in the midfield of a cupsole silhouette (not too bulky and not too slim).
The difference in thickness in the front of the shoe compared to the back and in the heel area is essential for boardfeel. The thin front of the Zahba maximizes board feel and the feet have a close connection with the board, exactly where it is needed. However, the shoe needed some time to showcase its boardfeel. The sole construction felt rather stiff and needed to develop flexibility but once reached, the shoe had a solid boardfeel for a cupsole.
The sole features an advanced and newly developed thread pattern as well as a new rubber compound for advanced grip, which Vans calls SickStick. The grip of the shoe felt like a typical cupsole and is well balanced.
When it comes to comfort, the silhouette of the shoe provides an outstanding foothold. When worn and skated, the foot feels quite secure and is quite snug. The Zahba features solid craftsmanship, especially with the inner lining, which is a huge reason for the comfort. It doesn’t have any annoying stitching or have areas of the shoe that could cause hot spots. The tongue is fixed with two straps which helps to further increase the snug feeling. To top of all, the Zahba is pretty lightweight.
With this shoe, Vans focused on the stability and they succeeded. It is excellent. The feet sit quite low in the stable sole construction and work well with the reinforced heel & midfoot area to create a secure feeling.
The Vans Zahba convinces with outstanding cushioning and stability, while maintaining a clean and sleek silhouette. Grip and boardfeel are solid but do need some time to develop. The only downside of the shoe was the visual durability, but again, this doesn’t affect performance. This is a shoe defined for those heavy hitting impact skaters and for those who appreciate more stability in their shoes.
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