|New Balance MC 996v2 Men's Shoe Scores|
|Overall Sole Durability||3.3|
The New Balance MC 996v2 improves on the MC 996 with the addition of a full foot TPU cage designed to provide improved support and stability for lateral movements. According to our playtesters, the MC 996v2s felt very stable and locked their feet in much better than the previous version. The light, low-to-the-ground court feel remains the same, making this one of the fastest shoes around. Some of our testers would've liked a little more cushioning underfoot for a more comfortable playing experience, while others felt the low-profile design kept them very connected to the court. Disagreements aside, our testers all appreciated the fast and supportive feel the MC 996v2s had to offer.
Our playtesters enjoyed the low-to-the ground feel and comfortable flexibility of the MC 996v2s right out of the box. However, a couple of testers would've liked a little more cushioning. Andy illustrated this by saying, "These shoes had a nice comfortable fit right from the start of the test. On court, they flexed and moved very naturally with my feet while providing a nice, snug fit. However, I would have liked a little more cushioning underfoot to make long matches a little more comfortable. They ride nice and low to the ground but all the cushioning is under the heel, and harsh landings on the forefoot resulted in some discomfort."
Jason took advantage of the different widths New Balance offers. He said, "The D width was too narrow for me so I went with a 2E width, which definitely improved the comfort level. As much as I love and appreciate the low-to-the-ground feel from these shoes, I couldn't help but notice the 'slappy' feel in the forefoot. The cushioning seemed to be a little too firm for me, but I liked the padding around the ankle collar and I thought the heel cushioning was good."
Chris found these shoes to be very comfortable but a little too wide for his narrow feet. He said, "I found these shoes to be comfortable from the first wear to the last. The construction was supple enough for them to flex well even before being fully broken in. Ideally, I could have done with moving down to a B width since the regular D width was too wide. The wide fit allowed my feet to move around too much inside the 996v2s. The result of the sliding was a little discomfort, which lowered what would have been a perfect comfort score. When I tightly laced these shoes and wore two pairs of socks I was able to get a decently comfortable fit. I also liked the level of cushioning -- I felt connected to the court without any undue impact stress."
Sebastian loved the comfort of these shoes from the first wear to the last. He raved, "Throughout all the hours I spent on court with these shoes I never had any issues concerning comfort. While I can see someone wishing for a bit more cushioning, I found these 996v2s to be very flexible and comfortable."
The ventilation of the MC 996v2s was excellent throughout the test. Jason, who likes to wear a thicker, more cushioned sock, had no problems. He praised, "I really had no issues with the breathability. I thought there was plenty of mesh used in the uppers, so even with thicker socks on my feet didn't feel like they would overheat."
Even after wearing his shoes for long periods of time, Sebastian's feet never got too warm. He shared, "I didn't experience any issues with ventilation. It was good even after wearing these shoes for several hours."
Chris offered, "Air seemed to be getting in and out of these shoes decently. My feet never ran ultra-hot, so I have to say I was pretty happy here."
Sharing a similar opinion to the others was Andy, who said, "I found more than enough ventilation in these shoes. Cool air was coming in while hot air was escaping during play. The breathability wasn't quite as good as the previous version, but it was still more than adequate."
The MC 996v2s provided a nice fit through the arch and plenty of support for most of our playtest team. Chris' high arches fit this version of the 996 much better than the previous version. He said, "Once my shoes had broken in and the insoles had molded to the shape of my feet I was finding a great fit to go along with the impressive support. New Balance seems to have done a good job of putting in enough stability through the midfoot of these shoes to protect my arches and keep them stress free. I had major comfort issues with the previous version of the 996s in the arch area so I didn't participate in that test. That issue appears to be totally resolved in these shoes."
Jason has flatter feet, but he still really liked the fit of these shoes through the arches. He said, "I think players with a low arch will really enjoy the low arch in these 996v2s. I didn't have any soreness in my arches from day one, and it just got better the longer I wore these shoes."
Unlike Chris and Jason, Andy did not like the fit through the arch area. He critiqued, "Surprisingly, I struggled with the arch support of these shoes. Historically, New Balance shoes have fit me well and have provided more than enough support for my high maintenance arches, but not these shoes. My arches were aching throughout much of the playtest because there just wasn't quite enough support for me. I started to adjust near the end of the playtest and the pain was diminishing, but ultimately I think this playtest took its toll on my feet, knees and back."
Sebastian had no complaints, saying, "I felt the arch support was just right for me. I usually play with customized insoles, but even when I first tried these shoes without them, the arch fit me just right."
Our playtesters were very impressed with the support and stability of the MC 996v2s. They found vast improvements over the previous version. Sebastian felt very confident moving around at top speeds, especially due to the low-profile design. He raved, "I found great foot support and stability throughout the test. I never felt that my feet were sliding in these shoes, which gave me a great deal of confidence and stability whenever I was making aggressive movements. Also, the low-to-the-ground feel gave me even more stability and confidence."
"This was the area where I noticed the most improvement over the previous model," remarked Jason. "The uppers were supple enough that I didn't have any break-in issues, while at the same time stability was not compromised. When moving side to side I was confident in my changes of direction. There was still some sliding within these shoes but only when I was trying to stop on forward movements. I had some toe jamming problems, which was my biggest knock in this category."
Andy also found more than enough protection for any aggressive cuts he was making on court. He offered, "I thought this was one of the strengths of these shoes. The ride is very low to the ground, which certainly helps to instill confidence and provide stability when moving around the court. In addition, the stiffer (compared to the previous version) TPU cage in the uppers helped to lock in my feet and prevent sliding inside these shoes. In the previous version I found my feet sliding a bit laterally when making aggressive cuts, but New Balance fixed that issue in this update."
Chris appreciated the more rigid feel through the uppers, but these shoes were a bit too wide-fitting to offer the security he really desired. He said, "The stability offered by these shoes was impressive. They flexed in all the right places and offered rigidity where needed to protect my feet. Unfortunately, these shoes just fit too wide for my feet, and they were sliding around inside the shoes during play. Even with the shoes laced very tightly I struggled to find a supportive fit for my heels and ankles. I was able to take care of some of the room in the forefoot by wearing two pairs of socks. If I could wear these shoes in a narrower B width, I'm confident my support/stability score would be near perfect."
Over the course of the playtest nearly the entire team was able to wear down the outsole of the MC 996v2s, except Jason, who didn't get enough time on his pair to offer a fair assessment. Chris did more damage than usual during this test. He said, "The outsoles started to wear fairly quickly for me on these shoes. I put the most damage under the big toe of my right foot, and that was where I saw the first signs of wear. Before long I had really ground through that part of the outsole. The rest of the outsoles wore at a steadier rate, but they were still wearing faster than most durability-guaranteed shoes."
Sebastian's pair wore out in all the usual places. He offered, "These shoes wore out mostly right under my big toes. This is fairly standard for me, though, because of the intense sliding I usually do on court. Besides the toe areas, the full herringbone tread pattern still looks great considering the 25 hours of playtesting."
Andy had a similar experience. He said, "I put around 20-30 hours of intense play on these shoes, and by the end the tread was completely bald under both my big toes. Everywhere else on the outsole was fine, but I didn't have much more life left in these shoes once the playtest was complete. I'd certainly be exercising the durability guarantee, especially if I were putting in some consistent high level training in them."
The toe area of the MC 996v2s held up better than the outsoles, offering plenty of protection for toe-dragging players. "I had better luck getting durability from the toes of the shoes than I did from the outsoles," Chris observed. "As I typically do, I saw more wear on the left toe since I tend to drag the upper portion of the toe area when stretching wide for a backhand slice. Even though I put plenty of hours on them and my shoes took plenty of abuse, they held up well. I still have lots of toe bumper to wear through, and I fully expect the outsoles to go before the toes."
Andy had a similar experience, saying, "Unlike the outsoles, the toes held up really well throughout the test. The rubber from the outsoles comes up fairly high over the toes, providing good protection for toe draggers. I don't typically do a ton of damage to the toes of my shoes, but I think these would hold up just fine for most toe draggers."
No one had any complaints about the traction of the MC 996v2 even though the tread pattern was a little different for all-court shoes. "Even with the full herringbone pattern, I was impressed with the traction," Jason remarked. "It wasn't so grippy that I felt like my feet would get caught in the court, yet I had enough traction to keep me from spinning my wheels while going for a drop shot."
"The traction was one of my favorite features of these shoes," Sebastian raved. "Since I enjoy sliding on hard courts I need the right amount of traction from my tennis shoes, and these didn't disappoint. They allowed me to be quick on my first steps and quickly change direction side-to-side or back and forth."
Andy felt these shoes provided a great balance of grip and give, which gave him full confidence when moving around the court. He praised, "I thought the traction was great throughout the test. Even when the tread began to bald as the test wore on these 996v2s continued to provide good grip on the hard courts. They had a little bit of give for aggressive hard court slides, yet enough grip to grab the court when I was recovering back toward the middle of the court."
There were only a couple of instances during the test when Chris had problems with traction. He shared, "I found it very easy to slide in these shoes. The transition from grip to give felt very smooth. On hard courts I prefer to slide out of a shot rather than into one, and I found it very easy to come to a controlled stop in these shoes. When I was looking to explode into a quick first step these shoes offered good traction. The only major instances of slip I had were when I was trying to take off while standing on a court line or when I was coming from a wide, dusty area of the court."
The light and fast feel of the MC 996v2s really stood out to our playtesters as they sped around the court. "This was another strength of these shoes for me," said Andy. "I thought they felt very light and fast, allowing me to move at top speed around the court. They flexed naturally with my feet and had a very low-to-the-ground ride. While they may not be the most comfortable speed-oriented shoes around, they certainly felt as fast as any other!"
Even though the fit wasn't ideal for him, Chris still found these shoes to be quite fast on court. He praised, "These shoes felt nice and light on my feet. I was impressed by how light they felt, especially considering the fit was a bit sloppy for my narrow feet. I think the fact that these shoes flexed well and transitioned from heel to toe smoothly helped give them a light and fast feel on court."
The weight felt almost perfect for Sebastian, who offered, "I really liked that these shoes were light and flexible, which allowed me to be quick on my first steps. Even when I was getting tired on the court I never had the feeling that my shoes were too heavy or hindering my movement in any way. I thought these shoes provided the perfect combination of speed, comfort and stability."
Jason also found these shoes to be fast, but he would've traded adding a bit more weight for some more cushioning underfoot. He said, "The 996v2s felt a bit more substantial than the previous model, but I would still consider them to be lightweight tennis shoes. With their low-to-the-ground ride they certainly have that fast feel to them, but perhaps they made these shoes too light by taking out too much cushioning in the forefoot."
Chris- "I loved the comfortable flex built into the MC 996v2s, the controllable slide from the outsoles and the lime green and grey colorway."
Jason- "They have improved support and stability over the previous model. Very good traction and a lightweight feel. Nice low arch support."
Andy- "I loved the low-to-the-ground ride and lightning fast feel. They felt plenty stable, too."
Sebastian- "I loved the light weight and great traction. They felt comfortable and stable and were ready to go right out of the box."
Chris- "They were too wide fitting to be fully supportive and I would have liked more outsole durability."
Jason- "The lack of cushioning, especially in the forefoot. I still had some slight support issues that resulted in toe jamming."
Andy- "There wasn't much cushioning underfoot, especially in the forefoot. Combine that with the lack of arch support and my feet were aching a bit during long wear sessions."
Chris- "I would compare the MC 996v2s to the adidas adizero CC Feather IIIs and the Nike Lunar Ballistecs. Like those shoes, the 996v2s offer enough flex to feel fast and enough stiffness to help protect my arches."
Jason- "With the improved stability and support, the MC 996v2s felt like a more performance-oriented evolution of the original New Balance 996. The ride reminds me of the Li Ning Pro Competition shoes."
Andy- "This updated version feels just as fast as the previous version while being a little stiffer and more stable. However, they're not as cushioned or as comfortable. They also felt similar to the Head Sprint Pro and adidas adizero CC Feather III; all three are really low to the ground and speed-oriented, but they lack some cushioning."
Sebastian- "The MC 996v2s felt similar to the Nike Zoom Vapor 9.5 Tour in that they have a low to the ground ride, are comfortable and flex naturally with my feet."
Playtester Foot Types:
Chris - Narrow width / Medium arch
Jason - Wide width / Low arch Andy - Medium width / Low arch Sebastian - Medium width / Medium arch
Review date: April 2015. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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