Tennis Warehouse

New Balance 900 Men's Shoe Review

Video Review

New Balance has not just stepped out of the box with its latest performance tennis shoe. With the 900, it has run out of the box and kept on going.

How so? Well, first there's the styling. Moving away from the more conservative appearance of most New Balance tennis shoes, the 900 brings a fresh, eye-catching look. Aggressive cuts of color complement clean areas of mesh to make the 900 a modern-looking shoe. Most impressively, New Balance has packaged the modern styling so it will be acceptable footwear even at tennis clubs with conservative attire rules.

The overall look is both sleek and stylish. It's both safe and a little bit fun, which is not an easy look to pull off. As far as style goes, it has plenty -- something which has been lacking on the tennis scene for New Balance.

But the 900 is not just about style. Built around a running last -- for a new way of bringing comfort and support -- the 900 now ties New Balance's success in running shoes to its offerings in tennis. On the foot the 900 offers a sleek fit to match its sleek looks. Curving with the contours of the foot, the 900 feels like a shoe that is meant to go fast.

While the running style and design are new, the extensive use of mesh throughout the upper on the 900 is commonly used in New Balance tennis shoes. The mesh promises out-of-the-box comfort and excellent ventilation. Weighing less than 14 ounces (size 10.5), the lightweight mesh upper adds to the overall sleek and speed-oriented design.

With a new look, new last, and performance specs, we had to know how the 900 would fare on court? Read on to see what our team had to say after putting the 900 through a month-long assessment.

Comfort - Score: 4.3

Most people will notice the immediate comfort when slipping on a running shoe. Our testers all agreed the same to be true when slipping on the 900.

Spencer was pleasantly surprised with the comfort and overall feel on court. He said, "I must admit I was skeptical of this shoe being built on a running last. When I first put them on, I noticed the comfort right away. As I walked around a bit I also noticed a running shoe kind of feel -- in that I felt I was riding kind of high in the chassis. So before I ever hit a ball in them I was concerned with how this shoe would perform overall. Those doubts were put to rest after the first rally with some movement. Not only did I feel the physical comfort of this shoe on my feet, but I'll say that I also felt 'mental' comfort because I could better trust this shoe to perform."

Enjoying immediate comfort was Danny, who offered, "I thought this shoe was comfortable right out of the box. Considering New Balance's good reputation, and the fact the shoe is built on a running last, I wasn't surprised by how good the comfort was on court. I would prefer a shoe that is slightly narrower, but the fit didn't hurt my score because the impressive cushioning and comfort won out."

Jason was happy with the overall comfort. He said, "These shoes provide good overall comfort. There is plenty of mesh in the uppers, along with a soft synthetic leather, to make this shoe great right out of the box. I was a little worried about the fit in the forefoot, which was a tad too narrow for me, but they opened up nicely after a hit or two. It doesn't have that super soft, super cushioned feel that some shoes have, but I think this is more of a performance comfort. The uppers did dig into my feet near the laces because I had to lace my shoes up extra tight to keep my heels from slipping."

Chris said, "I liked the comfortable ride I found in these shoes. I did not need to break them in at all, and I found a high level of comfort right out of the box. The cushioning system did a good job on the comfort front without making me feel too elevated or disconnected from the court. The uppers were very soft, and kind of reminded me of a running shoe due to their fit, comfort and styling. When walking around or hitting lightly, the comfort was excellent. When hitting more aggressively the shoe didn't offer the support needed to absorb the strain of aggressive cuts. I was moving around inside the shoes slightly, and I didn't find them as comfortable."

Ventilation - Score: 4.5

An extensive use of mesh in the upper provided tremendous breathability for our testers.

Enjoying the cool comfort was Danny, saying, "The mesh that is on the sides of the shoe provided great ventilation when playing. They were great shoes for keeping my feet cool."

Happy with being able to feel air come through the upper was Jason. He said, "These were one of the more breathable tennis shoes I've worn this year. The generous use of mesh in the uppers helped keep my feet as cool and dry as possible. I rarely play outside since our indoor court was built, but the one time I did the ventilation was enhanced, as I could actually feel a breeze flowing through the shoe."

Chris gave high marks in this category. He said, "I found the ventilation to be excellent. The use of mesh was extensive and airflow was great. My feet never got hot or too sweaty when wearing these shoes."

Finding this an excellent warm weather shoe was Spencer, saying, "The abundance of mesh in the upper provided all the breathability I could ask for. I can't think of a better option for warm weather play when it comes to ventilation."

Arch Support - Score: 3.7

The low to medium height arch proved to offer plenty of support for our play testers.

Happy with where the arches hit his feet was Danny. He said, "I thought the arch support was low, but that is the type of arch support I like and it was a good fit for my feet."

Jason offered, "No complaints here. The arches wore down nicely for my low arched feet."

Finding an adequate level of arch support was Chris. He said, "The arch support was OK in these shoes. With the stock insole it was a tad lower than I'd like, but I wasn't finding any kind of discomfort. Not long into the test I switched to a Superfeet insole in an attempt to stiffen up the chassis of the shoes and found a true medium height arch from then on."

Spencer felt the arches to be medium, which fit his feet well. He said, "My feet tend to agree with a medium arched shoe, and this was no exception. I was happy with the amount of support these offered in this category."

Foot Support / Stability - Score: 3.4

Though not everyone agreed when it came to support and stability, most felt there was room for improvement in this category.

Danny offered, "The foot support wasn't the best, but it was better than I expected. I have experienced better foot support from many of the other shoes tested earlier in the year. I found the forefoot to be somewhat generous for my foot width and I prefer a shoe that is narrower. However, I still thought this shoe performed well on the court."

Jason felt the heel slippage took away some of the effectiveness of his movement. He said, "The sole reason for my lowered score was the heel slippage I was experiencing. All areas of the shoe performed above average. Slipping within the shoe was a non-issue, what was an issue was sliding out of it. To somewhat remedy this problem, I had to lace it up to the last eyelet and really cinch down on my laces. But in doing so, I was hurting my foot where I was lacing up, taking away from the comfort."

A combination of issues resulted in a lack of support and stability for Chris. He offered, "While the uppers were soft and comfortable, they failed to offer the support I like. After I wore the shoes for a week the uppers had stretched out and support became more of an issue. I did not like how the lace system ended so far from the heel of the shoe, leaving a large opening at the ankle collar. I had quite a bit of slippage going on at the heel, as I was not able to cinch the opening tight enough to hold me in the shoe. The chassis of the shoe was also flexible. The stability was not great, but adequate."

Spencer was the tester most impressed with the support and stability, saying, "Being as light as they are and riding higher than I'd like, I was reluctant at first to make hard changes of direction. But as most competitors are when competing and going all out, they aren't thinking the 'I shouldn't cut so hard to try to get to this ball' thoughts. So when I was focusing on getting in the proper position to hit shots I made normal movements, and the shoes held up well in that regard. I was certainly happy with the support and stability of this shoe."

Overall Sole Durability - Score: 2.4

The results were less than inspiring when it came to durability. Despite the fact that New Balance offers a great satisfaction guarantee on this shoe, the actual longevity of the sole was rather disappointing.

Jason was surprised with how quickly he wore through the soles. He said, "I was shocked to see what I saw when I looked at the outsole after only four weeks of play testing. I typically don't put much more than a dent in most outsoles, but with this shoe I did damage I didn't know I could do. The medial forefoot was worn almost completely bald, as well as the pivot point. "

Making quick work out of these shoes was Chris, saying, "I wore a hole through the outsole under the big toe of my right foot in two weeks. While the outsoles were very grippy and the shoes felt lightweight, durability suffered for me. I'm now well into my second pair."

Spencer seemed to be on the same training regime as Jason and Chris. He said, "I noticed more wear with this shoe than I do with most. I tend to wear out tread the quickest in the ball of the foot/big toe area. These seemed to wear quicker than usual. It's not like me to put holes in shoes, but I began to wear through both shoes right around the big toe."

Danny had better results. He said, "I had better luck with the sole durability than the toe durability. My first signs of wear were under my toes. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great, either."

Toe Durability - Score: 3.0

Danny and Chris were the two toe-dragging testers involved in this review.

For Danny, there was a slight durability issue. He said, "The toe is where I noticed the first signs of wear. The top of the toe, to be more precise. The seam at the top was starting to slowly lose its stitching. The durability on the bottom of the sole near the toe was just as good as other shoes that I have tested."

Chris found more durability, saying, "The uppers of the shoe held up better for me. I only played in the shoes for two weeks due to the outsole being worn through, and the toe of the uppers held up fine during that time. The material showed plenty of scuffing, but it seemed to be holding strong. My second pair still looks new at the toe bumper."

Traction - Score: 4.4

With its grippy nature on the hard courts, our testers definitely found the outsole to be traction oriented, rather than geared toward durability.

Spencer found the level of grip to his liking, saying, "I was very happy, and not at all surprised, with the traction on these shoes. The soft feeling rubber gripped the hard court very well, but not to the point of 'sticking.' This is one of the better shoes I've worn this year for traction."

Danny also found a good level of grip. He offered, "I thought the traction was surprisingly good. After looking at the herringbone tread before testing this shoe I was assuming that it wasn't aggressive enough for my playing style, but the tread worked out fine. I found good traction when stopping and changing direction."

Jason discovered some fast facts about rubber composition during his testing, saying, "There must be an inverse correlation between how fast the outsole wears out and the traction it provides, because I thought these shoes gripped the court superbly well. I was confident in the shoe being there on every take off and every stop. I appreciated the pivot point in the outsole design."

Chris offered, "I found a high level of traction from the outsoles. The rubber felt soft and grippy, and I was able to move quickly without slipping. The flexible nature of the shoe enabled the outsoles to stay flat, offering a good contact patch of rubber to hard court."

Weight - Score: 4.1

For the player seeking a light and fast feeling shoe, our testers found the 900 to fit the bill.

Spencer was providing full court coverage during this test. He said, "The 900 definitely has a lightweight feel to it. Whether I was actually faster or not will probably remain a mystery, but I did feel faster and felt I was able to move my feet well."

Chris also felt quick around the court in these shoes, saying, "I liked the lightweight feel. The shoes felt light and fast on my feet, both on and off court. I'm not sure if the light weight came at the expense of durability and stability, but if it did, I could have taken some added weight to improve those characteristics."

Jason agreed. "I felt quick around the court when wearing these shoes. They aren't as low to the ground or as light as, say, the Nike Vapors, but they’re still great. I feel the extensive use of mesh in the uppers and the new running last must have cut down the weight."

Danny felt quick on his feet, saying, "I found the 900 to feel very light around the court. It is quite light at 13.8 ounces, and I felt it from the start."

Overall - Score: 3.7

Straight from the box, the New Balance 900 impressed our testers with its comfort. This shoe came right from the shelf and was ready to go on the first wear. The predominantly mesh upper offered great ventilation, keeping feet cool during warm sessions, and the soft outsole provided stop on a dime traction. Coming in at under 14 ounces (size 10.5), the 900 also felt light on the feet and helped the testers feel quicker around the court.

The 900, however, had less than desired results on the durability front. This shoe simply had no outsole longevity for our hard court players. In all fairness, New Balance does offer a durability guarantee on this shoe, providing some relief for shoe abusers. With one of our testers needing to replace his shoes to complete the month-long test, there's a good chance you'll exercise the guarantee if you are a frequent hard court player. What the shoe lacks in durability, it makes up for in speed and traction. Also offering out of the box comfort, a lightweight feel, a performance fit and excellent ventilation, the 900 is New Balance's fastest offering yet.

Likes

Danny - "I liked the comfort the most, as well as the light weight and ventilation."

Jason - "The all around comfort, from the cushioning to the fit. Traction was also a major plus. I found these shoes to grip the hard court very well."

Chris - "I liked the ventilation and traction the most."

Spencer - "The instant comfort, as well as the traction."

Dislikes

Danny - "I think the stability would be better if my foot width was slightly wider. Having said that, I would have liked better stability and durability."

Jason - "The heel slippage was a real problem for me. I needed to really cinch down on my laces in order to feel secure in these shoes. The outsole needs to be much more durable."

Chris - "The durability was disappointing, and I needed more support and stability, too."

Spencer - "The durability was obviously a problem."

Compared to other shoes or brands

Jason - "The overall feel is similar to an Asics shoe. I would say the support and stability of a shoe like the Gel Resolution 2 is more performance oriented than the 900."

Chris - "The durability was on par with the Nike Vapor S2 (the original Vapor), which was another two-week-and-done shoe for me. However, whereas the Vapor S2 offered a supportive fit, this one stretched out in the forefoot and was too open around the ankle collar for me"

Spencer - "The upper and comfort reminded me of the Fila Torneo. They both offer instant comfort, along with a lightweight feel and breathability."

Danny - "In general, I think New Balance makes a consistently comfortable tennis shoe. I could compare the comfort and fit to a Prince, or even a K-Swiss shoe."

Upsides

  • Instant comfort
  • Ventilation
  • Cushioning
  • Traction
  • Lightweight
  • Fast on court feel

Downsides

  • Durability
  • Support lacking for narrow feet
  • Opening at ankle collar too wide
New Balance 900 Scores
Comfort 4.3
Ventilation 4.5
Arch Support 3.7
Foot suppot/Stability 3.4
Overall Sole Durability 2.4
Toe Durability 3.0
Traction 4.4
Weight 4.1
Overall 3.7
 


Playtester Foot Types:
Chris - Narrow width, medium arch
Jason - Wide width, low arch
Spencer - Medium width, medium arch
Danny - Medium width, medium arch

Review date: August 2010. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.

All content copyright 2010 Tennis Warehouse.