|New Balance 996v2 Women's Shoe Scores|
|Overall Sole Durability||3.6|
New Balance injects new technologies and bright new cosmetics into its speed shoe series with the introduction of the 996v2. REVlite midsole foam cushioning offers a low-to-the-ground ride, which drew mixed reviews from our four-woman squad. While all four appreciated how quick they felt in these shoes, some of our testers wanted more cushioning to protect their feet. The other new technologies, the NDURE cage and ProBank support feature, provided good stability for our testers, but fit issues kept three of our testers from fully enjoying the 996v2s. Three playtesters had issues with toe jamming, and two of them recommended moving up a half-size to give your toes more room. All of our playtesters agreed that the traction was spot on, and, when combined with the lightweight feel, made it easy to move quickly in these shoes. Because they're offered in standard and wide widths, players should be able to find a good fit with the 996v2s. Once you get the right fit, the 996v2s are stylish shoes that pair well with quick, explosive footwork.
With their fun cosmetics and light weight, the 996v2s had our team eager to get on the court. Michelle found step-in comfort the instant she put the shoes on and was happy with how comfy they initially felt. She had no issues with fit, saying, "These shoes fit me perfectly. I wore my true size and the medium B width and had no issues with fit or break-in. The heel, ankle collar and tongue are plush, so I really enjoyed those aspects of the shoes. I also loved how soft the outsoles felt. I ended up keeping them on all day. There wasn't a lot of cushioning under the toes, but it didn't seem to bother me much. I felt like I was almost floating on the court. I could be aggressive and quick with my feet without worrying about any discomfort or shock from the court. These have also become my favorite new shoes to transition with into the gym - they actually worked quite well for my cross-fit workouts because they feel low to the ground and are supportive in all the right places."
Karly learned her lesson from playtesting the previous 966 shoes and went with a wider option in the 996v2s. She explained, "The D width New Balance shoes fit my feet much better. I thought this newer version offered good heel cushioning, but I just wish there was more cushioning throughout the rest of the shoes. The 996v2s have a very minimalistic feel because there is not much padding, especially in the forefoot. I also had to be careful when stopping quickly because it was really easy to jam my toes. There should have been more padding in the toe box to soften that impact when stopping."
"I was excited to try this update because the previous 996s were one of my favorite shoes to play in," began Brittany. "The playtest started out on the right note when I opened the box and saw bright, bold cosmetics. However, when I put them on I was struggling to find a perfect fit for my feet. I thought the shoe ran a tad short so I went up a half-size to an 8.5, but I stuck with the normal B width. After wearing them a couple of times on the court I found the B width were too wide, and my feet were moving around inside the shoes. While they did not need a break-in period, these shoes felt a little stiffer and had less cushioning under the forefoot than the previous version. There was adequate cushioning under the heel, around the ankle collar and in the tongue, but I was left wanting more cushioning under my forefoot, and my feet were really taking a pounding out on the court. I definitely would take these shoes off after hitting and put something on with more cushioning."
"I have to give props to New Balance for offering shoes in widths," began Tiffani. "I wore the D width in these 996v2s, and I loved the accommodating fit for my wider feet. I did find these shoes to run a little bit short, but I decided to stay with my usual size 6. These shoes required absolutely no break-in and felt very low-to-the-ground in the forefoot. The court feel was nice, but I would have liked more cushioning in the forefoot. My heels felt well protected from court impact, but the balls of my feet were a little sore after playing."
Featuring a houndstooth NDURE cage over mesh on the upper, the 996v2 not only looked nice, but also provided adequate levels of breathability for our playtesters. "As far as ventilation goes, I really didn't have any issues," said Brittany. "Even though I playtested these in cooler temperatures, I felt they had above average ventilation. I never felt like my feet were overheating. The mesh on the uppers did its job, and my feet felt very happy with the temperature inside my shoes."
With the caveat that these shoes were tested during the colder months, Tiffani thought the ventilation of the shoes was excellent. She said, "My feet never felt overly hot, and I could wear them comfortably after my hitting sessions without any issues."
Karly felt the ventilation was adequate, saying, "Unfortunately, I also don't think they were quite as breathable as the previous version. They never overheated, and I was never distracted by the temperature on the court, but once the hit was over I wanted to take these shoes off and change into a dry pair of socks."
"I do like the mesh under the houndstooth cage, it's just not a lot of mesh," said Michelle. "I never noticed my feet overheating, and I often wore these shoes into the gym after tennis. I kept them on for a while after getting off the court, so overheating was clearly not a problem for me."
The New Balance 996v2 has a low arch support, but none of our playtesters had any problems with her arches. Tiffani offered, "The arch support in the 996v2 shoes feels low to me, and after my first hit I wanted to put my Superfeet insoles into the shoes for better support. However, I stuck it out, and after about two hours these shoes broke in and did a better job of cradling my low arches."
The arch support on these shoes didn't hit Brittany's arches in exactly the right place. She commented, "I could feel the support under my medium arches, but it was hitting a little too far forward on my feet. However, I didn't have any particular issues with it (my arches were never sore), and I more or less forgot about the arch support each time I went to hit after about 5 minutes on the court."
Michelle was happy with the arch support. She said, "It was on the lower side for my higher arches, but I had no issues, aches or trouble. I didn't feel like I needed to put insoles in, either. There was just enough support, and I felt like they molded well to my feet."
For Karly, the insoles felt pretty flat and didn't offer much of an arch, but that didn't cause any issues for her feet. She said, "I never experienced any aches or pain, even with the lower arch support."
New Balance's new ProBank technology, where the midsole extends up over the upper to cradle the foot, has been engineered into the 996v2 to keep players' feet in the correct position when moving aggressively and laterally. For the most part, Tiffani felt confident moving in these shoes. She explained, "On one hand, the 996v2 shoes offered a solid level of support and stability. On the other hand, I'm having a hard time looking past the toe jamming issues I had. I could tie the shoes tightly to mitigate the amount of sliding my feet did in these shoes, but I was never fully able to stop it. I found the shoes to run slightly short, and the fit issue exacerbated the problem. I would recommend those who are between sizes to go up a half-size. Outside of the toe jamming issue, though, these shoes were reliable. I was impressed with how well these lightweight shoes withstood heavy lateral movements."
Michelle found these shoes to offer the perfect blend of support and stability for her footwork. She said, "These shoes have a bit of an outrigger, which mentally reminded me there is some good stability for aggressive movement. I didn't have any issues with toe jamming, and once I laced my shoes up I felt locked in, ready to go and able to move with confidence. I enjoyed the stability and support during lateral movements on the court and the gym. No complaints at all in this area from me."
Even though the material was extremely lightweight and minimal, that didn't stop the 996v2s from being supportive. Karly was surprised by how confidently and aggressively she was moving with that minimalistic feel, saying, "The 996v2s offer a lower fit around the ankles than most shoes, but I thought they wrapped around my feet really well. I never felt like I was going to roll over. They provided just enough support and stability to keep me from worrying about hurting myself during play."
As she mentioned in the comfort section, Brittany struggled with the fit, which affected her support and stability experience. She said, "I could never get my foot locked into these shoes, and my feet were constantly moving side to side and forward and backward (with some toe jamming). There were a couple of times my shoe would stop and my foot would continue over the edge. My foot would eventually stop so I never rolled an ankle, and I think this was due to the low-to-the-ground ride. I couldn't get my heels locked in place, either. I was constantly retying my shoelaces to try to get a more secure fit. There were a couple times that the laces would loosen up so much that I would almost step out of my shoes."
The 996v2s weren't the most durable shoes, however, because they are such quick shoes and come with the NDurance One Year guarantee, it was easy to not be too worried about this issue. Michelle was seeing some decent wear on her shoes. She said, "Because the outsoles felt soft I was worried that they weren't going to be the most durable shoes out there. After about 20 hours of court time and 15 hours of gym time the outsoles aren't completely trashed yet, and they're holding up OK. There's definitely some decent smoothing under my big toes, but not as much as I was expecting, to be honest. I thought I would tear these shoes up, but they seem to be hanging in there."
Because they're such lightweight, minimalistic shoes, Karly wasn't really expecting the 996v2s to have tremendous durability. She said, "The outsole durability wasn't terrible, but after my first five hitting sessions I noticed the bottoms beginning to smooth. The amount of play that I got from the outsoles was exactly what I was expecting from these fast shoes. Luckily they come with a sole guarantee, which is always a bonus."
The soles held up decently for Brittany, who commented, "I could start to see some smoothing in the normal areas, which I expected. However, these shoes have a durability guarantee, so there was nothing really to complain about."
"As fellow playtester Michelle mentioned to me, the outsoles of these shoes feel soft, and for me, they started wearing rather quickly on our gritty indoor hard court," said Tiffani. "I noticed the tread starting to smooth after about five hours."
Despite seeing some wear on the outsoles, our toe draggers were impressed with how well the toe bumper remained intact. "The toe bumper held up to my dragging," said Brittany. "There is absolutely no wear on any part of the shoe from my dragging. The bumper went up high enough to protect the uppers and the NDURE upper protected from any additional damage."
Tiffani agreed, adding, "The 996v2s' uppers are holding up better for me than the outsoles. The plastic cage on these shoes is nice and pliable, but it's also withstanding my toe dragging well."
Because of the full herringbone pattern, our playtesters weren't sure what to expect from the traction of the 996v2s. However, they were delightfully surprised by the solid level of traction. "For the first few hours of the playtest I thought the traction was extra tacky," began Karly. "The outsoles had a very gummy, sticky feel on the ground, but once they started to smooth the traction was great. Throughout the rest of the playtest these shoes allowed enough give for me to change directions quickly, while providing enough grip to prevent any slippage."
This shoe has the low-to-the-ground feel that Brittany loves. She felt connected to the court when moving aggressively, and she said "I thought these shoes did their job when it came to traction, and I never felt stuck. The all herringbone pattern was definitely unusual looking for hard court shoes, but it wasn't as slippery as I thought it would be. There was just the right amount of give for me."
Tiffani praised the traction, saying, "Easily a highlight of these shoes, the traction had just the right amount of stick and give for me. I could pivot easily enough, but I also felt good with starts and stops. I was confident making quick movements in the 996v2s."
Michelle was initially skeptical about the full herringbone tread pattern. She said, "I was worried it would be more slippery than what I normally like, but I was wrong. It worked out quite well for me. I had enough traction to move aggressively and really make aggressive cuts on the court, and I haven't been let down by these shoes yet."
Our playtesters were shocked to find that the 996v2s weighed slightly more than the previous version. These shoes played quick and light, and our players felt fast when wearing them. Brittany said, "The weight was probably my favorite feature of these shoes. I thought they played lighter than their actual weight, and New Balance did a good job of distributing the weight throughout the shoe."
"It seems like the days of heavy shoes are pretty much gone," said Tiffani. "Because there are so many light feeling shoes today, what separates them for me is how they fit. These shoes are just slightly sloppy for me, allowing too much forward sliding inside the shoes, so it's just a little harder for me to appreciate the lightweight feel."
"I'm starting to really enjoy this trend of lighter shoes that are still durable," said Michelle. "I used to always think durability meant you had to wear clunky, thick, heavy shoes. Luckily, it seems like the shoe game is changing for the ladies, and these are more durable shoes that don't weigh me down. I'm very happy with the weight. They feel much lighter than what they weigh. I never once felt like these shoes were bulky or heavy."
The lightweight feel was easily Karly's favorite feature of the 996v2s. She said, "They offered a very low-to-the-ground feel, and with their good stability, they allowed me to move aggressively around the court. I was really confident chasing down shots."
Michelle - "I enjoyed the step-in comfort and the great cosmetics (I got tons of compliments from non-tennis players asking where they could get these shoes!), plus I love the soft underfoot feel. They're quick shoes, and I loved that I could take them into the gym. I felt confident in them on the court and during my cross-fit workouts."
Karly - "I loved how fast I could move on the court in these lightweight, supportive shoes."
Brittany - "I liked the quick, fast feel when moving around the court. Fun, bright cosmetics as well!"
Tiffani - "I liked that the 996v2s are available in widths. The traction, ventilation and weight were also pluses."
Michelle - "I was unsure about the durability initially, but with the outsole guarantee that's not much of an issue. No real dislikes to report."
Karly - "The lack of cushioning in the toe box and the toe jamming."
Brittany - "I struggled getting a secure fit, which led to some stability and comfort issues."
Tiffani - "I wanted more cushioning in the forefoot, and my feet were sliding forward a lot, so I was jamming my toes."
Michelle - "The 996v2s remind me a bit of the adidas Stella Barricade 2015 - plush, quick, light, durable and stylish! These are my first New Balance shoes, so I can't compare them to the previous versions."
Karly - "The biggest differences I noticed between the 996v2s and the previous version were the weight and durability. I thought the newer version felt lighter and played faster, but I thought the durability of the first 996s was better."
Brittany - "Compared to the original 996s, the 996v2s were stiffer both on the upper and underfoot. I also thought some of the cushioning was taken out in the forefoot and what was left was more supportive. However, they're both lightweight and have a low-to-the-ground feel."
Tiffani - "Because of their lightweight feel and plastic cage upper, the 996v2 shoes remind me of the Asics Gel Solution Speed 2s. Both are fast feeling, but the Solution Speed 2s have a narrow fit, while the New Balance 996v2s are available in a standard B width and wide D. The Gel Solution Speed 2s are more cushioned, while the 996v2s offer a lower to the ground ride."
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
Michelle - Medium width / High arch
Karly - Medium width / Medium-low arch
Brittany - Narrow width / Medium arch
Tiffani - Wide width / Low arch
Review date: April 2015. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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