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New Balance 996 V4 Review

by GP

This New Balance 996 V4 Review by guest writer Sebastiano Sali deals with the all court edition. There is now a V5 version out, which we hope to review as well.

If you want to check out our other shoe reviews, go here. You can check out the New Balance 996 V5 at Tennis Warehouse or Tennis Only. Tennis Warehouse Europe does not currently carry it, but you can find them on Amazon and other retailers (potentially).

The New Balance 996 V4 Review deals with one of the flashier tennis shoes on the market. Its purple, neon green, and marine color is undoubtedly the most audacious-looking pair of tennis shoes I have come across recently in a market that is otherwise quite frankly a bit boring. I love these shoes’ breezy, disco-like, 80’s style, with a strobe light-like outer mesh, camo-style sole, and neon-green laces. That was plenty that made me want to buy and test these NB. But if you aren’t sold yet and are instead interested in knowing what my fit-and-play experience was (we’re on Tennisnerd, after all), well, then you might want to go on with the reading. 

I can only anticipate that my overall experience was somewhat mixed, with some great pros and some not so great cons.

Fit and break-in

We can start by saying that they fit true to size. I haven’t yet found my Graal-tennis-shoes and therefore have long wondered amongst the intricate meanders of the market and found myself lost in how different the various brands fit. Therefore I rely exclusively on cm and my go-to size is definitely 26cm, which generally corresponds to a US size 8. Well, at least this is the case for these NB.

My second most important aspect is the break-in. I don’t like buying a pair of shoes and having to walk up and down my house’s staircase for three weeks exactly to avoid pains on court. I like my shoes ready-to-go and these NB most certainly are. And it feels so good to show up and rock such a cool pair of shoes (yes, I know, I’ve said it already, but I like them so much I’ll be saying it again). Though, it must be said that they aren’t the softest of shoes. They fold in the right place, they don’t hurt at all, and they are very roomy and cosy even for the biggest of big toes, but the rather unique cloth-like outer mesh (more on that later) makes them somewhat stiffer than other lightweight shoes.

Weight and cushioning

And that’s my cue to another very important factor. They’re light. Very light. And you can tell. You can tell once you have them in your hands and you can tell on court. You never feel like your shoes drag you down, they never feel bulky and make you feel like you stumble on them. According to NB, they weigh only 350 grams, and according to my personal kitchen scale, even a lesser 308 grams in the US size 8. But lightness comes at a price. And it’s a heavy one.

Cushioning was the weakest spot of these shoes. You can tell right away that they are not the most cushioned shoes on the market, but the situation becomes crystal clear when playing. When sliding (on a hard court) to fetch a drop shot or a shorter ball, I could feel discomfort, and at times even pain, on the heel of my front sliding leg. At first, I thought it was my poor sliding technique and fitness. Still, when the same feeling happened again when sliding laterally and leaning heavily on my heel to hit a chopped defensive forehand, I realized what NB decided to compromise for making these shoes so light. So, if you’re a heavyweight, need to protect your knees, or like good cushioning, you might want to think twice before getting these shoes.

Stability and breathability

Another little downside is the outer mesh. I am not sure how to best describe it; it feels like cloth and porous rather than plasticky and waterproof. I tested my shoes on hard courts, but I think one could assume that playing on clay would mean that the shoes get dirty right away, soaking clay into these strange meshes. Nothing major, but in the long run, that might affect breathability (and ruin the thrilling look of the shoes).

To end on a positive note, stability, especially lateral stability is great. The shoes react and respond very fast and never give me the feeling of losing my footing and therefore my confidence in taking sharp or sudden changes of direction. The pronounced rubber on the foresole is probably the reason for that. Another very positive thing that kindred toe-draggers like me will appreciate, is the plastic side guard reinforcement on the inner side of the shoe. I ripped open my Asics Speed FF clay in no time thanks to that, whereas these NB showed very little signs of wearing after a whole season. Well done NB!


In short, I recommend the New Balance 996 V4 to those who like to stun their tennis mates with their outfits and looks. If you’d like to stun them with your performance, then I would suggest considering these shoes for hard courts rather than on clay, and if you don’t need much support, dampening, and cushioning, Otherwise I would consider other models: both NB and other brands offer plenty of options to preserve your keens and feel super comfortable, not just with your look!

If you have tried these shoes or other New Balance tennis shoes, please comment with your experience and thoughts on this New Balance 996 V4 review below.

By Sebastiano Sali

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