Light, airy and full of comfort features, the updated New Balance 896v2 has a lot to offer the everyday player. The REVLite compound in the midsole provides the same cushioning and durability as other NB foams, but at a 30% weight reduction. Throw in the 8mm drop from heel to toe, and you’ve got a low-profile shoe with a connected feel that promotes quick reactions.
The streamlined, FantomFit upper is soft and pliable—comfortable right out of the box—with decent enough toughness when challenged on a hard slide. The NDure forefoot rubber nose tip offers additional medial support on lateral movement, as well as a protective guard to the toe box. The heel collar is plush with padding, adding to the comfort. The strategically placed mesh windows and NB Ice liner are designed for high ventilation; I wasn’t able to put it to the test in balmy conditions, but the shoe is certainly breathable.
Yet when assessing the stability and support, a shoe is only as good as its fit. My foot is on the narrow side with a somewhat high arch. I typically find New Balance shoes to have a medium to wide cut and run a little low in the arch. So, I personally don’t find the fit and assistance I can get from other shoes that cater to my foot type. However, for players with more suitable dimensions, the latest 896 matches up well in the support department with any competitors in the lightweight category.
The outsole is constructed of NDurance rubber with a clever modified herringbone construction—thicker tread in the higher wear medial side and a tighter pattern on the lateral side to dig in for slides. There’s also a cutout under the midfoot and arch to keep the weight down. The traction was sufficient for clay, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it on any surface, but I’d probably favor its performance on hard courts.
Overall, even though it was not an ideal match for my foot, it was easy to recognize the merits of the 896v2. It’s light and quick but doesn’t skimp on comfort or shock absorption. It perhaps doesn’t have quite the level of support of a true high-performance model, but it’s still plenty sturdy and stable for players who prefer a little give in their shoes. New Balance and lightweight fans should give this one a look.