The New Balance 996v5 is another performance tennis shoe from New Balance. We previously tested the New Balance Coco CG1, but the New Balance 996v5 embraces pickleball – at least from an aesthetic perspective. At WearTesters, you know we’re all about performance, and since the pickleball edition is the same as any other 996v5 in terms of tech specs, it was time to drop a pickleball performance review.
The New Balance 996v5 runs true to size in length and even leaves a little splay room around the toes for forward bursts while on court. Overall, the 996v5 keeps in-shoe foot movement to a minimum, however, I would like to note that I found myself relacing this pair a little more frequently than other pairs as the laces would loosen and require readjustment. I would attribute this issue to the type of laces more so than the shoe.
The New Balance 996v5’s upper consists of a lightweight, but strong textile protected by rubberized zones around the medial forefoot and toe areas to combat wear and tear. While the upper starts a little stiff, it quickly breaks in and softens up after a few play sessions of pickleball. That would probably be an even quicker turnaround for tennis where covering more court will force break-in to happen faster.
The upper is also constructed with good heel support in the form of an internal shank and sculpting. This works out great since the New Balance 996v5 is made in a low cut, which racket sports enthusiasts generally prefer in comparison to the higher cut of something like the Coco CG1.
In addition to the heel support, New Balance uses their famous chicken foot torsion system and sits the shoe on a wide base. This means the New Balance 996v5 features all-around support for all types of players.
Though I’ve noticed New Balance tennis outsoles visibly wear down a touch quicker than rubber outsoles from competing brands, the 996v5 isn’t a bad choice when it comes to durability and performance.
Expect to find a good balance between hard biting stops when required and the ability to slide slightly into some shots if that’s your thing. No matter your style of play in that regard, the New Balance 996v5 should have you covered.
The cushion of the New Balance 996v5 is a tough one to put in as a con given the amount of court feel it provides along with the low-impact nature of pickleball. It’s really more of a preference, but I just found the 996v5 FuelCell setup to be denser and not quite as comfortable as the FuelCell in the previously reviewed Coco CG1.
If you prefer a quicker response time, then the 996v5 will work out better when compared to the Coco CG1. For where my game and skill level currently resides, I prefer what I feel is a more comfortable setup where I can pace myself across all corners of the pickleball court.
New Balance 996v5 Overall
The New Balance 996v5 is a curious case in pickleball but in a positive way. While I would prefer a little more plushness underfoot, I can’t deny the “lace up and forget about it” factor that the shoe brings to the table.
The low-cut mobility as well as the quick court feel and support that the 996v5 brings makes it much easier to wear during the relatively low-impact rigors of pickleball. While it’s not exactly my favorite shoe performance-wise, it’s probably the pickleball shoe I have spent the most time playing in this year. The reality is that it’s a highly capable pickleball shoe that caters to players of all skill levels.
For beginning players, the New Balance 996v5 works without getting in the way of learning the game. For higher-level players and pros, the shoe holds up well over time during more intense sessions and competitive play. It’s an unexpected gem, even if I want to like other shoes more.