Our verdict

Yep, this one is light and cheap, but we urge you to not dismiss it yet when you are after that “steady-as-she-goes” support and stability because guess what? New Balance 796 v3 got those! What’s good about this is it’s firm even in the absence of a shank, giving way to flexibility. Accessibility-wise in terms of budget? This one, thankfully, doesn’t make us scratch our heads because it is available at an inexpensive value.

Pros

  • Exceptionally lightweight
  • Unexpectedly hard-wearing outsole
  • Very sensitive court feel
  • Decent support given the shoe's design
  • Allows trouble-free movement changes
  • Grips well when you need it
  • Super affordable price
  • Zero break-in

Cons

  • Not very breathable
  • Thin and firm cushioning
  • Not the most stable and supportive

Audience verdict

80
Good!

Who should buy

We didn't expect much from the New Balance 796 v3 but boy did the shoe impress us. We can wholeheartedly recommend it to tennis players who:

  • are just starting out with the sport
  • don't want to spend a lot of money on tennis shoes but want a decent pair
  • prefer very lightweight shoes that help them stay nimble

New Balance 796 v3 review

Who should NOT buy

For the retail price of only £100, this New Balance shoe is a steal, for sure. But just like any cheap shoe, the 796 v5 makes compromises to meet such a low price point. The most crucial ones are cushioning and stability.

If you are willing to extend your tennis shoe budget by another £20-20, we believe that the K-Swiss Hypercourt Express 2 and the ASICS Gel Challenger 14 would fill in the gaps of the 796 v5.

New Balance 796 v3 lab test

Breathability

It is so rare to come across a breathable tennis shoe these days...Unfortunately, the NB 796 v5 did not make an exception. Even though it doesn't have any dense PU overlays on the upper, its fabric failed to keep our feet sufficiently ventilated on the court.

In our smoke-pumping breathability test below, you can see how none of the smoke is coming through the toebox and very little is getting out of the tongue.

Because of such modest smoke expulsion, we subtracted points from the shoe's breathability score leaving it with only 3 out of 5. That is slightly less breathable than tennis shoes on average.

Even when we hovered the shoe's half-cut upper over the light, it proved to be very densely woven.

Grabbing our microscope, we also took a closer look at the toebox fabric.

New Balance 796 v3 microscope

The chainlinks here are so small and so tightly knit together that we cannot possibly imagine the heat escaping through them.

New Balance 796 v3 microscope upper

Test results
796 v3 3
Average 3.1
Compared to 25 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

When you're testing a shoe whose price point is £50 lower than average, you don't really anticipate mind-blowing durability. But we must also say that this New Balance shoe didn't leave us disappointed either.

Equipped with a Dremel, we test all of our tennis shoes in the same conditions for consistent results. The tool's speed is set to 5K RPM as we apply its sandpaper tip to the shoe's toebox for 12 seconds with a light 3.2N pressure.

New Balance 796 v3 Toebox durability

Considering that we were drilling raw and unprotected fabric of the 796 v5, the result was stunning! We rated the shoe's toebox durability with a moderate score of 3 out of 5. But there is no doubt about it - this shoe's upper will tear down faster than others.

We also don't expect this NB shoe to survive repeated toe drags for long. The guard on its medial side is way too slender.

New Balance 796 v3 toe drag guard

Toe drag guard on the New Balance 796 v5

Let's take a moment of silence to appreciate the medial protection on the £170 pair of the Adidas Barricade 13.

Adidas Barricade Clay 13 toe drag guard

Toe drag guard on the Adidas Barricade 13

Test results
796 v3 3
Average 4.1
Compared to 23 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

What caught us off guard, however, was the abrasion resistance of this shoe's inner lining! We haven't seen such durability even on some of the more expensive models!

After 4 seconds of drilling the inner side of the heel collar, this NB shoe showed admirable resistance. The sandpaper barely even scratched its surface! At this price point, the 796 v5 gets an instant 5 out of 5 for the heel padding durability.

New Balance 796 v3 Heel padding durability
Test results
796 v3 5
Average 3.3
Compared to 23 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

From here on, it only gets better... New Balance is not messing with durability, even in its more affordable range of footwear.

To begin with, we were struck by the unusually high durometer reading of the rubber. At 90.0 HC, it is among the hardest in our tennis shoe roster! That is normally the first sign of outsole longevity.

New Balance 796 v3 Outsole hardness
Test results
796 v3 90.0 HC
Average 85.8 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 25 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
73.4 HC
Outsole hardness
92.0 HC

Outsole durability

No matter how much the shoe costs, our Dremel doesn't offer any discounts on our durability standards. This time around, the speed was set to the relentless 10K RPM, and the time of drilling was extended to 22 seconds.

And the New Balance 796 v5 showed amazing results yet again! Measuring the dent with a tread gauge, we couldn't believe that it was only 0.6 mm deep! Even the more expensive tennis shoes ended up with greater damage!

New Balance 796 v3 Outsole durability
Test results
796 v3 0.6 mm
Average 0.7 mm
Compared to 23 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

Now mix that with the shoe's impressive outsole thickness of 4.5 mm! That's a truly big chunk of rubber for a simple shoe like the 796 v5.

We believe that after months of use, when the shoe's upper is all torn apart and the midsole feels like a pancake, the rubber outsole will still be standing strong, just like new!

New Balance 796 v3 Outsole thickness
Test results
796 v3 4.5 mm
Average 4.1 mm
Compared to 25 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
3.0 mm
Outsole thickness
5.1 mm

Weight

The New Balance 796 v5 is the lightest tennis shoe we've recorded in our lab by far! More than 2 ounces lighter than average, it is barely even felt on the foot.

New Balance 796 v3 weight

In a men's US size 9, it tips the scale at only 10.3 oz (292g). Truly impressive for a tennis shoe, especially stepping out of the regular 13.5-14-ounce shoes.

New Balance 796 v3 Weight
Test results
796 v3 10.30 oz (292g)
Average 12.84 oz (364g)
Compared to 25 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
10.30 oz (292g)
Weight
14.71 oz (417g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

It is enough to just look at the 795 v5 to understand that it's not very abundant with cushioning. Light and grounded, it made the court feel very close to the bottoms of our feet. While the impact protection was present, it certainly wasn't the best for super hard landings.

Based on our calliper measurements, the heel stack of his NB shoe turned out to be as small as 25.3 mm. That is also the lowest heel height among our lab-tested tennis shoes.

New Balance 796 v3 Heel stack
Test results
796 v3 25.3 mm
Average 29.3 mm
Compared to 25 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
25.3 mm
Heel stack
33.0 mm

Forefoot stack

As a budget-oriented shoe, no gussets are to be found in the NB 796 v5.

New Balance 796 v3 Forefoot stack
Test results
796 v3 17.4 mm
Average 19.7 mm
Compared to 25 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
17.0 mm
Forefoot stack
23.4 mm

Drop

Another characteristic that makes the 796 v5 feel so intimately connected to the court is its lower-than-average heel-to-toe drop. At only 7.9 mm, it is a few millimetres lower than in many popular tennis shoes which might feel weird at first.

But the benefit of this setup lies in its excellent responsiveness to the player's movements. There is no delayed response and transitions in between shots felt seamless.

New Balance 796 v3 Drop
Test results
796 v3 7.9 mm
Average 9.7 mm
Compared to 25 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
6.3 mm
Drop
12.4 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

We didn't feel much softness in the cushioning of the NB 796 v5 either. Featuring the REVlite foam, New Balance prioritises lightness and grounded geel in this tennis shoe.

Pressing our durometer against the foam returned 30.0 HA. It's not firmer than the average tennis shoe but given how quickly it bottoms out, it's not long before the shoe feels flat and dead.

New Balance 796 v3 Midsole softness
Test results
796 v3 30.0 HA
Average 29.2 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 25 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
21.5 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
34.0 HA

Insole thickness

The shoe's insole is not particularly padded either. WIth a thickness of only 3.9 mm, it runs on the thinner side of tennis shoe insoles.

New Balance 796 v3 Insole thickness
Test results
796 v3 3.9 mm
Average 5.3 mm
Compared to 25 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
3.9 mm
Insole thickness
8.5 mm

Stability

Lateral stability test

Testing the shoe's ability to support aggressive lateral movements, crossover steps, and forceful push-offs, we found the 796 v5 quite decent in that regard.

Sure, it could never compete with the big boys like the ASICS Gel Resolution 9 or the Adidas Barricade 13 but it was never meant to.

If you are someone with severely flat and overpronated feet or you have other foot conditions that require solid arch support, we recommend looking into the ASICS Gel Challenger 14.

Torsional rigidity

Unlike other tennis shoes with huge barricades in the midfoot (pun intended), the New Balance 796 v5 went for a small and cute TPU shank inside the midsole.

But even though it doesn't extend full-length or wrap around the sides of the shoe, it adds a good amount of torsional rigidity to this NB shoe. On a stiffness scale from 1 to 5, we gave it a high score of 4 in our manual test. While it doesn't eliminate the risk of ankle-rolling, it offers ample support for most scenarios.

Test results
796 v3 4
Average 4.2
Compared to 25 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

Getting our hands on the shoe's heel counter, we felt that it was stiff at the base but got more pliable towards the collar. To us, this combination felt like a moderate 3 out of 5 score for heel counter stiffness.

On the court, the shoe offered a pretty secure heel hold with no hints of heel slippage. But where it did fall short was the lack of ankle support on the side.

Test results
796 v3 3
Average 3.9
Compared to 25 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

The platform of the New Balance 796 v5 happens to be narrower than average too. In the forefoot, we could barely even see the lateral flange.

As our calliper shows, the widest part of the forefoot comes in at an adequate 110.6 mm. But we think that it wouldn't hurt to extend it slightly wider to compensate for the lack of arch support in the midfoot.

New Balance 796 v3 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
796 v3 110.6 mm
Average 111.7 mm
Compared to 25 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
105.3 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
117.4 mm

Midsole width in the heel

As for the heel, it turns out to be notably narrower than average at 83.2 mm. Actually, it is significantly narrower than average, by more than 5 mm!

Sure, it didn't make us feel tippy at all times but there were moments when we just felt a bit on the edge.

New Balance 796 v3 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
796 v3 83.2 mm
Average 89.7 mm
Compared to 25 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
82.4 mm
Midsole width in the heel
99.7 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

The New Balance 796 v5 doesn't have any substantial stability elements but it still ends up stiffer than most tennis shoes! Bending the foot, we could feel a bit more resistance in the sole. But the bright side of it is that it added a little pop upon take-offs.

New Balance 796 v3 flexibility

To provide more specific facts, we measured how much force it would take to bend the NB 796 v5 to a 90-degree angle. Based on our force gauge, it requires 33.5N which is 12% more than average.

Test results
796 v3 33.5N
Average 30.1N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 25 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
20.6N
Stiffness
44.9N

Grip / Traction

Having slightly sharper lugs on the lateral side and flatter ones on the medial side, the New Balance 796 v5 handled the grip-and-give balance pretty well!

New Balance 796 v3 outsole

Sure, it doesn't feel as surefooted as the more expensive tennis shoes, but this NB shoe nails it in its price class!

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

The fit of this New Balance shoe felt slightly on the tight side for our medium-width feet. While it never got to the point of pinching, we strongly recommend getting the wide version of the 796 v5 if you have wide feet or bunions.

In the widest part of the forefoot, our calliper measured 99.2 mm which is a tiny bit narrower than the average.

New Balance 796 v3 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
796 v3 99.2 mm
Average 101.2 mm
Compared to 25 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
98.2 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
105.0 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

As for the tip of the toebox, luckily it doesn't get narrower than average. Measuring it at the big toe mark, our calliper recorded 77.2 mm which is a standard width.

New Balance 796 v3 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
796 v3 77.2 mm
Average 76.8 mm
Compared to 25 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
74.8 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
79.8 mm

Tongue: gusset type

As a budget-oriented shoe, no gussets are to be found in the NB 796 v5.

New Balance 796 v3 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
796 v3 None

Comfort

Tongue padding

One thing that's not missing in this New Balance tennis shoe is the interior padding.

We found it to be sufficient in both the collar and the tongue. Measuring its thickness in the tongue returned 7.9 mm on our calliper. Just the same as in the other tennis shoes.

New Balance 796 v3 Tongue padding
Test results
796 v3 7.9 mm
Average 7.8 mm
Compared to 25 hard court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
2.5 mm
Tongue padding
13.1 mm

Heel tab

With the extended elf-like collar, New Balance through that adding a pull tab was not necessary. And we can actually agree with that.

New Balance 796 v3 Heel tab
Test results
796 v3 None

Removable insole

You can make this New Balance shoe feel less cheap by swapping its stock insole with an aftermarket one easily.

New Balance 796 v3 Removable insole
Test results
796 v3 Yes