Our verdict

The CT302 is an unexpected entry from New Balance that looks, and kind of feels, like a tennis shoe on steroids. We discovered that the understated design doesn’t betray the luxurious comfort of this generously padded and well-cushioned day-to-day shoe. Beyond its weighty nature, the CT302 is a reliable and stylish sneaker that feels way more premium than its price implies.

Pros

  • Exquisitely comfortable
  • Subtle yet stylish design
  • Looks and feels premium
  • Easy on the wallet
  • Height booster
  • Feels supportive underfoot
  • Not your everyday NB design

Cons

  • Extremely heavy
  • Very stiff
  • Limited colorways
  • Smudge magnet

Audience verdict

85
Decent!

Who should buy

We recommend the New Balance CT302 to: 

  • Anyone who enjoys the comfort of New Balance trainers, but wants a change from their usual “dad-shoe” aesthetic
  • Fans of platform trainers looking for a chunky, height-boosting, tennis-inspired kick 
  • Those in the market for a simple yet versatile shoe that will complement most outfits
  • Thrifty folks looking for a wallet-friendly sneaker that looks and feels high-end

New Balance CT302 ewfewq

Who should NOT buy

The CT302 is as chunky on the scale as it looks. With a combined weight of over 2 lbs, this shoe definitely isn’t suited for all-day wear.

We recommend the Reebok Club C 85 as another tennis-inspired sneaker that’s much lighter on the foot. 

New Balance CT302 iulevbluir\\

Breathability

Leather shoes tend not to be very breathable, a fact that is borne out when putting the CT302 through our smoke test. The smoke has almost no room to escape, with only thin wisps making their way through the shoe’s tongue. This poor ventilation isn't the worst we've seen, therefore earning the CT302 a below-average breathability score of 2 out of 5. This subpar airflow means that we don’t recommend going sockless in this shoe as they’ll start to stink in no time. 

Conversely, the Puma RS-X is a true smoke-show that earns a perfect breathability score

Looking at a backlit cross-section of the CT302’s upper, light only manages to shine through the shoe’s somewhat porous tongue, thus explaining its performance in our previous test. 

inspecting the toebox under our microscope feels like looking at the surface of the moon; it appears smooth and soft from a distance but is actually quite textured and striking. Besides that, there are obviously no holes or perforations to support airflow through the shoe.

New Balance CT302 wvq

New Balance CT302 Breathability
Test results
CT302 2
Average 3
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Leather/Suede quality

Pyromaniacs rejoice as we pull out our trusty butane torch to test the CT302’s upper materials, starting with the clearly synthetic heel insert which bubbles and melts away. The rest of the leather and the little piece of suede by the toebox, on the other hand, are the genuine article. 

The authenticity of the leather is clear by how the materials get scorched rather than catch fire and melt.

Test results
CT302 Real leather

Toebox durability

The CT302’s toebox is heavily fortified with rubber, thus making it the best prepared to contend with our Dremel test. Our usually mighty tool was only able to grind off little flecks of material, with only a minor dent in the aftermath of the four-second test. 

This stellar performance earns the CT302 a perfect 5 out of 5 for toebox durability.

New Balance CT302 Toebox durability
Test results
CT302 5
Average 3.7
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

We turn our attention to the heel counter and the Dremel seems to have little effect over the course of the four-second test. However, upon removing the grinding element, we were surprised to find that the tool had steadily eaten away a good chunk of the padding.

This scratchy and unsightly hole leads us to give the CT302 a heel padding durability score of 1 out of 5. 

New Balance CT302 Heel padding durability
Test results
CT302 1
Average 3.4
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

Using our durometer to measure the hardness of the CT302’s outsole reveals it to be right on par with the current lab average with a reading of 84 HC. This level of hardness usually denotes a healthy mix of grip and durability. 

New Balance CT302 Outsole hardness
Test results
CT302 84.3 HC
Average 85.1 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
72.9 HC
Outsole hardness
90.3 HC

Outsole durability

To test the durability of the outsole, we fired up the Dremel for a third and final time. The grinding element, this time spinning at 10K RPM, sends up a snowstorm of rubber as soon as it makes contact with the CT302’s outsole, with a pile of powder growing as the test wears on. 

Once the twenty seconds were up, we assessed the damage with our tire tread gauge and found that, despite the visually dramatic nature of the test, we had only ground off 1.06 mm of material. This is less than the average sneaker loses in this same test and means that the CT302’s outsole should last 500 miles before any major signs of wear and tear.

New Balance CT302 Outsole durability
Test results
CT302 1.1 mm
Average 1.0 mm
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

Using our caliper, we measured the CT302's outsole to be just shy of our current lab average at 5.1 mm thick. While one could argue that there is actually more rubber than that, we posit that once that portion of the outsole is worn all the way through, the shoe should be considered kaput. Those cutaway portions of the outsole actually work in conjunction with the midsole to provide some added cushioning. 

New Balance CT302 Outsole thickness
Test results
CT302 5.1 mm
Average 5.5 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
3.4 mm
Outsole thickness
8.2 mm

Weight

To test the durability of the outsole, we fired up the Dremel for a third and final time. The grinding element, this time spinning at 10K RPM, sends up a snowstorm of rubber as soon as it makes contact with the CT302’s outsole, with a pile of powder growing as the test wears on. 

Once the twenty seconds were up, we assessed the damage with our tyre tread gauge and found that, despite the visually dramatic nature of the test, we had only ground off 1.06 mm of material. This is less than the average sneaker loses in this same test and means that the CT302’s outsole should last 500 miles before any major signs of wear and tear.

Weight

The CT302 could certainly use a diet. Tipping the scale at a hefty 22.6 oz (641g) it’s way heavier than the average sneaker. This is no doubt a result of the shoe’s massive stack and ample amount of outsole rubber. This makes the CT302 a less-than-ideal choice for all-day wear as lugging around the combined weight of 2.8 lbs (1.3 kg) will feel like walking with ankle weights on after some time. 

New Balance CT302 Weight
Test results
CT302 22.61 oz (641g)
Average 14.18 oz (402g)
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
8.54 oz (242g)
Weight
22.61 oz (641g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

Using our caliper, we measured the CT302’s stack to be 36.9 mm high at the heel. This towers over the average sneaker and gives us a nice little height boost when wearing the shoe. Having such a high stack also amplifies our sense of perceived cushioning as it absorbs the impact of our landings.

New Balance CT302 Heel stack
Test results
CT302 36.9 mm
Average 29.8 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
18.2 mm
Heel stack
41.8 mm

Forefoot stack

The CT302’s stack is also more substantial than average at the forefoot, measuring 24.6 mm high according to our caliper. 

New Balance CT302 fpgfyif

This robust stack almost entirely erases any sensation of the ground below as we walk around, leaving us feeling well-protected from any underfoot hazards. 

For those who prefer a more grounded feeling from their sneakers, we recommend the more low-profile Adidas Gazelle instead.

Test results
CT302 24.6 mm
Average 18.9 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
10.6 mm
Forefoot stack
28.3 mm

Drop

The difference in our stack measurements leaves the CT302 with a drop height of 12.3 mm. This relatively steep offset ensures that we have more cushioning at the heel for more comfortable landings as we walk. 

New Balance CT302 Drop
Test results
CT302 12.3 mm
Average 10.9 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
6.7 mm
Drop
17.2 mm

Midsole softness

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

We pressed our durometer against the narrow strip of foam that makes up the CT302’s midsole and got a rather firm reading of 33.3 HA. 

New Balance CT302 vilaber

However, as is clear from looking at a cross-section of the shoe in the previous section, the midsole isn’t the only factor in the shoe’s cushioning. The outsole at the heel features many cutout sections that allow it to compress as we apply weight onto the shoe.

As a result, CT302's cushioning feels much softer than our durometer implies.

Test results
CT302 33.3 HA
Average 28.5 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 37 trainers
Number of shoes
15.0 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
46.4 HA

Insole thickness

The CT302’s midsole is quite meager compared to our current lab average at only 4.3 mm thick. However, this wasn’t an issue as the shoe’s internal platform still feels nice and soft on the foot. 

New Balance CT302 Insole thickness
Test results
CT302 4.8 mm
Average 5.4 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
3.1 mm
Insole thickness
13.9 mm

Stability

Lateral stability test

The CT 302 feels incredibly well-planted as we shifted our weight from side to side in the shoe. While we don’t usually expect such high-stacked shoes to feel so stable, New Balance achieves this feat in a number of ways that we’ll explore below. 

Torsional rigidity

With its robust stack of dense foam and rubber, we weren’t surprised to find that we could barely get the shoe to budge as we attempted to bend and twist it in our hands. We therefore give the CT302 the maximum torsional rigidity score of 5 out of 5. 

Being this inflexible is a key factor in the shoe’s stable feeling underfoot as it maintains a steady and level base that mitigates any natural pronation of our foot as we walk around.

Test results
CT302 5
Average 3.5
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

We faced an average level of resistance as we squeezed and prodded the CT302’s heel counter, earning it a middle-of-the-road score of 3 out of 5.

This in conjunction with the shape of the heel cup means that we’re able to achieve a secure rearfoot lockdown that holds the heel in place without uncomfortable squeezing our Achilles tendon.

Test results
CT302 3
Average 3.2
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

Apart from being tall, the CT302’s midsole is also broader than average, measuring 112.9 mm wide at the forefoot according to our caliper measurements. Having such a wide base is certainly another major contributor to the shoe’s stability as it offsets being so high off the ground.

New Balance CT302 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
CT302 112.9 mm
Average 108.5 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
100.0 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
121.0 mm

Midsole width in the heel

At 82.4 mm wide, the CT302’s midsole is just as robust at the heel. This is also wider than average and gives us plenty of platform to ensure stable landings when walking around in this shoe. 

New Balance CT302 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
CT302 82.4 mm
Average 82.8 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
69.4 mm
Midsole width in the heel
103.1 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

To test the longitudinal stiffness of the CT302, we secured it to our workbench and measured the amount of force required to torque it 90 degrees. With a whopping 51.8N of force needed to bend the shoe to the desired point, the CT302 is much stiffer than the average sneaker.

While this does also factor into how steady the shoe feels underfoot, it does come at the expense of comfort as the shoe resists the natural flexion of our foot during our stride. This shouldn't be an issue for normal day-to-day use, but it certainly precludes the CT302 from being a comfy all-day shoe.

New Balance CT302 Stiffness
Test results
CT302 51.8N
Average 23.0N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
5.8N
Stiffness
51.8N

Grip / Traction

The subtle double zig-zag line pattern on the CT302’s outsole provided us with solid traction when walking around the city. We recommend avoiding grassy spots not only because it feels a little slippery when wet, but the CT302 really is a stain magnet.  

New Balance CT302 grip

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

We measured the CT302’s toebox to be 99.4 mm wide at its widest point. This is wider than our current lab average and means that the shoe should comfortably accommodate most foot shapes. 

New Balance CT302 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
CT302 99.4 mm
Average 99.1 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
94.0 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
107.7 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

Moving up to the area around the big toe, the CT302 tapers quite significantly to only 70.9 mm wide. This means that those with wide feet will likely experience hotspots in this shoe after moving around for a few hours. 

New Balance CT302 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
CT302 70.9 mm
Average 74.8 mm
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
63.7 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
82.7 mm

Tongue: gusset type

The CT302’s tongue is non-gusseted, though this didn’t present any issues when walking around as it managed to stay in place quite well. 

New Balance CT302 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
CT302 None

Comfort

Tongue padding

We measured the CT302’s tongue to be 6.1 mm thick which is right on par with our current lab average. This is a good amount of padding that provides good comfort around the instep while also providing a solid midfoot lockdown. 

New Balance CT302 Tongue padding
Test results
CT302 6.3 mm
Average 9.3 mm
Compared to 47 trainers
Number of shoes
1.0 mm
Tongue padding
38.4 mm

Removable insole

The CT302’s insole is fully removable, so those in need of custom orthotics can use them with this shoe. 

New Balance CT302 Removable insole
Test results
CT302 Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

The CT 302 has no reflective elements whatsoever. 

New Balance CT302 Reflective elements
Test results
CT302 No