I wasted a lot of time and money on top of line shoes from adidas and Prince but got shin splints and pain in the toe area. I also didnt return them because i wore them a few times thinking they need some breakin period. I even went to see a podiatrist and he suggested custom orthotics. Then I saw these recently and bought them since they were cheap. Now i am hooked - no shin splints and no toe pains with these shoes ( and I am not using any custom orthotics) and my movement around the court is much much better.
Being the cheapskate that I am, I wore several different models of New Balance cross-trainer shoes for tennis prior to taking the plunge and purchasing a pair of New Balance 696. I've also tried some lower-end Nike and Adidas tennis shoes a while back, but I've found the right fit and feel with the New Balance. Just walking around the house, the 696 surprisingly felt a little rigid. They came to life in my first match and perhaps they just needed a little time to break in. I would say that the 696 is the economy version of the 996 with a similar look and last. The mesh keeps this shoe light and breathable, but there's enough synthetic leather in the upper to prevent my feet from shifting around as many mesh-predominant shoes are known for. If you prefer a softer, more cushioned feel, these shoes are probably not for you. The Abzorb midsole provides a firm response with good rebound, but they never felt under-cushioned. Like the 996, there is some outsole material protruding on the outskirts of the forefoot.