Danielle Collins has spent months helping New Balance designers find the stability, support and comfort that characterizes the all-new Fresh Foam X Lav V2 tennis sneaker. With the shoe officially releasing on June 25, ahead of Wimbledon, expect to see one of the brand’s signature styles on the pitch get a complete overhaul with help from Collins, Milos Raonic. and others.
“One of the fun things about working with New Balance is the collaboration,” Collins says. “I was really excited to participate in the shoe because I was one of the first people to test it. I immediately liked the level of comfort and with the different things going on with my foot they were able to make small adjustments here and there.
The original Fresh Foam Lav (lav is a game of the Serbian pronunciation of the lion) used the brand’s popular Fresh Foam cushioning system, but the V2 intensifies it, says Josh Wilder, New Balance tennis shoes product manager. The pinnacle of the Fresh Foam X brand offers slightly firmer cushioning, delivering lighter overall weight with higher energy return. “It was obvious when we found out we had access to this new compound,” Wilder said.
In addition to the updated foam, the outsole provides additional lateral stability with additional reinforcement, the heel clip provides stability, padding rises higher around the sole for added security and a new woven upper borrowed from New Balance basketball – this is the same upper from the original Kawhi Leonard Omn1s – threads the TPU through the upper and heat presses it into the weave to add reinforcement. Wilder says the technology allows designers to keep the weave open for breathability or place TPU in specific areas for a locked-in feel. “Everything has been pretty well thought out,” he says.
The shoe has been in production for about 18 months and Collins says she started testing it in 2020, before using it in the field in January. Having dealt with rheumatoid arthritis and ankle problems during her career, she wanted to focus on stability. “New Balance offers an incredible amount of support around the ankle,” she says. “I felt the most confident in the New Balance shoe and I wasn’t in a position where I’m going to have a crazy ankle problem. There is stability at the top and it’s nice and comfortable around the narrow part of my ankle.
As tennis is a sport focused on acceleration and deceleration, support flows from the collar through the upper and midsole to the outsole. Wilder says they added a PU mid fender which not only helps with stability but also with durability. “The Lav is synonymous with comfort and stability,” he says.
With the new iteration, New Balance athletes are choosing between the 996, the style that Coco Gauff plays in, and the new Lav V2. Raonic, who led the first iteration in 2018, is now playing v2 and Jordan Thompson has switched to it. The use of Collins as the face of the launch, however, highlights New Balance’s push to provide women-specific colorways.
“Danielle plays a style similar to Milos in that she’s a fierce competitor,” Wilder said. “She’s a bit brash on the court and she hits the ball really hard. She is in the lineage of someone like Milos to present the story of comfort and stability. She makes the perfect Lav player in my mind.
As far as aesthetics go, the Lav V2 brings some of the brand’s lifestyle to play, more prominently visible in the large “N” logo on the side. “We have these athletes from head to toe and we want to present the brand,” says Wilder, “and what better way to do that than to introduce the execution of the lifestyle logo? “
The Wimbledon models will be all white, but expect Collins to sport a pink version for the US Open, while the men’s version will turn orange. And that’s great for Collins. “I like anything that is strong,” she says. She already says New Balance were great taking her feedback on the design – they created a lightweight and breathable custom romper for her to play after her endometriosis surgery that didn’t include spandex so she wouldn’t press adhesions. “I think the shoe team is doing the same,” she said. “They are always open to suggestions and open to creative ideas and I hope that in the future we can make ‘Danimal’ shoes.”
And what would a Danimal design entail? “It would be really colorful,” she says. “I would probably incorporate animal prints. I love iridescent so doing something like metal would be pretty cool if I could design something special. I love all animal prints, leopard snake, zebra, cheetah. I like it when they start to get a little colorful.
Collins, who uses his tennis sneakers on the court for plyometric training to ensure ankle stability, also uses New Balance’s fuel cell or fresh foam running options during training runs. She will often wear a pair of tennis shoes for an entire tournament, unless it is hot, and then she makes sure to have several shoes on hand, so that they are completely dry.
Off the court, Collins loves his New Balance CRT 300 v2. “I’m obsessed with this,” she said. In Australia, she rocked black with an animal print version and brought a rose gold-pink colourway with her to Paris for Roland-Garros. Being New Balance, she also has a pair in gray. “It’s a great shoe,” she says. “So nice to walk around the city. I think for a lot of casual shoes other companies can be a bit sturdy and it’s not always a good feeling on your foot. I feel like I’m walking on a cloud. If these shoes could talk… they’ve been in interesting places.
She’s hoping to take both the lifestyle offerings and her new Fresh Foam X Lav V2 to a lot of more interesting places, both off the pitch and on the pitch.