e know what most people want from their running footwear: Lightweight design, cushioning for comfort, and a relaxed fit for extended use. The essential part of any sneaker is the experience they offer over the hundreds of miles you take them on. When it comes to the finest footwear available on the market today, there are tons of brands to choose from. However, you cannot just blindly trust every brand that claims to sell 100 percent leather shoes at a very economical price. Because if you do, and buy cheap, you will get cheap. Such brands don't hold up – especially in the rain and rough terrain. Besides, can you really be sure that an inexpensive and odd-named brand will provide the comfort required for a good experience? We don't think so. That is why we always recommend purchasing the best of the best. In this regard, no one comes close to the quality of New Balance – a US-based multinational footwear manufacturing company. In this article, we will be reviewing two top sneaker models by New Balance to explain why that is so - the New Balance 990v4 and New Balance 997.
But first, let's take a look at the history of New Balance to trace what made it a top-class brand.
Founded in Boston by William Riley as New Balance Arch Company back in 1906, their first product was arch support for shoes. Their first pair of sneakers was launched in 1938. However, even before that period, they had made a name for selling top of the line shoes. The first real breakthrough came in 1960 with the release of Trackster shoes for running. The unique feature of this pair was the introduction of various widths to fit every foot – a novel idea. Later in 1976, their 320 running sneakers became the most desired shoe of the industry and reaffirmed the company's status as the market leader in running shoes.
Made in the USA
Over the following years, New Balance ‘s commitment to creating quality shoes materialized in various models. The most notable being 990, first introduced in 1982, became a super hit with athletes and casual wearers due to its revolutionary engineering and ENCAP technology. They successfully encapsulated the EVA foam in the midsole with a polyurethane shell, so that the shoes keep their bounce and shape over the years. As a result, the 990 sneakers are popular even today and became the most well-known model in the company’s "Made in the USA" series.
First released back in 2013, the New Balance 990v4 are the fourth and upgraded version of the classic 990 sneakers in company's Made in USA series. They are a high-quality pair for those who are looking for superior stability, support, and cushioning.
Made of 100 percent leather and textile, the 990v4 uses blown rubber outsole. Due to this material, the shoes are much durable and balanced. It adds traction to the boots so that you can take them even off-road without worrying about breaking down in the middle of the journey. Can you say the same about sneakers from an unknown company? Moreover, it uses ENCAP for the midsole. This technology utilizes a lightweight and durable ACTEVA foam for shoe cushioning. Additionally, the midsole is also helpful in absorbing the impact of each stride to reduce hip and knee pain. Hence, both outsole and midsole provide a perfect blend of support and comfort.
Its upper portion is made of a combination of pigskin and breathable mesh. This improves breathability rates by approximately 30 percent. Therefore the inside air remains cool in the smoking hot weathers of Arizona. In addition, the laces come with a lace to keep technology that restricts the tongue from moving around while you are running. It also has 3M reflectivity making the upper portion of the shoes visible in low lighting conditions.
Design and Look
The pair appears rather bulky. They come in various different classic colors with a streamlined signature N logo printed on the side. In terms of drop, they lie on the higher heel drop end of the spectrum. That means they are not going to give you a natural and minimalistic feel due to their 12mm drop. If you are a flat-footed runner and are looking for extra cushioning and support, these are your best shot.
When it comes to weaknesses, we have two minor gripes with New Balance 990v4. The first is related to weight. As technology has advanced, the average weight of shoes has declined to almost 9.6 ounces. This model, nevertheless, is 13.6, which can be considered quite heavy. Secondly, they are somewhat expensive compared to other top-class brands.
• ENCAP midsole for comfort
• EVA foam and ACTEVA LITE make it a very durable option
• Multiple color and size options
• Trendy "Chunky Dad Shoe" look
• Made in the USA
Overall, the limitations of New Balance 990v4 are by no means deal-breakers. Many runners quite enjoy added ounces due to extra cushioning and support it provides in the long runs. Besides, inexpensive models lack the technology and features mentioned above.
New Balance 997
Designed by Steven Smith back in 1990, the New Balance 997's jacked up the heel, crisp midsole, and elegantly engineered proportions are an awe-inspiring combination that has stood the tests of time. This cult classic has made a triumphant return since December 2014. Nowadays, it is considered one of the most preferred sneakers for day to day activities and athletics. Also, don’t be surprised if you notice your coworker wearing this model in the office.
Made of just the right proportions of suede, mesh, and upper leather, these shoes are very comfy. The upper front part is made of suede to take the scratches like a real champion without damaging the surface. There's shiny blush leather in the middle and back. In contrast, the mesh in the middle provides airflow and breathability to keep the inside temperature low. In addition, the laces have easy tightening properties.
The midsole is made with Abzorb technology offering extra cushioning and comfort. Present at the forefoot and heels, it absorbs all kinds of shock and impacts. Furthermore, like most models by New Balance, the sole is made of ENCAP technology that make the shoes durable. In the latest edition of 997, the 997 sports, you can also find a motion control device to provide greater stability to people with flat feet. Lastly, the outsole has a very firm grip on the ground. A slight incline on the front portion aids in stable traveling, walking, and running.
Design and Look
In terms of design, every piece of the shoe has a different color, which looks very appealing and eye-catching. Available in various shades and colors – even the soles are colorful – you can find one as per your liking. The stitched N logo on the side looks fantastic. It is bold, on the face, and patched without any fear. It screams brand – a quality rarely found in cheap models from difficult-to-pronounce brands. You can wear them with jeans, skirts, chinos, t-shirts, leggings, or tops – in short, any casual dress. Due to their colorful appearance, they go very well with every dress except party and formal dressings.
The main limitation of this model is its higher price. If you are not comfortable with the price, you can purchase an economical option, but no one – except the manufacturers themselves – will guarantee their durability and reliability. Overall, we think a higher price is not a deal-breaker. After all, no one should ever bargain on durability or reliability. Secondly, these are not meant for long distances. Instead, you should use them on flat surfaces. The rubber soles have an excellent grip, but that does not mean you should go climbing wearing these models.
• Appealing color design with a retro 90s nostalgia
• Very comfortable and durable
• ENCAP midsole for comfort
• Breathable design for hot and humid weather conditions
• Made In The USA
• Rather pricey
• Not suitable for wet, dirty terrain or long-distance walks
Due to unique features, design, and the technology these shoes incorporate, they are an excellent option for anyone looking to purchase a new pair of trendy, fashionable shoes. Available in all sizes and for all genders, you can use them casually on a day to day basis or even wear them once a week in the office. In comparison with the 990, they are also more lightweight and responsive.
All said and done, we hope now you understand why the secret to quality footwear is New Balance. Stylish, sturdy, comfortable, and durable, these are the four pillars on which New Balance has built their reputation. You will notice the high quality and excellent craftsmanship of their models as soon as you open the package. Moreover, their products are trendy, and head-turning conversation pieces meant to last a lifetime of abuse. But that’s not all, the biggest draw of these models is that they are designed and manufactured in the USA. So you can feel good and happy about purchasing them because you are supporting American businesses and helping them win the consumer war against cheaply made and less reliable options.