There’s no doubt that the New Balance 990v5 is a premium shoe and a throwback to the first version from the ‘80s. But, the style is far from outdated, and comfort has only improved over the decades. This running shoe, doubling as everyday footwear, suits as a quality, comfortable and stylish sneaker.
But what got us to this point in the 990 range? And, what got the 990 to this point?
We’ve covered the New Balance 990 range in detail but stick with us as we dive into the range’s history and how the latest release compares to its predecessor.
The 990/99X Range: Where It Began
The first NB 990 shoe came out in 1982 and has gathered popularity since.
Although the 990v2 didn’t come out until 1998, the 995–999 of the similar 99X range thrived in the years in between.
Since its release, the 990 New Balance range has gathered something of a cult following.
Our research has led us to New Balance officials claiming the range is/was worn and loved by:
- Steve Jobs.
- Ben Affleck.
- Jennifer Garner.
- Hillary Duff.
It’s no shock that such notable names have flocked to the NB 990 range. The 990 was a gamechanger in the shoe world, according to many sneakerheads.
The range has gathered praise as what it is—a line of running shoes—and for what it isn’t—”dad New Balance shoes.”
And, with its simple and versatile comfort, it’s no wonder that dads flocked to the shoes to keep their feet cozy. It may be because of these 990s that clunky “dad sneakers” are a trend all these years later.
As for the range’s intended purpose, sneaker-lovers claim the NB 990 range is the reason New Balance gained its running-shoe association.
It allegedly took four years to design the iconic original sneaker, which was down to all the research that went into it.
Upon its release in 1982, it made a real splash with its monstrous price tag.
Priced at over $100, it appeared to be of the most expensive running shoes ever made.
It was also disruptive.
The original, clunky sneaker was gray, which may not seem unusual now, but the ‘80s was a land of neon running shoes.
So, not only was the gray a palette cleanser, but it was a genius way to market the shoes. There was no mistaking the NB 990 when you saw it in store windows or on feet.
The Next Step: New Balance 990v2
If you thought four years was a long time to design a shoe, then quadrupling that time to evolve it is insane.
Yes, other incredible shoes had their release throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. Yet, the unknown wait for the original shoe’s tune-up was still going.
The wait was well worth it.
Visually, the 990v2 wasn’t so different. However, the technology stomped its way ahead of the game.
The 990v2 featured new sole technology and held some changes the New Balance 999 two years prior introduced.
It combined ABZORB and ENCAP technology and featured metatarsal padding to sculpt the midsole. The comfort and support these tools provided went unmatched:
- ABZORB: Absorbs shock perfectly, as the name suggests.
- ENCAP: Keeps the tech safe in the sole. The heel got its own bubble of protection to ensure your heel was safe with each strike.
Even so, this was all wrapped up in the OG shape of the 990, so future design changes were to be expected.
Hitting the 21st Century: 990v3
The 990v3 had a long wait before it, too, coming out on the OG 990’s 30th birthday. This 2012 update featured upgrades for breathability and a look favoring the practical rather than the style.
But, the new utilitarian look was the biggest update besides the breathability, while the technology stayed the same.
The second-latest release featured another updated look: a blend of modern and the original glory. It focused on fashion and function, with immaculate tech and an athletic, yet clunky, visual.
All of this has led now us to the 990v5, but how does it differ from the previous model?
What Is the Difference Between New Balance 990v4 and 990v5?
The New Balance 990v5 keeps the clean yet clunky “dad shoe” aesthetic of decades past. The exterior of the 990v5 may have changed minimally, but it features a power strap that the 990v4 lacks.
The differences between the New Balance 990v2 and 990v3 were minimal, apart from looks.
So, naturally, you may be skeptical—New Balance shoes are expensive.
Is the new release just a money-grab?
We doubt it.
Even if the changes are minimal, New Balance demonstrated its dedication to quality over the decades. And, despite the rampant capitalism of modern times, New Balance remains loyal to the tried and true method of quality over money-grabbing.
There are two key visual differences between the 990v5 and 990v4.
One is the sleeker appearance.
Where the 990v3 focused on function and left the exterior somewhat haggard, the 990v4 fixed this.
The 990v5 took it a step further, adding another layer of sleek to the appearance. Although, only the trained eye will notice this.
Even so, the untrained eye will easily spot the second difference of the power strap.
This plastic strap is visible near the ankle on the shoe’s sides. But, it doesn’t look gaudy or take away from the timeless look of the OG design.
There’s never been a doubt about the next-level feel of the NB 990 line. It’s been the same from the 990s, up to New Balances 990v4.
The new 990v5 is the same.
By now, customers expect the best from the 990 range. And, feedback for the 990v5 is largely positive.
Customers do note the difference between the feel of the 990v5 vs. 990v4. The 990v5 fits wider, but mainly in the toe box. So far, most customers don’t seem to mind this, though.
Other customers note their comfort for walking as well as running. And, although it’s subtle, the 990v5 is more comfortable than the 990v4 for both.
Note that the 990v5 features additional padding in the heel. In case you think the shoe is getting cushier so must not be as stable, don’t fret. The ankle-area power straps are to add further support, mainly laterally.
Lateral support makes these shoes an excellent alternative to tennis shoes if you’re new to the sport and don’t have the gear yet.
If you’re in the market for actual tennis shoes, check out these Adidas tennis shoes and Nike tennis shoes.
What Hasn’t Changed
- Country of Origin: New Balance doesn’t always manufacture its shoes in the USA. Yes, including the ones dubbed “Made in USA.” However, both the 990v4 and 990v5 hold that claim, so there’s no difference there.
- Weight: Lighter is usually better, right? New iterations of shoes usually get lighter as time goes on. Just look at another brand’s releases: the ASICS Gel Kayano and ASICS Gel Nimbus. However, the 990v5 is an ounce (3 grams) heavier than the 990v4. This is likely due to the new power straps.
- Drop: The 990v4’s 12mm drop was approximate due to variances while crafting the shoes. This fact remains with the 990v5.
- Outsole: Both iterations of the shoes possess a blown-rubber outsole.
- Dual Density Collar Foam: The 990v4 features dual-density collar foam for extra padding around the heel and ankle. The 990v5 holds the same padded collar.
- ENCAP Technology: Both iterations of the shoe feature an ENCAP PU ring with EVA core. This is for heel stability, and customers don’t seem to think it disappoints. They also share their ENCAP midsole technology, which supports the feet and makes the midsoles more durable.
- Upper: The pigskin and mesh upper is another feature that stayed the same. However, the 990v5 version underwent some tweaks to boost breathability. The better the breathability, the better the shoe. A foot that can breathe reduces odors, discomfort and bacteria in the shoe.
With the similarities and differences aside, let’s put a spotlight on the New Balance 990v5 itself.
The 990 products were originally made as neutral running shoes. This is no different with the 990v5, or anything in between. They’re:
- Stable where needed.
- Cushioned for comfort.
- Made to provide shock absorption to take the impact off your feet.
They achieve these without being too heavy or overbearing and without forcing changes in your gait.
Certainly, they’re not shoes made for pronators. However, they’re quite stable, and their close fit may help those with pronation issues.
Many running shoes have a full mesh upper for breathability or full leather for looks.
The 990v5 shoes feature both!
There are three mesh panels on the toe box and one either side higher up. Sure, these ensure excellent breathability. But, being in panels, they also add an air of sleekness to the shoe, making them more expensive.
Many shoes with full mesh uppers run the risk of looking cheap. Luckily, the pigskin suede leather between the mesh with these doesn’t create this feeling.
The suede also adds an air of sophistication. It’s real suede, where, with many shoes, you don’t know what you’re getting.
Suede is much harder to fake than hard, full-grain leather, and instead of pure leather, many manufacturers make a cheaper, synthetic blend. There’s no chance of that with the 990v5.
All in all, you get an excellent looking, feeling and performing upper.
The midsole technology’s intent is for comfort and stability. Your feet will feel held in place but not crushed or held in by hard material.
Cushioning is excessive in these shoes. The collar is extremely thickly padded to ensure a soft covering on the most sensitive part of your foot.
Shoes rubbing the back of your ankle is a problem in many sneakers. But the padding and secure fit ensure there’ll be none of that with the 99v5.
The copious padding extends to the tongue, so the top of your foot has cushioning, protected from tight laces. And, of course, the bottom of your foot has protection due to the excellent ABZORB technology.
The 990v5 features a rocker bottom, as most running shoes do. It’s not as pronounced as other shoes, so the 990v5 gets a win there.
A rocker bottom’s premise is to be thicker in the heel and thin in the toes to put a spring in your step. It also helps your toes stay close to the ground to push off, with a thick heel to take impact.
The 990v5’s heels are very thick and tough, ensuring you’re protected from whatever the ground throws at you.
Although, the soles’ traction is great but best for roads and tracks. So, be wary of what you put yourself through. Although the outsoles can handle a lot, you may end up falling or wearing out the soles if you choose to hike in these shoes.
New Balance’s 990 range was a shock to the neon-shoed market back in 1982. The muted grey was unheard of. But, since then, the shoes branched out a little with their design.
The style is sleek but chunky. By no means are these close-fitting or subtle shoes, but New Balance uses that surface spacer to craft athletic shoes that look great and in various colors.
Each shade is a darker, duller tone with lots of black options, while the brightest shoe is white.
So, these definitely aren’t running shoes to make a fashion statement, as they’ll be inconspicuous, but they’re far from bland.
There are a few brighter colors for the more adventurous runners, but these are in the minority.
Fit and Sizing
The 990v5 runs true to size but has a wider toe box than you may have had previously. This gives you plenty of wiggle-room.
If you’re not a fan of the extra room, wear thicker socks. Thicker socks may help absorb sweat and is a trick on how to wear shoes that are too big anyway.
Most customers don’t seem to mind the roomy toe box, though.
As far as size options for the fit, they run sizes 7–14 for men and in half-sizes to 12.5. Sizes 7 and 7.5 have half-narrow options.
In addition, there are X-Narrowup to XX-Wide options and up to size 16 on New Balance’s website.
The 990v5 for women come in narrow to X-wide sizes for 5–13. They also run in half-sizes up to 11.5.
For more on sizing, check out our article on how New Balance shoes fit.
- Strong, high-quality material.
- Excellent breathability.
- Wide array of size options.
- Wonderfully comfortable.
- Wider fit than previous versions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Are New Balance Shoes So Expensive?
New Balance shoes are expensive because they have advanced technology and high comfort. The company’s technology is often ahead of the game, driving up the price of the shoes. And, if you look at New Balance shoes’ comfort and durability, you’ll see they’re worth the price.
Do New Balance 990v5 Run Big?
No, New Balance 990v5 don’t run big. However, they may feel as though they do due to the wide-fitting toe box.
Is New Balance 990 Good for Running?
Yes, the New Balance 990 range is good for running. It’s a line of quality running shoes that add some stability and lots of comfort. Customers also use them for everyday wear and walking for exercise.
The New Balance 990v5 seems to be the best of the 990 range so far—perhaps the peek. No doubt, New Balance will come up with some tweaks for a future v6, but for now, the v5 is the best you can get.
If you’d rather go for an older model, the 990v4 is all but identical apart from the power strips. So, either pair will suit anyone who loves comfort, quality and support.
Are you a New Balance fan or have a pair of 990s? Let us know your thoughts below, ask us any questions and share this with someone who might benefit.