New Balance 997: A Thorough Guide

Some shoemakers disregard their old designs and release newer ones, instead.

Not New Balance.

The New Balance 997 is a stunning shoe with the fashion for everyday wear, but the function to hit the gym. When making the 997, New Balance kept comfort in mind and built durability and style around it. This led to a well-loved, high-quality shoe.

It’s been around since the 1990s and has seen multiple upgrades since inception. It’s always the same, classic shoe each time but with better technology.

The well-loved 997 New Balance vanished to become a rare find when the 2000s hit, but now it’s back on top. The company made it big again towards the end of 2014, and it now remains a widely-used sneaker for sports and everyday wear.

new balance 997 features


The New Balance 997’s Evolution

What Year Did the New Balance 997 Release?

The first 997 New Balance was released in 1990. At the time, it was considered ambitious as it shed the typical foam cushioning. Instead, it favored polyurethane and ENCAP inserts.

On the outside, it was highly detailed yet minimalist.

The minimalism came from its simple basketball-style look, while the detail came from:

  • Carbon rubber heel pads.
  • Tri-density outsoles.
  • Collar lockdown strap.

The above features combined well with all the new tech, which was advanced at the time, allowing New Balance to market it as its first pair intended for female runners.

A Drop in Popularity

Sadly, four years after their release, the 997s were taken off the market. Their absence lasted a pain-staking two decades.

But, that doesn’t mean they left everyone’s minds. People still sought after the classic and beloved footwear, pressuring the company to bring the shoes back.

A Japanese company, United Arrow, briefly released a 997.5 version of the shoe in 2008. It took the Abzorn tech featured in the New Balance 998 sneakers but kept the classic look of the 997.

The 997.5 shoes sold reasonably well but ultimately failed in 2011. The market competition was too much.

Furthermore, consumers weren’t happy with the shoes because they weren’t New Balance. They wanted the true 997 back on the market.

New Balance listened. Designers added comfort and new technology to the old 997.

Bouncing Back

Finally, in January of 2014, a new and improved New Balance 997 hit the shelves once more. The comeback was long-awaited and welcome.

Today, there are tons of variants on the original 997—some optimized for sports, some for kids, and some sticking to that classic, casual sneaker.



New Balance 997 Review

How Does the New Balance 997 Fit?

Already a deluxe comfort in its day, the New Balance 997 still has a near-perfect fit. It doesn’t run too big or small, but everyone’s feet are different, although most people seem to have few to no issues, whether they’re men, women or children.

One complaint is that the shoes are a little narrow, but lengthwise, the fit is fine across all sizes. If they feel too narrow, consider going half a size up. An unfortunate oversight is that the 997 range doesn’t come with wide options.

The large range of sizes fit anyone, across the range of 997 Sport, 997H and the classic New Balance 997.

If they don’t fit you, though, avoid stretching your narrow shoes. This may shorten the lifespan. Instead, try another size.

Shoes fitting correctly is vital, especially with a line of shoe designed for both men and women. With this in mind, consult a men’s to women’s shoe sizing chart and be sure to get the shoe sizing and fitting right.

If your shoes fit in-store but shrink after a period of disuse or after cleaning, learn how to stretch shoes, but consider this a last resort.

How Is the Construction?

Since the New Balance 997 range is praised for its comfort, how does the construction aid this?

Well, it features several smart design choices to back up its reputation.


The 997 New Balance uppers are a blend of:

  • Suede.
  • Blush leather.
  • Mesh.

The mesh, sandwiched in the middle of the uppers, adds breathability to the shoe. This aids comfort by default, keeping uncomfortably sweaty feet at bay. It also helps eliminate odor.

Meanwhile, the suede adds durability to the sneakers, stylishly coating the front portion.

The leather sits mainly towards the shoe’s back, with a small segment in the middle. The leather is sturdy but has give as your feet move. This ensures flexibility and freedom when wearing the 997 New Balance shoes.

Also, keep in mind that different variations may use alternate materials. However, the mesh stays constant for that cooling comfort.


The 997 New Balance shoes contain a unique feature in Abzorb technology.

Abzorb tech provides extra comfort through cushioning in higher quantities than average. Its name has some truth to it, too, as it absorbs shock to protect your feet.

It’s strategically placed in the forefront and heel. These areas take the most weight as your feet strike the ground, so instead, the Abzorb takes the impact.

Abzorb is protected by another technology: ENCAP. The development and use of this was a bold statement when the shoes were first released, as it was rarely used.

Essentially, ENCAP is a polyurethane shell, protecting the Abzorb cushioning. It adds longevity to the shoes.

These two techs combine well with the midsole’s motion control in the midsole, which greatly benefits those with flat feet.


The durable rubber soles have great grip and an incline. The incline is to aid you and add bounce to your walk, keeping you motivated.

New Balance 997 Longevity

We’ve talked about several features that make the shoes robust, but how long will they actually last?

This is difficult to say.

Your weight and gait influence a shoe’s longevity. If you pronate, the insides may become quickly. If you weigh a lot, the cushioning can flatten, and the soles will wear down more easily.

How often you wear the shoes will play a role, too.

If they’re your daily go-to for walking, running and sports, we’re talking a lifespan of months rather than years.

But to enhance this lifespan, proper cleaning is vital, so clue yourself up on how to wash shoes.

Despite the 997’s having a solid construction, if they get damp and develop mold through neglect, you can remove mold from shoes.


New Balance 997 Styling

New Balance 997 shoes are as much for fashion as they are for function. They’ve often been praised for their appealing style.

There are many shades and colors to choose from, even with different shades of soles. Because of all the choices available, there’s something for everyone and every outfit.

Only one style is unsuitable with the 997s: formal. Outside of that, they work for everyday wear, business casual and parties for men, women and children.

To make your shoes stand out even more for the occasion, learn how to lace shoes. There are more ways than you think—the star method would look fantastic at a party, while straight lacing is great for business casual.


  • Extremely fashionable, with a style for everyone and almost any occasion.
  • Comfort that was ahead of its time, and holds up today.
  • Great shock absorption.
  • Sturdy, careful construction.


  • Narrow fit.
  • Not all 997s are made in the US, as advertised.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is New Balance 997 Good for Running?

The New Balance 997 shoes are great for running, thanks to their fantastic comfort. This versatility of an everyday and sportswear shoe is a great selling point.

For a more focused shoe for running, consider the 997 Sport. It contains more cushioning and support than the original 997 lifestyle shoes. Thus, they’re better suited to serious athletes or heavier people.

Are Higher Number New Balance Shoes Better?

No, a higher number doesn’t mean the shoe is better. Here’s what the numbers actually mean:

  • Low numbers (40–60) are stability shoes.
  • Middling numbers (70–80) are for neutral runners and may have some light stability.
  • High numbers (90, 00) are light shoes.

Are New Balance 997 Men or Women’s Shoes?

The New Balance 997s were originally intended for women. However, they also make fantastic New Balance for men and are widely worn by both.

If you’re looking specifically for some men New Balance shoes, the Made in US 990v5 are popular.

Are New Balance Made in China?

Surprisingly, yes, New Balance shoes are made in China. New Balance uses “made in the USA” as a selling point, but it’s not always true. Many factories crafting New Balance shoes are situated in Asia, mainly China, but some are completely made in the US.

Some or all of the shoes’ components may be US-made, but it’s not 100 percent guaranteed.

Are New Balance Better Than ASICS?

Whether New Balance are better than ASICS is subjective. Both companies have their ups and downs. If you want comfort, style with a hint of sportiness, New Balance is what you need. But, for extensive cushioning and an ergonomic design, go with ASICS.

Although many people ask, it’s almost impossible to claim one brand is better than another.


In Conclusion

The New Balance 997s have had a rocky lifetime and spent 20 years off the market. But when they returned, they were triumphant.

Whether you use them as mens New Balances or women’s, they’ll work well for casual and sportswear, while keeping you looking stylish. They’re definitely one of the better shoes available for their purpose.

We hope you found this guide useful. If you think you know someone whom it would help, please feel free to share it. And don’t forget to let us know your thoughts below.

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