New Balance 992 Blue Teal Rose “Seersucker”: Initial Impressions
- Price: $175 MSRP
- Pros: Overall high quality materials, Made-in-US construction
- Cons: Shortcuts taken in some areas, older technology
Brands like Allen Edmonds or Sperry spend absolutely boatloads trying to convince you that they are as old as the American revolution, but would it surprise you that a common sneaker name that your dad has probably worn has them and most other brands beat? New Balance started in Boston more than 110 years ago and while the 992 isn’t the oldest design you can buy, it was first introduced to celebrate New Balance’s 100 year anniversary and is now being retroed after more than a decade on the shelf.
For a lot of people, including myself, what sets New Balance apart from all the other big name manufacturers is that some of their shoes are still made within the United States (or the United Kingdom). In fact, New Balance takes this so seriously that they even break down the their American-made shoes into two categories and only stamps “Made in the USA” on shoes where the domestic content is over 70%, otherwise they are stamped “Assembled in the USA”.
SIDE NOTE: If you’re looking to pick up a pair of New Balances because Made In America matters to you, it’s worth noting that most of their shoes are not build in the U.S. or U.K. with about 75% of what they sell in North America made outside these two markets.
The initial 992 came out everyone focused on the classic gray, with the only limited pair adding “1906-2006” on the back, being available to New Balance employees. In 2020, however, color has been the name of the game for the 992 with so many versions of multicolor that they have to add new ways to classify them such as “multicolor-black”, “multicolor-white”, and “multi-color”.
While not as bright as the multicolor, the “M992NT” as this color is officially known, certainly isn’t as quiet as the gray New Balance is known for. The first thing you notice about the upper is the short-haired suede in electric blue. The electric blue is offset by a slightly darker nubuck panel, and a teal suede toe and mud guard around the length of the shoe.
Highlights around the shoe come in a variety of different ways. Most noticeable is the highly reflective mesh panels. These provide the greatest contrast the the suede near the toe and sides of the shoe.
On the back, accents mostly change to feature a bright white leather. These high stress areas will probably benefit from having a tougher material. The rose tones are not completely gone, with a 992 logo in rose is printed right near your ankle.
One of the shoe’s nicknames, seersucker, comes from cotton striped panels that resemble the summery fabric. Even if it feels a bit more durable here. Wrapping up the upper, the heel and tongue feature metallic grey cut outs featuring the 992 logo and “USA”.
Further down, the midsole is just as complicated as the upper. New Balance used two different densities of foam on the New Balance 992 Blue Teal Rose. A cream-colored foam in the rear and icy-white up front. They meet at a diagonal line near the middle of the shoe.
To help keep the foam stabilized, New Balance added a pink heel cub in the rear, now featuring new balance branding underneath the plastic. This under-plastic design is a departure from the OG 2006 pair. The OG had the branding on top of the plastic. Translucent gel, clearly labeled with New Balance’s ABZORB branding, is visible on the back and side of the shoe.
Finally, the outsole is mostly blue. However, grey highlights and a translucent gray and pink “992” cut out near the heel support give a bit of visual interest.
Build quality is nothing to write home about, with loose stitching, incomplete punch-outs, and unfinished edges appearing on both shoes. To be fair, on this particular pair all of these errors are not visible once shoe laces are in place but others may find errors in other locations.
Fit & Comfort:
For a shoe this large, so big it was actually longer than the box they came in, the fit is surprisingly tight in the toe box during initial wears. I normally range from a 12 to a 13 in typical sneakers and this size 13 is only just wearable in toe-box width. Keep an eye out for an updated long-term review sometime in the future.
Ignoring the initial tightness, the 992 has a type of comfort that you don’t see much these days. While it’s midsole isn’t as plush as boost/react, or it’s upper as stretchy as primeknit/flyknit, there is a different kind of comfort that comes from this shoe.
Here, the shoe designers needed to do the work, instead of the company that supplies the components. It’s like a computer programmer back in the 1980’s. Programmers used to fit entire, multi-hour games into data files smaller than the pictures on this post.
Below your feet, you feel that the different colors of the outsole represent different densities of foam. The cream color is substantially less plush than the white section underneath your forefoot. Their marketing brochure tells me that the ABZORB blocks create impact resistance, though I couldn’t tell a difference.
With most sneakers today either being hyper modern, canvas sneakers, or retro basketball shoes, the upper of these shoes is a unique experience. The give is really based on the softness of the leather. This goes back to the ingenuity of the original designers working with the materials that they have.
Speaking of the materials, it’s clear this was a focus for New Balance. The leather on the upper is pigskin leather and suede. Pigskin tends to softer, which allows for the upper to move more than you’d see on a cow-leather based shoe. On the other hand, pigskin tends to be more prone to scratches, rips, and tears, and some people prefer not to wear the leather for ethical or religious reasons.
Elsewhere on the upper, the mesh is a synthetic fiber, and the white panels are a synthetic leather material. The namesake Seersucker panels are a cotton cloth, not actual seersucker. Time will tell how well white cotton holds up on a sneaker, but I appreciate that New Balance stepped up to the plate on this material.
The sole is primarily two density EVA foam. This does have tendency to bottom out over time in a linear fashion even in the highest quality blends. The ABZORB sections are a mix of EVA foam and rubber. Hopefully keep everything in place a bit longer than it would otherwise. The pink band around the back is a hard translucent plastic.
On the bottom you have a primarily rubber outsole, however New Balance has strategically placed harder strips, labeled Ndurance, in high wear areas that should provide some protection for the grippier, and softer, rubber elsewhere.
The liner is the one part of the materials that really let the shoe down. The white section in the back is an incredibly thin and cheap feeling felt. Certainly not the end of the world. You can’t feel this when on feet. But it does feel a bit out of place on a shoe that labels itself as premium.
These shoes cost $174.99 new, which is what I paid for this pair. The shoe sold out, so it is unlikely that you’ll see a pair on sale. This shoe is reselling, with most sizes about 10 to 15% over retail at time of writing.
Even for the general release colorways, sales are pretty rare. If you’re looking to buy right away, the outlets will often have a buy-one-get-one 50% running on their made in America shoes – though these are typically seconds with noticeable errors.
If you’re OK with waiting, 992s are often included in sales on the foot sites (footlocker, footaction, eastbay). At least, they are after they have been available for a few months. New Balance will also sometimes run better sales both at their physical outlets and their online outlet around holidays.
I hesitate to get too far ahead of myself on an initial impressions post. New Balance continues to claim that they are among the most well built shoes you can buy. “The Intellegent Choice.” However, that won’t become clear until these shoes have seen some miles.
Even from the initial unboxing you can tell that you’re paying a premium for a made in America shoe. More modern shoes, with more technology and hype, cost less and will come with fewer flaws out of the box. That premium may be worth it to a lot of people, but is something to be aware of.
The 992 Teal Rose/Seersucker is an eye catching sneaker. It has an interesting back story that appeals to both the sneakerhead and traditional sides I have. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that some of the short cuts scare me a bit. Then again, I am also really looking forward to getting some miles and reporting back.
Do you agree? Do you disagree? Let me know in the comments below!