New Balance 920: Flimby’s Finest
The New Balance 920 offers the classic 99X line style with a bit of a twist, plus the great Made-in-UK construction.
The New Balance 920 is just about the most expensive sneaker you can buy from a main-line brand.
|Materials||Suede / EVA / Rubber|
|Weight||437 g / 15.4 oz|
|Country of Origin||United Kingdom|
I’m on the record saying that New Balance’s made-in-America line is one of the reasons I really respect the brand. You can’t make everything in the U.S. – it would be too expensive for a sneaker brand – but the fact that you can still go into a store or their website and buy something that has more American labor than a pair of Allen Edmonds is really admirable.
What a lot of people don’t know, however, is that in addition to operating their 5 different U.S.-based factories, New Balance also runs a factory in the United Kingdom. In a tiny town called Flimby, in England, to be precise. Unlike the U.S. factories, which each typically only make 1 or 2 models, the Flimby factory produces more than 5. Including this: the New Balance 920.
While the 920 looks like something that would have come out around the release of the 992 or 993, it’s actually one of New Balance’s most recent models. Released in 2020, the sneaker aims to blend the popular 990 line with the famous 1500. On paper, it sounds like it’s the best of both worlds.
However, it’s not cheap. Especially here in the U.S. Is it worth the extra price? Let’s find out.
If you’re a fan of New Balance’s classic styles, you’ll feel right at home with the 920. Especially in this Castle Rock colorway. The blends of pigskin suede and mesh make this unmistakable as a New Balance silhouette. At the same time, there is something obviously different about it compared to the Made-in-America options you might be used to.
First, there are the obvious designs pulled from famous Made-in-UK models. From the large panel around the heel to the highly-angled “N,” if you’re a 1500 fan, you’ll feel at home here. Up front, the more industrial design from the 1530 can be seen, compared to the organic shapes we’re used to here in the States.
There is also the last shape. The New Balance 920 is a shorter and wider overall last shape, which gives a really different feel to the sneaker. It doesn’t really come out in pictures, but in person you notice it. Personally, I’m a fan both in how it looks and how it feels, but that is obviously entirely subjective.
I should also mention the laces, which feel thicker than you might find elsewhere.
It isn’t all good, though. The smokey-grey panels on the upper feel incredibly cheap. The same can be said of the lining, which is astonishingly thin. I’ll be sure to provide an update, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you started to find holes in it after just a few dozen wears.
That being said, overall, I think the upper is a win for the New Balance brand.
Mid- and Outsole
While it isn’t shared with any other models, the mid-and outsole from the New Balance 920 look like something straight off the 990 line. Using foam of various densities marked by different colors, it’s got that organic style that the brand is known for, compared to the flatter style traditionally used on the European-spec shoes.
It also has the logos, too. Being a modern retro-style, how could it not? With New Balance on the plastic heel cap, and “ENCAP” on the side, they are never shy to tell you about what type of technology they are putting on the sneaker.
Flipping it over, you’ll find something that was a surprise to me. Embedded in the rubber outsole is a carbon fiber plate. New Balance makes it very clear that the 920 was designed from the beginning to be a lifestyle sneaker first and foremost, so seeing this here was not expected. Still, it’s a welcome addition and certainly looks great on this colorway.
The New Balance 920 does exactly what I was hoping it would when it comes to style. It feels like a model from their top-spec lines, but isn’t something you’ll see on everyone’s feet.
As for how to style it, I’d style it just like I would a 990. It works with joggers or sweats on a casual day (I’m wearing them with some reigning champ joggers as I type this), or with chinos or jeans if you’re going for that dad-core look. I will point out; these are a bit more fashion forward than the 990. You’ll definitely get a bit more attention.
This could be a good thing, or a bad thing. Up to you to decide.
Fit & Comfort
As I mentioned above in the style section, the New Balance 920 doesn’t fit exactly like their 99X models. The last (the plastic frame the shoe is built around) on this pair is shorter and wider. From a fit perspective, I think this is a good thing.
Most sneakers, the 99X series included, are built around an athletic last. This design is supposed to be tight around the middle of your foot and long so your toes can spread out. A shape like this is good if you’re running a 5k or playing a game of basketball, but is not the shape of a normal human foot. For just hanging out, you end up with a shoe that doesn’t quite fit most guys. Most people size up compared to their brannock (the metal thing in shoe stores), so they can get some breathing room.
This sneaker doesn’t have that too-narrow or too-long issue. It fits like it should. That being said, it looks like New Balance adjusted the sizing so that you can get the same size you would in their other sneakers. For me, that’s a size 13 in every lifestyle New Balance model. This is the same size I wear in most sneakers, like the Jordan 1 and Adidas Ultraboost.
For a full list of sizing for every pair reviewed on this site, click here.
Overall, the New Balance 920 is a very comfortable sneaker. Though, it goes about doing this in a different way to most sneakers made by the brand.
Unlike a lot of New Balance’s running line, which focuses on support and has a harder midsole, the foam they used on this is incredibly soft. In fact, everything is. Even the rubber outsole feels like a foam. You can easily dent it with just your finger. This means that you get a lot of squish in these, though you do lose some support in exchange.
They also breath really well. There are mesh panels all around the front of the sneaker, so no swamp foot in these.
I wouldn’t hesitate to wear these all day, though I might not want to actually run in them.
Materials & Construction
Since I just mentioned the soft foam in the midsole of the New Balance 920, let’s start there. The EVA foam is very soft. To the point where I have some durability concerns on just how long it will last. I’ll save judgement until there are some wears on them, but I wouldn’t expect these to be in your closet years from now.
The same can be said of the very soft outsole rubber. This stuff is soft, soft. Again, I’m not sure just how long it will last.
Of course, to be fair to New Balance, this likely wasn’t about cost or forcing you to buy a pair sooner than you would. It’s great to have an option for something cushier than their other models, and the trade off will be worth it for a lot of people. I just want to make sure any potential buyer is aware.
Moving to the upper things are mostly good news. There was those dark grey panels that don’t feel great, and there is the thin lining, but otherwise things look great up here. The pigskin suede is nice and thick, and the same with the mesh panels.
Even better, the parts you can’t see seem substantial – a sign they put care into designing the shoe. The plastic heelcap is large and sturdy, and will do a great job keeping your foot in place. The internal structure around the toe, made of a fabric, does a great job as well.
Overall, New Balance did a good job with material selection, with the only two items being a letdown. There are tradeoffs with the softer foams, though.
The New Balance 920 is made with cemented construction. If you want a more in-depth explanation, click here. If you just want the cliff-notes version, cemented construction is when the upper is made and then glued onto the midsole. This type of construction is the norm for modern sneakers.
The benefits of making a sneaker this way is that it provides maximum flexibility, unbeatable water resistance, and it’s the most affordable way to make a shoe. The trade offs are that it is extremely difficult to replace the outsole on the sneaker, and it can fail faster than other styles of construction.
Of course, I can’t miss the opportunity to flag that these are made in the United Kingdom. Having something made outside the first world doesn’t inherently make it bad – there are plenty of companies who have high labor standards all over the world. At the same time, having something made in the first world does mean that it will almost certainly be made with high labor standards.
It may not matter to some, but if it does to you, these might be what you want to pick up.
Pricing & Value
There is no way to sugar coat this. Here in the U.S. the New Balance 920 costs $249.99 (though this one colorway is still at the old price of $229). That’s a lot of money for any shoe, much less a sneaker. Making it even tougher to swallow is that they almost never go on sale. At least here in the United States, over in Europe they are less (though, our European friends are paying more for the U.S. made options).
While it’s easy to find a reason that it isn’t entirely New Balance’s fault for the high price (tariffs on shoes from Europe were raised to 25% a few years ago, which exactly covers the price difference). At the same time, it does make the value case for Americans a bit tough.
There are plenty of reasons to want to pay more for a well-made product with quality materials put together in a first world country. The problem is that New Balance has 5 factories here in the U.S. doing just that for products priced around $180-200. And you can find them on sale.
What you’re paying for here is to have something different, and I think that for many people it will be worth it. The good news is that you’ll know that before you buy.
The New Balance 920 is what it says it is on the box. A lifestyle sneaker, made in the United Kingdom, that looks kind of like the 990 and the 1500/1530 had a baby.
It’s comfortable, stylish, and will have you stand out in a crowd. At least here in the U.S. You’re definitely paying for that ability to stand out. If you wanted a 990 but slightly different, definitely take a look.