100wears Thoughts, New Balance, Sneakers

New Balance 990 v1-v6: Which is the Best?

Throughout 2023, I’ve fallen in love with the New Balance 990. I don’t mean the New Balance 990v6, or 990v3. I mean the entire New Balance 990 line. Since January, I’ve bought and worn each of the six different models of New Balance’s premier 990 line and today I’m going to share both the good and the bad of each model.

Before we start, let’s talk about what is the same. No matter which 990 you buy, you’re going to be assured of a few things. First, each and every model is going to be made in one of New Balance’s New England factories. The brand does move production of models around based on expected demand, so there is no way to know exactly what factory your shoe will be coming from, but all are made in the USA.

Second, you won’t be disappointed in the materials. Sure, some models use older style materials since they are, well, older. However, all of them will feature materials that are better than most other mass-produced sneakers.

Finally, all of the models will be fairly well made overall. While they are not without flaws – I’m not quite sure why American hands seem to be particularly bad at catching loose threads – you’re extremely unlikely to find misaligned panels, missing stitching, extra holes, or any other issue that you find on other well-known brands.

I should also add, much of the below is entirely subjective based on style. They are all great sneakers, but someone has to win, and someone has to lose.  


With that out of the way, let’s dive in.

New Balance 990v1: The Daddy

MSRP: $189

Fit: True to Size, but no structure allows flexibility.

Full Review

New Balance 990v1, The Good

The New Balance 990v1 has, by far, the best story of any 990. From being the first sneaker to cross the $100 price barrier, to setting the stage for one of the all-time great sneaker lines, the v1 is the one for the sneakerhead nerd.

The New Balance 990v1 is also the easiest of the group to style. The basic overall design goes with everything from jeans and chinos to shorts and joggers.

New Balance 990v1, The Bad

While easy to style, I can’t quite shake the feeling that the 990v1 looks like a knock off 574 when I wear it. Despite this one coming first and sitting higher in the product hierarchy, the cultural dominance of the 574 means this one is the one that is “off” when walking around. Not a great feeling when you paid 3x as much for your shoe.

Also, while I wouldn’t say these are uncomfortable, they are no where near as good as the other models. The basic foam is true to the 1980’s, but it’s a design that is now old enough to have a kid in college. It feels as old as you imagine it would.


While I do like the 990v1, I would have to say it’s probably my 2nd least favorite of the entire group.

New Balance 990v2: My Favorite One

MSRP: $185

Fit: True to Size for most, wide footers may want to go up.

Full Review

New Balance 990v2, The Good

The New Balance 990v2 manages to perfectly nail the retro runner vibe. Of the more than 50 pairs of shoes I own, this one just might be the most versatile. So much so that the 990v2 is my personal favorite of all the models. If I needed to sell all of my New Balances but one, this is the one that would still be standing.

990v2s – at least at time of writing – are also significantly cheaper than the models that come after it on the resale market. It isn’t that hard to find one of the more out-there colors for under $100 brand new.

New Balance 990v2, The Bad

The 990v2 materials are high quality, but since New Balance sticks true to the original model from the 90’s, the foams yellow extremely quickly. Even just a few months into wear the sneaker takes on a kind of dingy tone. This doesn’t really bother me since it goes with the casual vibe, but I could see how it could upset others. You’ll notice that this 990’s leather is a bit more of a brown shade than the others, maybe they were planning for that in advance.

I’ll also say that the sneakers are very average in comfort. Not a huge deal, but when the 990 has become a byword for maximum comfort, you might be disappointed wearing these around.


New Balance 990v3: (Probably) Your Favorite One

MSRP: $185

Fit: True to Size

Full Review

New Balance 990v3, The Good

The New Balance 990v3 is the most popular of the 990 models, and it’s pretty easy to see why. It’s clearly a dad shoe. The panels, the overdesigned midsole, etc. However (and this is especially noticeable when you hold the two shoes next to one another), this sneaker is actually pretty slim compared to later models. There really isn’t that much in physical bulk, meaning it doesn’t over-emphasize your feet in the overall outfit.

This is also the first sneaker where they are genuinely among the most comfortable sneakers out there. There are improvements down the line, of course, but I think on a scale of 1-100, these are around 90. Nobody is upset getting an A.

New Balance 990v3, The Bad

Theres very little bad to say about this sneaker, but I need to include some, so let’s go. First, there are clearly compromises being made in the internal components compared to most of the others. For example, the heel cap switches from a solid plastic to a much softer version with less support.

Next, while the New Balance 990v3 does just about everything well, it doesn’t star in anything. There are more affordable options, more comfortable options, easier to style options, etc. If you already have a collection and are looking to fill a specific hole, this one might not be the one for you.

New Balance 990v4: The Forgotten One

MSRP: $185

Fit: Slightly large, most True to Size, some size down

Full Review

New Balance 990v4, The Good

Taking a step back, the 990v4 doesn’t drop the ball on any of the key 990 stuff. It has all the good things mentioned up at the top – comfort, quality materials, etc. It also has some of the best collabs coming out right now.


There are also a lot of 990v4 variations that are not made anymore, but are unique to the entire line. Have you ever wanted a 990 boot? Well, your only option is to go with the v4.

New Balance 990v4, The Bad

The biggest problem that the New Balance 990v4 has is all the other 990s. It’s overshadowed in every category, including in being a jack of all trades. It’s incredibly similar to the 990v3 in some ways, and incredibly similar to the 990v5 in every other way. The only thing that separates the 990v4 is the small number of spots where New Balance used some truly sub-par materials (like the cardboard-like panel backing on the tongue and heel) for the first, and only, time.

Other than the collaborations, I don’t think anyone would even really notice if the 990v4 faded away. In a vacuum, a great sneaker. In this line up, my least favorite.

New Balance 990v5: The Ultimate Dad Shoe

MSRP: $185

Fit: Slightly large, size down for a close fit, True to Size for a casual fit

Full Review

New Balance 990v5, The Good

Of every sneaker I’ve owned and reviewed – well over 100 in just the last 3 years – the New Balance 990v5 is the best for supporting your foot. Period. It’s obvious why dads buy these, they are just so darn good at being a comfortable sneaker. Not in the Ultraboost squishy way that feels good initially but tires out your feet, but in the way you could wear these for 12 hours and feel great at the end.

As for style, these things are big, bulky tanks. In the way the 990v3 was deceptively slim, these are the opposite. If you really want that dad shoe vibe, there simply isn’t anything better on the market.


New Balance 990v5, The Bad

I think the biggest drawback for the 990v5 is that it is pretty much the only sneaker on this list that does still carry some visual baggage. While it isn’t the case in the DMV, when I travel and can’t help but notice that in a lot of cities the only guys wearing 990v5s are 50+ with a polo tucked into their jeans. I think that will fade as the 990v5 sits in the vault, but could impact some.

The other thing to mention is the 990v5 is the first one since the v2 that has panels that will quickly yellow. That rubbery piece that acts as lock down ages significantly faster than others, and can look trashed pretty quickly.

New Balance 990v6: The One You Should Probably Buy

MSRP: $199

Fit: Slightly large, most True to Size, some size down

Full Review

New Balance 990v6, The Good

The 990v6 is the biggest change to the 990 line up since the v1 and the v2. The first place you notice this is in the midsole. Gone are the harder-but-supportive foams. In are the really squishy running foams New Balance uses in other lines. Out of the box, these are simply in another league when it comes to comfort.

The 990 also looks more like a modern sneaker. Even when it came out, the 990v5 didn’t feel like a “modern” sneaker. It was almost more of a “protro+” of their earlier models. Holding these in your hand, it’s clear the 990v6 isn’t meant to be a progressive update, but a complete rework.

While I wouldn’t say the New Balance 990v6 is my favorite, or even 2nd favorite, it is by far my most worn of these pairs. Probably more than all the others combined, to be honest.


New Balance 990v6, The Bad

The 990v6 is the biggest change to the 990 line up since the v1 and the v2. While the changes made the sneaker better overall, in many ways the 990v6 doesn’t really feel like part of the 990 line. The modern design isn’t as versatile as I would have hoped, you have to put thought into if they work or not.

The comfort is also very different. Not bad, but the sneakers are so soft that they are not my first choice if I’m going to be on my feet all day. Since most people think of the 990 as a supportive shoe rather than an initial comfort shoe, this could surprise a lot of folks who wear these out the door without realizing the difference.

It’s a great sneaker, but only a so-so 990.

My entirely subjective list of New Balance 990 models:

  • 990v2
  • 990v3
  • 990v6
  • 990v5
  • 990v1
  • 990v4