Initial Impressions, New Balance, Sneakers

New Balance 990v2: My Favorite 990

Price: $185 [SOLD OUT; Check Current Pricing Here]

Why Buy?

The New Balance 990v2 might just be the most versatile sneaker ever made, it goes with almost everything.

Why Avoid?

Even below retail, New Balance 990v2prices are not cheap and the comport isn’t as good as more modern alternatives.


ModelNew Balance 990v2
MaterialsPig Suede / EVA / Foam / Rubber
Weight452 g / 15.9 oz
Country of OriginUnited States


When the New Balance 990v1 first came out, it was really impressive. If for no other reason than the price, the $100 it cost would be more than $300 in 2023 dollars. The sneaker did well for the brand – selling ten times the amount it was supposed to – but still only hit 50,000 units. For reference, Jordan Brand sells around a million Jordan 11s every Christmas.

It’s also easy to forget the 990v1 since, if we’re being honest, nobody thinks of it as a 990. Ask anyone what a classic 990 is and they’ll say lots of overlaid leather patches, an inset N, bulging midsole. The 990v1 looks like a kind of lumpy 574.

No, if we are going to talk about the real genesis of what we all think of as the 990 it’s got to be this: the New Balance 990v2. Releasing a full 16 years after the v1, the 1996 release of the New Balance 990v2 really shook up the New Balance brand. You can even see the desire to start again in the naming scheme. Previously the updated premier model was a 995, or 999. This took it back to the original. To the 990.


Since then, the sneaker hasn’t received the love that some of the other models have. Where the v3, v4, and even the v5 have gone on to be in every sneaker youtuber’s thumbnails, these haven’t. Even the Teddy Santis’ touched models are on sale.

That begs the question of why? Should this be the black swan of the group? (You saw the title, of course not, but let me tell you why below).



Pearl Jam. Beanie Babies. The New Balance 990v2. I’m not sure which of these most embodies the 1990’s, but it’s pretty close between the three. The upper on this sneaker manages to somehow be both bold and in-your-face, while entirely unassuming by 2023 standards. Like Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Look at those leather panels, there is just so much texture. Even the current 990 doesn’t have this much. At the same time, the N logo is (and I measured) almost ¼ the size of the N logo on the 990v6. For all the (over)design of this sneaker, they still minimized their own branding.

Another item you can’t miss on this sneaker is the highly reflective hits on the end of the laces, the N, and the center patch on the back. The latter of that list featuring “U S A” as a nod to where these sneakers are made.


The mesh panels are not just smaller than what you find later, but much, much thinner. The foam backing is clearly visible. This works with the retro vibe, but be ready for some fairly quick yellowing of the foam itself.

In case the highly reflective patch on the back wasn’t enough, the dark grey tongue features “990 / new balance / made in USA.” Thick white laces are your only option, at least in this grey colorway.

Mid- and Outsole

When you take a look at the bottom half of the New Balance 990v2, you’ll find much the same as the upper. Or, in other words, it takes the 1990’s to an extreme.

A big, chunky midsole comes in two different colors to represent the two different densities of foam. The back section is so large it actually swoops up around your heel which, combined with the small black plastic piece, acts as the heel support. A non-functional rubbery panel along the back doesn’t miss the opportunity to highlight the “ABZORB” branding also found on the white foam.

Flipping the sneaker over, you’ll find a 4-piece outsole. Primarily a soft black rubber, New Balance aimed to offer grip with a blue inset up front and a very hard black panel where your heel strikes. Your eyes are mostly drawn to the yellow-y/green-y/blue-y “N” right in the middle, though.


Even on brand new pairs this feels like something that came out of the box back in 1996. Faded like your dad just forgot he bought them. And that’s a good thing.


Just reading about the individual components, you might not think the New Balance 990v2 is all that great. It’s bold, so people who like subtly might not like it. However, it’s also not flashy. It’s not so retro you clearly are going for style, but it doesn’t use modern foams.

However, at the end of the day, these just work. Being a little bit of everything doesn’t mean they clash with everything. In fact, it’s the opposite. Subtle fits pull out the minimal branding. Classic style pulls out the retro vibe. Bold fits highlight the texture of the suede. Athleisure highlights the chunky soles.

A casual office? Works. Joggers? Yup. Denim? Maybe not the 21oz stuff, but otherwise, definitely. Shorts? For sure.

Honestly, the New Balance 990v2 might just be the most versatile sneaker I own. Heck, I think it’s the most versatile shoe I own. As for how I wear it? Other than a suit or pressed chinos, this sneaker will almost certainly go what that outfit you have in mind.


Fit & Comfort


The fit on the New Balance 990v2 is a little on the weird side. While I would suggest going true to size, the issue really revolves around the toe box. On one hand, it’s pretty narrow. On the other hand, it’s completely unstructured. This means that it’s very accommodating for different feet shapes, but if you’re not careful you might just end up with your toes hanging off the sides if you mis-size.

I know it’s hard to find a pair of these just lying around in a store, but this is a pair I’d really suggest trying on before you buy. Or, at least buy from a brand that takes returns after you tried them on. A couple millimeters one way or the other in toe shape could take these from perfect fit to really strange, and you won’t know until you lace them up and stand up.

I personally take these in a size 13, which is the same size I take most sneakers and a full size larger than most stitched footwear. If my feet were even slightly larger or wider, though, I would need to go up in size to prevent the issue mentioned above.


I can’t really think of any other word to describe the comfort of the New Balance 990v2 than… fine. They’re fine.

Would I want to run in them? No. Would they be my first choice to walk 10 miles in? No. Would I regret it at the end of the day if I ended up doing these things? No.


Shoes from the late 1990’s are really in a weird space. Technology was starting to advance from the decades of just using a cut EVA wedge. However, in just a few more years really crazy foams would come along and make basic EVA out of date.

However, if you wear these for something, they’ll be fine.

Materials & Construction


For a sneaker that really set the tone for the look and feel of New Balance for the next several decades, it’s no surprise that the materials on the 990v2 are what New Balance is known for.

First, the majority of the upper is made of a grey pig suede. While less durable than the cow alternative, it’s also softer and lighter. Importantly, it’s also not heavily infused with plastic like a lot of other sneakers from comparable brands.

Accenting that suede is faux-leather panels in grey, and the incredibly thin mesh. Each of these are backed by a foam backing, with a thin polyester lining keeping your feet away from it all.


Underfoot, a thin, open cell foam insole covers an ABZORB-branded midsole. ABZORB is one of New Balance’s propriety EVA blends, which includes rubber as a way to increase durability and bounce. Keeping that foam off of the floor is a rubber outsole.

Elsewhere on the sneaker, you’ll find poly-based panels for reflectivity, plastic heel caps, and poly-cotton laces.


The New Balance 990v2 is made using cemented construction. For more information on cemented construction, click here. However, in short, cemented shoes have the midsole glued to the upper to hold everything together.

The big benefits of this style of construction are flexibility and cost. Nothing comes close to the flexibility that cemented construction shoes offer, and making them is fast and easy – requiring little labor. On the flip side, this is one of the least durable ways to make a shoe as a single layer of glue is the only thing keeping everything together.

It’s also important to know where these sneakers are made. Like all the 990s, these sneakers are made in one of New Balance’s New England factories within the United States. In fact, just a few months ago New Balance announced they were building another factory in Maine, bringing total factories to 5.


Originally priced at $185, the New Balance 992 is currently out of production. If you look around you can find a limited number of colorways available – such as this version from Kith that has most sizes at time of writing – but to find the classic grey and white you will need to go on resell sites.

The good news is that almost every colorway is currently going for under retail on sites like ebay. At time of writing, depending on size a grey pair will set you back anywhere from $130 to $160.

This puts them among the most affordable New Balance 990’s out there, with only the very recent 990v5 having a lower transaction price. These are also, realistically, the only other type of sneaker to compare them to.

Are the New Balance 990v2 Worth It?


Honestly, of all the 990s, the New Balance 990v2 is my personal favorite. It just does everything you could ever want a 990 to do. It works with almost everything, its comfort is fine, and it’s even one of the most affordable ways to get a made-in-USA New Balance.

I don’t try to predict the sneaker market and I don’t suggest you take anything I say relating to pricing as advice, but I think that people will regret not getting a pair during this last run of 990v2s. Setting aside future price increases, could be another decade before they come out of the vault again. You might not be able to get a pair in your size for any price soon.

Usually, I caveat any recommendation with a note saying it’s good for this group but not another. Here, I don’t. If you think you want a pair, you won’t be disappointed.