New Balance 990v4: The One Everyone Forgets About
Price: $185 / Check eBay for Better Deals
The New Balance 990v4 is made in America of mostly high quality materials and is extremely comfortable
The New Balance 990v4 does really do anything better than the other 990 models.
|Model||New Balance 990v4|
|Materials||Pig Suede / EVA / PU / Rubber|
|Weight||502 g / 1 lb 1.7 oz|
|Country of Origin||United States|
History of the New Balance 990v4
For the New Balance 990 v1-v3, each generation was a real monumental shift. You can see why – the first released in 1982, 16 years later we had the v2, then another 14 before the v3. In that amount of time, sneaker technology changed significantly. However, for the New Balance 990v4 the brand from Massachusetts didn’t want to wait that long. It launched just 4 years after the V3 in 2016.
New Balance faced a problem that many companies would love to have. The 990v3 was incredibly popular, and the dad shoe trend was on the rise. The brand needed something new. Something that could bring attention.
This means that the 990v4 didn’t do anything all that different than its predecessors in design. Instead, they tried to mix things up in different ways. They leaned heavily into their made-in-America history. So much so that the brand was sued for misuse of the term. They tried to find new markets for the sneaker, offering a boot model with beefier eyelets.
All that being said, putting this next to the v3 or the v5 raises the question. Should you consider the New Balance 990v4? Or is this a sneaker best left forgotten?
By the way, much of this review will be comparing the New Balance 990v4 to other 990s. If you’d like to read the others in the series, check them out here:
By the time they were building the New Balance 990v4, the brand had figured out the pattern they wanted to follow. An upper made mostly of grey pigskin suede. Small cut outs of mesh. An underlay of a man-made material for structure. They’d done it before, and will do it again.
On the upper especially, the 990v4 saw incremental change. The N is slightly larger, and the shoe aims to be visually elongated. All of the panels are slightly squished compared to previous and later models.
That actually does a pretty cool trick. 2016 was the start of the dad shoe trend, and New Balance didn’t shy away from it. You can’t tell until you have them sitting next to one another, but the 990v4 is noticeably more padded than previous models. It’s both bulky and not.
Unfortunately, the New Balance 990v4 also saw the brand compromise on the silhouette for the first time. Up until this point, the 990 was all about having the best. It was expensive, sure, but it was the best.
You can see this cost cutting on various spots across the sneaker. The grey panel on the tongue, and the red NB logo on the back – these are now made of a compressed cardboard instead of plastic. The lining is a bit thinner, and cheaper feeling.
Don’t get me wrong – this is still head and shoulders above what you’re seeing from the other big brands – but it is very different than previous models.
Mid- and Outsole
When it comes to the bottom half of the New Balance 9904, there isn’t that much different than the top. It is extremely similar to the model that came before it. That means three different densities of foam represented by off white, dark grey, and light grey. A small plastic heel cap in the back. And plenty of words strewn about.
Taking a look at the outsole, you’ll find the softer and gripper light grey rubber under the ball of your foot, with the harder black rubber running along the back and edge.
Unfortunately, the bottom half was not spared the cost-cutting either. Panels that were separate plastic are now included in the foam tooling. The shank that was previously carbon fiber was replaced with a plastic piece.
The 990v4 does everything you would expect it to do from a style perspective. It’s a chunky enough dad shoe. It’s materials – with a few small exceptions – should age really well.
If you’re coming from 990v3s or 992s this is noticeably chunkier than you would think looking at pictures. It wears different with outfits. While I would have no problem wearing slim joggers or jeans with the earlier pairs, it doesn’t really work with these.
I’d suggest wearing something with a bit of weight to it when you pull these out. I’d also suggest skipping the shorts with these unless you’ve got a need to look like Adam Sandler. However, if you’re wearing heavier pants – denim, heavy sweats, etc. – they work really well.
Fit & Comfort
How Does the New Balance 990v4 Fit?
The New Balance 990v4 fits a little bit larger than a typical sneaker in a similar size. Personally, I would still recommend your typical sneaker size – the foam does a good job of keeping your foot in place – but if you prefer a closer fit you might want to consider going a half size down from your Nike size.
A big benefit for a lot of people will be in the toe box. Unlike most sneakers, the New Balance 990v4 offers a generous toe box. This is more comfortable, and good for your foot.
I take these in a size 13, which is my typical sneaker size. I probably could have gotten away with a 12.5, but don’t regret the 13. For a full list of sizing for every sneaker reviewed on this site, click here.
Is the New Balance 990v4 Comfortable
There is no doubt about it, if you’re going to be on your feet all day it’s just about impossible to find a better sneaker than a modern New Balance 990. The 990v4 is no exception to that.
While you won’t find the same squish you will in something like Adidas’ Boost, the mixture of foam New Balance uses offers enough give while also being supportive. If you’re on your feet all day you really need to pick up a pair.
I would have no hesitation wearing these for just about any activity from a comfort perspective.
Materials & Construction
What Materials are Used on the New Balance 990v4
For 90% of the sneaker, the materials on the New Balance 990v4 are as good as you’ll find in a mass-produced sneaker. The pigskin suede is soft and supple, but also durable enough to outlast the outsole. It can get stained, and will be difficult to clean, but that is the tradeoff for the texture and feel.
The mesh and underlay panels are a bit thinner than I would have preferred, but in the real world will last as long as you need them to. Inside, the foam is less dense than past or future models, but is plenty soft and springy.
Underfoot, New Balance uses their ENCAP design. This is an EVA foam midsole encased in a Polyurethane outer layer under the heel. The idea is that it keeps the spring of the EVA with the durability of the PU, and you know what – it works great.
The outsole rubber is a softer mix, but that isn’t good or bad. You trade some comfort and grip for durability.
However, there is that 10% that doesn’t blow me away. As mentioned above, there are carboard panels on the sneaker. I can’t fathom why you would do that – rain will destroy them. The plastic shank is also pretty thin, and probably not doing too much.
This cost cutting is particularly annoying because New Balance invested in the expensive stuff. These likely saved less than a dollar or two on a nearly $200 sneaker.
Construction of the New Balance 990v4
This made-in-America sneaker is crafted using cemented construction. That means that the upper is sewn together and then glued directly to the midsole. If you want more information about that, click here.
The short version is that cemented construction is by far the most common way to make a sneaker. It offers great water resistance and flexibility while being the most affordable option. As for drawbacks, it’s not particularly durable and near impossible to resole.
The normal grey model (called “Grey with silver” in the New Balance 990v4) comes in at a price point of $185. When it first released at this price that was way above the going rate for sneakers, but is now less than a comparable main line Jordan or Adidas model.
It also is less than both the 990v3 and 990v6. New Balance released this current batch of V4s a while ago, and I would expect the next release to align with the seemingly new standard price of $199.
If you’re looking for a deal, you can do what I did and check out eBay. These sneakers are not a limited run, so it isn’t difficult to find a pair for around $150 in brand new condition.
In a vacuum, the New Balance 990v4 would be a great sneaker. It’s comfortable, most of the materials are top notch, and it’s made in America enough to win a lawsuit against claiming they weren’t.
However, it doesn’t live in a vacuum. It sits on the shelf next to five other 990’s, and I’m honestly not sure why this would be the one you pick. Every other model in the line has its reason for being – the most comfort, the most retro, the best materials, the most dad shoe, etc. The 990v4 just doesn’t excel at any of them.
There just isn’t a reason to go to New Balance’s website and pick this one unless it’s a collab that you really like the colorway of.
If the slightly elongated panels, or maximum suede appeals to you, that’s great. You almost certainly won’t regret the sneaker. However, if you’re trying to decide on which 990 is right for you, it’s probably one of the others.