The Shoe That Birthed the 99x Series - A History of the New Balance 990


In 1982, New Balance would debut a shoe that would pave the way for a slew of future releases, as well as produce some of their most legendary sneakers to date. The 990’s conception began 4 years prior to its release, with the intention being to produce the best possible running shoe they could. With that goal in mind, the sneaker featured a $100 price tag, solidifying it as one of the most expensive pairs of shoes available at the time. 

With uncertainty about how the shoe would perform on the market due to its steep cost, New Balance would be pleasantly surprised to see the effects that would follow. The inaugural release of the 990 would go on to create the 99x series, which would birth 13 models total to date. From the original 990 in 1982, to the 997 in 1990, and all the way to the newest iteration, the 990v6, that was released in 2022, each model of the 99x series would feature new technological advancements, as well as constant visual alterations.



With the shoe's heritage spanning almost 5 decades, let’s take a look at each of the five 990 models that have been released to see what they’ve brought to the table before we celebrate the birthday shoe.



The OG that paved the way for the rest of the 99x series. While the shoe was released in 1982, the work on these sneakers started 4 years earlier in 1978. While most brands were moving their manufacturing overseas to get a quicker and cheaper manufacturing process for their running shoes, NB decided to keep their work local, in the USA. In an effort to create the best, most premium runner possible, the years of work implemented into the 990 included using a technique called slip-lasting, which meant each shoe was finished with a single seam and it was steamed into shape. This allowed the shoe to be as flexible as possible. To accompany the flexibility, the shoes were also outfitted with New Balance’s Motion Control Device in order to bring balance. MCD is used to this day in several pairs of NB’s shoe catalogue.




Releasing 16 years after the original in 1998. The 990v2 would arrive with a new look, and some dope new tech. This new pair of sneakers would feature a sole with NB’s ABZORB technology in the midsole of the shoe, bringing extra shock absorption to the shoe. While the new innovations within the shoe were already exciting enough, the v2s would do something that would affect the rest of the 99x series moving forward. While everything between the 990 and the V2 (995, 996, 997, 998, 999) was aesthetically based off of the original, the 990v2 was repurposed completely, with a new upper and new sole technology. This broke the trend  that had been in place for those previously released and set an example for those that would release in the future.




14 years after the v2 and 4 years after the most recent 99x series shoe, the 993, New Balance was prepared to release the next in line. When 2012 hit, this meant it was the 30th anniversary of the 990, and what better way to celebrate that than to release the 990v3? With the majority of changes being purely aimed at creating a new look, the technology within the sneaker went relatively untouched. While other models contained primarily pigskin on the toe box, the v3s implemented much more mesh which resulted in more breathability in the shoe as well as a lighter model.




For the first time, without any previous 99x series sneakers beforehand, the next release following the v3 would be the 990v4 in 2016. Debuting at the start of the dad shoe trend, the v4 would make slight aesthetic changes from the v3, making sure to continue to incorporate sections of leather, pigskin and mesh, while maintaining the dad shoe vibes as more or less all other 99x versions. Technologically, the sneakers would feature an ENCAP midsole, and the most breathable to offer within the 99x series. 




In 2019, three years after the release of the v4, the 990v5 became the newest model to join the 99x roster. While the v5 boasts some of the same tech as previous models such as the ENCAP midsole, it features one major difference not seen in any other 99x shoe.

The very obvious and new feature is the TPU power strap wrapping along the upper, allowing the sneaker to offer better ankle support compared to its predecessors.  The shoe also was the first to come in sleight grey,  a slight alternative to their usual color palette.




Last year was big year for New Balance. Not only did 2022 bring big news for the 99x series, but NB as a whole due to the introduction of ALD's Teddy Santis as the new creative director of their Made in USA line. Santis' arrival meant that versions 1 through 5 would see some brand new colourways but also meant that a new version was eminent based on his own tease made on his personal profile.

November, 2022 featured the official launch of the all new 990v6 and while it was very much evident that it was a 990, the new silhouette provided some fresh changes never seen on previous models. One of most prominent of those was the "N" branding not being on top of the the suede overlays which were all used to, but instead on top of the mesh upper with suede panels seeming to overlap across the edges of the logo.

Aside from the purely aesthetically focused branding, the 990v6 also featured a much higher stacked sole than prior iterations which was thanks to the FuelCell foam addition on top of previously used ENCAP midsole cushioning which was used in the v3, v4 and v5.


From its humble beginnings in 1982 as an ambitious venture to create the best possible running shoe to its latest iteration, the 990v6, released in 2022, this series has consistently pushed the boundaries of technology and style.The journey of the 990 series, with its commitment to quality, comfort, and innovation, is a testament to New Balance's dedication to creating top-tier athletic footwear.
As we celebrate the heritage of these iconic sneakers spanning nearly five decades, we can't help but appreciate the lasting impact they've had on the industry. The 990 series is not just a collection of shoes; it's a symbol of excellence, endurance, and timeless style that continues to shape the world of sneakers.