A Brief History of the New Balance 990

The 990 was a game-changer for New Balance. Debuting in ’82, the shoe’s hefty $100 price tag meant it sat on the top-tier of the brand’s roster of running products. However, its superb performance meant the asking price was duly justified, and naturally, the 990 caught fire in the market and never looked back.

Over the following decades, the 99x series’ (as it became known) reputation for innovative technology, cushioning performance and timeless appeal garnered a cult following with hardcore runner, sneaker enthusiasts and tech-billionaires alike. Now, 37 years on, the silhouette is just as legendary as its ever been, and as we look forward to our very own size? exclusive 990 v5, we thought now would be a good time to shine a light on the shoe’s evolution through the years.

Although the 990 was released in 1982, the runner’s concept was hatched back in 1978. New Balance’s aim was to provide the perfect equilibrium between flexibility and support, and they achieved this through a catalogue of innovative processes. One of which involved creating the upper with a technique known as slip-lasting. This required finishing the shoe with a single seam and then steaming it into shape. Underfoot, the 990’s midsole was embedded with a polyurethane footbed coined as ‘Motion Control Device’ – a design feature which remains present in some of NB’s current runners today.

New Balance V2

16 years later, the 990v2 arrives with a repurposed upper and a sole unit injected with fresh technology. ABZORB – which consists of a foam cushioning and compression set, featuring DuPont™ Engage® and slip-resistant rubber combined with a soft midsole and insert – spanned across the entire length of the legendary ENCAP sole before protruding out at the heel in a transparent bubble. The process of repurposing the OG became a consistent theme throughout the 99x series.  

New Balance V3

To celebrate the OG’s 30th birthday, New Balance rolled out the premium 990v3. The iteration flaunted a little more mesh between its luxe pigskin panelling, and perforations to the toe box meant the 990 was more breathable. The update had more of a functional aesthetic compared to its predecessors, highlighted by the diamond design to the tongue and ribbed N logo. Looks aside, technology remained relatively unchanged inside the midsole.

New Balance V4

In 2016 the legendary 4th iteration of the 990 entered the scene. Bringing together elements from its older siblings, the pair enlarged the famous ‘N’ logo and layers of mesh were accented with leather and pigskin to the contours. Downstairs, the ENCAP sole unit was built from a polyurethane ring with a strong EVA core, delivering the optimum balance between cushioning and stability.

New Balance V5

For this latest update, the 990v5 boasts a new TPU power strap for additional structural support around the ankle area, and a premium pigskin suede upper accented with reflective underlay panels. The first version to hit shelves this year comes in the brand’s signature shade of slate grey. These toned down releases have featured on releases for decades now, showcasing just how good the shoes are without the need of having to throw a myriad of colours across the whole silhouette.

And there we have it, every iteration of the legendary 990 from its inception in 1982. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks as we provide details of our size? worldwide exclusive iteration of the 990 v5…

Back to Top