New Balance’s 990 Remains One Of The Finest Sneakers Ever Created

Randy Lai
Randy Lai



Some 40 years after it first exploded onto streets all over America, New Balance’s 990 series is stepping into its sixth generation in the guise of the 990v6 – a shoe that’s very much in keeping with the brand’s original (and totally modest) pledge to make the best running shoes on the planet. Just casually.

When the inaugural 990 made its debut – following a 5-year development curve – it was nothing short of a gamechanger in the world of sneakers. Priced at over $300 (at a time when the market for premium athletic footwear was still in its infancy), the 990 justified this price-tag by doing exactly what New Balance had tasked it with: offering customers a runner crafted in the good old US of A, with a then-unrivalled combination of support and flexibility.

The ‘990v1’, as it’s now known by historians, achieved this blend of superlative performance by fusing multiple innovations: including an upper that was slip-lasted; and soles made with a proprietary stabilisation technology New Balance had developed called ‘Motion Control’.

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Since then, the 990v1’s legacy has been carried forward by a rich progression of new designs along the way, incorporating innovative technology and aesthetic refinements (often embodied in the input of like-minded collaborators such as JJJJound) into the mix. Yet even by those standards, the 990v6 embodies one of the greatest leaps forward in the eponymous series’ overarching design: pairing the 990 DNA back to its most essential characteristics, with performance being front and centre.

In that sense, there’s something pleasingly throwback about the 990v6. The design cribs a lot (no doubt intentionally) from the previous 990v5 execution: combined mesh/suede uppers in a serene palette of anthracite and lupine greys recall the tagline declaring the shoe’s universal popularity among “supermodels in London and dads in Ohio”; while smaller, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them details (e.g. the reduced suede panels) speak to the brand’s fixation on making this, more than ever, a 990 you’ll want to go running in.

On that note: performance technology accounts for the major reason why the 990v6 can be considered such a drastic progression of the existing 990 DNA. For the first time ever, New Balance’s designers have incorporated the brand’s trademark ‘FuelCell’ support into the 990 – a massive technological leap that is spoken about by sneakerheads in the same terms as the addition of ABZORB to the 990v2 in 1998. In other words, it’s a huge deal: adding a “propulsive” footfall to the complementary (and already well-documented) durability of the ENCAP midsole.

Even when you’re not hitting the track at breakneck speed, the 990v6’s carefully tweaked aesthetic (made all the more striking in greyed-out New Balance ‘corporate colours’) ensures that there’s plenty of incentive to keep these runners heavy in the rotation. Micro-perforated details – a hallmark of the v3, v4, and v5 runners – return once again; and are used here to illustrate the various textures of nubuck and suede that are so vital to giving the 990v6 an unmistakable presence in the open streets. It’s a truly bulletproof style: somewhere between the retro sensibilities of New Balance’s recent MADE endeavours and the pure, almost ‘proof of concept’ bliss of the 990v1.

It’d almost be too much of a good thing – that is if it wasn’t meant to be the ultimate runner for everybody under the sun. Mission accomplished, we’d say.

The 990v6 launched in November 2022 and is due for a re-release on the 4th of March 2023 at

This article is sponsored by New Balance. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Boss Hunting.

Randy Lai
Following 6 years in the trenches covering consumer luxury across East Asia, Randy joins Boss Hunting as the team's Commercial Editor. His work has been featured in A Collected Man, M.J. Bale, Soho Home, and the BurdaLuxury portfolio of lifestyle media titles. An ardent watch enthusiast, boozehound and sometimes-menswear dork, drop Randy a line at [email protected].



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