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New Balance 990v5 Review

New Balance 990v5 has cred among celebs and dads alike—should you get the $185 shoe, too?

Pair of grey New Balance 990v5 sneakers, father and daughter sitting together at table in a pair of NB 990v5 sneakers. Credit: New Balance / Reviewed / Marissa Miller

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  1. New Balance 990v5 (Women's)

    Pros

    • Vast size range

    • Excellent bounce

    • Roomy toe box

    Cons

    • Run large

When I wrote about celebrity-approved New Balance sneakers last year, I was hardly surprised to discover how devout a star-studded following the brand boasts. For the last several decades, they’ve been crafting podiatrist-recommended running sneakers that catapulted in popularity with the rise of the "dad shoe" trend.

As my own writing often influences me to buy things, I grabbed a pair of New Balance 990v5s because I, too, wanted to look like an unbothered off-duty model and A-list celebrity who dresses like a civilian, à la Kaia Gerber, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, and Kourtney Kardashian. I’ve been wearing them regularly for the last six months to determine if they’re really worth the nearly $185 price tag.

What is the New Balance 995?

Grey pair of New Balance 990v5 sneakers.
Credit: New Balance

The 990v5 is a sporty and fashionable staple.

Founded in 1906 by William J. Riley, New Balance Arch Support Company was launched to produce—you guessed it—orthopedic arch support inserts. The Irish immigrant stipulated that his technology improved foot pronation (caving in at the ankle), thus promoting better balance, hence the brand’s name.

The 990v5 is the flagship New Balance shoe adored by celebrities and streetwear pundits alike. It comes in women's whole and half sizes 5 to 13 and men's whole and half sizes 7 to 16 in gray, black, and navy, and in six widths.

What I like about New Balance 990v5

New Balance 990v5 on the feet of a father and daughter.
Credit: Marissa Miller / Reviewed

The original 99X was Steve Jobs’ sneaker of choice back when they launched in 1982. My dad, an accountant with more orthopedic issues than he can count, has the biggest Steve Jobs energy on this side of the equator. Sharing a shoe with those two legends makes me feel like I have my life together in a meaningful way.

The shoes boast a thick foam collar, an element I appreciate given that I walk everywhere and experience severe cramping without ample ankle support. Unlike its predecessor, the 990v4, the v5 features a plastic panel that promotes lateral ankle support, which is designed to help prevent strains during agility movements. The suede and mesh upper provides a balance of good looks and breathability, which works for me because my feet sweat a lot.

The brand also uses its lightweight foam and polyurethane midsole to reduce impact on the joints and provide a slight bounce to your step. As someone who prefers to travel to any given destination with the least amount of effort in the shortest amount of time, I find these inserts to yield a more efficient stride. The 990v5 has a roomier toe box than its predecessor as well. Because of this, I’m able to freely wiggle my toes around, which is a welcome departure from my usual go-tos, Nike Air Max 90 sneakers. My bunions also have room to breathe in the 990v5s, helping prevent foot pain and blisters.

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I appreciate the light feel of the shoes. They weigh 13.7 ounces—about a tenth of an ounce heavier than the previous model. Though not the lightest as far as training shoes go, they didn't feel like they'd weigh me down during agile movements that require being swift on your feet, like running, sprinting, dancing, or cross-training. For the record: The store where I bought my pair of 990v5s from only had regular width in stock, but I would've preferred a narrow fit, knowing that these sneakers stretch through wear. Had my pair fit securely enough, I could see these kicks helping me hit personal fitness records.

I'd be remiss to talk 990v5s without mentioning their endless styling options. I can as easily rock them with flared pants and a button-down sweater jacket as I can with a midi cotton skirt and graphic tee or baggy dress pants and a crew neck sweater. I opted for the gray colorway precisely because they’re the easiest to style.

New Balance first released its 990 sneakers the same year Nike first dropped its iconic Air Force 1’s—in 1982. At around $100 each—a pretty penny at the time—streetwear fans deemed them an attractive investment, which partly explains their popularity within hip-hop culture. As a lover of hip-hop music and a long-time dancer, I’m on board with any means to nonverbally express that facet of my identity. I like the way that wearing 990v5s operates as an inside joke or signal among the in-the-know community—when I see a fellow person my age wearing them, I start to think about all our potentially shared values and interests.

What I don’t like about New Balance 990v5

It’s tough to provide a fair review of the 990v5s because the pair I bought is too big on me. The store clerk determined my exact foot measurement using a 3D foot scanner that measures foot width, length, and girth, and then matches that data with your ideal shoe size. I’m usually a size 6, but the store clerk convinced me to go for the 7 due to the scanner's results and to cushion my ever-widening bunions.

They fit decently when I tried them on at the store but have since stretched out considerably. I made the error of buying them at the end of the day when my feet were already swollen from several hours of walking, and I should have listened to reviews that suggest they are made big so you should size down. The result? My feet now swim in them to the point of ankle instability that no amount of thick collar foam or pronation-controlling plastic panels can offset. I nearly twisted my ankle in them during a dance practice. It’s only when I wear thick socks that the shoes fit, which negates the breathable mesh that drew me to the shoe in the first place. When I tighten the laces, they often stretch back out, requiring me to frequently pause what I’m doing to re-tie them. Of course, had I gotten the right size, or if I had wider feet, this may not have been the case.

Finally, I don’t like what the 990v5’s have unearthed in me: I’m a sellout. Would I have purchased these $184.99 sneakers had I not seen them on several of my favorite celebrities? Would I have given them a second glance if I didn’t see them on hip young professionals around my neighborhood? Probably not.

Are New Balance 990v5 sneakers worth it?

New Balance 990v5
Credit: New Balance

While they might not be for everyone, 990v5s provide endless styling opportunities.

If you suffer from any orthopedic issues, the 990v5 could be compatible with your lifestyle. My dad, who suffers from plantar fasciitis, ankle instability, a meniscus tear, arthritis in the knee, a herniated disc, and lower back nerve issues had his physical therapist give them the green light. Still, you should talk to your healthcare provider before making the investment on a pair for yourself.

On the other hand, if you’re into collecting iconic sneakers regardless of price, the 990v5s make for a solid bet due to their nostalgic-meets-contemporary aesthetic. But if you’re anything like me—someone who owns so many sneakers that she barely gets to wear them all—the 990v5s might collect dust in your closet. I don’t believe they were a wise investment for me, but I can see why they might just be the perfect shoe for someone else.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

  1. New Balance 990v5 (Women's)

    Pros

    • Vast size range

    • Excellent bounce

    • Roomy toe box

    Cons

    • Run large

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