The Iconic Edition
News
|3 May|5 mins

997H: New Balance Updates an All-Timer

New Balance streamlines the beloved 997 to create the 997H.
Sneaker Freaker
3 May
Share:

Since its debut in the early 1980s, the 99x series has been positioned at the apex of the venerable New Balance lineup. And at the summit of the series itself? None other than the 997.

Originally introduced in 1990, the 997 has become the go-to silhouette amongst NB ‘heads thanks to its perfectly stacked heel, perfect panelling, and expertly measured proportions. It may be nearly 30 years old, but it’s a silhouette that remains unmatched for New Balance lovers; ask just about any New Balance collector which silhouette is their favourite, and nearly all of them will say it’s the 997.

Now NB have taken on the task of modernising the beloved icon for modern-day lifestyle-centric wear. And they’ve done just that, creating a fitting ode to the original that doesn’t sacrifice the timeless good looks of the OG.

So how did NB transform the 997 for the modern sneakerhead? First, a little history lesson.

News
|3 May|5 mins

997H: New Balance Updates an All-Timer

New Balance streamlines the beloved 997 to create the 997H.
Sneaker Freaker
3 May
Share:

Since its debut in the early 1980s, the 99x series has been positioned at the apex of the venerable New Balance lineup. And at the summit of the series itself? None other than the 997.

Originally introduced in 1990, the 997 has become the go-to silhouette amongst NB ‘heads thanks to its perfectly stacked heel, perfect panelling, and expertly measured proportions. It may be nearly 30 years old, but it’s a silhouette that remains unmatched for New Balance lovers; ask just about any New Balance collector which silhouette is their favourite, and nearly all of them will say it’s the 997.

Now NB have taken on the task of modernising the beloved icon for modern-day lifestyle-centric wear. And they’ve done just that, creating a fitting ode to the original that doesn’t sacrifice the timeless good looks of the OG.

So how did NB transform the 997 for the modern sneakerhead? First, a little history lesson.

01 / 03

New Balance

New Balance

New Balance

99x Lineage

The 99x series is home to arguably the most popular and iconic New Balances ever – including the beloved 997. Kicking off in 1983, the 99x series debuted with the 990 and not only offered a number of industry firsts, but laid the groundwork for the foundation on which the brand crafted future runners. Decked out in a premium combination of suede and mesh, the 990 employed everything from a moulded Motion Control device and a dual-density midsole – for the best in cushioning and support – to a Vibram ‘SuperFlex’ blown rubber outsole. The kicks even became the first shoe to ever feature 3M’s then-new reflective synthetic for better visibility during night-time running.

The result of all that tech? The world’s first runner to cross the $100 mark.

Despite the price point, the 990 sold like gangbusters, and New Balance followed up the OG 99x entry with the 995 in 1986. The first-ever silhouette to be helmed by legendary NB product designer Steven Smith (who would go on to design the 997), the 995 tweaked the 990’s winning formula by replacing the original die-cut SuperFlex sole with a new moulded design. The 995 also added a pre-moulded ENCAP unit for better cushioning distribution.

After the 995, Smith and NB introduced the 996 in 1988 and gave the 99x series its biggest overhaul yet. Smith added suede panels at the rear of the shoe that followed the diagonal lines of the redesigned heel clip for a decidedly more aggressive look. A slimmed-down logo also joined the club, adding to the 99x’s new refined visual appeal. Last but not least? A reworked rubber outsole that utilised a central pod of lighter and softer rubber for the best 99x cushioning yet.

If NB fans were impressed by the 995 and 996 however, they hadn’t seen anything yet.

New Balance

The Original 997

As NB entered the 1990s, the 99x series needed to keep up with the tech-savvy times and the latest entry was just the sneaker for the job – improving on the likes of the 995 and 996 in every way imaginable.

A sneaker that looked fast even when standing still, the 997 was defined by an elevated heel pad that was accompanied by a radical new polyurethane shell housing dual-density ENCAP inserts. C-CAP also ran from the medial side of the midfoot to the toe, while removable arch supports further aided in the cushioning progression. To cap-off the tooling, NB utilised a tri-density outsole that came complete with a heavy-duty XAR-1000 carbon rubber heel pad for grip and durability.

Naturally, the 997 needed a modernised upper to match its tooling, and Smith’s design didn’t disappoint. Dimpled leather was joined by the 99x series’ go-to suede/mesh combo, while Hytrel thermoplastic collar lockdown straps not only added a dose of visual flair, but acted as a sway bar connecting the top eyelets to the heel counter for added stability.

Ultimately, the 997 was the perfect blend of striking good looks and modern tech, producing a form-meets-function creation that NB have arguably yet to top.

New Balance

The 997H Modernises a Classic

Fast-forward to 2019 and New Balance have put the perfect modern spin on the iconic 997 with the 997H.

A streamlined take on the 997, the 997H tweaks the OG in the best way possible to offer the perfect lifestyle-driven iteration of the silhouette. While the shoe’s sleek upper remains, it ditches the strip of leather across the heel, while swapping out the pebbled leather of the original for additional mesh at the tongue and collar. The moulded Hytrel straps have also been changed to leather, complete with embossed details to replicate the look of the original. Last but not least is far lighter tooling – complete with bolder midsole branding – that revamps the original ENCAP/C-CAP combo by way of GCEVA and a contemporary outsole profile.

All in all, it’s the perfect update to the original, and one that expertly builds on the OG without compromising its all-timer status.

New Balance

New Balance

New Balance

New Balance

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