New Balance 990: A Comprehensive Comparison from V1 to V6


Hey sneaker enthusiasts! Today, I’ve got something special for you – a deep dive into the New Balance 990 series, from the OG V1 all the way to the latest V6.

I’ve been fielding a ton of questions about how the 990V6 stacks up against its predecessors, so I thought, why not break it all down for you in one go?

The mission here is simple: I want this to be your go-to guide if you’re eyeing your first pair of 990s. No super intricate details, just the basics that matter most to us sneaker lovers: the looks, the fit & sizing, the comfort, and of course, the materials. So, buckle up – we’re about to unravel the evolution of the 990 series!


Discover the answer to whether you can effectively run in the New Balance 990v6 in our related article.

New Balance 990v6 vs v1, v2, v3, v4, v5

What a ride it’s been with the New Balance 990 series! From the timeless V1 to the cutting-edge V6, each iteration has woven its unique tale of style, comfort, and innovation.

It’s not just about sneakers; it’s about a journey through iconic designs, evolving fits, and the unmistakable comfort that’s become synonymous with the 990s.

As we step through the lineage, it’s a testament to how a series can not only stand the test of time but also continually raise the bar. Here’s to the incredible journey of lacing up in the 990s – a tale of stepping out in style, one V at a time.

Alright, let’s dive into the OG, the 990V1 – the trailblazer that hit the scene in 1982, marking the inception of the iconic 990 series.


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New Balance 990v6 vs. v1

These were the pioneers and the first sneakers to retail at $100, setting the standard for premium running sneakers. Now, when we stack up the V1 against the V6, material-wise, they’re cut from the same cloth – a blend of suede and mesh.

But what sets the V1 apart, though, is that vintage aesthetic. It screams retro, making it the go-to for those who love that old-school vibe in their kicks. Unlike the reflective extravaganza on the V6, the V1 keeps it low-key, with reflective material only gracing the heel.

Now, on to the cushioning – no mind-blowing tech here; it’s your classic EVA foam with ENCAP, sans branding. It leans on the firmer side, unlike the cushier V6.

Speaking of sizing, I’m a regular size 9, but with the V1, I went a half size down, and they’re a flawless fit.

Here’s a quick look at how the V1 and V6 look on feet.


Now, let’s take a stride into the 990v2 territory – a release that marked 1998, creating a substantial gap between the V1 and V2.

New Balance 990v6 vs. v2

One striking difference you’ll spot between the V2 and V6 is the V2’s restrained use of mesh compared to the mesh-heavy V6. However, the V2 compensates with an air of sophistication, presenting itself as more of a lifestyle or casual sneaker. It leans towards a sleeker aesthetic compared to the performance-oriented V6, embodying a different facet of New Balance’s design prowess.

The 990v2 introduces reflective materials on the iconic N logos, a first for the 990 series. The design journey from the V1 to the V2 takes a significant leap, showcasing distinct and evolved looks for both sneakers.

When it comes to the cushioning system on the V2, these do feature ABZORB which is the first time that that’s been introduced on a 990 model, unlike the 990 V6 that does feature ENCAP and that great FuelCell technology that’s found in their premium running shoes.

The ABZORB technology adds a distinctive touch to the V2’s comfort dynamics and emphasizes a unique blend that showcases the evolving innovations within the iconic 990 series.

In terms of softness, the V2’s midsole leans towards the firmer side, echoing a sensation similar to the 990v1, unlike the V6 which is more on the softer end of the spectrum.


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When it comes to sizing with the V2 compared to the V6, here’s where things get a little bit tricky.

Because the toe box seemed a tad narrow and I wanted to avoid that cramped feeling, I was always going with my regular size 9. However, ever since Teddy Santis took the creative reins of the Made in the USA line, there’s been a shift.

Now, I find that the 990V2s run a bit larger so I go a half size down for an 8.5 just like with the 990v6. It’s a journey through the evolving fit dynamics, and Teddy’s influence has added a layer of nuance to the sizing game.

Here’s a quick look at how the V2 looks on feet compared to the V6…


New Balance 990v6 vs. v3

The 990v3 holds a special place in the hearts of many, and I can’t help but agree with those who argue that it might just be the best 990 ever crafted. Having delved into the world of V3s extensively, I can attest – these sneakers just exude timeless excellence. New Balance truly hit the mark with this one.

Now, comparing the V3 to the V6, you’ll notice several similarities, particularly in the generous use of mesh. However, the V6 takes it a step further, especially around the toe box, making it slightly more prominent.

One of the standout upgrades from the V2 to the V3 was the infusion of additional mesh on this model. Another common ground between the V3 and the V6 lies in their ENCAP technology – a polyurethane rim with a core of EVA in the center.

But here’s where they diverge: the 990v3 boasts ABZORB on the midsole, a distinct foam material, whereas the 990v6 flaunts the cutting-edge FuelCell technology. Adding to the V3’s arsenal is the presence of a carbon fiber plate on the outsole, a feature that sets it apart from the V6

In terms of sizing between the two, I went with the half a size down for my regular size.

Let me show you how the v3s and the V6 look on feet v3…



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Now, let’s dive into the 990v4…

New Balance 990v6 vs. v4

 The 990v4 released in 2016, marking the first time New Balance proudly adorned the American flag on a 990. Placed boldly on the front of the tongue, it’s a distinctive touch absent in the V6.

The V4 boasts the familiar combination of suede and mesh, complemented by reflective materials on the N logos and the heel. Slip into this pair, and you’re in for a treat – it’s a supremely comfortable shoe, echoing the all-around comfort of the V3.

Compared to the v3, the cushioning system on the V4 feels very similar and also very similar to the V6 in general, but I do have to say that the V4 is growing on me as one of the most comfortable 990s. I used to say that the 990v5 was the most comfortable 990 that I own, but I got to say guys I think I prefer the V4 over the V5 in terms of the overall comfort. 

On the outsole, New Balance bids farewell to the carbon fiber plate present in the V3, replacing it with a sleek piano black material that elevates the shoe’s sophistication.

In terms of sizing, I went with the same size as the 990V6, opting for a half size down from my regular fit.

Now, let me give you a quick visual tour of how the V4 and V6 grace your feet…



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New Balance 990v6 vs. v5

The 990v5 definitely has a special place in my heart because this is the first 990 that I ever bought, but I also have to complain that because of this V5, I’ve been blowing away my pocket spending money on New Balance sneakers, but that’s not your problem, that’s my problem.

But let me tell you guys, the 990v5 is a well-rounded sneaker. Comfort is its forte, and choosing the V5 over the V6 is a decision you won’t regret. Because the V5 was a bit familiar to V4 owners, it was probably pretty hard to justify buying another sneaker that looks so similar.

However, when you compare the V5 to the V6, the V5 definitely has a more mature look and looks more of a lifestyle sneaker in general in my opinion compared to the V6 because of its design and lines that it has going. Plus, the V6 definitely looks more athletic compared to the V5.

The American flag on the tongue remains a proud feature, and they’ve introduced Ortholite insoles for that extra comfort.

One key change – New Balance decided to get rid of this plastic TPU material that the V5s have around the ankle collar. I know a lot of people weren’t a fan of that and that material actually has a tendency to yellow over time, though that never bothered me. But if it bothers you, it’s worth considering.


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But one thing that I definitely noticed on the V5 and I probably didn’t notice when I first got these is that even though I went with the same size as the V6, I have been noticing that on the V5, my toe kind of touches the mudguard a little bit. It’s not that the V5 fits small, but as I’m walking, my big toe sort of touches that mudguard and it kind of bothers my nail a little bit where the V6 improved on the fit because the V6 has a longer toe box.

It’s very weird because the V5 and V4 look almost identical, especially in the toe box area, but I don’t experience that on the V4 so that’s the reason why now I find myself picking the V4 over the V5 in terms of overall comfort.

Here’s a quick look at how the V5 looks on feet compared to the V6…



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What is my favorite New Balance 990?

I know I’m going to get asked which was my favorite 990 and which was my least favorite. Let’s go…

My two favorite 990s of all time

So, back when I was a 990 newbie, I thought the V5 was my top pick. I mean, who wouldn’t with limited knowledge, right? Fast forward to now, after owning and extensively wearing all the models in various scenarios, I’ve joined the majority in declaring that the 990v3 and the 990v6 stand tall as the best 990s ever crafted. It’s not just about the aesthetics; the comfort game is strong.

Now, let’s talk collaborations – the V3s have seen some phenomenal partnerships and an array of stunning General Release (GR) colorways. Given the sheer brilliance brought to the table, I’ve got to hand it to the 990V3 as my ultimate favorite 990, purely based on the collaborative magic and those dope color options. Trust me; it’s a vibe worth experiencing.

Now, when it comes to the 990v6, I get it – for some, it might scream performance, and you’d rather preference might sway toward other 990s with a more mature vibe.

But as someone who embraces the runner’s spirit, I’m all about it. The fusion of that performance look and the inclusion of FuelCell, one of my favorite foams in the running shoe realm, hits the sweet spot for me. It’s not just a shoe; it’s a declaration of the runner’s passion woven into every stride.

But don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t use the 990v6 for some serious running efforts. I just use it for some really short runs around the house.


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My second & third favorite 990s

In terms of comfort, my runner-up is the 990v4, but when it comes to style, I’ve got to hand it to the V2. Personally, I find the V2 exudes a more mature and clean aesthetic – the kind of shoe you can rock for any occasion.

While the V4 nails it for gym sessions and casual wear, the V2’s versatility makes it my top choice when I want that refined look. It’s not just a sneaker; it’s a style statement that effortlessly adapts to various scenarios.

I hope New Balance starts pumping out more colorways in the V4 and we can see more collaboration, but on of my favorite collaborations are is the 990v4 Kith, United Arrows, and Sons colorways.


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My fifth favorite 990

It’s interesting how the 990v5 has shifted down in my personal 990 hierarchy. Owning and wearing all the models in various scenarios brought a new perspective.

The v5s took a hit primarily due to this peculiar sensation on my big toe. It’s not uncomfortable, just a noticeable difference compared to the feel after wearing the other 990s.

Maybe I need to go half size bigger to a 9.5, but I doubt it because the shoe doesn’t feel tight or small, adding a quirky twist to the situation. It’s a subtle adjustment in the ranking, but details matter when you’re navigating the world of 990s.


My least favorite 990

Finally, the V1 is my least favorite out of the pack. I’m not trying to bash the model because I really do like it because it has its merits, and I appreciate its cool retro vibe, but one of these had to be the last one, and unfortunately, it is the V1.

However, the midsole is very simple and very basic and the comfort doesn’t quite reach the stellar heights of its 990 counterparts.

Again, in the spirit of ranking, someone had to land at the bottom, and for me, it’s the V1 – a testament to the impressive lineup that even the “least favorite” has its charm within the 990 family.


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In conclusion, diving into the world of New Balance 990s has been an enlightening journey. From the iconic V1 to the V5 to the modern V6, each model brings its unique style and comfort to the table.

As I’ve explored and worn them in various settings, it’s clear that preferences may vary. But ultimately, the beauty lies in the diversity of this lineup, offering something for everyone.

So, whether you’re drawn to the retro appeal of the V1 or enamored with the performance-driven V6, the 990 series stands as a testament to timeless design and enduring comfort. The choice is yours, and that’s what makes the 990s an enduring force in the sneaker world.

About Eric Barber

Eric Barber is a happy father of two little angels, a husband, and a runner. He eats, sleeps, and dreams anything foot related: running shoes, walking shoes, sneakers, you name it. It all started when Eric was a shoe store specialist watching and fitting people's feet day in and day out.

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