No sneaker looks quite as nice as the all time classic New Balance 997 on your feet. But not everyone can shell out ~200$ for some sexy sneakers they only wear during a 30 minute jog twice a week. And that’s where the New Balance 997h comes in; chopping the price in half! The 997h sets out to retain the magic of the classic sneaker whilst having a regard for your pocket.
If you aren’t familiar with the New Balance naming conventions, then you should know that the 997 is a pair of the New Balance ‘XX90’ series. This means that it is supposed to be a lightweight model made mainly for speed and distance running. Though, I’d argue that this model serves a variety of functions.
The Classic: Redefined
The New Balance 997 remains one of the most popular and most comfortable sneakers to this day; actually the 990 series in itself has a cult following. According to New Balance officials, it was favored by Steve Jobs, and has also been worn by the actors Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner and Hilary Duff. Hipsters. Though, it’s not as much of a dad shoe as something like the New Balance 992. So, why did New Balance come out with a new variant of the classic shoe in 2019?
Simple. The 997 carries the hefty 200$ price tag while the New Balance 997h cuts the weight in half as it starts at 90$. This allows New Balance to cater to a different audience; the audience that buys sneakers below the $100 range. If you identify with this audience, then the 997h might be the perfect sneaker for you!
The 997h sets out to retain all the iconic qualities of the classic 997 whilst compensating for it’s lower price tag. And it mostly succeeds except in a few areas. Let’s discuss this in detail.
The Meaty Details
The New Balance 997h really knocks it out of the park in this department. It really captures the essence of not just the classic shoe but the 90s (the years in which the 997 came out) themselves. It has some very vibrant colors that are futuristic and it has the whole retro vibe to it; especially in the pink and white color scheme. It has the low-angle-nosedive-taking toe box, which is the popular aesthetic nowadays. This gives it a very streamlined look, combined with the vibrant color palette it stands out in comparison to other popular shoes.
As for the materials, the most of it is covered with synthetic leather (which also makes up the toe box), mesh which allows airflow and a few rubber bits. Yes it isn’t hand-made, and the leather definitely feels ‘mass produced’. So, not exactly the most exotic materials but they are still pretty neat for the price.
One of things New Balance is known for is comfort. And I’m pleased to say that they did not fail to deliver in the 997h. These pair of kicks are very comfy and also very airy. Although, due to the low price tag, the quality of the materials is not up to par with the original. However, that’s not to say they’re bad; they’re still more comfy than some of their competitors, but they’re not the pinnacle of comfort, that’s for sure.
This shoe is manufactured in Asia and if you are familiar with New Balance shoes then you would know that the quality of the shoes made in Asia are not up to par with the ones manufactured in America or UK. It is not hand-made sadly, and thus, it cannot compare with some of the mainline New Balance releases, but that’s not to say it isn’t well made in it’s own right; especially when compared to it’s competition.
One thing that is unique about the shoe is that it uses a new retooled ‘RevLite mid sole’ which is plenty thick and much lighter than the 997’s mid sole. It is not as thick as a 997’s mid sole but still pretty comfortable. This results in the shoes feeling much lighter on your feet and personally, I dig that.
It also has a raised heel which generally makes it more comfortable. People with plantar fasciitis have reported that the shoes have sufficient heel support, which lets them stand on hard concrete floors for hours without pain. This increases the viability of the shoes. They are not only casual shoes but can also function as work shoes.
The New Balance 997h is the ‘jack of all trades’ of sneakers; the best bang for your buck! If you can afford the New Balance 997, then by all means, grab it instead but for those who prefer a more budget friendly shoe, this is an excellent alternative. The pair retains the ‘feel’ of the original 997 accompanying a vibrant retro vibe. It looks fantastic with its defined streamline shape and stand out color palette. And it is comfortable and lightweight to wear and run around in. All that for less than $100!