Our verdict

The 6th version of the 990 series truly impressed us as a sneaker that incorporates cushioning tech from actual running shoes (hello, FuelCell foam). We were also amazed with this historic dad shoe's well-padded interiors, Goldilocks squishiness, and an astounding level of arch support. Proudly made in the USA, it is a pricey kick that, in our opinion, justifies every cent with premium materials and craftsmanship.

Pros

  • Unexpectedly lighter than average
  • Real suede and quality materials
  • Extra thick cushioning for all-day wear
  • Comfortable and springy FuelCell foam
  • Mind-blowing arch support and stability
  • Exceptionally hard-wearing outsole
  • Fantastic breathability
  • Well-padded all around
  • Six(!) widths available

Cons

  • Very delicate toebox mesh
  • A bit stiff

Audience verdict

86
Good!

Who should buy

We believe that the 990 v6 would be a perfect match for someone who:

  • wants a dad shoe vibe of the 990 series but with a modern twist;
  • values premium quality and craftsmanship of shoes that are made in the USA;
  • prefers casual kicks with the latest tech from running shoes (the v6 uses FuelCell foam for cushioning).

New Balance 990 v6 review

Who should NOT buy

The New Balance 990 v6 comes exceptionally close to being flawless. We believe that for most people the biggest drawback of this sneaker would be its price point.

With an MSRP of $200, it is nearly $80 more than the average sneaker! But luckily, New Balance has much more affordable silhouettes with a similar vibe. Have a look at the preceding 990 v3, the numerous color options of the 2002R, or the chunky beauty of the 9060.

New Balance 990 v6 lab test

Breathability

With suede layers all over it, the 990 v6 doesn't give the impression of a breathable sneaker. But get the shoe on and you will be convinced of the opposite.

The mesh panels on this sneaker did a fabulous job of letting the heat escape and keeping our feet refreshed throughout the day.

You can see how easily the smoke passes through the shoe's fabric in our in-house breathability test. On a 1-5 scale, where 5 is the most breathable, we confidently granted the highest score to the 990 v6. It is a summer-ready one for sure!

Just look at how thin and transparent the mesh parts of the upper are!

New Balance 990 v6 microscope

A closer look at them through our microscope revealed pretty large gaps in between the chain links. 

New Balance 990 v6 microscope upper

New Balance 990 v6

For comparison, let's take a look at the upper mesh on the original 990. That shoe had the lowest breathability score in the 990 collection.

New Balance 990 microscope upper

New Balance 990 v1

Test results
990 v6 5
Average 2.9
Compared to 53 sneakers
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Leather/Suede quality

With its above-average price tag and "Made in USA" claim, the 990 v6 calls for a thorough quality check.

To test whether the shoe's suede was real, we attempted to set it on fire with a butane torch. Luckily, the material didn't catch fire or melt away which only confirmed its genuineness.

Test results
990 v6 Real suede

Toebox durability

Keeping suede overlays to a minimum, New Balance made the 990 v6 highly breathable but also highly sensitive to abrasion in the toebox area.

The mesh fabric here is so thin and delicate that it was entirely blown by the touch of our Dremel.

After applying the tool's sandpaper tip for 12 seconds at a consistent speed (5K RPM) and force (3.2N), the sneaker ended up with a large see-through hole.

New Balance 990 v6 Toebox durability

It is quite common for a breathable shoe to fall short of upper durability. But it doesn't mean you can't find exceptions that have both!

The New Balance 1906R, for example, is a rear case of both great ventilation and durability.

Test results
990 v6 2
Average 3.8
Compared to 53 sneakers
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

Looking at the shoe's mesh inner lining, we didn't expect it to show better-than-average durability results.

After drilling the textile for 4 seconds at a 5K RPM speed, it showed some moderate wear and tear but nothing critical. Thus, we rated the shoe's heel padding durability with an average score of 3.

New Balance 990 v6 Heel padding durability
Test results
990 v6 3
Average 3.5
Compared to 53 sneakers
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

If you are annoyed by the premature outsole wear on your sneakers, the NB 990 v6 is about to turn that around.

New Balance 990 v6 outsole rubber

This sneaker inherits the extra hard Ndurance rubber from its predecessors for a good reason. Measuring its precise firmness with a durometer, we got a reading of 89.0 HC. It is one of the hardest rubbers we've seen in lifestyle sneakers.

And why does that matter? Harder materials tend to have better abrasion resistance as shown in our Dremel test below.

New Balance 990 v6 Outsole hardness
Test results
990 v6 89.0 HC
Average 85.3 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 53 sneakers
Number of shoes
72.9 HC
Outsole hardness
90.5 HC

Outsole durability

To put the shoe's outsole through its paces, we set the Dremel speed to the unforgiving 10K RPM.

We held the tool's relentless tip against the same spot for 22 seconds and then measured the newly formed dent with a tread gauge.

Showing a barely visible 1.0 mm of damage, we can confirm that the 990 v6 was built to last.

New Balance 990 v6 Outsole durability
Test results
990 v6 1.0 mm
Average 1.0 mm
Compared to 53 sneakers
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

Perhaps in an attempt to shave off some weight, New Balance went for a slightly thinner outsole in the 990 v6. But no need to worry, at 4.4 mm, it is thick enough to offer plenty of protection.

New Balance 990 v6 Outsole thickness
Test results
990 v6 4.4 mm
Average 5.6 mm
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
3.4 mm
Outsole thickness
12.5 mm

Weight

With the added padding and midsole foam, the 990 v6 happens to be visually heavier than it is.

New Balance 990 v6 laces

Let us reassure you of the shoe's amazing lightness by putting it on the scale. With a surprising weight of 12.9 oz (366g) in a men's US size 9, the v6 is not only an ounce lighter than average but also lighter than the preceding v5 (13.7 oz/388g)!

Even when wearing the shoe all day, we never felt dragged down by the v6.

New Balance 990 v6 Weight
Test results
990 v6 12.91 oz (366g)
Average 14.18 oz (402g)
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
8.54 oz (242g)
Weight
22.61 oz (641g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

With a caliper measurement of 39.1 mm, the 990 v6 turns out to have the thickest midsole in the 990 series. The OG shoe came in at 34.4 mm.

Aside from offering even more comfort and cushioning, the shoe also adds a few millimeters to the wearer's height.

New Balance 990 v6 Heel stack
Test results
990 v6 39.1 mm
Average 30.1 mm
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
18.2 mm
Heel stack
50.5 mm

Forefoot stack

The forefoot stack in the 990 v6 also turns out to be on the thicker side at 23.8 mm. It is a bit taller than average which may feel odd and disconnected for people used to low-profile sneakers like Adidas' Sambas and Superstars.

New Balance 990 v6 Forefoot stack
Test results
990 v6 23.8 mm
Average 19.0 mm
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
10.6 mm
Forefoot stack
28.3 mm

Drop

We couldn't help but notice that the 990 v6 felt more elevated under the heel, creating a 15.3 mm slope from the heel to the toes.

While this is a matter of personal preference, we must point out this higher-than-average measurement. Some people do enjoy the added cushion under the heel while others feel as though they are slightly sliding forward in sneakers like that.

But if you've worn New Balance's 550 (15.7 mm drop), this setup is going to feel familiar.

New Balance 990 v6 Drop
Test results
990 v6 15.3 mm
Average 11.2 mm
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
6.7 mm
Drop
22.6 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

The 6th 990 edition introduces one of the most dramatic updates in the series: the brand-new FuelCell cushioning. This foam migrated from NB's running footwear and is known by the athletes for its cloud-like characteristics. It is used in many elite, performance-oriented kicks from the brand.

We couldn't believe how much squishier and bouncier the 990 got thanks to the FuelCell! It feels nothing like the firm EVA of the first 990.

As our durometer shows, the FuelCell is notably softer with a reading of 28.3 HA. For reference, the v1 had a measurement of 35.0 HA (24% firmer).

New Balance 990 v6 Midsole softness
Test results
990 v6 28.3 HA
Average 29.4 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 44 sneakers
Number of shoes
15.0 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
60.0 HA

Insole thickness

As if a thick slab of FuelCell foam wasn't enough, New Balance also packed a generously padded insole into the 990 v6. According to our caliper, it is over a millimeter thicker than average at 6.6 mm!

New Balance 990 v6 Insole thickness
Test results
990 v6 6.6 mm
Average 5.5 mm
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
3.1 mm
Insole thickness
14.2 mm

Stability

Lateral stability test

Stability and arch support were ingrained into the 990 shoes from the very first edition back in 1982. As technologies evolved over the years, the 990 v6 (released in 2022) embodied the best practices in this department.

New Balance 990 v6 arch support

Testing the shoe's lateral stability with a side-to-side ankle movement, our jaws dropped on our shoes in amazement... The 990 v6 delivers some of the best support you can find in casual sneakers! In fact, it feels just as stable as the ASICS Gel Kayano 30, a running shoe dedicated to severe overpronation!

So if you have flat feet, overpronation (excessive inward rolling of the foot), plantar fasciitis, or any other condition that requires a strong arch support, the New Balance 990 v6 is one of the best sneakers you can get.

Torsional rigidity

The primary stabilizing component of the 990 v6 is of course the brand's proprietary ENCAP rim around the heel. Made of stiff polyurethane, it wraps around the rearfoot, clutches it firmly, and leaves no chance for awkward ankle rolls.

It added so much torsional rigidity to the sneaker that we could barely twist it in our manual test. On a 1-5 scale, where 5 is the stiffest, the 990 v6 clearly deserves the maximum 5.

New Balance 990 v6 ENCAP

Test results
990 v6 5
Average 3.5
Compared to 53 sneakers
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

But support doesn't end with the midsole. We found that the 990 v6 also made sure that our heels were securely held inside the heel cup.

Checking the shoe's heel counter stiffness with a squeeze-and-push test, we felt a good amount of rigidity. We rated it as 4 on a 1-5 stiffness scale.

Test results
990 v6 4
Average 3.2
Compared to 53 sneakers
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

The ensemble wouldn't be complete without a broad platform to step on. And the 990 v6 nails it again. We believe that it's almost impossible to lose balance in this aircraft carrier of a shoe.

We measured the widest area of the shoe's forefoot at 113.8 mm which is a few millimeters more than the average sneaker. Based on our lab data, very few sneakers extend past 112 mm.

New Balance 990 v6 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
990 v6 113.8 mm
Average 109.0 mm
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
100.0 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
121.0 mm

Midsole width in the heel

Forget about spilling your foot over the edge of a shoe. The 990 v6 comes with a wider-than-average platform in the heel too!

New Balance 990 v6 outsole

Our caliper measurement shows that the widest area of the heel measures 88.0 mm.

New Balance 990 v6 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
990 v6 88.0 mm
Average 83.5 mm
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
69.4 mm
Midsole width in the heel
103.1 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

Balancing stability and flexibility without compromising either is one of the eternal struggles in shoe design. The original 990 v1 release was extensively marketed as the shoe that got it right. And we found it to be true.

New Balance 990 v6 flexibility

However, in the 990 v6, the balance shifted more toward support, causing the shoe to lose some pliability.

Using a force gauge, we found that it takes more force to bend the v6 than it takes an average sneaker. To be precise, it takes 20% more! 

Test results
990 v6 27.4N
Average 24.0N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
5.8N
Stiffness
60.5N

Size and fit

Internal length

On its official website, New Balance states that the 990 v6 runs large and recommends "ordering down from your normal size."

New Balance 990 v6 Internal length

Having measured the length of the shoe ourselves, we can subscribe to that statement. According to NB's size chart, the length of 276.1 mm corresponds to the men's US size 9.5 which is bigger than the US 9 we got.

Getting at least half a size smaller than your regular size is a good idea.

Test results
990 v6 276.1 mm
Average 271.9 mm
Compared to 50 sneakers
Number of shoes
265.3 mm
Internal length
280.1 mm

Toebox width at the widest part

New Balance never skimps on toebox space.

Taking measurements of the 990 v6, our caliper showed 100.2 mm in the widest part of the forefoot. This is a tiny bit wider than average but is ideal for medium-width feet.

New Balance 990 v6 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
990 v6 100.2 mm
Average 99.1 mm
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
91.6 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
107.7 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

We repeated the measurement where the big toe normally ends and got 77.4 mm. That is also a tad bit wider than average, proving that there is no aggressive tapering of the shoe.

But the best news is that the NB 990 v6 can fit any foot shape on the planet by being available in 6 different widths, from X-Narrow to XX-Wide.

New Balance 990 v6 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
990 v6 77.4 mm
Average 74.9 mm
Compared to 53 sneakers
Number of shoes
63.7 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
83.0 mm

Tongue: gusset type

The shoe's tongue is wide and well-padded which sort of eliminates the need for the gussets in the first place.

New Balance 990 v6 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
990 v6 None

Comfort

Tongue padding

Unlike the OG shoe, the more recent versions of the 990 (v6 included) come with pretty generous in-shoe padding.

Measuring the v6's tongue, our caliper showed 10.2 mm of thickness which is a bit puffier than average.

New Balance 990 v6 Tongue padding
Test results
990 v6 10.2 mm
Average 9.2 mm
Compared to 54 sneakers
Number of shoes
1.0 mm
Tongue padding
38.4 mm

Heel tab

Despite the absence of a pull tab, we found it easy to slide into the 990 v6. That is thanks to the shoe's collar shape.

New Balance 990 v6 Heel tab
Test results
990 v6 None

Removable insole

Need to wear a custom orthotic? This is not a problem at all as the shoe's stock insole can be removed in a second.

New Balance 990 v6 Removable insole
Test results
990 v6 Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

It looks like there are more reflective elements on the 990 v6 than there are on any of the previous editions. Front, side, and back - you stay visible from every angle!

Test results
990 v6 Yes