Our verdict

Budget-friendliness takes a spotlight with the 997H from New Balance. We love it because the New Balance 997H maintains the visual aesthetic of the OG's. Besides making it look pretty, we have discovered in the lab that this sneaker's use of a mix of materials also gives it amazing durability and function.

Pros

  • Sleek dad shoe
  • Amazingly durable
  • Affordable version of 997
  • Retro vibes
  • True to size
  • Feels light to the foot
  • Easy to style

Cons

  • Not so breathable
  • So-so stability

Audience verdict

90
Good!

Who should buy

Days of wear-testing and lab assessments led us to conclude that the New Balance 997H is greatly suitable for the following:

  • sneakerheads who are OK wearing leather since this shoe is made of real suede
  • buyers who are on the lookout for trainers that are durable from the upper down to the outsole
  • walkers who want light shoes
  • wearers with normal-sized feet

New Balance 997H buy

Who should NOT buy

We've established through our experience and lab assessments that the New Balance 997H is not breathable. Wearers with sweaty feet should stay away from this shoe. They are better off with the New Balance 237, which is also cheaper than the 997H. If they are willing to try other brands, the ASICS Gel Lyte III is also a good alternative.

When it comes to stability, we think that the 997H is so-so at best. The New Balance 480 might be a better pick for stability.

New Balance 997H spreadout

Breathability

The 997H had that distinct New Balance look, and we were all there for it... if only it wasn't too toasty. This sneaker is really NOT a living thing because it really doesn't know how to breathe! Properly, that is.

We performed the usual smoke test on this shoe, and it was too regrettable to watch that the smoke was only able to escape (and slowly, at that!) through the tongue. It would be a crime to give this sneaker a rating better than 2 out of 5 for ventilation!

The 997H had almost the same look and structure as the New Balance 57/40 (rating is 4 out of 5), but the latter allowed smoke to escape even through the toebox. The video above clearly shows what we mean.

When placed over a light source, it's quite shocking to see that light was only able to pass through the lace holes. 

New Balance 997H upper microscope

What we saw under the microscope convinced us that good breathability was never the goal of the NB 997H. The material used for the toebox appeared to be multilayered, with every possible vent tightly covered as if a pretty dangerous criminal was jailed inside. 

New Balance 997H Breathability
Test results
997H 2
Average 3
Compared to 45 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Leather/Suede quality

The tightly closed-off material only covered the top of the toebox. The rest of the shoe was made of a velvety material which we found to be genuine suede back in the lab. 

We torched a portion of the sidewall, and it immediately smelt like burning hair. We probed the burnt area with our awl and we saw that the material remained relatively intact except of course for the ugly discoloration. Only real suede has this kind of effect when burned.

Test results
997H Real suede

Toebox durability

Being made of real suede, we never doubted the shoe's durability. And we were not disappointed. Not even in the slightest bit.

Our aggressive Dremel drilling on the toebox barely scratched its surface. No wonder no signs of wear and tear were seen even if we carelessly bumped the New Balance 997H on various surfaces during our wear tests.

It was a perfect 5 for us as far as toebox durability was concerned. Compare the 997H with the New Balance 530, which got a 1 out of 5, in the photo below and the sturdiness of the former becomes even more apparent.

New Balance 997H Toebox durability
Test results
997H 5
Average 3.7
Compared to 45 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

We were glad that the suede outer layer was not the only sturdy thing. The heel padding was quite resistant as well, and it never faltered as our skin or socks rubbed against it during aggressive movements.

In the lab, even our high-pressure Dremel became a laughingstock when it barely left a mark on the heel padding. The New Balance 997H remained immaculate. Under similar circumstances, NB 237 ended up with a gaping hole and just gave up the ghost!

New Balance 997H Heel padding durability
Test results
997H 5
Average 3.4
Compared to 45 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

Our HC durometer gave the outsole a hardness rating of 86.8, making it just as hard as the average outsole. Experience-wise, we did not notice anything unusual, either.

New Balance 997H Outsole hardness
Test results
997H 86.8 HC
Average 85.1 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 45 trainers
Number of shoes
72.9 HC
Outsole hardness
90.3 HC

Outsole durability

The New Balance 997H is another proof that hardness is not always equal to durability. While the outsole had average hardness, its durability was off the charts!

Our Dremel drilling on the outsole resulted only in 0.5 mm damage. This is only half of what we normally see in a typical sneaker's outsole after going through the same amount of abuse.

New Balance 997H Outsole durability
Test results
997H 0.5 mm
Average 1.0 mm
Compared to 45 trainers
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

At 4.9 mm thick, the outsole was of average thickness.

New Balance 997H Outsole thickness
Test results
997H 4.9 mm
Average 5.5 mm
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
3.4 mm
Outsole thickness
8.2 mm

Weight

We have to say; the New Balance 997H truly felt light on the feet. Our steps were effortless and smooth because of its lightness. 

We were surprised to learn this NB sneaker was only slightly lighter than average at 12.8 ounces or 364 grams.

New Balance 997H Weight
Test results
997H 12.84 oz (364g)
Average 14.14 oz (401g)
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
8.54 oz (242g)
Weight
22.61 oz (641g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

We did not have any bad experience with the midsole. It wasn't too thick that we were already worrying about stability. And it wasn't too thin that it lacked impact protection either.

True enough, our caliper measured the heel height to be only 27.7 mm, a number quite close to the average.

New Balance 997H Heel stack
Test results
997H 27.7 mm
Average 30.0 mm
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
18.2 mm
Heel stack
41.8 mm

Forefoot stack

Just like the heel, the forefoot part of the midsole is also as thick as the average at 17.8 mm.

New Balance 997H Forefoot stack
Test results
997H 17.8 mm
Average 19.1 mm
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
10.6 mm
Forefoot stack
28.3 mm

Drop

Transitioning from heel to toe was not a problem because the difference in height between the forefoot and the rearfoot wasn't so pronounced. 

Based on our calculations in the lab, the New Balance 997H had a heel-to-toe drop of 9.9 mm.

New Balance 997H Drop
Test results
997H 9.9 mm
Average 10.9 mm
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
6.7 mm
Drop
17.2 mm

Midsole softness

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

Based on our experience, the midsole delivered what was necessary. It was firm enough to ensure lasting stability. It was also soft enough to ensure we were comfortable even after walking long distances.

Our HA durometer measured its softness to be 32.5 which is more or less equal to the average.

New Balance 997H Midsole softness
Test results
997H 32.5 HA
Average 28.8 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 36 trainers
Number of shoes
15.0 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
46.4 HA

Insole thickness

The insole was of average thickness. Our caliper measured it to be 4.7 mm thick.

New Balance 997H Insole thickness
Test results
997H 4.7 mm
Average 5.5 mm
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
3.1 mm
Insole thickness
13.9 mm

Stability

Lateral stability test

Though it was not the best, the New Balance 997H still delivered enough lateral stability to keep us on the footbed. From its moderately responsive sidewalls and typically wide platform, many features worked in synergy to stabilize our steps.

Of course, better picks exist as far as lateral stability is concerned, and the Adidas Alphaboost V1 is easily one of them.

Torsional rigidity

We could say that twist protection was satisfactory with the NB 997H. 

Back in the lab, the whole structure of the sneaker showed only moderate resistance to our twisting. We gladly gave it a score of 3 over 5 for torsional rigidity.

Test results
997H 3
Average 3.4
Compared to 45 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

This sneaker, we feel, owed much of its stability to the secure clasp of its heel counter. The rearfoot surely couldn't go anywhere because of how arrested it felt while we were wearing the New Balance 997H.

We gave the heel counter a good squeeze in the lab, and its resistance to it was quite intense. We had to sweat a lot before it started to yield to the pressure that we applied. A perfect 5; no other score befitted such a performance.

Test results
997H 5
Average 3.2
Compared to 45 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

The footprints left by the New Balance 997H were not overly wide or painfully narrow. Our caliper measured the forefoot to be 111.4 mm wide.

New Balance 997H Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
997H 111.4 mm
Average 108.4 mm
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
100.0 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
121.0 mm

Midsole width in the heel

Just like the forefoot, the heel area was just as wide as the average at 81.3 mm. 

Now, did the averageness of the platform widths cause any problems? Not at all! They were enough to contain our feet and ensure that our steps felt stable. The NB 997H was one of those shoes that convinced us that stability was not all about size, how the parts were implemented or configured matters as well.

New Balance 997H Midsole width in the heel
Test results
997H 81.3 mm
Average 82.8 mm
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
69.4 mm
Midsole width in the heel
103.1 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

It was such a pleasure to wear the New Balance 997H because it felt more flexible than usual. We never had problems bending our feet when we had to tiptoe, for example, because the shoe went so well with our movements.

After performing the usual flexibility test on this New Balance sneaker, we learned that it needed only 16.5N of force to bend at a 90-degree angle. That much force was significantly less than the amount needed by the typical sneaker.

Test results
997H 16.5N
Average 23.1N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
5.8N
Stiffness
51.8N

Grip / Traction

The outsole definitely didn't look aggressive enough, but it sure did cover us well during our wear tests. Its bite never faltered no matter which direction we went. Perhaps we really shouldn't judge the book by its cover from now on.

New Balance 997H outsole grip

Size and fit

Internal length

Our caliper in the lab measured the footbed to be 273.8 mm long. This number is just around the average.

New Balance 997H Internal length
Test results
997H 273.8 mm
Average 272.2 mm
Compared to 42 trainers
Number of shoes
265.3 mm
Internal length
280.1 mm

Toebox width at the widest part

Our experience tells us that the New Balance 997H couldn't accommodate people with wide feet. The widest part of its toebox was only 100.9 mm wide and surely did not deviate much from the average figure.

New Balance 997H Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
997H 100.9 mm
Average 99.1 mm
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
94.0 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
107.7 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

The big toe part was just as wide as the average, as well. Our caliper in the lab gave a reading of 79.2 mm.

New Balance 997H Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
997H 79.2 mm
Average 74.7 mm
Compared to 45 trainers
Number of shoes
63.7 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
82.7 mm

Tongue: gusset type

This sneaker from New Balance is not at all gusseted. Well, it's a blessing that it's not. Had it been fully gusseted, it would have hampered so much with ventilation. 

New Balance 997H Tongue: gusset type
Test results
997H None

Comfort

Tongue padding

The tongue felt nice even when we were not wearing socks. Its surface material was soft, and the padding felt like a gentle duvet on top of our feet.

Our caliper measured it to be 9.6 mm thick.

New Balance 997H Tongue padding
Test results
997H 9.6 mm
Average 9.2 mm
Compared to 46 trainers
Number of shoes
1.0 mm
Tongue padding
38.4 mm

Heel tab

The New Balance 997H did not have any heel tab. We have no complaints about this because (1) the shoe did not really need one and (2) the absence of the heel tab allowed for a more streamlined look.

New Balance 997H Heel tab
Test results
997H None

Removable insole

The New Balance 997H came with a removable insole. It was easy to get it out when we needed to use inserts of just wanted to have more space inside the sneaker.

New Balance 997H Removable insole
Test results
997H Yes

Misc

We have to say; the New Balance 997H truly felt light on the feet. Our steps were effortless and smooth because of its lightness. 

We were surprised to learn this NB sneaker was only slightly lighter than average at 12.8 ounces or 364 grammes.

Reflective elements

The 997H did not have any reflective overlays on it. Usage should only be in well-lit conditions.

New Balance 997H Reflective elements
Test results
997H No