Size and fit

The New Balance 998 was released in women’s and men’s sizes. It has a pig suede upper that delivers a durable and solid feel, while the lace-up system offers adjustability of the tightness. It also has a low-top design that ensures plenty of ankle movement. 

New Balance 998 Style

The New Balance 998 is highly noticeable for its premium suede upper that’s very supple and smooth. An ideal all-around shoe that’s suitable for running, workouts, business work, and everyday duties. The very plush cover and reflective detailing coming from the heel accent, heel tab, and branding of this retro-styled sneaker make heads turn. The combination of its tonal midsole and the darker shade on its outsole gives this shoe a clean, sleek allure. In totality, it offers casual elegance even when matched with a modest set of outfits.

Notable Features

The New Balance 998 is well-loved for its elegantly appealing upper made of premium materials which is why it is one of the favored vintage silhouettes by the brand that has received copious reissues. The reflective detailing around the shoe makes it even more visible and heightens the general aesthetic look of the shoe. The oversized tongue gives it a nostalgic look and at the same time a modern appeal that keeps this vintage-styled shoe on-trend to this day.

   New Balance 998 vs. New Balance 997

The ABZORB cushioning compound found in the heel and forefoot is another notable asset of the NB 998. This component is made to absorb shock and disperse energy. It can also withstand impact longer than the EVA foam. On the other hand, the ENCAP technology, which utilizes a durable EVA foam as with polyurethane frame is the midsole makeup of the New Balance 997.

   New Balance 998, 99x Trivia

      • The New Balance 998 version that has suede material on the tongue top and heel tab is designed and crafted in England. While the 998 Made in USA edition with Nubuck or Horween leather on the tongue and heel tab is 70 percent US-made. The latter bears a higher price tag.
      • Steve Jobs is a die-hard New Balance supporter who was drawn to the 99x series. It was said that he utilized each version of the shoe in most of his public engagements until those were worn down. He used the shabby pair for lawn mowing.
      • Actor Ben Affleck was seen sporting the New Balance 998.

New Balance 998 History

New Balance, a footwear brand that started from humble beginnings in Belmont, Massachusetts as a manufacturer of orthopedic shoes and arch supports in 1906, has witnessed the transformation of athletic footwear for over a century now. The brand saw the upswing of the jogging craze during the 1980s as well as its eclipse towards the 1990s as contenders in athletic footwear became more aggressive in introducing advanced technologies for various sports shoes.

While developments in the sneaker landscape took shape, technological evolution was being cooked up in the New Balance’s headquarters. Updated design techniques erupted, which led to the birth of the NB990 series in 1982 and the release of New Balance 998 in the coming years

  Birth of the New Balance 990 series

The New Balance 990 commodity was unveiled in an era when computers were gaining popularity. In fact, Steve Jobs, a staunch New Balance supporter and the iconic co-founder of today’s leading computer software company Apple Inc., reportedly had a hand in formulating the design concept of the original 990.

Apparently, in a letter to New Balance owner and Chairman Jim Davies back in the day, Jobs suggested revisions and attached a rough drawing of his innovation, which had more trendy and sporty features than the earlier New Balance running silhouettes.

It was later said that Jobs’ sketch became the foundation of New Balance’s of the NB 990 model, a shoe with the most advanced technologies during that time that’s fitted for the high-mileage running category. Proper timing is vital, and NB hit the nail right on the head when it released the NB 990s lineup. Consumers readily received the series of 990 shoes as they were prepared to pay out a considerable amount for premium quality performance-based shoes.

Regarding construction, the shoe cover was made with a slip-lasting technique wherein an insole board was sewn around the underside of the upper thus producing an interior without protruding seams. This involved series of work which made it more complicated than the standard process of attaching the top to the sole.

  New Balance 998 Then and Now

One of the advancements made on the 990 silhouettes was the New Balance 998, assembled with a classic, buttery suede with a breathable mesh cover. Unveiled in 1993, this sneaker instantly drew crowds of supporters. At the time the 998 was envisioned, New Balance was in the works of acquiring computerized equipment and highly advanced machinery for its research and development efforts. Such a phase led to the introduction of the proprietary ABZORB cushioning system.

The 998 is considered as one of the most recognizable silhouettes in the New Balance lineage that continues to have an appeal among consumers, particularly to those who favor classic style, which is why this model has been revamped sporadically since its release and remains prevalent to this day and age.

  Updated Versions of the New Balance 998

  New Balance 998 x Horween Leather

Perhaps one of the highly expensive variations of this vintage profile is the New Balance 998 x Horween Leather which was unveiled in two colorways: brown and dark brown/ burgundy blend. Both colors have an entire upper covered with premium Horween leather. The ABZORB midsole is in place for the needed cushioning. This shoe retailed at $400 at the time it was dropped in 2014.

  J.Crew x New Balance 998 “Greenback”

The iconic Boston shoe label secured a deal with J. Crew, an American multi-brand specialty retailer, for a dollar-inspired version of the NB 998 coined as the “Greenback.” This design, made of green suede upper and gold accents, was released on October 15, 2016, in limited quantities. Retailed initially at a hefty amount of $180, this kick which was a steal for some was crafted in the US, mainly from New Balance’s Skowhegan, Maine factory.

  Todd Snyder x New Balance 998 “Dark & Stormy

After their first team-up in 2016, the New York-based label Todd Snyder and New Balance joined forces once again for the drop of the Todd Snyder x New Balance 998 “Dark & Stormy” in mid-2018. This sneaker was a way of celebrating summer as its concept was driven from a popular summer cocktail drink that combines dark rum and ginger beer.

Since it is based on such highball liquor, this New Balance 998 sneaker in blue and black comes with a luxe arrangement. It is clothed in premium suede with Horween leather detailing on the tongue and heel, while its black midsole has white speckles.

  Todd Snyder x New Balance 998 “Color Spectrum”

In time for the winter season of the same year, the two merging brands redressed the NB 998 with eye-catching Lego colored paneling. Touted as the “Color Spectrum,” this New Balance 998 beams in green, red, blue, and yellow eye-popping colors against a neutral-shaded backdrop consisting of grey, white and black.  

  Kith x New Balance 998 “Grey”

New Balance allowed Kith, an NYC-based lifestyle store formed by Ronnie Fieg, to dig into the roots of the NB 990s and resurrect some of the iconic models from such a collection. In December 2018, NB and Kith dropped an updated version of the New Balance 998 in grey which retained its vintage flavor using tonal pigskin suede overlays, soft butter leather, and premium mesh on the tongue and vamp.

  New Balance 998 “Blue/Navy”

New Balance proved that the blue shade doesn’t always evoke misery when it dropped a cheery version of the 998 blanketed in heavy-blue cover. Different tones of blue take up the entire upper of this shoe that’s done in pig suede. Instead of mesh, the underlays are lined with perforated leather, contrasted by scaled leather detailing on the vamp, rear sides, and N-logos, while the midfoot and heel are wrapped in navy blue suede. Everything on the upper sits on a dual-toned ABZORB midsole and deep azure outsole. This premium, made in the USA package that appeared in mid-2018, initially retailed at $180.

  New Balance 998 “Red/White”

On July 5, 2018, the New Balance 998 received a red and white coverage that’s fitted for the women’s feet. The luxurious, dark red suede upper is offset by subtle grey and silver detailing. These striking New Balance 998 women’s sneakers also feature the ABZORB midsole cushioning. The brand also intended to produce these models in men’s sizes.

Nice to know

  • The upper is mostly made of pig suede and segmented into different layers. One can come up with a personalized version of this much-sought vintage profile through the NB1 customization platform.


The current trend of New Balance 998.
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Danny McLoughlin
Danny McLoughlin

Danny is a sports nut with a particular interest in football and running. He loves to watch sports as much as he loves to play. Danny was lead researcher on RunRepeat and The PFA’s report into Racial Bias in Football Commentary. His football and running research has been featured in The Guardian, BBC, New York Times and Washington Post.