Last Reviewed on 12 March 2019 - Minor Update - 16 December 2018 - Main Content Update
New Balance 997
This is a shoe for casual walkers and social wear.
Some will find it overly heavy for all day wear though that does bring some solidity to the shoe which people who walk as part of their job might prefer.
It is OK for casual use as it looks interestingly retro but for the money there are better choices.
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I don’t often get to review a shoe that has such a rich history behind it as the New Balance Men’s 997’s do.
We are talking about a sneaker with over 27 years of history and a small but committed fan base. In fact, this was probably one of the hardest shoe reviews I’ve ever had to write because of how limited the information is out there regarding the specifics of the 997.
Of course, you can always find a sub-Reddit on anything so after hours of research and sifting through one review after another you finally have it; a complete look at the New Balance Men’s 997 Fashion Sneaker.
Right off the back, I want to make clear that this is a really incredible and special shoe but I was more interested if it was optimal for fitness walking.
The 997 is part of a retro revival series of early 90’s shoes the company made over 27 years ago.
When they first came out, these shoes were loved by New Balance fans and “sneakerheads” couldn’t keep their eyes off the gorgeous pair of shoes… well to early fans I only have one thing to say… you are in luck!
The retro 997’s are absolutely gorgeous and closely mimic the original shoes from the ’90s.
The sneaker has a long history of PR campaigns some intentional and others not so much, largely due to the long history of this great brand.
New Balance is the all American brand established way back in 1906 in Boston Massachusetts.
Since then the company has stayed true to its mission and while competitors fled to developing countries for cheap labor, New Balance always retained manufacturing and design in the United States and the United Kingdom.
In fact, back when Bill Clinton was president he was criticized for wearing non-American running shoes and so he quickly switched to the 997’s.
So began a decade of 90’s style sneakers that turned heads and dawned an era of footwear advancement.
Today the 997’s have returned sporting a cool retro look and still promoting the all American vision.
These men’s sneakers are soft, comfortable, and supportive. They come in different colors and look absolutely gorgeous. Some have complained of their durability, sizing, and high cost, which puts into question whether this is a good walking shoe.
It seems like almost every shoe has some kind of sizing issue. This may be because people have a complete lack of foot size understanding or maybe shoes are just built narrow.
A good note is to always get your feet measured before you buy a pair of shoes and size doesn’t matter, it’s all about the feel!
In any case, a few reviews noted that the New Balance 997 Men’s Sneakers felt a bit narrow and tight so you may consider getting a half size larger shoe or a wider option.
Then again, the majority of the reviews said the shoes felt nice and snug so it could be that some people are just more sensitive than others, which again brings us to the point that you should always pick shoes based on how you feel in them.
The ’90s was unique in that shoes were branded, designed, and updated based heavily on technological advances in shoe manufacturing.
The original 997’s had a coating of XAR-100 rubber on the outsole to maintain strong ground-grip. There wasn’t much information regarding the materials used for the outsole in the updated sneakers.
However, it’s likely the technology hasn’t changed much. Most reviews noted that the outsole had good traction and a solid grip. Also from a glance, the detailed patterns on the bottom of the shoe look firm and supportive.
What’s nice is that the outsole is fairly thin giving room for a larger midsole.
Features of the Midsole
One glance at the 997’s and you can tell that these sneakers have a huge midsole!
The sole area supports an off-white look and is absolutely gorgeous. This is a great example of a product that strikes a balance between form and function.
The material highlights a patented ENCAP technology that is extremely responsive and fairly flexible. Most importantly the midsole is completely supportive and comfortable with added cushioning to help spring the foot of the ground with ease.
What’s especially nice is that the high midsole in the back beautifully transitions into the ball and toe area of the shoe, slowly getting shorter which allows for a nice transition from ball to toe when walking.
One reviewer complained that the high midsole puts strain on his feet but the consensus, for the most part, was that these are good all day shoes.
Features of the Insole
There wasn’t much information regarding the insoles, I really had to dig deep to find anything but no one seemed to complain or praise the inner soles of the New Balance 997 Men’s Sneakers.
For the most part, if you have high arches and supination you may need arch support which is something New Balance has made a commitment to in the past.
Otherwise, people with overpronation should consider custom or off-the-shelf orthotics.
If you do decide to go down this path, make sure to test the shoes out with the custom insoles or orthotics otherwise you will have a painfully tight shoe.
Best to order either a wider or longer fit depending on whether your feet are a little wider or a little longer for any given size normally.
Heel Area & Achilles Support
You know that angel sound effect in movies with the light, halo, and everything? Yeah well, my reaction to the heel support on these sneakers is like that.
This is not a flimsy shoe ok? We are talking about a top of the line shoe with optimal heel support with fixtures, seams, and padding running from the heel around to the sides of your feet, dropping down at the end.
Not a single review complained of any heel or Achilles pain.
While these shoes have soft and cushiony backsides, they are relatively high so you should wear proper socks. Chafing and blisters are a possibility with low and thin socks.
It’s not often I get to praise shoe laces but surprisingly the New Balance men’s 997 Fashion Sneakers have awesome laces.
Unlike its competitors New Balance sports flat long laces that are unlikely to come apart from prolonged use. I often find myself tying my shoes more than once on a walk or run but that’s not a problem with these shoes.
The design is also gorgeous and blends well with the rest of the shoe.
I’m trying to resist the urge to exclaim how beautiful this shoe is until the “Design” section of this article but I have to say something when it comes to the upper.
Ok here goes:
The 997 has a beautiful upper…
Did you think that was it! Are you kidding me? These shoes are gorgeous! Fellas, the ladies always get to sport gorgeous footwear and we are often left in the dark but I am here to tell you there is hope!
The New Balance Men’s 997 Fashion Sneakers have a beautiful upper made with pig suede and mesh mix and swivel around the whole shoe in a beautiful fashion.
There is so much detail on this shoe from the reflective strap to the double-layered New Balance logo that you begin to question whether this is a good walking shoe.
And that’s the whole problem.
This shoe is beautiful but it’s also fragile and not optimal for intense and even mild sports.
There is a small opening that allows for ventilation but for the most part, the shoe is closed off.
The suede gets dirty and is difficult to clean not to mention that it is fairly fragile and more than a few reviews have noted that it chips away after a few months or heavy use.
The plastic elements that run along the upper also peel easily even from light use.
This is a beautiful shoe, no doubt about it but it is by no means a walking shoe. I would not recommend anyone use these for speed, long distance, trail, or treadmill walking.
They aren’t going to keep your feet cool and you don’t want to accelerate the natural deteriorating process of what is already a fairly expensive shoe.
Foot or Toe Box
Like the upper, the toe box of the 997’s is beautiful.
When viewed head-on there is a slight zig-zag pattern which ads a sort of dynamic element.
The outsole slightly curved up on the toe-box for extra protection and the pig suede with the elevated midsole keep the shoe fairly waterproof on the bottom side.
Most reviews complained that the sides of the shoes were narrow but there was enough wiggle room in the toe-box.
Depending on how you use these sneakers they are either very breathable or not at all.
For light every-day wear with limited physical activity, the ventilation is just fine for keeping moisture out and cooling off the foot.
However, if you pick up the pace and decide to go for a brisk walk, you are likely to sweat heavily and the tiny opening on the upper is not ideal for quick high-intensity breathability.
This may lead to the development of painful blisters. Consider that before you go nuts.
Comfort, Stability & Support
Despite the New Balance Men’s 997 Fashion Sneakers not being optimal walking or sports shoes, they are without a doubt very comfortable.
Almost every review had the word “comfort” in the tagline.
The ENCAP midsole and the soft upper keep your feet comfortable and supported throughout the day.
The optimal heel and Achilles support, plastic design details and thick midsoles make this an extremely supportive and stable shoe able to withstand hard impact and heavyweight.
The durability of the 997’s is rather questionable.
If you decide to go for long distance treadmill walk or a jog on a hiking trail well then you are probably don’t going to have the shoe for more than a month… not the whole thing at least.
However, if you just have the shoe on for casual walks and everyday use you can probably expect it to last a long time.
Don’t forget that these sneakers are made in the US of A so the quality is there, you just have to use it in the right terrain (see below for the full report).
I couldn’t find the exact weight specifics for the New Balance Men’s 997, not even on the official website, but by the looks of it, this isn’t exactly a light shoe.
Quite frankly they don’t need to be. Again these aren’t speed walking or sprinting shoes so there is no need for them to be light.
The 997’s are really more of a fashion statement. Which brings me to my next point:
Ok, let’s talk about this.
The New Balance 997’s are absolutely gorgeous. I mean there is no way around it.
Right off the back, these retro revival shoes create a strong sense of 90’s nostalgia and carry that sort of laid-back vibe.
They come in multiple colors including a special edition Tiffany blue.
There are multiple layers of soft high-quality suede swindling around the shoe, over and under plastic detailing, and a reflective hit.
The off-white midsole sports the words “997 new balance” in a colored bold font that ads another layer of dynamic design to the mix.
The “N” logo is large, bold, and patched on without fear, it screams brand!
The details of the suede and mesh mixture interwoven between the fact long laces are elegant and play well with the overall hand-sewn feel of the shoe.
You can rock these retro 997’s with any contemporary and laid-back look.
Responsiveness, Feel, and Flexibility
For the most part, the midsole of the shoe is fairly flexible. Again you don’t want to be doing fitness walking in these or any active sports in the 997’s.
The upper is not as flexible, in fact, for the most part, the shoe keeps your feet firmly in place and with the strong heel support, there isn’t much to be said for flexibility in this portion of the shoe.
However, the overall responsiveness of the shoe feels great. The cushioned midsole and the natural height transition allows your foot to effortlessly transition from heel to ball, and toe for easy lift-off and kinetic spring.
Do not, under any circumstances, wear these shoes in wet dirty weather or on rough trails. These are not optimal walking, running, or sports shoes.
Do not go for speed, long distance, or even tread walks with the New Balance Men’s 997’s.
These are expensive fashionable casual shoes to be worn in the city while walking on pavements, roads, and while you're in the office.
There is good traction from the rubber outsoles that has a nice grip but that doesn’t mean you can go rock climbing in these.
Look, this is not footwear for fitness walkers… sorry to break the news.
But the New Balance Men’s 997 Enduring Purpose-Made USA Fashion Sneaker is a beautiful, American made, reliable shoe that men can wear throughout the day and in the office.
These nostalgic retro sneakers are comfortable, head-turning conversation pieces, perfect for casual wear and the contemporary look.
The high price point is a reflection of quality and excellent craftsmanship and for many, it is totally worth it for a New Balance classic.
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I love hiking with my family and taking in the cool air in the hills around where I live up in Ithaca.
Most of the time we take rather shorter walks out for a bit of exercise since there are so many things in life that we also want to do – and especially the kids.
Life is a balance but one where you should never take the beauty of nature for granted. I also enjoy writing about my experiences and helping others with the things I learn about shoes from using them, from friends and the family.