New Balance 860 vs 990 Shoes Compared [What’s the Difference?]


new-balance-860-vs-990

When I compared the New Balance 860 vs 990, this is what stood out the most to me:

  • The 990 is a casual athletic shoe that you can pair with jeans but also use for occasional exercise. The 860 is more of a true running shoe. However, I found the comfort under the foot to be very similar. The 860 is a running shoe built for support and stability, and won’t be as “squishy” and soft under the foot as other types of New Balance running shoes (880, 1080). This is where you can see the videos of me wearing both the 860 and the 990 to see how they compress under my foot as I step.
  • Despite the 860 being the true running shoe, I was a bit shocked when I compared the flexibility of these shoes. Because the 860 is built to be more of a stability runner, I actually thought the 990 (which is more of a casual shoe) had the better flexibility. Overall, it was very close. I’ll let you be the judge: this is where you can watch as I test the flexibility and “twistability” of both shoes.
  • The New Balance 990 is part of New Balance’s “Made in USA” collection (the 860 is not).

In this article let’s take a closer look at the New Balance 990v5 and the New Balance Fresh Foam X 860v12 by using the videos and pictures I took of the shoes that I own.

Table of Contents

New Balance 860 vs 990 Comfort

Despite the 860 being built specifically as a running shoe (and the 990 being more of a casual athletic shoe), the comfort of these shoes is very similar. For running, the 860 is a much more lightweight option, but if you are strictly judging these shoes for how much compression and comfort they offer under the foot, I am probably giving the edge to the 990.

It is important to remember that even though the 860 is a running shoe, it is built to prioritize stability and support (it has a medial post to prevent improper foot movement). Neither of these shoes are as soft and “squishy” under the foot as other types of neutral running shoes (880, 1080, Rebel).

How They Respond on Foot

To give you an idea how these shoes respond on a foot, here I am wearing mine:

The compression under the foot is very similar. If you made me choose, I am giving the slight edge to the 990 because I think it has a softer compression under the toe pad.

New Balance 860 vs 990 Flexibility

In the videos below, I tried to capture how flexible these shoes are:


Overall, the flexibility of these shoes is pretty similar. Because the 860 has the medial post for extra support and stability, it isn’t quite as flexible as other types of New Balance running shoes (880, 1080).

The 990, for being more of a “lifestyle” shoe, has a very flexible build compared to other casual shoes.

Although the flexibility of these shoes is similar, I found a significant difference in weight. Click here to view the difference in these shoes regarding weight.

New Balance 860 vs 990 Padding

Both the 990 and the 860 have quality padding around the collar and tongue. Here are mine (990 first):

new-balance-990-padded-collar
new-balance-860-padded-collar

Insole Thickness

Yes, both the 990v5 and the 860v12 have removable insoles, so you can clean or swap them as needed. First, here is the insole of the 990v5:

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new-balance-990-insole-measurement

And below, is the insole for the New Balance Fresh Foam X 860v12:

new-balance-860-insole
new-balance-860-insole-measurement

By my measurements, the insole thickness was basically the exact same (approximately 1/6th of an inch). The material of the insole is a bit different (990 has more of a traditional foam insole) but I did not find it to affect comfort either way.

I did, however, find the fit of these shoes to be different. This is where you can view the side-by-side photos I took regarding sizing.

New Balance 860 vs 990 Design

Sole Height

Below is the height measurements I took for the men’s New Balance 860 vs 990 (size12; 990 first):

new-balance-990-sole-height
new-balance-860-sole-height

Here is how the women’s 860 vs 990 shoes compared (both size 7):

new-balance-990-women-sole-height
new-balance-860-women-sole-height

The overall height of both the men’s and women’s versions of these shoes is reasonably similar. In both cases, the 990 sits a bit higher on the foot, but it is close.

I did find a difference in the heel-to-toe drop for the New Balance 860 vs 990. This is where you can read more about those differences.

Outsole Width

Below is the width measurements I took for the men’s New Balance 860 vs 990 (990 first):

new-balance-990-width-outsole
new-balance-860-outsole

And below is the width measurements I took for the women’s New Balance 860 vs 990 (990 first):

new-balance-990-women-width-measurement-outsole
new-balance-860-women-width-measurement-outsole

If you are concerned about fit, I would highly suggest you view these side-by-side sizing photos I took of each shoe (for both men and women) to get a better idea how both the 990 and the 860 fit.

New Balance 860 vs 990 Weight

For men, the 990 weighs 1.01 pounds and the 860 weighs 0.83 pounds per shoe for a size 12 men’s.

new-balance-990-weight
new-balance-860-weight

For women, the 990 weighs 0.72 pounds and the 860 weighs 0.58 pounds per shoe for a size 7 women’s.

new-balance-990-women-weight
new-balance-860-women-weight

Again, the 860 is a dedicated running shoe, so it is built to be more lightweight than the 990, which is more of a casual athletic shoe.

Recently I tried over 30 different types of New Balance shoes and I found the average to be 0.89 pounds per shoe for a size 12 men’s. If you prefer a lightweight shoe, the 860 will be the better option. To view the full list of weights I took for over 30 New Balance shoes, read my article here.

New Balance 860 vs 990 Heel Drop

When I measured my New Balance 990 shoes using an 8-inch Digital Outside Caliper, I found the heel drop to be approximately 12mm. When I measured my New Balance 860 shoes using an 8-inch Digital Outside Caliper, I found its heel drop to be approximately 10mm.

It is important to understand that although I tried my best to get accurate measurements, the best way to measure heel drop is to cut the shoes in half and use an industrial caliper. Obviously, I didn’t want to destroy my shoes, but this is a convenient alternative way to measure heel drop.

The point is, think of these heel drop numbers as an approximation. For all official measurements, it would be best to reach out to New Balance directly.

Here I am measuring the heel drop of the New Balance 990 shoes:

new-balance-990-heel-drop
new-balance-990-heel-drop-measurements

Here I am measuring the heel drop of the New Balance 860 shoes:

new-balance-860-heel-drop-measurements-1
new-balance-860-heel-drop-measurements

New Balance 860 vs 990 Sizing

For most people, the 860 and 990 both fit true to size. However, when I compared my shoes side-by-side, I found the 990 to fit just a little bit longer than the 860. I ordered my normal sizing for both, and thought they fit just fine. If you make me choose, I think the 860 is the true to size fit, and the 990 runs just a little bit big.

Here they are side-by-side for men (990 on left):

new-balance-860-vs-990-sizing

Here they are side-by-side for women (990 on right):

new-balance-990-womens-vs-860-sizing

The 990v5 shoe is built using the SL-1 last, which is designed to create a standard fit. The 860 is built using a performance last that also delivers a standard width that isn’t too wide or too narrow.

When I wear mine, I feel like the width of these two shoes is very similar. Here are mine:

new-balance-860-vs-990

To give you a better idea how wide these shoes are, here they both are (in standard width) compared to the Nike Air Monarch 4E, which is a popular extra wide shoe (990 first):

new-balance-990-vs-nike-air-monarch-sizing
new-balance-860-vs-nike-air-monarch-sizing

To read more about sizing, visit my article that talks in depth about how New Balance shoes fit.

In the sections below, I compare both of these shoes to other popular shoes so you can get a better feel for sizing.


New Balance 990v5 Sizing Photos for Men

These photos below all use a size 12 men’s shoe. To see women’s 990 sizing photos, click here. To skip ahead to the 860 sizing, click here.

New Balance 990 (right) vs Adidas 2k Boost Sizing

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New Balance 990 vs Reebok Classics Sizing

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New Balance 990 vs Nike Zoom Winflo Sizing

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New Balance 990 vs Skechers Go Walk Slip On Sizing

new-balance-990-vs-skechers-go-walk-slip-on-sizing

New Balance 990 vs Brooks Adrenaline Sizing

brooks-vs-new-balance-990-sizing

New Balance 990 vs Skechers Go Walk Sizing

new-balance-990-vs-skechers-go-walk-sizing-1

New Balance 990 vs Saucony Shadow 6000 Sizing

new-balance-990-vs-saucony-shadow-6000-sizing

New Balance 990 vs Adidas Superstar Sizing

new-balance-990-vs-adidas-superstar-sizing

New Balance 990 vs Nike Air Max 90 Sizing

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New Balance 990 vs Crocs Sizing

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New Balance 990 vs Under Armour HOVR Sizing

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New Balance 990 vs Hey Dude Wally Sox Sizing

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New Balance 990 vs Vans Slip On Sizing

new-balance-990-vs-vans-slip-on-sizing

New Balance 990 vs Nike Air Force 1 Sizing

new-balance-990-vs-nike-af1-sizing

New Balance 990 vs Adidas Cloudfoam Sizing

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New Balance 990 vs Asics Sizing

new-balance-990-vs-asics-sizing

New Balance 990 vs Hoka One One Sizing

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New Balance 990 vs Converse Chucks Sizing

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New Balance 990 vs Vans UltraRange Sizing

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New Balance 990 vs Vans Old Skool Sizing

new-balance-990-vs-vans-old-skool-sizing

New Balance 990 vs Converse Pro Leather Sizing

new-balance-990-vs-converse-pro-leather-sizing

New Balance 990 vs Adidas Gazelle Sizing

new-balance-990-vs-adidas-gazelle-sizing

New Balance 990 vs Skechers Afterburn Sizing

new-balance-990-vs-skechers-afterburn-sizing

New Balance 990 vs Nike Cortez Sizing

new-balance-990-vs-nike-cortez-sizing

New Balance 990 vs Nike Blazer Sizing

new-balance-990-vs-nike-blazer-sizing

New Balance 990 (right) vs 574 Sizing

new-balance-990-vs-574-sizing

To read more, visit my article about the sizing and fit of New Balance 990v5.

New Balance 990v5 Sizing Photos for Women

New Balance Women’s 990 (right) vs Under Armour Sizing

new-balance-990-womens-vs-under-armour-sizing

New Balance Women’s 990 (right) vs 327 Sizing

new-balance-990-womens-vs-327-sizing

New Balance Women’s 990 vs Vans Slip On Sizing

new-balance-990-womens-vs-vans-sizing

New Balance Women’s 990 vs Hey Dude Wendy Sox Sizing

new-balance-990-womens-vs-hey-dude-sizing

New Balance Women’s 990 vs Skechers D’Lites Sizing

new-balance-990-womens-vs-skechers-sizing

New Balance Women’s 990 vs Adidas Sizing

new-balance-990-womens-vs-adidas-sizing

New Balance Women’s 990 vs Nike Air Max 90 Sizing

new-balance-990-womens-vs-nike-air-max-sizing

New Balance Women’s 990 vs Converse Chucks Sizing

new-balance-990-womens-vs-converse-sizing

New Balance Women’s 990 vs Keen Sizing

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New Balance Women’s 990 vs Crocs Sizing

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New Balance Women’s 990 vs Nike Air Max 1 Sizing

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New Balance Women’s 990 vs Nike Blazer Sizing

new-balance-990-womens-vs-nike-blazer-sizing

New Balance Women’s 990 vs Air Force 1 Sizing

new-balance-990-womens-vs-nike-air-force-1-sizing

New Balance Women’s 990 vs Hoka Sizing

new-balance-990-womens-vs-hoka-sizing

New Balance Women’s 990 vs Brooks Adrenaline Sizing

new-balance-990-womens-vs-brooks-sizing

New Balance Women’s 990 vs Asics Gel Kayano Sizing

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New Balance Women’s 990 vs Nike Internationalist Sizing

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New Balance Women’s 990 vs Columbia Sizing

new-balance-990-womens-vs-columbia-shoe-sizing

New Balance 860 Sizing Photos for Men

These photos below all use a size 12 men’s shoe. To see women’s 860 sizing photos, click here.

New Balance 860 (right) vs Adidas Cloudfoam Sizing

new-balance-860-vs-adidas-cloudfoam-sizing

New Balance 860 vs Asics Sizing

new-balance-860-vs-asics-sizing

New Balance 860 vs Reebok Classics Sizing

new-balance-860-vs-reebok-classics-sizing

New Balance 860 vs Adidas 2k Boost Sizing

new-balance-860-vs-adidas-2k-boost-sizing

New Balance 860 vs Nike Zoom Winflo Sizing

new-balance-860-vs-nike-zoom-winflo-sizing

New Balance 860 vs Skechers Go Walk Slip On Sizing

new-balance-860-vs-skechers-go-walk-slip-on-sizing

New Balance 860 vs Keen Sizing

new-balance-860-vs-keen-sizing

New Balance 860 vs Vans UltraRange Sizing

new-balance-860-vs-vans-ultrarange-sizing

New Balance 860 vs Brooks Adrenaline Sizing

brooks-vs-new-balance-860-sizing

New Balance 860 vs Skechers Go Walk Sizing

new-balance-860-vs-skechers-go-walk-sizing

New Balance 860 vs Saucony Shadow 6000 Sizing

new-balance-860-vs-saucony-shadow-6000-sizing

New Balance 860 (left) vs Propel Sizing

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New Balance 860 vs Nike Air Max Excee Sizing

new-balance-860-vs-nike-air-max-excee-sizing

New Balance 860 vs Nike Air Max 90 Sizing

new-balance-860-vs-nike-air-max-90-sizing

New Balance 860 vs Crocs Sizing

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New Balance 860 (left) vs Roav Sizing

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New Balance 860 vs Under Armour HOVR Sizing

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New Balance 860 (right) vs 880 Sizing

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New Balance 860 (right) vs 1080 Sizing

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New Balance 860 vs Hey Dude Wally Sox Sizing

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New Balance 860 vs Nike Air Force 1 Sizing

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New Balance 860 vs Hoka One One Sizing

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New Balance 860 vs Converse Chucks Sizing

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New Balance 860 (left) vs Rebel Sizing

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New Balance 860 (left) vs 840 Sizing

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New Balance 860 (left) vs FF More Sizing

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New Balance 860 Sizing Photos for Women

All shoes below are a size 7 women’s shoe.

New Balance Women’s 860 (right) vs Under Armour Sizing

new-balance-860-womens-vs-under-armour-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 vs Nike Air Max 90 Sizing

new-balance-860-womens-vs-nike-air-max-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 (left) vs 880 Sizing

new-balance-880-womens-vs-860-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 (left) vs 1080 Sizing

new-balance-womens-1080-vs-860-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 vs Vans Slip On Sizing

new-balance-860-womens-vs-vans-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 vs Hey Dude Wendy Sox Sizing

new-balance-860-womens-vs-hey-dude-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 vs Skechers D’Lites Sizing

new-balance-860-womens-vs-skechers-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 vs Adidas Sizing

new-balance-860-womens-vs-adidas-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 vs Nike Cortez Sizing

new-balance-860-womens-vs-nike-cortez-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 vs Converse Chucks Sizing

new-balance-860-womens-vs-converse-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 (right) vs Nergize Sizing

new-balance-860-womens-vs-nergize-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 vs Keen Sizing

new-balance-860-womens-vs-keen-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 vs Crocs Sizing

new-balance-860-womens-vs-crocs-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 (left) vs 574 Sizing

new-balance-574-womens-vs-860-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 vs Nike Air Max 1 Sizing

new-balance-860-womens-vs-nike-air-max-one-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 vs Nike Blazer Sizing

new-balance-860-womens-vs-nike-blazer-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 vs Air Force 1 Sizing

new-balance-860-womens-vs-air-force-1-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 vs Hoka Sizing

new-balance-860-womens-vs-hoka-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 vs Brooks Adrenaline Sizing

new-balance-860-womens-vs-brooks-sizing

New Balance Women’s 860 vs Asics Gel Kayano Sizing

new-balance-860-womens-vs-asics-sizing

To read more, visit my article about the sizing of New Balance 860 Shoes.


New Balance 860 vs 990 Conclusion

The 990 is a casual athletic shoe that you can pair with jeans but also use for occasional exercise. The 860 is more of a true running shoe.

However, I found the comfort under the foot to be very similar. The 860 is a running shoe built for support and stability, and won’t be as “squishy” and soft under the foot as other types of New Balance running shoes (880, 1080).

I think the 990 provides a softer compression under the toe pad than the 860, but overall the under-foot comfort is very similar.

Because the 860 is a dedicated running shoe, it weighs much less than the 990 and has a more breathable design.

Although most people find that both the 860 and 990 fit true to size, when I compared these two shoes side-by-side, I found a difference in sizing. The 990 fits a little bit longer than the 860. This is where you can learn more about the sizing difference of these shoes.

Paul Johnson

Paul is a lead content creator for Workwear Command. He has had several blue-collar jobs which have provided him a wide range of experience with tools and gear. He also has a business degree and has spent time in business casual office settings.

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