The latest evolution of the classic New Balance 997 has just landed. Blessed with a streamlined stance that will slot seamlessly into any modern sneaker rotation, the new-gen 997H is a progressive update of the ultimate 99x fan-favourite.
Steven Smith joined New Balance in 1986 and immediately played an intrinsic role in the direction of the 99x series. His first official gig was to enhance the visual styling of the 995. Next up was the clean-sheet 996 design, before he completed his holy trinity of 99x — the cult classic 997 — which would also prove to be his swansong at New Balance.
With ENCAP and C-CAP cushioning, XAR-1000 carbon rubber outsoles, and Smith’s ingenious Hytrel Thermoplastic lockdown strap, the 997 was a breakthrough moment for footwear tech. Among hardcore NB aficionados, the super crisp midsole has long been regarded as the 997’s most endearing feature. Built with incomparable manufacturing standards and top-notch raw materials, not to mention the elegant profile and dual-density comfort, Smith’s magnum opus has more than stood the test of time. The complete story is best detailed in our definitive history of the 997.
Fast forward almost 30 years.
Hot on the heels of the hybrid 997S — released under the aegis of Ronnie Fieg — the same rigorous design approach has inspired the creation of the 997H. If the ‘S’ in 997S stands for ‘Sport’, what does the ‘H’ represent? Though it hasn’t been publicly revealed by New Balance, our research indicates the ‘H’ represents ‘Hypothesis’, as a nod to the 997’s prospects as a future franchise across multiple iterations.
To bring the 997H up to modern speed, the New Balance design team hit the research lab to upgrade the OG model’s C-CAP/ENCAP-fused cushioning. The end result is a revamped approach using GCEVA and a modernised outsole profile for an even lighter, whippier ride. Bright neon accents are a fitting tribute to New Balance’s running heritage, in particular the NBX line-up and the United Arrows 997.5, another hybrid chapter in the evolution of the 997. Oversized midsole branding is another well-judged visual upgrade.
While ‘Made in USA’ will always sit at the pinnacle of New Balance manufacturing, the 997H targets another niche altogether. Light, fast and simply stylish, the 997H will add a worthy modern chapter to the 997’s cultish legacy.
As with any ‘hypothesis’, you’ll have to battle-test the 997H for yourself. With a clutch of classic colourways planned in 2019 there’s something for everyone, though it’s hard to go past this super sweet white edition with fluoro pink’n’purp pops.
The 997H is will drop at all good New Balance retailers on February 2.