What’s the Difference Between the New Balance 997 and the New Balance 997H?

The 99X series is one of New Balance‘s most exciting lines to date. But among the range, the New Balance 997 is probably the most underrated pair. Introduced three decades ago, it hasn’t really changed all that much over the past 30 years. But along the way, the Boston sportswear company has introduced a bunch of spin-offs, including the New Balance 997H.

While they look remarkably similar, there are a few differences between the 997 and the 997H that you should know about. So in this comprehensive guide by Captain Creps, we’ll be checking out a brief history of the silhouette, their main differences, and where you can buy them. We’ll also be answering a few frequently asked questions so you’re as informed as possible. So, let’s get to it!

A Brief History of the New Balance 997

New Balance introduced the 997 in 1991, immediately setting it apart with its cutting-edge and comfortable design. As a proud representative of the prestigious 99X series, it aimed to redefine the standard for running shoes.

Its unique combination of cushioning and support, made possible by ENCAP technology, distinguished it in the shoe industry. Its sophisticated everyday wear appealed to people who valued sophistication just as much as athletes, thanks to its structure, which combined luxury suede and mesh. The 997 has been blessed with numerous colourways and collaborations throughout the years, further cementing its position as a classic among sneakerheads.

Why Did New Balance Introduce the 997H?

The introduction of the 997H went beyond honouring its predecessor; it served as a deliberate adaptation to the changing sneaker scene. Recognising the increased desire for sneakers that marry retro vibes with modern style, New Balance presented the 997H as an updated and more accessible version of the iconic 997.

While it preserves the distinctive look that fans love, it’s been revamped with contemporary materials and slight design adjustments to draw in an even larger crowd. This move was a nod to the changing dynamics of sneaker culture, where there’s a blend of nostalgia and innovation, offering the revered design of the 997 with modifications tailored to today’s lifestyle and budget considerations.

What are the Main Differences Between the 997 and 997H?

New Balance’s 997 and 997H models share a lineage that is both acclaimed and unique. While they nod to a shared heritage, diving deeper reveals key differences in design, technology, and market positioning that set them apart. Let’s explore these variations to understand how each model caters to its audience.

Design & Aesthetic Differences

Upon initial inspection, the 997 and 997H may seem very alike, sharing a common design shape. Yet, delving deeper reveals clear differences that cater to varied preferences. The 997, echoing the aesthetic of ’90s running footwear, stands out with its superior combination of suede and mesh on the upper, lending it a refined and somewhat opulent look. This selection of top-notch materials not only boosts the visual allure of the shoe but also enhances its longevity and wearability.

On the other hand, the 997H adopts a modernised stance, featuring a blend of synthetic and mesh fabrics to achieve a more updated and budget-friendly version. This material mix introduces an expanded selection of colours and designs, lending the 997H a more striking and lively character. Moreover, the 997H is slightly modified in its design contours and brand detailing, setting it apart for those with an eye for detail.

Technological Improvements & Performance

Technologically, the two models diverge significantly, primarily in their sole construction. The classic 997 model comes fitted with New Balance’s ENCAP technology, featuring a soft EVA core surrounded by a durable polyurethane edge. This innovative design ensures a perfect mix of cushioning and stability, showcasing New Balance’s dedication to both performance and comfort, especially evident from the heel through to the midfoot area.

The 997H, however, opts for a more straightforward approach with a generic foam midsole that, while still comfortable, doesn’t offer the same level of support and stability as the ENCAP. This change reflects the 997H’s position as a lifestyle sneaker rather than a performance runner, focusing on daily wearability over athletic endeavors.

Price Point & Market Position

The pricing and market placement further underscore the distinctions between the 997 and 997H. The 997, celebrated for its high-quality materials and being crafted in the USA, commands a higher price, often starting at around $200, varying with the specific colourway and limited editions. This sets the 997 apart as New Balance’s luxury segment, targeting collectors and aficionados who appreciate superior workmanship and legacy.

In contrast, the 997H is marketed as a more wallet-friendly alternative, typically priced around $90. This pricing strategy broadens its appeal to a wider demographic, including the youth and those exploring New Balance for the first time. Despite its affordability, the 997H retains the iconic look of the 997, making it a versatile option for daily wear.

Where Can I Buy the New Balance 997 or the 997H?

To get your hands on a pair, the New Balance website and physical stores are your primary go-tos, offering a full range of sizes, exclusive releases, and special editions. Additionally, trusted retailers such as Foot Patrol and Foot Locker provide a broad selection, including various colourways of both models.

For those on the hunt for deals or specific editions, online marketplaces like StockX and eBay are valuable resources, though vigilance is necessary to ensure purchases are genuine. Whether it’s the premium 997 or the versatile 997H, there’s a retailer out there that has what you’re looking for.

The Bottom Line

Selecting between the New Balance 997 and the 997H hinges on aligning your personal style, comfort priorities, and budget with the right shoe. Each pair reflects New Balance’s dedication to superior craftsmanship and innovative style, targeting distinct segments of the sneaker community. If the rich heritage and premium build of the 997 draw you in, or you prefer the updated aesthetics and value of the 997H, both options guarantee enduring elegance and functionality.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the 997 and 997H suitable for athletic activities?

While designers crafted both with comfort in mind, the 997’s ENCAP technology provides more support for athletic activities, whereas the 997H better suits casual wear.

Can I find vegan options in the 997 or 997H lines?

Yes, New Balance offers vegan-friendly versions in both lines, emphasising synthetic materials over animal products.

How should I clean my 997 or 997H sneakers?

For dirt removal, use a gentle brush; for stains, use a damp cloth dampened with mild soap. To keep the integrity of the shoes, avoid machine washing them.

Is there a significant weight difference between the two models?

Yes, due to the different materials and sole technologies used, the 997 tends to be slightly heavier than the 997H.

Where can I find limited edition colourways of the 997 or 997H?

New Balance often releases limited editions through its official website, flagship stores, and select sneaker boutiques.