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New Balance 998 Review

New Balance 998

Originally released in 1993, the New Balance 998 is a member of the Boston-based brand’s illustrious 99X series. The 998 was not in production for several years before New Balance brought them back in 2023 for the model’s 30th anniversary. 

I bought the Ronnie Fieg & Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation collaboration, in the ‘Broadacre City Chutney’ colorway. This collaboration was the first 998 released of the model’s new run. And much like newer Air Jordan retros, New Balance revamped the 998 shape, making it truer to 1993 original. The new run now includes the New Balance 998 in heritage grey, black, navy, and various other colorways.

You can check out my 990 vs 991 Comparison, Chris’ 990v4/990v6 Review, or his 993 Review for our team’s thoughts on the various New Balance MADE sneakers.

New Balance 998

Release Date: 1993

Price: $185

Sizing: True to size

New Balance 998 lateral close up


  • Timeless Design: The New Balance 998 is yet another classic New Balance sneaker. Its simple and elegant design has stood the test of time. Given the amount of straight lines used on the 998, I can’t think of a better New Balance model for a Frank Lloyd Wright collaboration.
  • Superb Materials: Like most other New Balance Made in USA (or UK) models, the New Balance 998 uses some of the best suede in the sneaker game. The pigskin suede cuts are not as thick as I’ve come to expect from previous MADE sneakers, but the suede is still just as buttery and soft to the touch. Most of the upper is dressed in the premium suede. The toe box and ankle area use a thin mesh. Using an intricate, premium looking weave, this mesh is breathable and airy. Rounding out the 998’s upper is a TPU fin for added heel lockdown.
  • Good Cushioning: The 998 utilizes New Balance’s ABZORB cushioning. ABZORB is a mix of Dupont Engage Isoprene rubber and an unnamed proprietary foam. In 1993, the New Balance 998 was the first sneaker to use ABZORB. I think the 998’s underfoot cushioning is solid enough for lifestyle wear. As a comparison, I would put the 998 ahead of the 550 and 650 but behind the 2002R in terms of underfoot cushioning.
  • Easy Entry: I have spastic cerebral palsy, a physical limitation. So, ease of entry is something I value for my footwear; can I get them on independently? Like all my other low top NBs, I can get the 998 on by myself. I don’t lace them through the top lace holes, allowing a large enough opening for my foot – even when tied.
New Balance 998 outsole traction


  • Lack of Widths: “[W]idth sizing for athletes” reads a New Balance shoebox lid from the 1980s. And “New Balance shoes come in multiple widths” was written under the size label of a shoebox from 1990. It’s safe to say the New Balance brand is known for making wider options available for a good number of its footwear models. As someone with 4E-width Tolkien hobbit feet, when I started researching the New Balance 998 for this review, I was disappointed to find out the only width for the 998 is D (the standard width).
  • Odd Sizing: My feet are a true size 11. And my pair of 998s is a size 10.5 (because a size 10.5 was cheaper on the resale market than a size 11). And, much to my surprise, they fit me pretty damn well. The length is great. And, somehow, so is the width. If you are thinking about buying a pair of New Balance 998s, I would highly recommend trying on a pair first. (Editor’s Note: other team members felt that, though the 998 runs long, the width warrants staying true to size. This could be the result of a manufacturing difference between colorways. Either way, try them on or buy from a retailer with a good return policy).
  • High Retail Price: Like all other New Balance MADE sneakers, the 998 is expensive. Standard “Core” colorways retail at $185. And other colorways, such as the Frank Lloyd Wright collaboration pairs, can retail for as much as $220.
  • Subpar Quality Control: This is specific to the Frank Lloyd collaboration. This collaboration had very poor quality control. Some pairs had unfinished embroidery. Others had different tongue lengths between the right and left shoes. It’s unexpected that New Balance, oft heralded for quality, would allow pairs with non-trivial issues to release (I should add that my pair doesn’t have any of the quality control issues I’ve see online). If you’re looking at buying a pair from this collaboration, I would recommend trying eBay so you can see the quality of the actual pair you’re buying.
New Balance 998 shoes in hand

New Balance 998 Summary

I’m happy to add the New Balance 998 to my growing New Balance MADE collection. The 998’s sleek design, fantastic materials, and comfortable midsole add up to a great retro sneaker. Even though the sizing is odd and the price is high, I’m glad New Balance brought the 998 back. It’s a classic that New Balance fans will want in their rotations.

New Balance 998 heel view


While New Balance does occasionally send WearTesters pairs for review, the WearTesters team purchased its pairs of the New Balance 998 to facilitate this review. New Balance had no involvement in this review, didn’t receive an advance look at it, and has not attempted to influence it.

1 comment
  1. I have 6 pairs of 998s, including two from the newer batch. They’re my favorite shoe in my collection but I personally hate the new shape. The comfort is definitely better than in years past (the ABZORB is softer) but the shape just looks flat and not as chunky as the early 2010s 998s.

    That said I’ll be happy to grab pairs that drop way below retail.

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