New Balance 1540 vs. 990 Sneakers Comparison

What is the difference between the New Balance 1540 and 990?

The main difference between the New Balance 1540 and 990 is the support system.

Unlike the 990, the New Balance 1540 has Rollbar technology, which is a lightweight, flat molded piece of graphite material constructed inside the shoes to prevent the foot from rolling inwards or outwards (pronation or supination).

However, it is important to note that both shoes have ENCAP midsoles. In this post, let’s explore all their differences and compare the NB 1540 vs. 990.

New Balance 1540 vs. 990 Comparison

New Balance 1540 (buy on Amazon)

  • Not made in the USA
  • ENCAP midsole technology
  • Rollbar technology

New Balance 990 (buy on Amazon)

  • Made in the USA
  • ENCAP midsole technology
  • Rollbar technology

Since both sneakers share plenty of resemblances, we will do our best to compare the New Balance 1540 and 990 by comparing the upper and midsole. For this comparison, we will use the New Balance 1540v3 and 990v5.

Shoe Upper Comparison

New Balance 1540 Upper

This clean and sturdy shoe from New Balance features a breathable mesh upper.

Synthetic overlays are placed throughout the entire shoe and key areas for structural support, durability, and protection, with reinforced stitching as well.

It has a traditional lace-up design that provides a secure fit around the foot, while padded tongue and collar provide excellent comfort that works well with the fabric lining. 

A removable cushioned footbed provides great comfort with each step. It’s also got additional arch support and antimicrobial properties to keep your foot feeling fresh. 

The upper of the New Balance 1540v3 itself has a slight bit of flex, which in our opinion, provides amazing flexibility for either light running or consistent walking.

It may not be the most cushioned shoe, but the flexibility makes it incredibly conforming.

Sadly, the New Balance 1540 will no longer be produced in the United States as of April 2021.

New Balance shoes that are made in the USA tend to be more expensive. They also come with premium materials which are built to last longer, so newer versions of the New Balance 1540 may not be as good as previous versions.

New Balance 990 Upper

New Balance has been embracing the popularity of the ‘dad shoe’ by coming up with the fifth iteration of the ultra-popular 990. In fact, the official slogan of the 990v5 is: Worn by supermodels in London and dads in Ohio.

For the most part, the base layer of the sneaker is constructed using a gray-colored mesh. Overlaid on top of the mesh is perforated gray leather, and surrounding the outer edges is a very luxurious gray suede. 

We are impressed that the materials of the 990v5, which include the mesh, leather, and suede, are very high in quality. We think this is because the shoe is made in the USA.

On the midfoot of both sides of the sneaker, you will find the signature N logo, which is done in 3M. As you move on toward the back of the shoe, you will find more of that gray mesh, with a diagonal translucent piece of plastic, which gives the shoe added rigidity.

Covering the back of the heel is more of the gray suede material, with a 990 branding on the lateral side. At the very center of the back of the shoe is another hit of 3M, along with two Vs that represent v5, also known as version 5.

Hugging the back of the heel is a TPU heel cup that has the New Balance logo in the center.

In terms of laces, the 990v5 Castlerock comes with white-colored flat laces, with the tongue underneath. The padded tongue is constructed out of mesh, which is very breathable, along with the “Made in USA” badge at the very top. 

The inside liner is well-padded and constructed with great textile material, which in our opinion, makes the New Balance 990v5 supremely pillowy and comfortable.


Both shoes have great uppers, but the New Balance 990v5 has better materials simply because it is made and sourced in the USA. The New Balance 1540v3 is more flexible and contouring, whereas the 990v5 is more pillowy and cushioned.

Additionally, we think that the 990v5 has better aesthetics. It looks more sleek and modern, whereas the 1540v5 looks more traditional and old-fashioned.

Midsole Comparison

New Balance 1540 Midsole

The New Balance 1540v3 is known to have a stronger, firmer sole and support because it is equipped with both the ENCAP and Rollbar midsole technology.

For those who don’t know, Rollbar technology is a lightweight, flat molded piece of graphite material constructed in the shoes to prevent rear-foot movement.

In other words, the Rollbar technology guides your stride into the correct strike path. This helps to correct pronation issues in individuals who turn their feet in the walking motion.

As a result, the New Balance 1540v3 provides amazing stability for an extreme pronator (rolling inwards) and supinator (rolling outwards).

Over time, the act of pronating or supinating through your stride can be disastrous towards the ligaments in your ankle as well your feet overall. This is why podiatrists and foot specialists often recommend New Balance 1540v3 to provide the right walking motion.

All of the amazing ENCAP and Rollbar technologies are placed on top of a durable endurance rubber outsole, which is also non-marking, to keep you stable. 

New Balance 990 Midsole

As we take out the insole, there is a very well-padded Ortholite insole. It is very breathable and sits atop a full-length foam midsole that’s predominantly done in white.

Similar to the 1540v3, the New Balance 990v5 has an ENCAP midsole, which has dual-density, shock-absorbing EVA foam to keep you comfortable with each step you take. 

However, unlike the 1540v3, the 990v5 does not have Rollbar technology.

Sure, the New Balance 990v5 may not be the best for stability without the presence of the Rollbar technology, but it has a more flexible sole and a bit more cushioning.

On the bottom of the shoe, you will find both gray and black colored rubber, finished with the New Balance logo underneath the heel. 


Both shoes offer incredible support, but the New Balance 1540v3 is more stable, has higher EVA density, and is straighter than the 990v5. It is definitely more suitable for a heavier person or someone with an inefficient gait (manner of walking).

Final verdict

WINNER: New Balance 990v5

New Balance 1540 (buy on Amazon)

  • Not made in the USA
  • ENCAP midsole technology
  • Rollbar technology

New Balance 990 (buy on Amazon)

  • Made in the USA
  • ENCAP midsole technology
  • Rollbar technology

Honestly, this is a very tough decision to make since both the 1540v3 and 990v5 are simply excellent. The 1540v3 is great for those looking for stability to reduce pronation and supination, whereas the 990v5 is perfect for those seeking a pillowy and cushioned sneaker.

However, since the New Balance 990v5 is made in the USA with more premium materials, you should expect it to last longer than the 154v3.

And that is the New Balance 1540 vs. 990 comparison. It’s not easy to compare two amazing pairs of sneakers, so hopefully, this comparison is helpful to you.

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