New Balance 990 vs. 993 (Debate Ends Here)

The debate among New Balance fans has always been about which dad shoe is better. Is it the New Balance 990 or the 993? After all, both shoes look almost identical.

So what are the differences between New Balance 990 and 993?

Two important differences between the New Balance 990 and 993 are the tongue and logo. Behind the tongue, the 990 has nylon mesh lining, whereas the 993 has fleece lining. The 990 logo is taller and thinner than the 993 logo.

However, there are no less than 5 differences between both shoes. In this post, let’s compare the NB 990 vs. 993 and find out which ‘dad shoe’ is better.

Key Differences of New Balance 990 and 993

When you first look at the New Balance 990 and 993 side by side, they look eerily similar. For this comparison I will be using the New Balance 990v5 as the subject. Let’s identify the key differences between the two sneakers:

1. The 990v5 has a slightly slimmer profile than the 993 – Although not significant, the shoe profile of the 990v5 is slightly narrower, whereas the 993 is slightly chunkier.

2. The 990v5 has denser shoelaces than the 993 – The texture of the 990v5 shoelaces feel more like cotton, which is nice and smooth, whereas the 993 shoelaces feel like nylon.

3. The 990v5 has more breathable tongue material – Behind the tongue, the 990v5 has nylon mesh lining, whereas the 993 has fleece lining. Nylon mesh is more breathable than fleece, so the 990v5 is better for the summer.

4. The 993 has a wider tongue profile than the 990v5 – It’s easier for the 990v5 tongue to stay inside, whereas the 990 tongue will automatically come out when you are walking.

5. The 990v5 has a “Made in USA” flag on the tongue – On the other hand, the 993 simply has the New Balance and made in USA text on the tongue.

6. The 990v5 has a taller and thinner logo than the 993 – The New Balance 990v5 has a taller, yet thinner logo, whereas the 993 has a shorter yet thicker logo.

New Balance 990 vs. 993 Comparison

New Balance 990 (buy on Amazon)

  • Breathable nylon mesh tongue
  • Premium suede, leather, and mesh
  • Made in the USA
  • Narrower profile

New Balance 993 (buy on Amazon)

  • Fleece tongue (not as breathable)
  • Premium suede, leather, and mesh
  • Made in the USA
  • Bulkier profile

To provide a thorough comparison, I will compare the New Balance 990 and 993 by looking at the shoelaces, tongue, shoe profile, materials, and cushioning of both shoes. Here is the New Balance 990 vs. 993 comparison:

1. Shoelace comparison

As far as laces go, the New Balance 990v5 has denser shoelaces (tighter grain) than the New Balance 993. The texture of the 990v5 shoelaces feels more like cotton, which is softer, whereas the 993 shoelaces feel like nylon.

What I mean by tighter grain is that the laces are able to maintain their shape better. So as you wear it often, tighter shoelaces, which the 990 has, are not going to fold and look floppy.

Also, cotton shoelaces, which the 990 has, looks beautifully aged and vintage as it gets dirty, whereas the nylon shoelaces of the 993 look plain old dirty (not in a good way).

So in terms of shoelaces, the New Balance 990 is definitely the winner.

2. Tongue comparison

The NB 993 has a wider tongue profile than the New Balance 990. The tongue will not be visible when you wear wide pants or long slacks, but it will show when you wear shorts.

Because of the wide tongue profile, the New Balance 993 gives off more of a sporty vibe. In fact, some say that the shoe looks like a basketball sneaker. So if you are wearing shorts along with the New Balance 990, it may make you look shorter.

On the other hand, the tongue profile of the New Balance 990v5 is narrower and more streamlined. It’s easier for the tongue to stay inside, whereas the tongue of the 990 will automatically come out when you are walking.

In terms of comfort, I like the 990v5 tongue better because it does not stick out and stays inside the shoe effortlessly, whereas the 993 tongues will inevitably pop out.

Appearance-wise, I feel like the 993 tongue looks old. It looks like something that a typical dad would wear. After all, the NB 993 is one of the most popular dad shoes around.

The New Balance 990v5 tongue, on the other hand, has a nice, modern touch to it thanks to the sleek and metallic “Made in USA” flag in the center. Personally, I like the 990v5 tongue better because of its young and modern look.

Behind the tongue, the New Balance 993 has a fleece lining, whereas the 990v5 has nylon mesh lining. So if you are looking to wear one of these sneakers all season, the New Balance 990v5 is the better choice because its mesh lining is more breathable in the summer.

Fleece lining does not provide much ventilation so the tongue of the New Balance 993 can cause your feet to sweat more than they should. 

The New Balance 990v5 has a better tongue than the 990.

3. Shoe profile comparison

Looking at both shoes from the side and you’ll see how similar both shoes are.

However, one subtle difference is that the 990v5 has a slight slope going from the heel tip to the bottom, whereas the 993 is nearly vertical.

This is part of the reason why I’ve said that the 990v5 will make your feet sleeker, while the 990 can make your feet look stubbier. In fact, there are plenty of New Balance wearers that commented that the 993 looks a lot like a basketball shoe.

New Balance 990v5 on feet:

New Balance 993 on feet:

Another difference that is more obvious is the logo.

The New Balance 990v5 has a taller, yet thinner logo, whereas the 993 has a shorter yet thicker logo. It also has a white border surrounding the logo.

Personally, I like the 993 logo better simply because it pops out more than the 990 logo. The white border adds a nice touch of contrast, which is not boring and adds another dimension to the overall look of the shoe.

While I like the 993 logo better, I adore the 990 shoe profile more because it’s sleeker.

4. Material comparison

In terms of the suede material, both the 990v5 and 993 have incredibly soft and high-quality suede. You can always judge the quality of the suede by gently rubbing a finger on it. If the suede changes color, then you know it is good quality.

The good quality materials are part of the reason why both New Balance 990 and 993 are more expensive than regular New Balance shoes. They are both made in the USA too.

Both New Balance 990v5 and 993 have excellent materials.

5. Comfort and cushioning comparison

As far as comfort and cushioning go, I’m happy to report that both the 990v5 and 993 are amazing and phenomenal.

It’s hard to choose between the two because they might be some of the most comfortable and versatile sneakers I have in my rotation. The padded suede-and-mesh upper feels like pillows on your feet, which makes long hours of walking borderline enjoyable.

Thanks to similar cushioning and shape, both the New Balance 990 and 993 shoes are almost like slippers with their all-around softness and require little to no break-in period.

The thick rubber soles are sturdy and guarantee comfortable all-day wear, proving that both of the shoes’ chunkiness is not just for show.

Despite their bulky appearance, however, both the 990 and 993 are surprisingly lightweight, though not as light as the average pair of running shoes (like the NB 880 and 890).

Both New Balance 990v5 and 993 are incredibly comfortable for long walks.

Final Verdict

WINNER: New Balance 990v5

New Balance 990 (buy on Amazon)

  • Breathable nylon mesh tongue
  • Premium suede, leather, and mesh
  • Made in the USA
  • Narrower profile

New Balance 993 (buy on Amazon)

  • Fleece tongue (not as breathable)
  • Premium suede, leather, and mesh
  • Made in the USA
  • Bulkier profile

The New Balance 990v5 and 993 are advertised as running shoes, but I find them to be better as walking shoes. In other words, they are shoes meant to be worn for everyday use. The best part is, both New Balance 990 and 993 would go well with everything I wear.

Both shoes are some of the best made in the USA sneakers, but if I have to choose one, I would go for the New Balance 990v5 because it is slightly slimmer and has better tongue materials. The cotton shoelaces of the 990v5 are better in quality, in my opinion. 

And there you have it, the New Balance 990 vs. 993 comparison. It’s not easy finding the differences between both shoes so I hope that my comparison is helpful.

Reviewed by: Jason T.

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