Being the popular sneaker that it is, the New Balance 997 is sought after by many New Balance fans. It even has its own “cheaper sidekick”, the New Balance 997H.
So what is the difference between the New Balance 997 and 997H?
The biggest difference between the New Balance 997 and 997H is the midsole. The New Balance 997 uses the popular ENCAP midsole (EVA foam covered in polyurethane rim) known for its toughness, while the 997H uses a generic foam midsole.
Additionally, the New Balance 997 is made in the USA, while the 997H is made in China.
So is the 997 simply better than the 997H? Not so fast. There are plenty of factors to consider. After all, the 997H is much more affordable than the original 997. In this post, we will do a side-by-side comparison and compare the NB 997 vs. 997H.
New Balance 997 and 997H Similarities
Because they both come from the 997 family, there are many similarities between the New Balance 997 and 997H. Let’s quickly go over the important similarities first.
The first similarity is the silhouettes. As you can see, both shoes are very similar at first glance. The shape of the uppers is near-identical to one another. Even the placement of the logos and overlays are also very similar, as the logos sit in similar positions on each shoe.
The iconic “N” logos on both shoes are also the same size.
Secondly, both the 997 and 997H have high-quality suede materials. You know the quality of the suede is pretty good when you can see them change in color when you stroke them with your fingers, and both models seem to have this characteristic.
Moving down to the outsoles, the traction pattern on both shoes is exactly the same.
Now let’s move over to the New Balance 997 vs. 997H comparison:
New Balance 997 vs. 997H Comparison
The New Balance 997 comes in a smaller box with a replaceable lid, whereas the 997H comes in a bigger box with an attached flip-over lid. That is the first difference between the two.
For this comparison, we will look at materials, comfort, and value.
1. Design and Materials
Both shoes have toe boxes made of mesh, but the quality of mesh on the 997 feels much softer, plusher, and a little more breathable compared to the 997H.
The mesh on the New Balance 997H’s toe box feels slightly rough to the touch and doesn’t have the flexibility of the softer mesh found on the New Balance 997.
Moreover, not only do the tongues of both shoes are made of different materials, but they also have different branding from one another.
The New Balance 997 has “Made in USA” stitched in on the tongue of the shoe.
The New Balance 997H’s tongue, on the other hand, is made of the same firmer mesh material from the toe box. It also has a tab attached with the New Balance logo printed on it.
Moving on to the shoelaces, and you can see both pairs come with flat laces. However, the laces on the 997 are slightly wider than the 997H.
The angulation of the toe boxes is also different from one another. You can clearly see that the 997H has a more aggressive angle inwards, while the 997 is more neutral. This directly impacts the comfort of the shoes which we will discuss in the next segment.
Verdict on Design and Materials
The New Balance 997 has better materials than the 997H. It’s pretty apparent. As the original and more expensive model, the 997 is much more premium than the 997H. From the quality of the mesh to the toughness of the bottoms, the 997 is simply better.
2. Comfort and Fit
The inner lining of the New Balance 997, as well as the surrounding padding around the ankle, feels a little softer and plusher than the 997H. It is understandable though, as the 997H is designed as the cheaper alternative to the more expensive 997.
But the biggest difference between the 997 and 997H is the midsole technology.
The New Balance 997 uses the ENCAP midsoles, which are known to be tough and durable. According to New Balance, ENCAP is made of a core of EVA foam in the midsole encapsulated in a tough polyurethane rim. This provides excellent support and stability.
The ENCAP midsole spans from the rear, all the way to the midfoot, and then tapers off into generic foam support in the forefoot.
Thanks to the ENCAP midsole, the 997 provides you with more height than the 997H.
On the other hand, the New Balance 997H uses a firmer midsole called the GCEVA (Ground Contact EVA). While it looks cheaper and more generic than the ENCAP midsole, it certainly does the job of providing enough cushioning, support, and stability.
We’ve even compared the 997H with the iconic 574 and it did well in terms of comfort.
Verdict on Comfort
The New Balance 997 definitely feels more comfortable on feet than the 997H. This is because the 997 has softer mesh and a more cushioned padding around the ankle. But the icing on the cake is the ENCAP midsole, which is more supportive for each stride.
Both the New Balance 997 and 997H are true to size in our opinion.
3. Value for Price
Another major difference between the 997 and 997H is where both shoes are made.
The New Balance 997 is made in the USA, while the 997H, being the more affordable alternative of the 997, is made in China. As a result, the New Balance 997 is more well-built and put together than the New Balance 997H.
After trying both shoes, we can see that the New Balance 997 is more carefully crafted than the 997H. Not only does it have better mesh and better lining, but the overall build of the New Balance 997 feels more premium than the 997H with no noticeable defects.
The New Balance 997H, on the other hand, definitely feels “cheaper” than the 997. Our pair of 997H even had random glue stains and minor loose threads.
Maybe this is because the 997H is not made in the USA.
That being said, the New Balance 997 typically retails around $200 (depending on the colorway), which in our opinion is quite expensive for a pair of sneakers.
The New Balance 997H retails for less than $90, which is more than half the price of the 997.
Verdict on Value
The New Balance 997H delivers more value for its price than the 997. While you are paying for premium materials, the price of the 997 is expensive. The 997H, however, is affordable enough for most people, even though you will get basic materials that are cheaper.
After all, the New Balance 997H is created as the cheaper alternative for the 997.
Now that we’ve compared the New Balance 997 vs. 997H, which one should you buy?
In our opinion, the New Balance 997H is definitely a great cheaper alternative. You get the classic and iconic 997 silhouettes, crafted with decent quality materials, without having to break the bank. Overall, it is an excellent pair of budget sneakers for day-to-day wear.
However, if you really value premium quality and want to take comfort to the next level, then we highly recommend the New Balance 997. You will definitely get more bragging rights among your friends and peers by owning the original New Balance 997.
That being said, you simply can’t go wrong with either the New Balance 997 or the 997H.
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