Steven Smith joined New Balance in 1986 and immediately played an intrinsic role in the direction of the 99x series. His first official gig was to enhance the visual styling of the 995. Next up was the clean-sheet 996 design, before he completed his holy trinity of 99x — the cult classic 997 — which would also prove to be his swansong at New Balance.
With ENCAP and C-CAP cushioning, XAR-1000 carbon rubber outsoles, and Smith’s ingenious Hytrel Thermoplastic lockdown strap, the 997 was a breakthrough moment for footwear tech. Among hardcore NB aficionados, the super crisp midsole has long been regarded as the 997’s most endearing feature. Built with incomparable manufacturing standards and top-notch raw materials, not to mention the elegant profile and dual-density comfort, Smith’s magnum opus has more than stood the test of time. The complete story is best detailed in our definitive history of the 997.