New Balance Numeric 420: a living review

Updated: 31 July 2020

Conclusion so far: one of the best leather-free skate shoes out there

Soles: Quite hard, stiff and plasticky [at the beginning]. More or less OK. Feels a bit like standing on a pedestal. This sort of thick sole is an advantage when landing primo. Grippiness of the soles is OK. The soles are quite narrow at the arch of the foot. This can be a problem, especially if you have wide feet (Imagine landing on the very edge of the tail, slipping off with your sole, but catching the full impact of landing with the arch of your foot. True story.). Update: The price you'll have to pay with these shoes (I think) is that the soles feel a bit thick and hard (see above) for the first week - however, the reward you'll reap are soles that are basically perfect from then on and they will last a long time.

Upper: Completely fine, but not indestructible. There are better synthetic uppers. (example, example, example) Note, some other colourways have a synthetic suede upper. (See here.) The upper looks as if it was thick, rubbery, and protective - but it's not. When your board hits your foot it feels quite unprotected (hurts like hell), like what I would imagine the Adidas Blondey McCoy shoe would feel like. Update: The soles have really good durability - that means (if you do a lot of flip tricks) you'll have to make the upper survive with some type of shoe repair "goo" (like Ripcare or All Star Gum or whatever you use).

Width: Sort of narrow but OK. If you have wide feet your foot will be slightly wider than the narrow sole. This can lead to painful encounters with hard objects. Update: Width is perfectly fine for wide feet once the shoes have been worn in.

Ripped laces risk ratio: Probably lower than normal ... because the laces are quite far up. (Surely not, see from "Day 6" and "Day 7" onwards).

Looks: Decent. Like a classic New Balance running shoe. Feel like a Norwegian vegan straight edge model. (I mean, you can indulge in feeling this way.) The look is completely fine with me. I sort of get reminded of Doc Martens style shoes or ... even ski boots ... but really, they look fine. They look good even. They do look good. Update: They really don't remind me of weird shoes anymore. They look good, and they do keep their shape, unlike many skate shoes that towards the end of their lifespan tend to look like a bunch of rags held together by shoe laces.

Sweat factor: Perfect.

Heel slippage & heel comfort: No heel slippage. Perfect. 100% heel spa level comfort.

Big bother: They're OK. The soles are too thick, and I suspect the soles will be OK once the upper is completely destroyed. Update: The soles are great after about a week. They're perfect from then on. You must keep the upper going.

Sizing: They convert USA to EU differently ... US 10 =  EU 44 ... I usually wear a US 10 = EU 43. In these I have a US 9 = EU 42.5 and this size fits well. I would recommend going at least half a size down.

Corporate this is not a skate shoe company percentage: Probably 100%. No street cred.

Day 5

Yes, that's a drop of water.

Day 6

Ripped laces, lowest and highest eylet
Breakthrough (bad kind) imminent

Day 7

Ripped laces: second eyelet from the bottom
Note that the tongue is quite thin (OK) and has no tongue straps (not ideal), so the tongues always slip down to the sides.
The kickflip spot has now worn through.
The blue bit is the insole.
With the insole taken out. See my finger.
The tip of the front foot's sole.
After applying All Star Gum (a French non-toxic shoe goo - the company might be out of business now?) Including my finger print. Nothing to impress your mother-in-law with, but it works.

Day 8

Heel flips before dishonour
Metaphorical Achilles heel

 I think, the soles are more comfortable now.

If there's a cure, what good is discontent?

Day 10

The All Star Gum forms into a eraser-like rubber that is easily rubbed off by grip tape violence. So, I tried Ripcare - which I usually use nowadays. Ripcare is a German, seemingly not all that toxic version of Shoe Goo. Usually it won't create this sort of drop. I just use a few drops of water to smoothen out the surface of the Ripcare goo. Seems like I used a few drops too many this time. So, this is post day 9 (not shown).
Ripcare. At least the carton.
All Star Gum
Today's damage
The blue moods of Spain. A bit disappointed with this shoe's durability.
The front foot sole tip frazzle isn't really a problem. But why is this happening? The shoes are quite comfortable by now.
If your deck looks like this you know something's odd-looking.

Day 11

Blowout comb, and the laces ripped again.

After skate
After Ripcare
(No souls in these) Soles

The soles, and the shoes really, are good now. If they had an indestructible upper, I'd be happy with them.

Day 12

Comfortable. If you hold it like this you also notice how light this shoe is.

A more easygoing day of skating. After a day of rest sometimes all tricks just work - which can mean less punishment for your shoes.
Cosmetic problem only

Day 13

After two down days. I'm not quite sure why the sole of the back foot (left) looks like this.
I hadn't put on any Ripcare before today's session.
I'll try to keep them going.

Day 14

Last night's output
Today's session's normal corollary
This is the stage when this shoe is ripe.
Goethe would have said: You must apply.

Day 15

With a new layer of Ripcare
After skating
I was skating at the skate park, and my deck is completely soft. So I was doing less flip tricks. (The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the skate park into a playground for preschoolers and their cognitively diverse parents, as well as similarly challenged teenagers.) In other words: not what (DJ) Hurricane would call severe damage. 
I cannot really complain about these shoes anymore. However, the tongue is thin, and hitting your foot in the tongue area isn't recommended.

Day 16

I hadn't put on any Ripcare last night. And I only skated for about an hour today. 
And I have to say ...
... that these shoes are holding up better than I had initially expected.
Side note: some wisdom from the 90s ...
"Aim at a target like a rifle not a shotgun
Don't spray into the fray to prove that I got one"
To all the people who love heel flips
Ripcare, freshly squeezed 
(By the way, I have no financial or other ties to Ripcare.)
Freshly wetted

Day 17

Another laid-back day of skating, with another older (more or less) tailless deck
... which might be a good time to mention the Vision Gator (yes, the guy who murdered his girlfriend) tailless monkey board graphic from around 1990 (or 1989 - however, a guy from my town had it, and I'm pretty sure that was in 1990) ... I need to find a good quality photo of that graphic - sometimes the internet doesn't seem to be able to offer the best things in life. 
Very low res image

Day 18

All Star Gum, new grip tape, ...
They're called hard heelflips. And they're harder with new grip tape.

Day 19

Three days of rain. Then yesterday I managed to go skating, it started to rain but then it quickly stopped (today again, no skating, first rain, then too much work), Before skating, with a new layer of Ripcare.
As you can see, you can keep the upper going with something like Shoe Goo (Ripcare or something of the kind). But at some point the soles will get holes. This is not the case so far.

Day 20

A bit more than an hour of skating and overcast skies, and another off day. 

Day 21

There COVID-19 pandemic has converted the skate park into a  post-apocalyptic day nursery. 

Day 22

The first summery day in June; with cold wind at 9 pm; another broken deck; the foamy layer is coming through but it seems relatively tough; I have (had) new grip tape. These shoes are (continue to be) really good at this stage.

Day 23

After a five day hiatus of a broken deck and rain and rain and rain ... 

Day 24

Keeps going and going and going.

Day 25

This is the badass-est inner-sole foam I have seen.

Day 26

Day 27

Day 28

Day 29

Day 30

Day 31 

Day 32

Day 33

Day 34

Day 35

[You can't say I didn't try.]

It just keeps on raining.

Day 36

Day 37

A coded message appears on the sole of the left shoe. A lottery ticket maybe.

Day 38

Day 39

Day 40

Day 41

Day 42

The most appropriate caption is maybe: for whom the bell tolls.
So far, they have already lasted longer than Jesus in the desert. Now, the upper of these shoes is not the best, most durable upper the world has seen, at all, but you can extend its life and keep these shoes going through draconian, or maybe Jamie "work horse" Thomas-ian, punishment, and they just last and last.
I've already ordered a new pair of 420s.

Oh, and the stash pocket of these shoes? If I die before I wake, ... donate my lungs to a rasta.

Day 43

I think these should have one more day in them.

Day 44

Maybe one more day, although that blue foam stuff beneath the black super-durable foam stuff is the insole and there's about 1/2 mm of blue foam left in the big toe area you can see in the picture.

Day 45

Day 46

Despite the damage you can see here these shoes are still totally skateable. I'm used to skate shoes that at the end of their lives feel just like a bunch of rags held together with shoe laces. But these shoes here keep their shape. And you can see the sole of the right foot (front foot) has broken, but weirdly the broken parts stay in place and only very slowly escalate the problem. You can see that the back foot's sole is worn through, but to my surprise I can fix this issue by applying a bit of Ripcare after skating.

Day 46

Day 46

Day 47

Managed to get a skate session in after the rain, just before it got dark, 1000% air humidity, no one at the skate park.

Day 48

The sole of the left shoe is completely worn through now. I've been fixing this so far, with Ripcare, and it has worked surprisingly well. But everything runs its course (read: dies) eventually. Now inside the blue area (see left shoe) there's a tiny spot (about 2 mm in diameter, about 1/16 inch for non-metric people) that's worn all the way through. I'm fixing this again tonight but I have doubts these shoes will make it to day 50. Given the extent sole destruction already present I'm surprised how skateable these shoes still feel.

The only thing left at this stage is maybe to say your prayers.

Day 49

Day 50

Not the most comfortable for the big toes at this stage. But in the spirit of Nietzsche, or maybe Snapcase, I'll skate them for at least one more day.

Day 51

Day 52

New Balance Numeric 420, I think we have to talk.


"New Balance Numeric 420. Reimagined by Marquise Henry with durable synthetic uppers, a Revlite midsole and a running inspired outsole." Skate Park of Tampa (2018) ---- [Revlite??! The upper is not very durable, and the soles, after about a week of breaking them in are very suitable for skating, i.e. luckily not too running-inspired.]

"The result is the new NM420—a runner’s silhouette on a highly skateable shoe. [...] From the looks of it, the shoe works well while staying true to the classic running shoe style that it’s designed to mimic. It’s hard to believe that New Balance Numeric didn’t come out with something like this earlier." The Berrics (2018) ---- ["Highly skateable" is a New Balance advertising slogan. Likely a review paid for by New Balance.]