At this point, everyone knows that all the brands and pieces of kit your Dad loved to sport unironically have come full circle and are actually cool–whether you’re talking outerwear, old school jeans, or, most importantly, New Balance sneakers. Much like Nike’s Swoosh and adidas’ three stripes, the New Balance N makes every pair of their kicks instantly recognizable regardless of the level of performance or detailing. Unlike other brands, New Balance shoes have always had number designations rather than names in an–albeit convoluted–effort to make it easier to delineate between each model.
In the beginning, this made it very easy to tell the difference between all the sneaker models, features, and styles because it was broken down into three separate parts: Gender/Style & Performance/Colorway.
For instance, your average New Balance shoe might have been divided as such:
THE FIRST PART:
The beginning letters refer to the gender and trainer type, traditionally referred to as the category of the sneaker:
(All of the “Men’s” options are listed below, but it’s easy enough to substitute a W for Women’s or U for Unisex as applicable.)
MC/MCH/MCY = Men’s Tennis
ML = Men’s Leisure / Lifestyle
MS = Men’s Sneaker
MT = Men’s Trail
MW = Men’s Walking
MX = Men’s Cross-Training
US = Made in the USA
CM / CW = Custom made and/or exclusive collaboration. Don’t sleep on these releases because they will sell out fast.
THE SECOND PART:
After the initial gender declaration, this describes the style and performance of the individual sneaker–which can be broken down based on the last two digits in the model number–and is best described by New Balance themselves with this:
40 (Optimal Control)*: Shoes in this category provide superior control, stability, cushioning and support for biomechanical needs, such as pronation or low arches (e.g., 940, 1540).
*With the exception of the 840v4 running & 840v2 walking. These styles are neutral cushion styles.
50 (Fitness Running): For training on roads or for indoor workouts, the 50 series offers the combination of visual attitude and innovation with the responsiveness and power athletes need.
60 (Stability): Designs that offer industry-leading stability to reduce pronation while also providing unparalleled cushioning and comfort (e.g., 860).
70 (Light Stability): The perfect combination of stability and speed, all in a lighter, sleek profile designed for runners who train at a faster pace (e.g., 770).
80 (Neutral): For high-mileage runners who require light shoes and the protection of superior cushioning (e.g., 1080).
90 (Speed)*: For faster runners who want every advantage, including a superior ride and fit. The choice styles for professional and nonprofessional speed and distance runners (e.g., 890).
*With the exception of the 990v5 and its predecessors.
THE THIRD PART:
The letters after the numbers generally indicate the major colorways of the shoe. For instance:
WB = White and blue
BK = Black
BL = Black and white
GB = Green and blue
This nomenclature might change slightly depending on heritage, style, release and color, but you get the general idea of the overall New Balance naming system.
While most New Balance performance shoes still adhere to this system, it gets a little bit more tricky when you start talking about what you’re most definitely here to read about–the stylish New Balance Sneakers you want to be strapping on regularly.
Let’s start with what is almost inarguably New Balance’s most famous silhouette–the New Balance 574. In the case of lifestyle sneakers like the 574, it breaks down into three parts: M / W, level of performance/tech, and then style series. So in this case, it’s Men, level 5 performance and style series 74. Subsequent iterations of the same shoe will get increasingly larger style numbers based on the release which is where the 577, 579 and others come in.
New Balance 574
The New Balance 574 is one their most frequently reworked models with an entire collection of crazy color, contrasting materials, and out-there construction methods that has led to a number of iconic creations, along with this list of Our 8 Favorite Versions of the Iconic New Balance 574. We’re not quite sure that the best New Balance shoes are determined by their subject matter, but these collaborations run the gamut from historical imperative and Hollywood focal point to stylish touchstone and cultural narrative. National Parks. Boston Marathon. Connoisseur Guitar Pack. The OG New Balance 574 has led the brand to release quite a few bangers based on this silhouette in the past. We refuse to pick one single option as our favorite because it would be like picking a favorite child based on how many favorite options were on that list.
New Balance 237
Following the same math from earlier, the New Balance 237 is not built with anywhere near the amount of performance or technical advancement as the classic 5-series sneakers, but it’s still one helluva good looking shoe with the extended sole, contrasting suede / ripstop / leather materials and 70s’ heritage running shoe design. It’s definitely not the most advanced pair of New Balance sneakers that has ever been released, but it pairs well with everything and is a steal at only $75 for this Timberwolf with sea salt version.
The same goes for kicks like the iconic New Balance 997:
The New Balance 997 silhouette starts as an irresistible blend of aesthetics and comfort that is perfect for any outfit and fit for every member of your family. What really sets this particular chunky heeled silhouette apart from its contemporaries is its appeal in the menswear collaboration scene. These are the most stylish New Balance shoes, and here are the versions that solidify that. New Balance x J.Crew 997 Moon Landing. New Balance 997 “Workwear” Sneakers. New Balance x Todd Snyder Reimagined 997 Triborough Sneakers. J.Crew x New Balance 997 10th Anniversary Sneakers. Those myriad options happen to just be a few of our favorites, but there are handfuls more we could link if we had the space to. Point is–if you want classy, collaborative, and stylish New Balance running shoes–without the underlying Dad vibe–a unique pair of 997s is the way to go.