Over the last few years, New Balance made a tremendous comeback, thanks to awesome retro releases and collaborations with the hottest designers and boutiques. In the process, they have changed the way people look at the brand, too.
For quite a while it seemed that the typical New Balance wearer was a 60-something grandpa from the US on a sightseeing tour in a European city, wearing his comfortable athletic shoes and throwing in some khaki shorts and knee-high socks for good measure. While these guys, surely, are still around, we also see more and more young folks rounding up their streetwear outfits with some classic running shoes with the iconic N on the side. And this is awesome because the New Balance archives offer some really great shoe silhouettes, which cater to many different tastes in terms of shapes, cushioning, and colors.
However, for someone new to New Balance it might be a little difficult to get the hang of the Boston-based brand's naming and numbering system. Instead of naming the shoes after cities, athletes, or making up some other crazy names, New Balance sneakers usually only consist of a combination of numbers and letters. And that's where we come in to help you figure out what you're looking at and what model to choose. In fact, the numbering system is not that complicated once you understand a few basics.
The New Balance numerics can be divided into 3 parts. Usually, the first part consists of one or two letters, mostly M or W, which stand for – you guessed it already – Men's and Women's respectively. This first part could also be something like MR (Men's Running), WL (Women's Lifestyle) or U (Unisex) for a gender-neutral model. Additionally, you might also come across denotations like CW (Comfort Walking).
The second part of the name describes the style. These numbers can be broken up into two separate parts. The first 1 or 2 numbers indicate how much technology is built into the shoes. As a general rule of thumb, higher numbers reflect superior technology and quality. For the current most popular models, this number can be anywhere between 3 and 19. But don't be fooled by that. Some of the most comfortable sneakers are from the 5-series, like the 530 or New Balance's signature model 574. It really depends on your own preference. The last two numbers, on the other hand, indicate the style series. So, for example, you have the aforementioned 574 and 577, which make use of more or less the same technology, but the higher number marks a newer series.
Additionally, on your New Balance shoebox, you find a couple of letters following the numbers mentioned above. These simply reveal the sneaker's colorway and are abbreviations of the colors. For example, BWG stands for Blue/White/Gray. Don't confuse these color codes with the letters D and B you sometimes see, though. These indicate the width and are printed on the inside of the tongue label above the size.
As you can see, this is not really rocket science but actually a very smart system to indicate subtle differences between the various models that in the end can help you make a more informed buying decision.