There are plenty of rumors around about how and why New Balance uses a number system to name its shoes. The most popular rumor is that the numbers represent their original prices, but after even a little investigation that idea doesn’t hold water. Both HighSnobiety and us have spent time in the past explaining where that system comes from, but we're going to bring it together right now so there's a handy place to point to for the future.
Originally the creator of the New Balance numerical system, Arthur Heckler, established it so that customers would focus on the merits of the shoes for their needs rather than create emotional or ideological bonds with their names – which is the goal for most sneaker companies. Once that system was established, it has been expanded to a full code.
The shoe code begins with letters that delineate the market for the shoe, “M” and “W” stand for Men’s and Women’s respectably. “MR” means Men’s running, and “MT” means Men’s trail. That “CM” or “CW”? That says the shoe is a collab.
The numbers after the letters describe technology. The first number or two describe the larger pieces of technological advancement, i.e. all the 900 New Balances, from the 990 through the 999 use the same basic technology: materials and sole construction. The following two digits describe the usage of that technology. For example, the 574 and 577 use the same technologies, but use them in different ways. All the numbers describe a more sophisticated use of the technologies as the numbers get higher.
The letters at the end describe the colorway of the shoe.
Hope that means the CM1600NK makes a little more sense.