The 20 Best New Balances of All Time
From the brand's roots in running to today's hyped-up collabs, these are the models that define the New Balance legacy.
At this point, it’s an understatement to say New Balance is “having a moment”; the Boston-based brand is clearly here to stay. Over the last several years, the privately held company has positioned itself as a major player in the athletic footwear space, a move spurred by a perpetual string of “it” collaborators.
The brand’s energy had been bubbling for some time, but it was All-Star Weekend 2020’s “No Emotions Are Emotions” project with Chicago designer Joe Freshgoods that really elevated New Balance’s hype in sneaker circles. The Joe Freshgoods 992s had people lined up around the block — a queue that even rivaled releases from bigger brands like Jordan and Adidas — and kicked off a wave of projects that have continually upped the brand’s name value. There were Salehe Bembury’s colorful, often experimental designs. There was beauty in simplicity courtesy of JJJJound. And you can’t talk about the brand these days without tipping your hat to Aimé Leon Dore founder Teddy Santis, who became creative director of New Balance’s Made in USA line in 2021.
This collaborator-led strategy paid off and has seen interest trickle down to some of New Balance’s more accessible offerings like the 2002R “Refined Future Pack” (or, as the internet has coined it, “Protection Pack”), the 1906R, and general release colorways of the 550, a model first revived by Santis’ Aimé Leon Dore label in 2020. The 992 was everywhere during the pandemic, and the brand’s recent focus on the 990 line has found fans amongst a new generation of sneaker buyers.
With all the buzz around New Balance, there are plenty of takes about which of its sneakers are the best, but what defines that? You can’t truly explore the brand’s history by rattling off its current popular models and leaving it at that. To come up with a definitive ranking, we considered each sneaker’s place in New Balance’s history, its prominence throughout the years, and its level of appeal to today’s sneaker consumer. These are the 20 Best New Balances of All Time.
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