Founded in Boston by Irish immigrant William J. Riley in 1906, New Balance got its start as an arch support manufacturer. With a name said to be inspired by the feet of the chicken in Riley’s yard, the company turned its focus to making footwear during the ’60s and officially changed its name to New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc. in 1970. Initially gaining recognition for its running shoes in varying widths, the brand is known today for its premium US and England-made sneakers as well as its athletic performance footwear.
New Balance rose to prominence in the ‘80s in both the athletic space and in street style. Its shoes were worn by former Los Angeles Lakers standout and NBA Hall of Famer James Worthy, who once called briefly leaving the brand “the biggest mistake I ever made.” Off the court, the brand’s models (namely the 990 series) began gaining traction with residents of Baltimore and Washington, DC, where New Balance shoes hold significant status to this day.
Some of New Balance’s most popular models today include the 237, 574, 990, and 992. Exclusive collaborations have been a recent driver of interest, and notable projects include the brand’s work with Salehe Bembury, Joe Freshgoods, Casablanca, and JJJJound. On the performance athletic shoe side, New Balance’s technologies like Fresh Foam, FuelCell, and ENCAP ensure that wearers are equipped for a variety of activities. The brand’s most notable endorsee is NBA star Kawhi Leonard, who wears his namesake KAWHI model.