Every sneakerhead knows it. Your collection of runners plays an integral role in your daily rotation. For decades, New Balance has been a force to be reckoned with in the world of running shoes. With classic, time-tested silhouettes, several original New Balance silhouettes have endured and flourished as retro mainstays. However, unlike their much more recognizable peers, becoming household names has proved to be a challenge, in part because of the brand’s unique naming convention.
By using numbers instead of names for their shoes, more casual consumers can have a tough time remembering and differentiating the numerical model names, relying more on visual cache than name recognition to ingrain them into their memory banks. However, through noteworthy collaborative endeavors with industry giants such as Ronnie Fieg, New Balance has been able to cement its place among sneakerheads.
Today, the more knowledgeable sneaker enthusiasts will probably be able to give you a general rundown of the various models New Balance offers, but even still it can be difficult to remember it all. As a result, we thought we would put together a definitive guide to New Balance sneakers. From the unique naming convention, to the various technologies used, to even a list of some of their best collabs- we’ll cover it all.
Naming Convention: What Does it Mean?
It can get very confusing when choosing the right New Balance shoe for you. New Balance has a few thousand models to choose from and it is impossible to understand what each model’s purpose is if you don’t know how to decode the model name. Recently, New Balance unveiled a new naming/numbering system for their shoes that is a direct reflection of the level of performance and technology in the shoe.
The diagram above describes the complete naming system New Balance uses to identify their shoes. Basically, each model name/code is comprised of four sections.
- “MR”: The first two letters identify the gender and the sport activity. “M” is for MEN, “W” for WOMEN. “R” is for Running. “WW” will be Women’s Walking, “MX” will be Men’s Cross-Training and so on.
- “10”: The “hundreds” number (890, 1260 etc) represents the level of “premium” of the shoe. It originally was symbolic of the price point of the shoe, where 890 would be a shoe around $80, 1080 a shoe around $100 and 1260 a shoe around $120. While this is not strictly the case anymore, the concept stays: you can expect the cost (and features) of the shoe to go up when moving from a “8” model to a “10” or a “12”.
- 80”: The last two digits of the number used to indicate the level of cushioning. This is the list:
- 40 (Optimal Control): Supported by medical and podiatric experts, shoes in this category provide maximum control, stability, cushioning and support for biomechanical needs, such as pronation or low arches (eg, 840, 1540).
- 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 (eg, 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 (eg, 770).
- 80 (Neutral): For high-mileage runners who require light shoes and the protection of superior cushioning (eg, 980, 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 (ie, 890).
- “v6”: the “V” is the version of this shoe.
- Typically, there are also letters after the numbers that indicate the major colors of the shoe. For example, WB indicates white and blue and BK indicates black.
- Another thing to note is that a lot of Asian made releases have a C prefix at the start of a style-code (EG: CM1500) and this is indicative of an Asian made collab or Asian region exclusive. An example of the difference between an Asian made and UK made 1500 collab would be:
- Solebox Purple Devil = M1500BPW
- Oshmans x Mita = CM1500YG
- The C is generally thought to stand for custom.
Although these numbers and naming convention are not exactly customer friendly – I have to admit that once you know the logic, it actually makes a lot of sense.
In addition to a dense naming convention, New Balance also uses a unique technology nomenclature in their shoes. Even the most causal sneaker buffs will easily be able to identify and explain what boost and flyknit are but will have a difficult time with NB tech. Below is a list of some of the most ubiquitous technology New Balance uses.
- EVA (Ethylene-vinyl acetate): An elastomeric polymer that produces materials which are “rubber-like” in softness and flexibility. NB uses this for the sole.
- ENCAP: A midsole technology that combines a soft, supportive, durable rim of polyurethane, and a soft cushioning core of EVA.
- ABZORB DTS (Dynamic Transition System): DTS combines ABZORB form and ABZORB SBS (shock absorber) to provide optimal cushioning and smooth transition on a heel hike.
- ROLLBAR: A TPU medium and/or lateral post with a composite plate designed to minimize rear foot movement.
- SURE LACE: A computer knit lace system, or chord designed with a reciprocating wave pattern that will not untie under high performance or inclement conditions.
- ABSORB EX: A combination of New Balance’s premium ABZORB foam and a peripheral pocket of non-pressurized air that is encapsulated in an engineered thermoplastic.
- ACTEVA: Superior lightweight foam with exceptional durability. 12% lighter than standard foam.
- NLOCK: Integrated lacing and webbing system that provides optimal fit, support, and security.
- N-FUSE: A two density layered foam which combines NB’s soft cushioning foam and firmer structured foam to provide optimal comfort and support.
- STABILITY WEB: A structured lightweight arch support that provides optimal rigidity preventing midfoot flex.
NB Shoe Models
The picture above serves as an immaculate representation of the most popular New Balance Silhouettes. However, instead of detailing the various virtues of each sneaker (which you can find directly on their website), we’ve decided to explore some of the best collaborations New Balance has done. From world renowned sneaker consignments such as Concepts and Solebox, to sneaker don Ronnie Fieg, New Balance has worked with them all. Peep the slideshow below for some of our favorites.