5 Iconic New Balance shoes to add to your sneaker rotation

Sneaking into your shoe cabinet


By Natalie Khoo

5 Iconic New Balance shoes to add to your sneaker rotation

New Balance has been acing the sneaker game, especially of late. While the American footwear brand has been around since 1906, it has gone from your dad’s running shoe to every fashionmonger’s must-have sneaker. Beyond the chunky sneaker hype of the ‘90s (which prevails until today, overlapping with other trends across the decades), New Balance has since introduced new models and iterations to fit everyone—the nerd, the jock, the trendsetter, and even the average Jane or Joe. 

Besides, gone are the days when you have to wear sneakers with a specific look. Whether you’re throwing on a casual top and jeans combo or donning a girly dress, there’s a pair of New Balance sneakers to match. And the best part is that they’re designed with comfort and practicality in mind! Who says looking cute means sacrificing arch support? 

We could go on, but let’s jump to what you’re really here for: which New Balance shoe should you pick? Now you can probably identify New Balance shoes by the signature ‘N’ logo on most models, but the tricky part is telling the silhouettes apart. After all, the brand assigns model numbers to their shoes rather than traditional names, so things can get confusing. To help you find the right pair for your lifestyle preferences, we reviewed five of the brand’s iconic silhouettes based on their design, comfort, fit, and features. 


But first, what do the model numbers mean? 

No, the figures aren’t random; each model number actually means something specific. In general, higher-numbered models typically feature more advanced and modern tech compared to their lower-numbered counterparts, with some exceptions. Even if you’re looking for a casual pair of New Balance sneakers instead of proper running shoes, knowing your numbers can come in handy. 

For starters, you’ll want to pay attention to the last two digits, as they represent the activities the shoes are best for. The second to last digit indicates the general purpose of the shoe, while the last digit denotes variations in designs and aesthetics with similar purposes. According to the New Balance website, here’s what the numbers mean: 

  • 40 (Optimal Control): Superior control, stability, cushioning, and support 
  • 50 (Fitness Running): Good responsiveness for training on roads or indoor workouts
  • 60 (Stability): Reduce pronation (turning in of the foot), while providing cushion and comfort
  • 70 (Light Stability): A combination of stability and speed in a lighter, sleek profile
  • 80 (Neutral): For high-mileage runners who require light shoes (e.g. 1080)
  • 90 (Speed)*: For competitive, faster runners who want a superior ride and fit (e.g. 990)

(*with the exception of the 990v5 and its predecessors)

To simplify things for you, models ending with 40, 50 and 60 have the highest stability; 70 and 80 are preferred for light stability and neutral runners; and 90 and 00 are the lightest, competitive models. Meanwhile, the “v” in certain model names indicates the version number of the shoes. For example, the New Balance 1080v13 has received multiple updates (v2, v3, v4, etc.) with “13” being the latest version. 




New Balance 530

New Balance 530 in white with natural indigo.

Design: 7/10

Comfort: 9/10

Fit: 9/10

Best for: Exploring a new city

If you’re a fan of normcore, the New Balance 530 is made for you. This unisex sneaker takes cues from the brand’s classic running shoes for a retro look, while boasting the Abzorb midsole cushioning that ensures both stability and a spring in your step. Complete with a synthetic leather and mesh upper construction, the 530 feels breathable and light on the feet yet durable enough for multipurpose wear and travelling, especially if you’re aiming for a casually fashionable look. The shoe also has a slimmer and neater package than most of New Balance’s chunkier models (like the 990 or 2002R), making it an ideal choice for those easing into the footwear trend. 


New Balance 550

New Balance 550 in white.

Design: 9/10 

Comfort: 8/10

Fit: 7/10 

Best for: Daily lifestyle

First debuted in 1989, the original 550 was an instant hit on basketball courts everywhere. It was later filed away in the archives before being reintroduced as limited-edition releases in late 2020. Upon its comeback in 2021, the silhouette quickly became a fashion favourite, thanks to its low top, streamlined silhouette that offers a cleaner take on the chunkier designs of the late ‘80s. Constructed with a synthetic suede upper and rubber outsole, the 550 is the perfect pair to cop for daily wear or to take you from courtside to the mall to an outdoor date. Psst, it was also Taylor Swift’s footwear of choice to her first Kansas City Chiefs game in September 2023! 


New Balance 574

New Balance 574 in brown with royal blue

Design: 8/10

Comfort: 9/10

Fit: 7/10 (great for wider feet) 

Best for: Walking and light hiking

Believe it or not, New Balance considers the 574 its “unlikeliest icon”. Designed to be a reliable shoe that’s unpretentiously versatile, its unassuming characteristics are actually what led to the 574’s popularity. First released in 1988, the silhouette features durable suede-and-mesh uppers and a vintage-inspired design that comes in a wide array of colourways. Recent updates include a hybrid road and trail design that’s wider than predecessors, making it more versatile, durable and comfortable for a range of activities. Coupled with ENCAP midsole cushioning, the 574 is great for walking, running, light hiking, and running daily errands.


New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080 v13

New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080 v13 in white with black and coastal blue

Design: 7/10

Comfort: 9/10

Fit: 9/10

Best for: Running

Unlike the other sneakers on this list, the 1080v13 is specifically designed for running. New Balance even stated that if they only made one running shoe, “it would be the Fresh Foam X 1080”. With that said, we’d argue that some iterations are versatile enough to be worn for casual and semi-formal occasions. With its highly comfortable Fresh Foam X midsole cushioning that delivers a smooth transition from landing to push-off, who wouldn’t want to wear them all the time? It also features a breathable mesh upper that fits snugly like a second skin while providing support for short or long runs. Plus, there are two variations—standard and wide fit—to ensure the best structure for different foot widths and heights.


New Balance 1906

New Balance 1906 Utility in Angora with blue laguna and orb pink

Design: 7/10

Comfort: 8/10

Fit: 8/10 

Best for: Athleisure 

Of course, we had to include the heritage sneaker that’s named after the brand’s founding year: 1906. True to its legacy of craftsmanship and quality, the 1906 is designed with comfort and style in mind, incorporating premium technology to ensure a well-balanced shoe. These features include a midsole that combines cushion and compression, a heel cushioning that delivers stability, and an outsole that ensures optimum arch support. Although it’s designed primarily for lifestyle wear, the 1906 packs running-inspired technologies with an edgy, retro aesthetic that’s ideal for fans of the dad sneaker silhouette. 



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