New Balance: From Chickens To Kanye West

What do chickens and athletic shoes have in common? A lot, actually! The New Balance sneaker creator William J.Riley was inspired by how the three-pronged foot achieved the perfect balance and has used that inspiration to create one of the most famous sneakers of all time!

Today, New Balance is one of the oldest brands on the market, with a history reaching 1906. During its 100 years, the company achieved massive success and gifted the world footwear that's beloved by generations of athletes and people who love comfort and style. 

New Balance athletic shoes

How it started

The New Balance history is long and unique. The company, like most others, has had ups and downs, and it took a lot of creativity and perseverance to succeed. 

The New Balance founder William J.Riley from Boston spent years watching chickens, trying to figure out how to transfer their anatomy to the shoe and experimenting. In 1927, he finally hired a salesman Arthur Hall, and in 1934 the two started the New Balance Arch Support Company. The two started selling arch support with three support points for workers, such as firefighters and police officers, that William has developed. They were not cheap for that time and cost $5 a pair, but people were still buying them because they offered high quality.  The brand made make its first sneakers in 1938 using crepe sole and black kangaroo leather,

The Trackster

In 1957 William sold the company to his daughter Eleanor and son-in-law Paul, who decided it was time to take the company further. They have managed to reach more customers, and New Balance became very successful among athletes who loved the arch support. They loved it so much that they started asking the couple to develop sneakers too. That's how the Trackster was born. It was manufactured at home and was the world's first running shoe with a rippled sole that provided traction. The sneaker offered another unique feature besides the sole: it was available in various widths and so was suitable for a variety of athletes. However, the retailers were not thrilled because this made sales too complicated. Unfortunately, even with the unique design, and positive athlete feedback, New Balance struggled. 

The New Era

The new era for New Balance dawned in the 1970s when Jim Davis bought the company and started working on strengthening it. At the time, Boston and its area were experiencing a boost in people's interest in running and fitness, and so the new owner had found his ideal market.

One way Jim Davis made the New Balance sneakers stand out was by giving the models numbers instead of names. Each number identified the type of shoe, its intended activity, and whether it was created for speed or stability. In 1976 the now iconic "N" logo was introduced on the New Balance 320 and was carried on all models from the popular New Balance 550, New Balance 574, New Balance 327 to New Balance 990. The new design attracted attention from celebrities who were now eager to wear New Balance shoes, leading to increased popularity.

American Pride

New Balance shoes are known for being proudly American in style and production. A big part of the shoes are made in the USA and the United Kingdom, as well as in Japan, and bout 20 percent of the sneaker pairs are made in New England. And while the production origin is an important factor, comfort and design play a much bigger role. 

All New Balance shoes are created with air compression units that enhance comfort and performance and high-quality materials that make the well-known New Balance aesthetic. One of the things New Balance is known for is that even the newest designs are timeless because the brand focuses on comfort and longevity over the latest trends. That's why the shoe is beloved by multiple generations, from Gen X, who appreciate the comfort, to the youngest Gen Z, who love the retro look. New Balance shoes never go out of style! 

New Balance Today

Today New Balance is a brand that offers shoes and clothing for a variety of sports, including basketball, football, and cycling. The brand is also taking advantage of collaborations and keeps coming out with limited edition sneakers with such companies as Bodega, Concepts, J. Crew, Ronnie Fieg, and others. These sneakers tend to disappear from the shelves in record time, with sneakerheads rushing to secure them for their collections.

While New Balance is a US brand, it's a worldwide phenomenon and a trendsetter in footwear fashion. Today the brand is not afraid to embrace the retro influence with ads and slogans like "Worn by supermodels in London and Dads in Ohio." 

The beauty of New Balance shoes is that they go with anything from athleisure to office wear, and that's no small feat!

Fun Facts about New Balance

- It took 4 years to create New Balance 990, but the wait paid off. This model is one of the fan favorites and is known for its support, stability, flexibility, and unique design. 

- The Trackster model was the first on the market produced in different widths to suit different needs.

- The Israeli army had their own New Balance 577 model in black and silver colors. 

- New Balance has a partnership with Westin Hotels, where people can rent sports gear, clothing, and sneakers to work out in the hotel gyms. Because who wants to pack extra clothes when traveling? 

- New Balance sponsors a bike share system in Boston where people can rent bikes in different locations. This helps reduce traffic and also encourages people to be more active! 

- Want custom shoes? You can create them on the New Balance website by choosing your designs from 14 color options. 

- New Balance sneakers are beloved by celebrities like Kanye West, Bill Clinton, Andrew Garfield, and Alexa Chung. 

- New Balance was Steve Job's favorite sneaker, and he wore them all the time. 

Explore New Balance shoes and shop your favorite styles in our online store

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Tags:footwear, athletic shoes, sneakers

About the Author

Alex Nickson

Alex is our writer, specialised in luxury and style. He is passionate about discovering original luxury brands and emerging fashion designers.

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