A beginner’s guide to the New Balance numbering system

Over the last few years, New Balance made a tremendous comeback, thanks to awesome retro releases and collaborations with the hottest designers and boutiques. For quite a while it seemed that the typical New Balance wearer was a 60-something grandpa from the US on a sightseeing tour in a European city, wearing his comfortable athletic shoes and throwing in the mix some khaki shorts and knee-high socks. While these guys, surely, are still around, we also see more and more young folks rounding up their streetwear outfits with some classic running shoes with the iconic N on the side. And this is awesome because the New Balance archives have to offer some really great models, which cater to many different tastes in terms of shapes, cushioning and colors.

However, for  someone new to New Balance it might be a little difficult to get the hang of the Boston-based brand’s numbering system. Instead of naming the shoes after cities, athletes or making up some other crazy names, New Balance sneakers usually only consist of a combination of numbers and letters. And that’s where we come in to help you figure out what you’re looking at and what model to choose. In fact, the numbering system is not that complicated once you understand a few basics.

A simple guide to New Balance's numbering system

A simple guide to New Balance’s numbering system

The New Balance numerics can be divided into 3 parts. Usually, the first part consists of one or two letters, mostly M or W, which stand for – you guessed it already – Men’s and Women’s respectively. This first part could also be something like MR (Men’s Running), WL (Women’s Lifestyle) or U (Unisex) for a gender-neutral model. Additionally, you might also come across denotations like CW (Comfort Walking).

The second part of the name describes the style. These numbers can be broken up into two separate parts. The first 1 or 2 numbers indicate how much technology is built into the shoes. As a general rule of thumb, higher numbers reflect superior technology and quality. For the current most popular models, this number can be anywhere between 3 and 19. But don’t be confused by that. Some of the most comfortable sneakers are from the 5-series, like the 530 (my personal favorite) or New Balance’s signature model 574. It really depends on your own preference. The last two numbers, on the other hand, indicate the style series. So, for example, you have the aforementioned 574 and 577, which make use of more or less the same technology, but the higher number marks a newer series.

Additionally, on your New Balance shoe box you find a couple of letters following the numbers mentioned above. These simply reveal the sneaker’s colorway and are abbreviations of the colors. For example, BWG stands for Blue/White/Gray. Don’t confuse these color codes with the letters D and B you sometimes see, though. These indicate the width and are printed on the inside of the tongue label above the size.

As you can see, this is not really rocket science but actually a very smart system to indicate subtle differences between the various models. One of the newest models is the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante, or ML1980, from the Sweatshirt Collection. It features a light and comfortable sweatshirt fabric upper mixed with breathable mesh in the rear part. The lifestyle sneaker sits atop a Fresh Foam midsole, which is New Balance’s premier performance running technology, thus the 19 in the name. Reflective overlays and a leather tongue patch complete the package.

New Balance ML1980 Fresh Foam Zante Sweatshirt Collection (maroon)

New Balance ML1980 Fresh Foam Zante Sweatshirt Collection (maroon)

So now that you know everything about the numbering system, you are well-prepared to take a look at our wide selection of New Balance sneakers (or check out here: DE|AT|CH|UK|NL|FR). Do you already have a favorite model? Do you have questions that remain unanswered? Leave them in the comment section below!

17 comments on “A beginner’s guide to the New Balance numbering system”

  1. heidikasadei@freenet.de' Heidi Kasadei Reply

    Den Artikel habe ich jetzt verstanden, wie sich die Zahlen und Buchstaben zusammensetzen, aber
    ich möchte gerne wissen, was auf dem Sizetage Etikett im Schuh “Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High OH black toe” steht,
    in der Mitte ist die Style Nummer (ist das die Artikel Nummer?) rechts daneben steht das Herstellungsdatum, aber was bedeutet das Datum links auf dem Etikett?
    Ist das eventuell das Release datum des Schuhs?

  2. maggiemaypierce2012@gmail.com' LeeAnn Pierce Reply

    I had a pair of W480GM4 new balance that I wore for walking. I loved them, they were light weight and very comfortable. I have walked the tread off of them and need new ones. Can you tell me where I can get another pair or what newer model is the same as or like the 480.
    Thank you so very much,

  3. nebbie.ellenberger@gmail.com' Deb Ellenberger Reply

    I have been wearing WW665KM and they work wonderfully for me. I am disabled due to a back problem that effects my left foot, so having the right shoe is extremely important.

    My understanding is that each year the numbers change. Is that true? If so, how do I find/figure out what the new number would be?

    Thanks for your help!

  4. nebbie.ellenberger@gmail.com' Deb Ellenberger Reply

    The last couple sneakers I have had are: WW665KM. I am disabled due to a back issue, it effects my left leg and foot. Because of this I need to be very careful of what shoes I buy.

    My understanding is that New Balance changes their numbering when they release new ones. How would I go about figuring out which ones are the “new model” of WW665KM?

    I really appreciate your help!

  5. joebiki7@bigpond.com' Joe Reply

    What’s the equivalent 755 new balance shoe now, the most confortable shoe I ever had. Now almost all the bottoms are gone I still use them in the yard. Don’t know what the new numbering equivalent is, can anyone help me pleasr.

  6. joebiki7@bigpond.com' Joe Reply

    What’s the equivalent 755 new balance shoe now, the most comfortable shoe I ever had. Now almost all the bottoms are gone I still use them in the yard. Don’t know what the new numbering equivalent is, can anyone help me please.

  7. chinokid@msn.com' virginia veira Reply

    I am looking for a New Balance shoe #WX577BY3. Where can I find these?

  8. troy_finchum@yahoo.com' Dorothy Thomas Reply

    I am disabled due to back problems & have plantar fasciitis. What is a good shoe for me to buy?

  9. Margie_bobby@yahoo.com' Margie Reply

    928v2 is my shoe number r these any better than the 6 and 8 hundred shoes

  10. Fezell4@comcast.net' Synderella Reply

    I’m in love with the ML 574 MSC style but the colors which are blue/grey/white (with orange) do not reflect the color codes. What does the MSC stand for?

  11. alliesmaureen@gmail.com' Maureen Allies Reply

    I only wear NB, its my signature sneaker by choice. I rock it with jeans and dresses.

    My favorite pair is the one designed for the Liverpool 125 year anniversary ❤ I’d like to think I’m the only one in Cape Town to have a pair!

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