From price-conscious sneaker to iconic kicks, the New Balance 574 is a rotation mainstay
When it comes to sneakers, there are very few models that have stood the test of time and remain as steady and ubiquitous as the New Balance 574.
Along with the adidas Stan Smith, Air Force 1 and Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars, the 574 takes its place as an all-around classic.
New Balance is well known for its numeric naming system which designates the amount of technology in a shoe. Typically, the lower the number, the less tech in the sneaker.
As running shoes continued to grow in popularity in the 80s, New Balance found success with its lower-end 575 and 576 models. While the 577 was the natural successor to these shoes, New Balance also sought to capture a new audience with the 574.
“The 574 brief was to build a model for the price-conscious consumer – people that weren’t willing to buy into the Made in USA 990 line,” Sam Pearce, Creative Design Manager for footwear at New Balance, told The Fresh Press.
“So they took the successful 576 upper and did a cost-cutting overhaul. Updating the upper materials, reduced performance internals, simplified midsole tech, and shifted to production in Asia.”
The result was New Balance’s first foray into the lifestyle sneaker market.
Moving beyond technical runners, the affordable price tag exposed the brand to a larger consumer group. The heavy duty suede upper combined with mesh paneling and “ENCAP” cushioning provided more than enough comfort for everyday wear.
Up to this point New Balance had mostly focused on the technical aspect of shoes and have been known for its trademark grey stylings, but the 574 really brought the introduction of brighter colorways.
The paneling of the shoes and the big “N” logo allowed for creativity and this further added to the success of the model.
“This is where all the color variations started and it became a natural winner for New Balance. The first lifestyle model and a real affordable price. Without ever advertising it became the brand’s most iconic model. Funny how that happens,” Pearce said.
Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s New Balance continued to crank out technical running shoes and push the needle. All the while, the 574 only grew in popularity.
From the United States to Japan and everywhere in between it found niches. Hip-hop fans will recognize many rappers sporting the 574. Harajuku observers are aware of the fashion influence New Balance (and especially the 574) possess. And of course pop stars and punk and grunge rockers have shown their affinity for the silhouette.
In 2018 New Balance decided to revisit the design of the 574 and reworked many aspects – notably the toebox shape. With its already wider front end, the toe had curved up more and become bulkier through the years. The design team created a sleeker shoe more true to its origins which was a welcome change for New Balance fans.
The 574 continues to be a classic with men and women, young and old.
You can add that classic to your summer rotation at finishline.com, where the New Balance 574 is available now.
Patrick Dempsey is an avid sneaker collector from Austin, Texas. From the first time he saw the Nike Air Jordan 1 as a kid in 1985, he’s been hooked on sneakers. His collection now consists of over 400 pairs from multiple brands, most notably Reebok and New Balance.
Known as @sneakergrandpa on Instagram, Patrick shares multiple pictures a week of what’s on his feet and has amassed over 15,000 followers along the way. Featured on Nice Kicks’ series “Sneak Peek” in March 2015, he has also written features for the Nice Kicks website as well as his own.