Kicking off a fitness routine all starts with the shoes. Crossfit shoes offer more than just stylish appeal—they optimize orthopedic support and benefit trainers from the toes up to the head. A household name in the running shoes industry, New Balance (NB) takes their shoes seriously. Designed for agility, speed, stability, and comfort, NB shoes are some of the best gear for crossfit trainers. Check out the comprehensive guide to the best New Balance shoes of 2021 and hit the ground running on fitness.
Old School Kicks vs New Model Names Compared to other major fitness shoe producers, New Balance is distinct for taking a different approach to their shoe model system. While most companies rely on flashy names to convey a sense of the shoe’s purpose to customers, NB provides a direct guide that helps customers instantly identify the function and style of shoe. So where is this guide? It’s all in the model name. The NB model names at first appear to be a string of letters and numbers. These are not just randomly assigned model names, but actually provide a code reference that customers can use when shopping for shoes. Take this model from the cross-training series as an example: MX608V4. The very first letter might indicate the gender or age-group who would wear the shoe:
Sometimes there are other letters that mark the shoe for a special category unrelated to gender and age, such as US for made in the USA, and RC for racing / competitive. The second letter is the specific activity that the shoe was designed for:
With the model in the example, readers can see that the MX stands for men’s cross-training. The first two numbers categorize the shoe style:
The higher the style number, the more features and technological development went into the shoe. So a 990 is going to have more advanced features than a 928. Higher style numbers can also lead to higher pricing within the category. The last number indicates the series, so higher numbers simply mean a newer model in the series. In the example then, the 608 means the shoe is optimal for stability and is a more recent model. The “v” just means “version”, and the number after it shows the version of the shoe. Different versions indicate that NB liked the function and design of the shoe, but perhaps tweaked some aspect of it to create a new version. If there are letters after the shoe model number, for instance an MX608V4WB, those point to the colors:
Given this breakdown, one can see that the MX608V4 is designed for men’s cross-training, with stability as the main factor, and it’s a newer model in the series and the fourth version. Once one understands the numeric model system that New Balance uses, it’s easier to identify different models and know their functions right away.
Knowing the New Balance numeric system is a good reference when comparing their various shoes. But determining the best shoes is about more than just the numbers. With an eye toward the numerics but also looking at factors like the suitability for cross-fit training, comfort, support, speed, agility, and affordability, we present the guide to the best New Balance shoes of 2021.
Taking first place out of all the categories, the 775 is designed for light stability and running. It provides support while also being light enough for maximized speed and performance. With a 2.3” shaft from the arch, the 775 offers excellent arch support and stability. The midsole is made of NB’s cush+ technology for premium comfort, perfect for long-distance running and high-intensity training. A grooved rubber sole provides excellent traction. A no-sew upper provides superior quality that resists tearing and stretching, and the padded tongue and collar make for a comfortable fit. The upper is also made of mesh, which allows the feet to breathe and prevents sweating during long training sessions. Synthetic side panels with the iconic NB logo and geometric cutouts add to the 775’s stylish look, and the shoe comes with a variety of color options. The support, comfort, light weight, and material of the 775 makes it the best shoe for running and cross-fit. Whether it’s a marathon or triathlon, the NB 775 easily takes home the medal.
The runner-up in the best-of guide, the 980 is designed for speed and will give the boost needed to get to the front of the race. A midsole platform made of NB’s cutting-edge fresh foam technology provides comfort and heel support, while the OrthoLite allows for lightweight, enhanced comfort throughout the sole. A two-way stretch air-mesh upper allows for maximum breathability and flexibility to adjust to the wearer’s foot shape. A honeycomb grooved rubber sole evenly distributes traction and weight. Diagonal no-sew overlays and a bright logo make for a sleek and stylish shoe.
A strong contender for the top NB shoes, the 860 is a great general training shoe. Part of the neutral series, the 860 provides a balance of comfort, stability, and support. Ortholite insoles provide comfort and optimal arch support. Abzorb technology reduces shock and impact even with heavy-impact exercises. An asymmetrical heel counter offers stability by evenly distributing weight throughout the foot. A no-sew mesh upper provides breathability. Patterned and grooved rubber soles provide traction. Geometric cutouts and diagonal overlays make for a bold look.
Designed for stability, the 690 is a great choice for rugged and all-terrain trails. A low-top shaft from the arch makes this ideal for people with low arches who need stability and support. Cushioning and additional stability derive from the molded EVA midsole. The upper is made of combined leather and mesh for a breathable shoe that molds to the wearer’s feet. A gusseted tongue prevents dirt and rocks from getting inside the shoe. All-terrain (AT) tread makes the 690 suitable for any environment. With graphic patterning along the back of the shoe and solid coloring for the upper, the 690 has a sporty look.
Also designed for stability, the 610 protects and supports the feet. A 2.5 inch shaft from the arch provides strong support for low arches. A padded collar allows for the shoes to be tightly secured to the feet without discomfort. A mesh upper offers breathability. A strong rubber sole with tread similar to tire tread makes this suitable for rough terrain and trail running. Minimal design, with logos on the side and tongue, and mostly solid colors give the 610 a tough and rugged appearance, great for gearing up for the gym or hitting the trails.
A comfortable, neutral shoe, the 890 appeals to men, women, and children alike. A low-top shaft provides strong support, even for people with low arches. Lace-up tongue and dual-density foam overlays allow the wearer to secure the shoe without compromising on comfort. An EVA core in the heel provides enhanced stability. A 12-mm heel drop minimizes or even prevents heel pain. Mesh upper allows for breathability, while leather overlays protect against water seeping in. Thick rubber soles on the heel provide additional heel support and comfort, while soft soles on the ball of the feet reduce impact. The leather and mesh combination with the logo on the leather makes the 890 look like a classic running shoe, suitable for all types of wearers.
A classic series from New Balance, the 990 has been a preferred choice for runners for many decades. Designed for speed and made in the USA or imported, the 990 is one of NB’s iconic lines. A low-top shaft from the arch provides support to regular and low arches. An ENCAP PU ring in the midsole with an EVA core offers stability and comfort while also dispersing shock. Mesh upper for breathability and leather overlays make the 990 suitable for various weather conditions. The logo has 3M reflectivity, which not only looks stylish but also adds to safety for running at night.
Part of the NB premium line of shoes, the 1260v4 has a futuristic look with the technology to match it too. An Abzorb crash pad provides shock absorption from heel to toe. An Acteva Lite foam midsole cushions the feet for comfort. T-beam support in the sole creates lateral support and stability. The 8 mm drop from heel to toe provides even weight distribution and reduces risk of injury. A synthetic sole makes the shoes lighter, while mesh upper allows for breathability. The tread has some grooves though not deep, making these shoes more suited to urban environments or the gym. With geometric designs, multicolored crash pad, and reflective coating on the synthetic sole, the 1260V4 has a space-age appeal.
A solid choice for runners seeking stability in their shoes, the 608 has a 2” shaft from the arch. A dual-density collar makes for a comfortable fit while also providing additional support. EVA foam in the footbed enhances the comfort levels, and injection-molded EVA in the midsole provides for flexible yet firm cushioning. An internal shank reduces the stress on the wearer’s feet and calves during exercise. Some mesh on the upper and mostly leather overlays also contribute to the support and allow the shoe to mold to the wearer’s feet over time. The tread is shallower compared to other NB shoes. The 608s also come with non-marking soles, making them a great choice for indoor gyms and hitting the court to play ball. The shoe has an old-school design that appeals to some.
Another model from the premium NB line, the 1080 has a sleek look and quality features. A low-top measurement from the shaft provides premium arch support and stability. The OrthoLite sockliner provides lightweight yet supportive comfort. A fresh foam midsole cradles the feet and enhances the cushioning effect. A honeycomb tread with thick heel support provides superior grip while reducing impact and shock. The tread, however, is not ideal for all or rough terrain. A padded tongue and collar make for a soft yet supportive fit. A combination of woven fabric and synthetic comprise the upper and make the shoe more lightweight. As a premium model, the 1080 comes with a higher price tag, but the combination of style and technology make it a choice investment.
The Rundown With this guide to the best New Balance shoes, it is easier to find the right shoes for one’s workout routine. Keeping the breakdown of the NB abbreviations and numerics handy when shopping for shoes can be helpful when first learning about the different classifications particular to NB. The top-rated shoes in this guide are meant to accommodate a variety of wearers and fitness routines. The 775, 980, and 860 offer the best balance of technology, support, comfort, and affordability. The 690, 610, and 608 are all optimal choices for people with low arches who need additional stability and support. Classics like the 990 are great for people who know what they are comfortable with and want to stick with what has always worked for them. The 1260V4 and the 1080 from New Balance’s premium line integrate some of the most cutting-edge technology and edgy designs, but they also come with higher price tags. Whether it’s for cross-fit, running, or exercising at the gym, having the appropriate shoe to meet one’s needs and fitness routine is important. With the guide to the best that New Balance has to offer, finding the shoe that fits should be simple and easy.