When you’re looking for the ideal running shoe, the question of which brand is the perfect option for you always pops up. A Nike vs New Balance comparison is important to determine which brand’s technologies, feel and fit are right for you. Both brands have a long history of what people love and don’t want. In the elite world, Nike has been dominating for decades. However, New Balance seems to be here to stay. This article explores both brands’ history and factors that differentiate each brand. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Nike began with Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight. At first, Bill Bowerman is a track and field coat at the University of Oregon. He reunited with Phil Knight after a brief stint at Standford University. Bowerman wanted athletic footwear and running shoes that were optimized for performance. Due to this, he began to work with varying models after he learned some tips from a local cobbler. In 1964, Knight and Bowerman decided to create Blue Ribbon Sports, an Oregon-based footwear company that operated for many years from the back of a car at varying track meets.
They started as a distributor for different imported shoes like Onitsuka Tiger. Knight was always amazed at the quality of their trainers and found them unique in a market dominated by German sneakers. While the world was trying to decide their favorite between Adidas and Puma, Knight turned to Onitsuka Tiger for premium running trainers. After a couple of years of being Onitsuka’s sole distributor in America, there was a rise in competition. This led the duo to think of new ways they could stand out from the crowd. Blue Ribbon Sports became Nike in 1971, and they decided to launch their trainer. Bowerman had always created trainers for the athletes he coached. After researching Onitsuka Tiger shoes and thinking of different ways he could change things for Nike, he started working on a prototype that would become the first-ever Nike sneaker.
The First Nike Shoes
The Nike vs New Balance comparison won’t be complete without mentioning Nike’s first shoe. Bowerman designed the first Nike Shoe and named it Moon Shine. However, this shoe was made in Bowerman’s waffle iron. The sole waffle design was inspired while Bowerman was eating breakfast one day. He began to wonder if the grooves in his waffle would provide extra traction while playing sport. After some test runs with his waffle iron, the Waffle Trainer came to be. It was a massive success from the beginning because of the grip it offers and its performance-driven design. The prototype model was technically the first Nike shoe. This prototype sold for almost $450,000 at Sotheby’s.
By 1976, Nike was ready to expand. Therefore, the brand hired John Brown and Partners, a Seattle-based ad company, to help with exposure. A year later, the ad agency created the first ad for Nike titled ‘There is No Finish Line.’ Although there were no close-up Nike shoes in the ad, it was a success and propelled the brand further into the limelight. By 1980, Nike owned a 50% market share in the US athletic shoe market. Later that year, Nike went public as a company.
After the popularity of its sneakers, Nike decided to expand into the clothing world. It released a line of athletic and sportswear in 1979, and one of the first pieces was the Windrunner. This jacket was lightweight and quickly became a favorite for many people. In 1982, the company partnered with another advertising agency to push its reach into new territories. During one of the campaigns, the slogan ‘just do it’ was created, and it became the brand’s slogan to date.
One of the brand’s most significant assets was the many celebrity endorsements. The company signed many athletes like Lebron James, Tiger Woods, and Kobe Bryant quite early in their carrier. However, the brand’s most lucrative endorsement was with Michael Jordan. The bran swooped in with an endorsement from Jordan at the start of his first seasons. Although Jordan was harboring hope for a deal with Adidas, he signed for a payment of $500,000
each year for five years, shoes customized to his request and two Mercedes car. It was an excellent hit for Nike as Jordan rose to stardom. Air Jordans hit the market and made over $100 million in revenue. To date, Air Jordans continue to make money for the brand.
Nike vs New Balance – New Balance History
The history of New Balance is one of business savvy and tenacity. It begins with a man in Boston who drew inspiration from farm animals and started a company that fast became a cultural fixation. New Balance began as New Balance Arch Support in 1906 and was founded by William J Riley. Riley is an Irish immigrant who resided in Boston. After watching chickens move around his backyard, he drew inspiration for his first product. He was fascinated by how the chickens achieved a perfect balance on their three-pronged feet. Therefore, Riley created flexible arch support with three support points.
In 1927, he hired a salesman called Arthur Hall. Borth of them became partners in the company by 1934. At this point, New Balance provided arch support to workers who had to stand for long periods. The company didn’t dabble in sneakers at the time. Over time, Hall sold the company to his daughter Eleanor and her husband in 1956.
New Balance arch supports were becoming famous amongst athletes in 1960, and some began to approach the brand to request custom sneakers. The sneakers were released in 1961 and were the first running shoe to feature a rippled sole for traction. This move inspired Eleanor and her husband to design the first New Balance sneakers called the Trackster. The company provided this sneaker in different sizes to fit all athletes, and it was soon a top choice by many schools and colleges for track and cross-country.
Despite the success of the Trackster, the company was yet to hit the mainstream sneaker market. The company was a pretty small operation run by six people, so sales were slow. However, Jim Davis purchased the brand in 1972 and steered it into one of the biggest brands in the world.
New Balance Expansion
For a complete Nike vs New Balance comparison, a review of New balance expansion is necessary. Jim acquired the company at the ideal time. The company began to release more runners each year, and the sneakers were available in different widths. The company also started using model numbers instead of names for their sneakers. This number defined the shoe type, the activity it was ideal for, and if it was ideal for speed, arch support, or stability. In 1976, the company launched its first sneaker to feature the N logo. People voted this sneaker the number one running shoe in the market, leading to a global breakthrough for the brand.
By the 80s, the brand has several product ranges, including walking shoes and clothing like the Gore-Tex running jacket. The brand also released its most famous sneakers, the 574, during this period. Although this was initially a technical shoe, it became famous off the running track. To date, New Balance continues to cement itself in sportswear and many popular cultures by releasing many successful sneakers.
Nike vs New Balance – The Main Differences
Nike and New Balance have many similar products that feel and fit differently. Most times, the difference is in their marketing practice. Both brands are excellent choices for training and race, but to make a more specific Nike vs New Balance comparison, we’ll be delving into some of the particular shoe details of both brands to see how they differ.
The Upper on New Balance shoes combines mesh and suede or mesh and synthetic material. This combination usually provides enough stability for the foot to stay in place, allowing for flexibility. The perforation and the mesh ensure better air circulation for the feet while preventing hotspots. Overall, New Balance shoes keep your feet as cool as necessary.
On the other hand, Nike uses an engineered Mesh featuring Nike Flyknit material or their ultra-light ripstop fabric. This
material is lighter in some parts of the feet to ensure ample air circulation while remaining flexible. Sometimes, they feature the brand’s Flywire and Dynamic Fit Technology. This technology wraps around the arch and mid-foot to give wearers snug feet. When you tighten the laces, it makes the feet like the light they’re being hugged.
New Balance uses a midsole foam technology that can make the wearer feel like they’re walking on clouds. They use Fresh Foam X, which provides a level of cushioning and responsiveness that makes the legs feel fresher. Many of their models like the 880s, the 1080s, and more feature this technology. Some of their shoes also feature the FuelCell Foam that provides speed for anyone looking for a great energy return.
Nike’s Air technology has been the bedrock of their cushioning for decades. The brand listens to their runners’ wants and improves their technology, creating the Nike React technology. This technology uses foam that is soft and provides a great energy return. It features zoom bags available at the forefoot or heel to ensure a more comfortable ride. However, if the New Balance Shoe makes you feel like you’re running on clouds, Nike makes you run on air in this Nike vs New Balance comparison.
The ideal cushioning comes down to the wearer’s personal preference. Some runners prefer a firm, responsive cushioning, while others want a cushioning that makes them feel like they’re walking on clouds. Both brands have received positive feedback from their buyers. They aim to provide ample cushioning to reduce the risk of injury while walking or running. Both sneaker companies provide shoes that run the entire length of the shoe. They also have shoes where the cushioning offers more support, either heel or forefoot.
Overall Fit and Comfort
The brand is also famous for ensuring support, comfort, and stability in their shoes so you can wear them all day. The many options ensure their product range covers all runners. Nike is famous for providing comfortable shoes that increase speed and is relatively easy on the feet. However, the shoes can become narrow from the midfoot to the toe. On the other hand, you can buy New Balance shoes in a wide or extra wide size, providing enough space to waffle your toes. Many doctors also recommend New Balance shoes for several foot conditions. Many athletes offer feedback to the companies after wearing their shoes, and the companies use this feedback to improve the comfort and performance of their shoes.
When it comes to the Nike vs New Balance comparison, it’s hard to determine which brand is a better option. Both brands are well established and quite reputable. They also use several technologies to improve their shoes and cater to their customers’ unique needs. The right brand for you isn’t necessarily the ideal choice for the next runner. This Nike vs New Balance comparison aims to help you compare and decide which brand works best for you.