New Balance was born in Cambridge, MA in 1906 by 33-year old English immigrant, William J. Riley. Riley had a specific concern with foot health that led him into the field of prescription footwear. Up until this time, very few shoes took into consideration the shape of the bottom of the foot, specifically the arch. In 1934, Riley partnered with his leading salesman, Arthur Hall, who took Riley’s products to policemen, postal workers, and others who spent a majority of their working day on their feet.
Despite the success of the company, it took another four years until New Balance shoes entered into the sporting world. While the shoes were relatively low key in the sporting world, they did appear on many long distance runners feet, especially marathoners. In the 1950’s the company was passed down to Riley’s relatives and in 1961 the company focussed on the sports industry. The result of the new focus of the company was the Trackster. This shoe was unique with width fittings and a rippled sole.
The New Balance as we know it began in 1972 on the day of the Boston Marathon when Jim Davis purchased the company. When Davis took over the company, the company was making only 30 models of shoes and had only six full-time employees. Only three years later in 1975, Tom Fleming won the New York Marathon wearing the New Balance 320. Also in ’75, the New Balance 320 was voted the best running shoe by Runner’s World magazine.
Though New Balance has never been a top selling company, its reputation of quality is unmatched. Many refer to its following as almost “cult status” by some runners who will not ever try running in anything but New Balance shoes. In addition to a quality fit, New Balance has earned the reputation of using the highest quality materials on their shoes.
While many multinational footwear companies constantly look for the cheapest labor source, New Balance has done just the opposite producing its top models in the USA and England. This move has been noticed and appreciated by sneaker fans looking for a comfortable and well-built shoe.