Everything you need to know about the New Balance 550.
New Balance 550 history and background.
We can’t discuss the newly revived New Balance 550 without mentioning its designer, Steven Smith. During the early days of his career, Smith would work for the Boston-based brand as a designer and helped create iconic silhouettes (whether directly or indirectly) like the New Balance 574, 997, and 1500. One model that only saw a brief time on shelves was the 550, a basketball model that originally retailed for $45 in 1989 but was overshadowed by the competition's offerings. Taken off the market in the 90s, it faded from existence without so much a trace to the average sneakerhead.
Fast forward to 2019 and New Balance was beginning its resurgence in both the basketball and sneakerhead world. Signings of Kawhi Leonard and collaborative efforts from a key figure in this story, Teddy Santis, and his label Aime Leon Dore. As someone with a fond nostalgia for the 90s, Santis would usher in the NB 550s return with the help of digging through the archives. As stated by Joe Grondin, New Balance’s Senior Manager of Global Collaboration, “The only information we could find about [the 550] was from an old New Balance Japan catalogue.”
The team at NB would scour the internet and the globe for a pair to reverse engineer, and luckily, found their needle in a haystack when a collector offered their pair to be used. Teddy Santis and the design team built the revived 550 essentially from scratch and as quoted by Grondin, “...everything took us at least eight to ten revisions. We were adjusting millimeters here and there just to get it right.”
First beginning with collaboration via Aime Leon Dore, inline releases soon came in a variety of old-school team colors like the “White Red,” and “White Blue” colorways or new creations such as the “Lakers White Purple” or "Lakers White Gold".
If you’ve been eyeing a pair of New Balance 550s for yourself, you’re in luck as the Sole Retriever New Balance 550 Buyers Guide should answer all the questions you have about the New Balance 550.
What are the best New Balance 550 colorways?
As mentioned previously, New Balance has steadily offered color options on the 550 silhouette since its revival. In the realm of collaborations, Aime Leon Dore’s tasteful designs like the “White Red,” “White Brown,” and upcoming releases “Grey Ivory” and “White Ivory” are definitely top contenders, though there are plenty more who have lent their hand that deserves to be mentioned.
Rich Paul, the sports agent closely tied to LeBron James, was able to work on the silhouette in 2021 and offered us a beige-covered version with vintage touches and co-branding details to create one of the most popular colorways on the model so far.
UK-based retailer size? was given a three-pack of 550s that got covered in Cordura material, making the basketball-ready model set for your outdoor adventures. Within the pack, there is a “Grey,” “Light Brown,” and “Sand” colorway, all of which ooze hiking and outdoor vibes.
While not directly affiliated with Joseph Robinson’s “Joe Freshgoods” alter ego, the “Conversations Amongst Us” collection included the 550. The purpose of the entire project was to highlight African American voices, thoughtfully conveyed through the colorway and its design details. For this rendition, Robinson and the African American collective of designers at NB, Black Soles, reworked the silhouette to include an all-over cream-colored canvas and hairy suede. CAU branding details overtook typical NB logos while packaging highlighted the designers behind the collection.
Inline releases usually utilize a white base layer with accenting hits of color throughout, like the “White Green Black,” “White Green," and “White Pink” while more wild variations such as the “White Multicolor” and “Teal Pink” offer a unique color combo that is sure to pop on feet.
For more neutral and easy-to-wear options, the “Panda,” “White Grey,” “White Black,” and “Triple Black” options will go with every outfit in your wardrobe, allowing the colorways to become an everyday wear.
What material is the New Balance 550 made of?
Typical New Balance 550s come constructed out of leather and mesh on their upper while the sole unit is made of rubber, though some exceptions exist. The recently revealed “Pink Suede” and collaborative ALD “Navy Suede” offerings take the namesake material and cover the entire upper with it while other inline releases like “Navy Blue” and “White Purple” add suede to the mudguard. Like many NB silhouettes, quality control is usually top-notch, making it one of the higher quality options for the price point.
How does the New Balance 550 fit?
While New Balance is known for its variety of width options in its footwear selections, the New Balance 550 is offered in a standard width while staying generally TTS. Those with wider feet, however, may need to go up half a size, though the best way to confirm what size is good for you would be to try a pair on in person.
How much do New Balance 550s cost?
As mentioned at the beginning of the guide, when the model debuted in 1989 it retailed for $45 (approximately $107 in today's money), making the present day $110 or $120 retail seem much more reasonable. Like many collaborations in the sneaker world, when another partner attaches their name to the silhouette the price does increase slightly. Most Aime Leon Dore releases fetch $130 at retail while the most expensive pair to date is the “Conversations Amongst Us” colorway, priced at $150.
Where do I buy New Balance 550s?
Many retailers, including Footlocker, JD Sports, and more carry the New Balance 550 when GR pairs are released. If you’re looking to cop directly from NB, head over to newbalance.com on the morning of release and hop in the queue, though as of this writing, a few colorways are still available to purchase in a full-size run.
While in the past it was somewhat difficult to secure a pair for retail, the influx of new colorways and increased production numbers on the model have made it a much easier cop, whether that be from NB directly or via boutiques, footsites, and mom-and-pop shops.
What’s the hot take?
The New Balance 550 ushered in a new wave of popularity for New Balance with its quality construction, vintage vibes, and filling the gap for those who wanted a different option from the Nike Dunk. As time continues to move forward, we’ll have to wait and see what else the New Balance 550 has in store for us. For the best opportunity to secure a pair for yourself, keep it locked to our Twitter and the Sole Retriever mobile app to receive real-time notifications in regards to the latest releases, news, and raffles for the New Balance 550 and more in the sneaker world.