Table of contents
In a world that was filled with Yeezy, Jordan Brand, and Nike, New Balance snuck through and shattered the barrier by entering the “hype” space in 2022. This watershed moment didn’t necessarily have one particular release or collaborator that led to NB gaining massive momentum, but 2022 saw the average sneakerhead checking for the latest release from the Boston-based footwear brand for the first time in a long time. JFG, Teddy Santis, Kith, and countless other collaborators graced NB silhouettes this year and the in-house design team killed GR releases left and right, so narrowing down just 10 sneakers from NB was a tall task, however, the Sole Retriever team (writers Nicholas Vlahos, Steve Jaconetta, and Adam Cheung) have it covered and will take you through the top 10 New Balance sneakers of 2022.
After finding success through his fashion label Aime Leon Dore, Teddy Santis rose to prominence in the footwear side of the fashion industry with timely collaborations via New Balance. After reintroducing the world to the once-forgotten New Balance 550 through ALD in 2020 and producing some of the most sought-after NBs in recent memory, Teddy was appointed as the Creative Director of New Balance’s Made in USA line in 2021. A year passed and Santis took to IG to tease what became Season 1 of his MIUSA Collection, an array of 99X models that utilized premium materials, easy-to-wear colors, and staggered releases that popped up at least once a month. Highlights among the dozen-plus pairs that hit shelves include the 990v3 “Amythest,” “Navy Castlerock,” and “Sea Salt,” though there are plenty of other silhouettes and colorways that received the Teddy Santis treatment. All of this on top of the recent news New Balance is expanding its US manufacturing capabilities and the introduction of the Made in USA Season 2 Collection shows that the MIUSA line is a force to be reckoned with.
Celebrating its 10thAanniversary, Kith went through a slew of collaborators in 2022 to honor this momentous occasion. One notable partnership over this last decade has been with New Balance and 2022 showed that the two truly are a match made in heaven. Over the summer, a combined celebration for Kith’s 10th anniversary and the 40th Anniversary of the 990 series led to the “Anniversary Pack,” a series of four releases (990v1 “Dusty Rose,” 990v2 “Cyclades,” 990v3 “Daytona,” and the 990v4 “United Arrows & Sons”) that both harkened back to classic Kith x NB collabs and introduced us to new takes. As with every Kith x New Balance project, the series sold out quickly and NB heads were clamoring for more. That's where the “Pistachio" Pack steps in. Introduced just a few weeks back, Ronnie Fieg dressed the ever-popular 2002R and 993 in tonal pistachio green shades that drew some comparisons to another collaborator we’ll touch on later in this list, however, Kith executed these two pairs perfectly. On top of this, another two-pack was released to kickstart Kith’s F/W22 Collection, an earth tone-covered 990v2 and “Steel Blue” rendition of the 990v3. Not a year goes by without some fire coming via Ronnie Fieg’s infamous label and Boston’s most popular footwear brand.
Joe Freshgoods went all-out this year with his New Balance collaborations. From the ‘80s icon that is the 550 to the all-new 9060, the Chicago native lent his signature aesthetic to a wide array of NB models in 2022. With that said, his most hyped collection was definitely the Joe Freshgoods x New Balance 993 "Performance Art" which took the industry completely by surprise. Revealed in three pastel palettes including “Arctic Blue,” “Powder Pink,” and “Sage,” sneakerheads who didn’t even like NB to begin with were dying for a pair when these dropped in October.
When you think of New Balance partners, one of the first that comes to mind is Aime Leon Dore. They have worked on everything from the 550 to the 997. In 2022, ALD dropped numerous collabs with NB, all highly coveted. Due to this, it's hard to pick just one. Therefore, we have to put ALD’s entire NB collaboration collection for the year on the list. No arguing with that!
5. YCMC x New Balance 990v3 "Nimbus Cloud"
One of the most understated and underrated New Balance collaborations of the year, the YCMC x New Balance 990V3 “Nimbus Cloud” is as clean as they come. Outfitted in the finest leather and suede, it works on top of a breathable mesh base, making these the perfect sneaker to rock all day, every day. Underfoot, you’ll find a cream-hued ABZORB midsole, offering a vintage vibe that looks like it’s been taken straight from the archives.
Justin Saunders and the collective at JJJJound execute their collaborations perfectly as the minimalist and luxe aesthetic they aim to achieve is consistently reached - and their work with New Balance is a prime example. Taking over the 990v3 on three separate occasions and rumored to launch a 991 before the year's end, it can be tough to differentiate these colorways from your standard in-line NB release, however, those in the know will appreciate the elevated materials and neutral earth tones that graced these collaborations. Not only can we expect to see more work between the two labels, but demand for these products is sure to skyrocket as JJJJound continues to climb the ladder in the fashion industry.
Seemingly appearing out of thin air, the Australian-based boutique Up There showcased a collaboration with New Balance earlier in the year that shocked many. Taking the in-demand 2002R silhouette and combining aspects of the 99X series, Up There told a story of “Backyard Legends” through an ad campaign on Instagram and crafted a colorway that was perfect for summer days on the patio with a drink in hand and a spatula working the grill in the other. The inclusion of the waffle tongue details (borrowed from the 990v3), Australia branding atop the New Balance-branded tag, and a clashing green and purple colorway made Up There’s first collaboration with NB one for the history books.
We can’t talk about the top New Balance sneakers of 2022 without mentioning the New Balance 2002R Protection Pack. Taking on the 2010 model, critically-acclaimed footwear designer Yue Wu gave the classic silhouette his own deconstructed twist, and the results were truly breathtaking. Working on top of a breathable mesh base, the Chinese creative added jagged suede throughout for an artifact-inspired aesthetic that will quite literally make the history books. The Protection Pack is available in a vast selection of colorways, and even more are expected to drop in 2023, so it’s safe to say that we’re pretty hyped.
Joe Freshgoods continues to breathe a breath of fresh air into New Balance (pun intended). Like ALD, it's hard to pick just one favorite from the year. I guess that is the real “Conversations Amongst Us” question, which JFG x NB reigns supreme? 9060s, 2002Rs, or 993s. Decisions, decisions, decisions. Each pair definitely holds its own.
It’s hard to believe that, until this year, Carhartt and New Balance had never collaborated before. That’s what makes the Carhartt x New Balance 990v1 so special. Blurring the lines between workwear, gymwear, and streetwear, this sneaker pays homage to the humble neighborhood gyms that can be found across America. Offered in a mesh and suede construction, co-branded detailing adorns the tongue, while a EVA foam and Vibram hybrid midsole provides wearers with comfort and cushioning which will beat out even the toughest of workouts.