In this installment of our shoe-comparison series, we’re getting into two widely popular brands known for their comfort and durability: Brooks and New Balance. Making a decision between these two can be difficult, and they both have an army of dedicated fans. If you’ve found yourself on the fence about these two brands, this article is for you.
We’ll discuss the history of both brands and how their shoes are constructed as well as examining other considerations like pricing, overall fit and comfort, and durability. By the end, you’ll know which brand is for you.
As a broad overview, Brooks is one of the best, and most popular, running shoe brands out there. They make a traditional running shoe and are currently the best-selling running shoe brand. They use a guide-rail system for stability and have a great overall fit with a cushioned midsole.
New Balance is also a popular brand that makes a wide variety of shoes and clothing for many different types of sports. They have a large line of running shoes, including some that are made in the United States. Known for their Fresh Foam midsoles, New Balance shoes tend to fit similarly to Brooks. But they are best known for being a leader in shoes for wide feet. Many people who love Brooks also love New Balance.
Brooks actually has a really interesting history. They didn’t start off in 1914 making running shoes. In fact, they began in a small factory in Philadelphia that made ballet slippers and bathing shoes!
As the brand developed, it started to move into mainstream sports, with baseball cleats in 1921, roller skates in 1929, and football cleats in 1930. But it wasn’t until nearly 50 years later that Brooks would become known for running.
In 1974, Brooks developed the Villanova, which ushered it into the world of running shoe companies. Since then, Brooks’s focus on running shoes has only grown.
In 2001, Brooks announced its full commitment to running with the start of the new millennium. They haven’t stopped, almost 20 years later.
New Balance, on the other hand, was founded a little earlier. In 1906, William J. Riley, an Irish immigrant, designed a flexible arch support with three support points, founding the New Balance Arch Support Company.
Even so, the company only sold arch support for over 50 years, until they released their first sneaker, the Trackster, in 1960. It was the world’s first running shoe that had a ripped sole for traction.
New Balance still, however, was a small brand until Jim Davis helped to develop it into one of the largest sneaker shoe brands in the world.
But Davis made sure to remain true to the company’s commitment to offering shoes for a variety of people with different feet shapes and widths.
The distinctive “N” logo first appeared in 1976 on the 320, which marked New Balance’s rise to global prominence. Today, New Balance makes a variety of running shoes as well as specialized products for other sports. Arch support is one of the key selling points for New Balance shoes.
Every running shoe is going to fit a little bit differently, especially shoes from different brands, so it’s good to know what fit and construction you’re looking for.
Brooks is known for having a lot of room in the toe box. If you have wider feet or just like the toe box in your shoes to be roomier, you can’t go wrong with Brooks. Your feet will be able to naturally splay, which will make your runs more comfortable.
Even so, you’ll still want to order half a size up from your street shoes or dress shoes. Your feet swell with running, so your toes will be pushed against the top of your shoe if you get your typical size.
New Balance is also known for having a wide toe box, and because New Balance tries to cater to a wide variety of widths, they also have some shoes that are particularly wide. If you have wide feet, New Balance is definitely a brand to try.
Additionally, New Balance is known for its breathable uppers as well as plenty of flexibility in the forefoot. Many shoes have a knitted upper, so it will feel like you’re wearing a sock rather than a shoe. Some people find New Balance shoes softer than other brands.
Brooks has a midsole known as the DNA Amp midsole that provides significantly more energy return than midsoles of other running shoes on the market. You could even get 10-20% more energy return, meaning you’ll get great responsiveness with Brooks shoes!
New Balance is known for their Fresh Foam, and it gives you a very comfortable ride that is light and springy. It’s their proprietary midsole technology, and it’s very popular.
Another recent addition to the New Balance technologies is LAZR, or a laser-cut Fresh Foam midsole. It’s only one piece, so it will give you all the benefits of Fresh Foam plus an extra precise fit.
On the outside of Brooks shoes, you’ll find a pure rubber outsole. If you purchase trail shoes, you’ll also get ballistic rock shields and TrailTak rubber outsoles to give you the traction and protection you’ll need while on the trail.
New Balance also uses rubber outsoles on their shoes. The outsole forefoot is made from split blown rubber, which helps with comfort. It also helps make the outsoles feel softer.
Because there are a lot of similarities between Brooks and New Balance shoe construction, here are some other considerations to figure out which brand might be better for you.
Brooks is known for being a great running shoe, and one of the reasons why is because they produce such a durable shoe. You’ll definitely get your typical 300-500 miles out of them, depending of course where you run. But they will last you for a while.
Likewise, you’ll get your standard 300-500 miles in New Balance shoes. It all depends on how the shoe wears down in terms of how many miles you’ll get. If you’re hard on shoes or use them a lot, you might be looking at fewer miles. But it’s still a great brand.
Brooks is known for having plenty of cushioning with the DNA Loft and BioMoGo DNA. What’s awesome about DNA Loft is that it hugs your feet, and it holds up for a long time even as you put on the miles.
New Balance is my brand because I love their Fresh Foam cushioning. It just doesn’t compare to any other running shoe I’ve worn. Like me, a lot of other runners choose New Balance for cushioning because you get great energy return and plenty of comfort.
Overall Fit and Comfort
Many runners (and walkers) that I talk to respect Brooks for overall fit and comfort. Being allowed to carry Brooks in a store is a huge accomplishment for non-running shoe stores. Whether you need a good walking shoe or good running shoe, Brooks has you covered.
In addition, if you need a larger toe box, both Brooks and New Balance are good options because their shoes typically run a little bit wider. In order to decide between the two, you’ll want to try a few shoes on to see how they fit you personally.
I personally love New Balance because the shoes feel very soft to me. I like that I have plenty of breathing room even though I don’t need a wide toe box or wide shoe.
The average price for a pair of Brooks is around $120. Not the cheapest on the market, nor the most expensive. If you get 500 miles in them, that’s about 25 cents a mile, which isn’t bad. Brooks shoes are also known for lasting a while, so you should be able to get a lot of miles out of them.
The average price for New Balance shoes is around $125 – fairly similar. While you might save a few bucks purchasing Brooks shoes, the cost alone probably isn’t enough to sway you one way or another.
In my opinion, Brooks and New Balance are the two best running shoe brands out there for recreational runners of all types. You really can’t go wrong with either. It all comes down to personal preference. I have several friends who have owned both New Balance and Brooks shoes, and loved both.
What I especially love about New Balance is how fun the shoes are. On the women’s laces at least, there is always something unique, whether the ends are two different colors or there are words written on them.
At the end of the day, you’ll have to figure out what’s best for you. Go to a running store and try on a couple pairs and see what you like. You may also want to ask your running friends what they wear and see if that works for you. Good luck!