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New Balance 550 Versus 650: Breaking Down the Differences

New Balance 650 and 550New Balance 650 and 550

While running is New Balance’s forte, the revival of a once-obscure basketball shoe has been one of the brand’s most successful moves in recent years. The model in question is, of course, the 550. And after already doing the legwork with the 550, the 650 entered the fray to expand the retro range.

At face value, the 650 is simply the high-top version of the 550 – considering both were designed at the same time by none other than Steven Smith. That obvious observation is enough to call it a day for many, but let’s go a little deeper and break it down section by section. New Balance Energy lead designer Sean Scudder also offers some behind-the-scenes insight into resurrecting these silhouettes after 30-plus years of dormancy.


At the end of the day, comparing the 650 with the 550 is an apples-and-oranges scenario, as they’ve been objectively designed as high- and low-cut complements of each other. While underfoot comfort is likely identical, the main factor for most sneakerheads choosing between the two is their preference in styling a slightly taller or shorter shoe. Or, they can just buy both.

As for Scudder, he’s learnt a lot from reviving the 550 and 650.

‘The 550 made me a better shoe designer and taught me a lot about shoe making, which absolutely informed the approach to the 650. The key to a successful bring-back is, first and foremost, a passion for the product. But then it’s also about getting your hands dirty by exhausting every detail and obsessing over every millimetre until it’s equal to or better than the original.’

The New Balance 550 and 650 are available now directly from New Balance.

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