Funnily enough, the 574 is actually a hybrid design itself, which is what makes it such an excellent candidate for a revision. The original design team took donor parts from the 575 and 576, paring the tech specs back to produce a simplified version at an accessible price. That sweet spot appealed to a pretty diverse audience and opened up some tantalising genre-hopping opportunities. Over time, the humble 574 has spawned a legion of lookalikes each offering a unique skill set. From golf links to hiking trails and even the skate park, it’s downright surprising to reflect on how far the 574 DNA has spread at New Balance.
At the early planning stages, the 574 was very nearly built as a trail runner. Being a direct descendant of two tried and true off-roaders
it would be natural for the update to fall into the same category – though that wasn’t the 574’s ultimate end game. It’s often said that as time passes we all become like our parents; similarly, the 574 wasn’t able to ignore the call of the wild stitched into its genes.
Capitalising on the trend for outdoors aesthetics, the H574 Trail looked like the lovechild of a classic 574 and New Balance’s early-80s Rainier Boot – the latter worn during the first American ascent of Mount Everest’s North Wall. Featuring sturdy, mid-cut leather uppers and heavy rubber outsoles, the pragmatic remake was only released in Japan. Back in 2008, the H574 Trail didn’t seem likely to ascend to the peak of New Balance’s most coveted models, however, the design’s relative obscurity gave it a quirky shock value. Undefeated’s Eddie Cruz found its charms irresistible and the store ended up dropping a pair of collaborative H574s through their Japanese doors, with Cruz admitting that his Bear Grylls fandom may have contributed to his love of the model!
Following the success of the Undefeated colab, Japan’s atmos gave the trail boot another stylish refresh. The H574 also inspired the 574B ‘Shearling’, which was lined with fluff and ditched the definitive ENCAP sole in favour of a solid slab of rubber.
However, the rise of wilderness-chic was not enough to justify every outlandish variation that hit the JP market. With a towering knitted sock and a gigantic houndstooth collar attached directly above the heel, Another Edition’s 574 colab is definitely the most bananas New Balance ever released. A decade later, knitted socks riding atop heritage sneakers have become very familiar indeed, so let’s generously chalk that one up as a prescient vision.
The demanding New Balance massive weren’t content with just a peaceful walk through nature. In 2013, NB Numeric was born as a partnership with Black Box distribution to utilise New Balance’s know-how for the production of a skate line. One of the first orders of business was to bring a skateboarding sibling to life for the 574. Enter the Logan 637.
Despite its slimmed-down upper and REVlite-lined cupsole, the design took all its major visual cues from the 574. Fuelled by the successful debut, the 637 was nominated for yet another rewrite and renamed the Logan 636 in the process. The subsequent design was relieved of the modern fuse construction and given a more traditional layered suede upper. Effectively, the skate shoe that was inspired by the 574 gave rise to a variant that looked more like the original muse than the former did. The postmodern sneaker world can be a confusing place sometimes.
Fairway to Heaven
Golf is a pretty conservative environment, so New Balance knew exactly where to look for inspiration when they decided to launch their new division. The 574 Golf was among the six debut styles and though the design bears a striking resemblance to the classic runner, that’s where the similarities end. Midsoles were supported by REVlite, while a newly developed outsole offered the world’s thinnest replaceable cleat system. The modern fused upper was backed with a two-year waterproof guarantee, perfect for golfers who found water hazards.
Effectively, the skate shoe that was inspired by the 574 gave rise to a variant that looked more like the original muse than the former did. The postmodern sneaker world can be a confusing place sometimes.
A fully-fledged facelift can be a thrilling and dramatic process, but not every new 574 variant needs a complete overhaul. Some of the simpler re-ups have really hit the spot in recent years. Clean combinations of classic style and new tech done just right clearly offer the best of both worlds. When it works, you get fresh new styles such as the Sonic Weld 574 pack in 2013, which slimmed down the proportions by using a seamless high-frequency construction method.
Materials and construction are one way to change things up, but sole technology has always been the foundation of New Balance’s business and that’s where the hybrids really start to shine. There’s hardly a New Balance cushioning device or foam technology that hasn’t been applied to the 574 at some point. The obvious candidates like REVlite and Fresh Foam have been ticked off the list (the recent ‘Lost Prototype’ is evidence that the 574 used C-Cap at one stage), but there are also some surprisingly obscure sole swaps in the archives. One version unleashed from Doctor Frankenstein’s hybrid lab was laced with a modern road-running sole donated by the Minimus family. This chimeric combination only reinforced the 574’s versatility.
Shape Of Things
Perhaps the most futuristic sole swap came at a time when cushioning was all about structure and mechanical engineering. The New Balance 574 Zip used shock-absorbing plastic struts designed to compress and spring back into shape with every step, propelling a more efficient stride. The concept didn’t stay in the NB catalogues for long, but the 574 Zip has to be one of the most striking combinations of classic style and modern engineering ever seen at New Balance.
This brings us to the most recent and straight-up classiest iteration of the 574 to date. The 574 Sport is an elegant performer that has future franchise written all over it. By this point, if you haven’t found a 574 to suit your needs, then it’s safe to assume you’re looking for a game of basketball.
New Balance’s classic runner has proven itself as the ideal step-off point to create purpose-specific footwear with authentic heritage. It’s crazy to think that after 30 years in the game, the 574 continues to evolve and excel. No other New Balance has lived a life quite as rich, or as unsung, as the 574.
The 574 range is available now online from New Balance.