All products featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
I was in 10th grade, and I was ahead of the trend. My New Balance 574s, ordered with great apprehension from Urban Outfitters and freshly unboxed, were a deep gray suede. The “N” of the brand’s logo, crimson as it was, supplied delicious contrast. Waiting to enter the chemistry lab of my high school’s newly-constructed science wing, I swanned a bit. Sneakers had only recently been incorporated into the dress code, and my peers largely remained in their deflated, untied boat shoes, not ready to step into the future, or donned the same Nikes they’d need for the afternoon’s sports practice (I, on the other hand, did theater after school). I expected praise for, perhaps envy of, my daring. The year is 2015 and yet I am still unprepared for what I receive instead: a gleeful chorus of “What are those?” accompanied by the cruel but requisite air traffic director–esque pointing.
I had not yet come into my convictions, so I put the shoes back in the box after school, rarely ever wore them after that day, and as I prepared to go away to college, I donated them to Goodwill in near-mint condition. The travesty is twofold—not only am I certain that these shoes would have served me for years and would have aged beautifully into the ongoing reign of the New Balance dad shoe supremacy, but they were also supremely comfortable. Cushioned, chunky, with a thoughtful juxtaposition of colors—I regret that I lacked the courage to stick by this shoe that had it all. But what should I do now—off myself?! No! I must go on living as we all do and, in doing so, learn from my mistakes, make different choices going forward.
Ahead of a recent trip to Austria and Germany, in the midst of a major Ssense sale, I do what I should have done a long time ago. I order a pair of New Balance White 9060s. They are the only sneakers I pack. My conservatism is rewarded. I am obsessed with these sneakers. They are so comfortable, the Platonic ideal of the walking shoe. In rainy Vienna and rainier Munich, they peek out from beneath wide pleated khakis (I am emulating, not ripping off, The Row) and dry without discoloration. I unexpectedly get a sunburn in Berlin, so hot and bright it suddenly becomes, and the bulk and flash of the shoe showcases the tone of my legs while also making me feel comically small. I am able to walk the length of the Tiergarten East-to-West and West-to-East with nary a blister—mind you, I am still breaking them in at this point. My family—I am traveling with my brother and father—equates travel with walking ourselves into the ground. The shoes don't merely survive such 30,000 step days—they improve, becoming softer, easier to wear, and never staining with the dust of the Tiergarten.
Let’s divorce the shoe, now, from my own experience and talk about the control elements, the things you can count on for certain. On its site, New Balance deconstructs its excellent product as follows: “The 9060 reinterprets familiar elements sourced from classic 99X models with a warped sensibility inspired by the proudly futuristic, visible tech aesthetic of the Y2K era.” Allow me to translate: Nostalgic chunk, sculptural soles, mesh, and pigskin. Textural heaven, never uninteresting, sleek and clunky at once. This is not a shoe that insists upon itself.
Variations on the form
If it isn’t quite the shoe for you, know that you are not limited to the 9060. Some other options we like—more color, less chunk, and so on and so forth—can be found below.
New Balnace Numeric Brandon Westgate 508
Taking the 2 uptown to the American Museum of Natural History’s Richard Gilder Center and wearing my own 9060s, I spotted a woman wearing some striking New Balances of her own—near aesthetic opposites that nevertheless fit the bill. Some research revealed them to be the NB Numeric Brandon Westgate 508. A more demure dad shoe, if you will.
New Balance 5740 sneaker
I almost bought these 5740s instead of my 9060s but decided against it because, like the 508s above, they are ever-so-slightly too subtle for my taste. If it’s a neutral, wear-with-anything travel shoe that you seek, these are the sneakers for you.
New Balance U574 Boston College sneaker
The closest current example to my own first pair of New Balances are some U574s presumably made in collaboration with Boston College—the site describes the colorway as “marblehead with summer fog and cardinal.” I choose the memory, but you don’t have to!
New Balance Made in UK 576 sneaker
As we are a publication that showcases the international, I’d be remiss not to include the stunning “MADE in UK 576 35th Anniversary” sneaker. They take my breath away, with deep brown suede calling to mind the earthiness of another fine dad shoe—the Merrill.