New Balance 574 vs. 996 Sneakers Comparison

Since the New Balance 996 bears many similarities to the New Balance 574, what is the difference between the two?

While the New Balance 996 looks similar to the 574, the silhouette of the 996 appears slightly slimmer, whereas the 574 is chunkier. The New Balance 996 also has cotton mesh which is softer, while the 574 has plastic mesh which is tougher.

There are also differences in the materials of both shoes. In this post, let’s compare the NB 574 vs. 996 to figure out which casual sneaker is perfect for you.

New Balance 574 vs. 996 Comparison

New Balance 574 (buy on Amazon)

  • ENCAP midsole
  • Regular suede, leather, and mesh
  • Less cushioning overall

New Balance 996 (buy on Amazon)

  • ENCAP midsole
  • Premium suede, leather, and mesh
  • More cushioning (esp. in the tongue)

It’s never easy to compare similar shoes, so to come up with a decision, I will compare the upper and bottom parts of both shoes. Here is the New Balance 574 vs. 996 comparison:

1. Shoe Upper Comparison

Since both the New Balance 574 and 996 looks similar at first glance, let’s compare the shoe uppers by looking at the laces, materials, and overall shoe profile.

Shoelaces of 574 and 996

From the front, what I like about both shoes is the super long laces. As you may know, New Balance is well-known for its long laces

The reason why I love long laces is that they look good when tied. Personally, I feel like there are only two ways shoelaces can look good: One, if they are hidden underneath your feet, and two, when they are tied neatly with the bow tie laying freely.

So the fact that both the New Balance 574 and 996 come with long laces is a huge win.

However, when it comes to lace quality, the shoelaces of the 996 are definitely better. Not only do they feel more gentle when you tie them, but it looks more expensive too.

No offense to the 574, but the shoelaces look like something you get from a dollar store. (maybe it’s because the shoes I have are not made in the USA).

Materials of 574 and 996

Both the New Balance 574 and 996 are made of a combination of suede, leather, and mesh. 

When comparing the mesh, I noticed that the 574 has a plastic mesh which is more of a synthetic material, whereas the 996 is made with cotton mesh. As a result, the NB 996 gives off more of a relaxed and casual look while the 574 provides a sporty vibe.

The difference is subtle when you look at them from afar, but they look different up close.

The top look of New Balance 574:

The top look of New Balance 996:

Personally, I like the cotton mesh of the 996 because I prefer a casual look, but if you are into the vintage and sporty look, the 574 may be for you.

When it comes to the tongue, both look similar yet slightly different.

Just like the material found on the front of the shoes, the 574 uses synthetic material for the tongue. As a result, the tongue of the 574 is not as soft and well-cushioned as the 996.

On the other hand, you can clearly see that the New Balance 996 has more cushioning inside the tongue. They are very comfortable for walking, whereas the 574’s tongue may irritate the ankles of some of you because it is quite thin.

While the tongue is not something that most people care about, I feel like it can dramatically change the comfort level of the shoes because it is something that touches your skin directly.

So in terms of appearance, both the 574 and 996 have similar tongues, but the New Balance 996 is more cushioned.

Another important aspect to point out is the quality of the suede.

The New Balance 996 actually comes with super soft suede, which changes color when you stroke it gently with your finger. However, unlike the 996, the New Balance 574 has lower-quality suede material. It’s still soft, but you can tell that it is less expensive.

Profile of 574 and 996

Now let’s take a look at the profile of both shoes.

When you look at both the 574 and 996 from the side, there isn’t much of a difference, other than the logo. The ‘N’ logo of the 996 is reflective while the 574’s logo is not.

Additionally, I feel like the New Balance 574 is chunkier, whereas the 996 is slimmer. As a result, the 574 can make your feet a lot smaller, whereas the 996 can make your feet longer and more streamlined. I like the profile of the 996 better.

Overall, the 996 gives off more of a futuristic vibe, while the 574 is more vintage and classic.

Verdict

In my opinion, the New Balance 996 has better shoe uppers. Not only does the NB 996 have better materials, but it has a more streamlined profile which I adore.

Personally, I like shoes with silhouettes that are more elongated and slimmed-down, so the 996 is my choice. However, if you are into chunkier sneakers, the NB 574 may be for you.

2. Shoe Bottoms Comparison

When it comes to the bottom part of both shoes, there are two things to consider: the midsole, which is the part where your foot touches, and the outsole, which grips on surfaces. Let’s compare both the New Balance 574 and 996 bottoms:

Midsole of 574 and 996

As far as midsoles go, both the New Balance 574 and 996 have ENCAP midsoles. They are made of a core of soft cushioning of EVA in the midsole with a tough polyurethane rim.

Since the softer foams are wrapped in a sturdier compound, they were able to provide unparalleled stability without sacrificing cushioning.

However, ENCAP midsoles can take some time to break into. While both the 574 and 996 can feel tough in the beginning, they both become more comfortable as time goes by.

In fact, both shoes are some of the most reliable trainers around.

Outsole of 574 and 996

Moving on to the bottom outsoles of the shoes, you will notice that both the 574 and 996 have non-marking outsoles which provide amazing durability and traction.

In fact, all New Balance athletic shoes have non-marking outsoles and will not leave black marks (or scuffs) on either hardwood or tile floors.

The New Balance 574 and 996 are no exception.

As a result, the non-marking rubber outsole with lugged traction can grip many surfaces. So whether you are going for casual walks or doing something active, both the New Balance 574 and 996 can get the job done.

Verdict

Both the New Balance 574 and 996 have great outsoles. Since both shoes are made of the same midsole technology (ENCAP), they both provide the same amount of grip and traction.

Rest assured, you can rely on both shoes for long hours of walking.

Final Verdict

WINNER: New Balance 996

New Balance 574 (buy on Amazon)

  • ENCAP midsole
  • Regular suede, leather, and mesh
  • Less cushioning overall

New Balance 996 (buy on Amazon)

  • ENCAP midsole
  • Premium suede, leather, and mesh
  • More cushioning (esp. in the tongue)

Both the New Balance 574 and 996 share the same look and aesthetics, but the 996 comes out on top. I feel like that New Balance 996 is just an overall better version of the 574, mainly because of the superior materials and slightly better cushioning.

In fact, the longer you wear the New Balance 996, the better it feels as it does not hurt around the heel. An excellent choice of investment for a go-to, all-year-round.

And there you go, the New Balance 574 vs. 996 comparison. I hope that this comparison is helpful to you because both sneakers look very similar.

Reviewed by: Jason T.

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