A Brief History of the New Balance 2002R

April 10, 2022 by Joey Birch

A Brief History of the New Balance 2002R

The New Balance 2002 series has recently seen its popularity skyrocket in 2021 and 2022. A previously forgotten about silhouette, the 2002 was released in 2010 under the ‘Made in USA’ branch. Originally featuring a full-length gel cushioning outsole borrowed from the 1906 runner with premium suede and leather panels up top, materials that come as standard for the New Balance ‘Made In’ releases. 

ASICS GT-QuickDavid Z x Ronnie Fieg

To market the new silhouette, the sneaker was sent out to key figureheads in the industry including Ronnie Fieg, founder of Kith, who in 2011 went on to open his first brick and mortar location. Fieg was a natural choice for NB after his work with ASICS creating projects including the ASICS GT-Quick during his time working for David Z.

Image taken by Ronnie Fieg of the New Balance 2002, 2010

Upon receiving the sneaker, Fieg posted in a 2010 blog post: 

"New Balance sent me these crazy Made In The USA 2002′s and they are a perfect 10. The colour is RF grey so you already know I put them on my feet today. The midsole is stacked with a better suspension system than most of your cars. For $250 these are one of the most comfortable shoes I have ever rocked with."

However, while the sneaker may have been a great feat in terms of its comfortability and quality, the silhouette never seemed to take off and was always second best to the mainline 990 series New Balance was working on with the 990 V3 just around the corner in 2012.

Andrew Nyssen, New Balance 2002 designer, 2010

With the Made In USA treatment, Andrew Nyssen, the designer of the upper on the 2002 believed that the higher price point may have been the reason why they weren't able to sell as many units. Speaking to Complex in a 2021 article, he states: “If that retailed for $250, I cannot imagine what that sold for wholesale," he says. "And if you had a full-size run of that in your backroom, that is thousands of dollars potentially, just on that one model."

Nevertheless, it was this luxury focus that Nyssen had intended during the creation of the sneaker. "I wanted to design a sneaker for our CEO at the time”, he tells Complex, using Bentley’s and Hublot watches as the design inspiration for the upper of the shoe. In addition to the luxury style upper, the sneaker had to provide comfort, hence the addition of the 1906 midsole. 

Tetsuya Shono, Creative Director at New Balance, Tokyo 

Not long after its release, the 2002 seemed to fade away. Until New Balance decided to revive the sneaker at the end of 2020, with a new name, the 2002R thanks to New Balance, Japan, employee and product line manager, now creative director, Tetsuya Shono. 

New Balance 860 V2

With a new name, came a new design and manufacturer. The 2002R featured a midsole taken from the New Balance 860 V2 which kept the gel-cushioning on the heel while adding on NBs ABZORB® technology with N-ergy® cushioning for the forefoot. With shoe manufacturing being moved to Asia, the product was now significantly less expensive. 

For the rollout of the sneaker, New Balance called upon key collaborators including Korean streetwear brand thisneverthat and the Vice President of sneakers and men's footwear at Versace, Salehe Bembury. 

New Balance 2002R x Salehe Bembury 'Peace Be The Journey', 2020

With the 2002R marking Bembury’s first sneaker collaboration, he released the ‘Peace Be The Journey’. A phrase taken from the 1993 film ‘Cool Runnings’ with the inspiration behind the design taken from a 2-hour walk he makes every morning as a way of gaining peace of mind. The design was eclectic and bold, featuring a predominantly orange hairy suede upper with a nubuck and mesh blend for further details. 

The collaboration instantly took off, standing out as the most notable releases of the number of collaborations that took place and would later be featured on several media outlets’ top 10 sneakers of the year lists. To further the success, in June 2021, a second edition titled the ‘Water Be The Guide’ in which Bembury took a similar approach with a bold blue suede upper was released being met with similarly positive feedback.

New Balance 992 x WTAPS, 2020

Thanks to the revival of the 2002R, in conjunction with other highly regarded releases including the JJJJound 992, the WTAPS 992 and the Aimé Leon Dore 550, New Balance was on top with a new wave of attention being devoted to the footwear brand. 

Throughout the start of 2021, more GR colourways of the 2002R were released providing minimal iterations of the design as well as a BAPE collaboration further elevating the silhouette. However, in June, New Balance released a collection that has since propelled the 2002R into the mainstream. 

Yue Wu, designer of the New Balance 2002R 'Refined Future'

Titled the ‘Refined Future’ pack, later coined as the ‘Protection Pack’, the 3 sneaker collection, designed by New Balance employee Yue Wu, showcased New Balance’s unmatched attention to detail and craftsmanship with each of the three colourways being produced with high-quality materials utilising a broken down aesthetic similar to that of Daniel Arsham's work. 

New Balance 'Refined Future' Pack, 2021

While the collection was technically a GR release, they were met with instant sellouts that shot the 2002R into the mainstream providing a wearable sneaker with incredible materials at an affordable price which as a result saw the fan favourite ‘Rain Cloud’ grey colourway hitting many top 10 lists for 2021.

With the new year, it seems that New Balance’s success wasn’t about to slow down. Entering January, the Boston based footwear brand announced a four colourway pack each providing a clean aesthetic showcasing a green, blue, brown and red colourway throughout the premium suede and net panel upper. Subtle detailing on the sneaker including a 3M ‘N’ on the medial and lateral sides of the shoe as well as a secondary hit on the heel, the general release collection of sneakers was yet another example of New Balance’s relentless success outside of exclusive collaborations.

Teaser images of the upcoming Joe Freshgoods 2002R 'Conversations Among Us'

With further releases of the New Balance 2002R slated to release later this year, including further ‘Protection Pack’ colourways and a collaboration hinted at the now long term New Balance collaborator, Joe Freshgoods, the 2002R is set to become a silhouette that, while was once forgotten about, will sit in the sneaker hall of fame.


For the latest news regarding the New Balance 2002R and other releases, keep it locked in with Kick Game.