New Balance 650 Aime Leon Dore: Raising the Stakes
Price: $165 [Sold Out; Check eBay for Current Prices / Check New Balance]
The New Balance 650 Aime Leon Dore offers good materials and a pure 1980’s retro vibe.
The shape isn’t going to work for everyone, and there are more affordable alternatives.
|Materials||Leather / Polyester / Rubber / EVA|
|Weight||591 g / 1 lb 4.85 oz|
|Construction||Cemented / Sewn on Cup Sole|
|Country of Origin||China|
To say the New Balance 550 took the sneaker world by storm would be an understatement. Starting with the Aime Leon Dore collab, 550s were nearly impossible to get. They were (or maybe still are) on the feet of everyone from suburban middle schoolers to streetwear youtubers, and even models in Vogue magazine.
With such a hit on their hands, it makes sense that New Balance would want to keep that hype train going. What better way to do so than to use the original 550’s taller brother – the 650. Launching in a similar way to the 550’s, with ALD leading the charge, the 650 seemed to tick all the boxes. Limited release, great colorways, popular design. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out well for New Balance.
Where the 550 in good colorways will still occasionally sell out and have a high resale price, the 650’s don’t. Even this limited-edition collaboration is currently selling for under retail (though, admittedly, higher than standard 650 retail).
I think that begs the question – why? In a world where pretty much every Jordan is more desirable in high-top form, why does the New Balance offering lose value by adding an extra inch in height? Let’s dive in and find out.
Quick heads up – this colorway is technically the “New Balance 650R Aime Leon Dore Green.” However, pretty much everything said below will be true for the Grey and Navy colorways. The only change is the shade of the leather. For the sake of making it easy for those looking for information on them, I’m just going to use “New Balance 650 Aime Leon Dore.”
The upper of the New Balance 650 Aime Leon Dore screams classic basketball sneaker. At least visually, but more on that later. The vast majority of the upper is made of soft, forest green leather. There are slight perforations on the side, though they are entirely stylistic.
This green leather looks good, though this pair has some pretty nasty glue stains all over. Not the end of the world, I was able to get them off with a bit of elbow grease, but for the “premium” version I was a bit let down to see that.
Most of what is left on the upper is a cream-colored mesh. This stuff feels pretty high quality, and is plenty breathable.
Of course, being the ALD version, there are the expected details. First, the “N” logo in the middle is made of a crinkled leather. It is a pretty cool look that has started to become a classic tell-tale for the ALD version of these sneakers. Next, both the tongue and the back of the 650 have the Aime Leon Dore apple-basketball logo on one side with the New Balance graphics on the other.
This logo is one of my favorites. It does a great job of storytelling – the “big apple” representing New York, the basketball for the sport these were designed for, the Aime Leon Dore font. Just great.
The sneakers also come with three sets of laces, depending on what you want to match. Either the greyish brown N, the cream-colored mesh, or the leather. The greyish brown come pre-laced, and are my personal favorite.
Inside, the entire shoe as well as the tongue come in the same cream as the mesh-colored panels. Overall, this works really well and keeps the sneaker from looking too dark.
Mid- and Outsole
Flipping the New Balance 650 Aime Leon Dore over, you’ll find an entirely cream colored mid and outsole. The combined unit, which acts as a cup sole, features 270-degree stitching around the outsole, with a small cut out on the interior side. This cut out, which exposes the foam so it can expand, is also cream colored.
The only part of this unit which isn’t that one color is the small plastic support cap around your heel. This is a thin grey stripe with color-matching textured green panels running further out.
Unlike some 1980’s sneakers, outsole unit itself is definitely a maximalist design. The midsole features both the “NB” logo as well as “new balance” written out along the edge. On the bottom of the sneaker, the fairly hard rubber has blocks, circles, cut outs, branding, and more. It even notes that it’s non-marking.
I don’t fault the sneaker for it, though. Afterall, the 650 (along with it’s 550 brother) are all about that retro feel. Nothing says 1980’s like over-the-top excess.
The New Balance 650 Aime Leon Dore is exactly what it advertises itself to be. It’s a 550 with an extra inch of height to it. Nothing more, nothing less.
Subjectiveness warning: I personally think the 650 does a better job of being a 1980’s basketball sneaker than the 550. Yeah, it’s less wearable than the low tops, but if we are all going to be honest, the entire line isn’t serious. They are not the highest performance, best material, or best price in the New Balance line up. If that is what you want there are tons of other options.
No, the 650/550 is a nostalgia hit. It’s 1980’s sneakers you literally couldn’t buy for 30 years. The 650 owns that better than the 550. At least in my opinion – I sold my 550’s, but plan on keeping these.
For me, I think that the earthy tones on this one call for more earthy tones. I find inspiration from ALD-like fits, with texture like these cords or this sweater. If you end up opting for the non-Aime Leon Dore option, I’d definitely pull out something more athleisure. Stuff like these Marine Layer pants and a hoodie.
Fit & Comfort
The New Balance 650 Aime Leon Dore fits exactly like the New Balance 550, in other words long and narrow for the size. I find that they are especially narrow in the toe box. Think the soccer focused adidas sneakers like the Campus 80.
I do think that the fit won’t be for everyone. The good news is that, while the 650 isn’t everywhere quite yet, the 550 can be found in just about every footlocker. If you’re not sure of your sizing, it might be worth going in person and trying a pair on to be sure.
I take the 650 in a size 13, which is the same size I wear in a Jordan 1. If I had very narrow feet, I could probably go down a half size (if they offered a 12.5). For a full list of sizing for every shoe reviewed on this site, click here.
The New Balance 650 Aime Leon Dore advertises itself as a 1980’s basketball sneaker – and it feels that way. While I find it plusher than a Jordan 1, it is still technology from 40 years ago. If I had to walk 10 miles, stand on my feet all day, or actually play a pick-up game, these would not be my first choice.
However, at the same time, they are plenty wearable. If I was forced to do any of that with these on, I’d be fine. The leather on the upper is plenty stretchy, and the foam on the insole is thick enough that it’s got both compression and arch support – and that’s on top of the foam in the midsole.
The high-top part of the sneaker is barely noticeable. I’m not sure if the original version was quite so thin, but there is almost no padding or structure in it at all. It’s easy to forget you’re in a 650 instead of a 550. It’s just there for the style.
Materials & Construction
The materials on the New Balance 650 Aime Leon Dore are actually pretty good, especially for a sneaker that mostly sells on hype.
The leather is thin, and has a plastic coating on top, but there is less plastic than on other sneakers and the leather is real. Without going up to a fairly higher end type of leather, you would never be able to get this vibrant color. Hard to complain too much here.
As for the mesh, it’s a polyester blend that feels surprisingly durable for its thickness. That isn’t to say it’s a thick mesh a-la the Jordan 11’s ballistic nylon, New Balance definitely wanted something breathable, but for a breathable mesh it is pretty good. The same can be said for the lining material, which seems to be the same stuff as the mesh, just woven tighter.
Under your foot, the insole is actually a combination of three different foams, and is where a lot of the comfort comes from. Other brands could learn a lot from this – it allows New Balance to offer actual arch support, as opposed to just foam that is so soft you sink in deep enough to touch your arch. Under that insole is a wedge of basic EVA foam.
Rounding off the sneaker, the outsole is made of a very hard rubber. This is a double-edged sword – while the outsole should be incredibly durable, it’s also very slick when you walk from a wet outdoor surface to a smooth indoor surface like marble.
The New Balance 650 Aime Leon Dore is made with cemented construction, with the additional stitching holding the cup sole on.
This type of construction is typical of basketball sneakers designed in the 1980’s and has a few key benefits and drawbacks. On the positive side, this type of construction is extremely weather resistant and is more durable than current sneakers. The stitching means that you’re much less likely to see the top of the sneaker detach from the midsole.
At the same time, this form of construction is heavier and less flexible than the cemented construction most sneakers use today. It’s also slightly more expensive to make, and those costs are always passed onto the consumer.
Still, since you’re probably not going to be playing in the NBA in them, I think the durability trade offs are worth it on a casual sneaker.
It’s also worth pointing out that the 650 is board lasted. This means that when the upper is stretched around the shape it’s formed to, the bottom is a piece of leatherboard. Often, on modern sneakers, it’s a piece of felt. Theoretically, this means the sneaker should take the shape of your individual foot better.
Pricing & Value
The New Balance 650 Aime Leon Dore originally retailed for $165, a $25 premium over the non-collab 650. They have sold out, but resale is very reasonable. StockX has them for just under retail, with some fees, and eBay has them just over retail without the fees.
However, if you just want a 650, you can find them directly from New Balance with free shipping and free returns for $140.
I see the big competitors to this sneaker being the Jordan 1, the Dunk High, and the Adidas Forum Mid. With prices for those sneakers coming in at $170, $135, and $110, the New Balance offering comes in near the middle in both this collab version and the standard make up.
All caveats about sneakers carrying hype aside, the New Balance 650 Aime Leon Dore isn’t all that offensive in price. There is no one thing that you can point to in order to justify a higher price like you can with their American-made 99X series, but there isn’t anything that is problematic either.
All the materials are as good as any other sneaker. The board lasting is more expensive – Nike only includes this on their super premium models like the Jordan 1 85 cut, which come in at $200. And the tooling and pattern designs are still fairly new, which carries a cost.
Honestly, I don’t think that $165 is that bad a price to pay, though the base version’s $140 is a bit more palatable if you like the colorway just as much.
Other than some glue stains, the New Balance 650 Aime Leon Dore is a well-made, comfortable enough semi-limited take on a design that has proven to be popular.
Why is the 550 higher in demand? While I can throw guesses out about them going better with certain outfits, I can’t give you any objective reason why. Everything that sneaker does, this one does just as well. When wearing them, it’s basically impossible to really tell the difference.
If you prefer high-cut sneakers – or even if you just want to save a bit of money on an ALD-collab – the New Balance 650 Aime Leon Dore should definitely be on your radar.