Our verdict

The New Balance XC72 is an updated spin on a 70s model called the UXC72V1. It maintains the original retro-futurist look while ticking the boxes of what we expect from an excellent modern sneaker. The firm yet supportive midsole delivers a ride that we found to be extremely smooth and stable as we tested the shoe around town. What's more, the generously padded and luxurious interior kept us feeling as good as we looked in these fly kicks that will surely amp up any ensemble. There really isn't much for us to complain about with this shoe.

Pros

  • Unique aesthetic
  • Superb comfort
  • Excellent quality
  • Grippy outsole
  • Well-cushioned
  • Smooth and supportive ride
  • Eye-catching hues
  • Great for all-day wear
  • Reliable lockdown
  • Perfect finish

Cons

  • Not for wide feet
  • Some lace bite

Audience verdict

91
Great!

Who should buy

We recommend the New Balance CX72 as a great choice for:

  • Sneakerheads in the market for a revamped classic from New Balance with a cool retro-futurist look
  • Anyone in the market for a well-cushioned and supportive walking shoe for jaunts about town
  • Those who prefer trainers with superb traction
  • Fashion-minded individuals looking for a versatile, sporty/trendy kick that can be paired with many outfits
  • Environmentally conscious folks who want a shoe that uses more sustainably treated suede

New Balance XC72 buije

Who should NOT buy

While the XC72's narrow midsole helps keep weight off the shoe and contributes to its agile silhouette, it may prove a little too constrictive for those with broad feet. We recommend the NB 1906R as an alternative with a wider platform and a similar "blast from the past" appeal. 

We found that despite its strong rearfoot lockdown, our heel would rub against the XC72's stiff counter leading to discomfort over time, especially when we were in thin socks or went sockless entirely. We recommend the NB 327 with its more forgiving heel counter instead for those prone to blisters in that part of the foot. 

New Balance XC72 beabdfb

Breathability

To test the breathability of the XC72, we pumped the shoe full of smoke in order to see how easily it filters through the upper. As we can see, the tongue quickly lets out a slow but steady stream until, eventually, smoke starts seeping through the mesh sections at the toebox and sides of the shoe as well. While this is somewhat better than expected from a shoe with a mostly suede upper, it earns the XC72 a middle-of-the-road breathability score of 3 out of 5. This means that the shoe does boast a fair amount of airflow but will still feel rather toasty on hot days. 

The areas of ventilation are further illuminated when we inspect a backlit cross-section of the shoe and see that the light shines through the tongue quite easily and is just about visible under the mesh sections. The suede portions of the upper, however, block out the light entirely. 

Turning to our microscope image of the mesh portion of the upper, we can see how many gaps there are that promote good airflow through the shoe. Apart from allowing some heat to escape, it means that the shoe shouldn't develop a funky odor over time. 

New Balance XC72 Breathability

New Balance XC72 Breathability
Test results
XC72 3
Average 3.1
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Leather/Suede quality

To test the quality of the pigskin suede, we turn to our trusty blowtorch and give it a good scorching. From how it gets singed and flakes away as we scratch at it with our awl, we can safely conclude that it's genuine. As an added bonus, being a chrome-free suede makes it a more environmentally correct sneaker choice. 

Conversely, the N overlay on the side of the shoe quickly melts upon contact with the flame and catches fire; with its burnt remains oozing as we poke at it with our awl. Clearly synthetic. 

Test results
XC72 Real suede

Toebox durability

We fired up our Dremel to 5K RPM and set it against the most fragile part of the toebox, the mesh cutout, with 3.2N of force. 

This didn't inflict nearly as much damage as we had anticipated, with only the upper layer of mesh having been destroyed while the layer beneath remained relatively intact. This earns the XC72 a respectable toebox durability score of 3 out of 5 which is a good indicator of the shoe's high-quality construction. 

New Balance XC72 Toebox durability
Test results
XC72 3
Average 3.6
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

Next, we turn our attention to the XC72's heel collar and set our Dremel against the shoe once more. 

Rather anticlimactically, we found that our tool had only popped a small hole in the lining and left the padding within mostly undisturbed. This earns the XC72 another 3 out of 5 for heel padding durability which means that it shouldn't succumb to too much wear and tear from friction over the shoe's lifetime. 

New Balance XC72 Heel padding durability
Test results
XC72 3
Average 3.3
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

Pressing our durometer against the outsole yields an average reading of 86.6 HC. This level of hardness usually denotes a good mix of grip and durability. 

New Balance XC72 Outsole hardness
Test results
XC72 86.6 HC
Average 85.1 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
72.9 HC
Outsole hardness
90.3 HC

Outsole durability

To test our last claim, we set the Dremel's abrasive element, this time spinning at 10K RPM, against one of the XC72's round and flat outsole lugs. The tool eventually kicks up a flurry of rubber debris, though the damage seems rather minimal. 

We confirmed this with our tire tread gauge as we found that only 0.6 mm of material had been shorn away by the end of the twenty-two-second test. This makes the XC72's outsole more durable than average and leads us to predict that it should be well beyond 400 miles of use before noticing any significant signs of wear and tear on its lugs. 

New Balance XC72 Outsole durability
Test results
XC72 0.6 mm
Average 1.0 mm
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

The outsole is 4.1 mm thick according to our caliper measurements which is a little shy of our current lab average. However, this doesn't account for the lugs which give us more sturdy rubber to wear through before the grip is completely compromised. 

New Balance XC72 Outsole thickness
Test results
XC72 4.1 mm
Average 5.5 mm
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
3.4 mm
Outsole thickness
8.2 mm

Weight

Weighing in at 14.5 oz (410g), the XC72 is marginally heavier than our current lab average.

New Balance XC72 wevw

That said, it sits rather comfortably on our foot and feels lighter than the scale implies. This is thanks in big part to the shoe's aerodynamic silhouette as well as the midsole's toe rocker which helps with smooth transitions and gives our strides a little extra liveliness and a nice fleet-footed sensation. 

Test results
XC72 14.46 oz (410g)
Average 14.04 oz (398g)
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
10.62 oz (301g)
Weight
22.61 oz (641g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

At 34.8 mm thick according to our caliper measurements, the XC72's heel stack is higher than our current lab average. 

New Balance XC72 Heel stack

This leaves us with a generous amount of foam underfoot that keeps our heel elevated and adequately protected from impact as we test the shoe. 

New Balance XC72 Heel stack 2
Test results
XC72 34.8 mm
Average 31.3 mm
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
18.7 mm
Heel stack
41.8 mm

Forefoot stack

The XC72's forefoot stack is also higher than average with our caliper measuring it at 23.8 mm thick. This robust stack provides great cushioning that allows us to be on our feet for extended periods without paying for it later in the form of achy joints and sore feet. 

New Balance XC72 Forefoot stack
Test results
XC72 23.8 mm
Average 20.0 mm
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
10.7 mm
Forefoot stack
28.3 mm

Drop

The difference in our stack measurements leaves us with a drop height of 11 mm which puts the XC72 on par with the average sneaker.

New Balance XC72 Drop

This feels quite comfortable and natural underfoot as the elevated heel provides protective landings and smooth transitions to the forefoot that propel us forward. 

Test results
XC72 11.0 mm
Average 11.2 mm
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
6.7 mm
Drop
17.2 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

We pressed our durometer against the XC72's midsole foam and got a rather firm reading of 33.6 HA. 

New Balance XC72 Midsole softness

However, the shoe's high stack means that we're still able to savor the XC72's cushioning despite the fact that the foam doesn't compress very much under our weight. As such, we enjoyed great impact dampening while testing this shoe with a ride that feels quite stable rather than squishy. 

Test results
XC72 33.6 HA
Average 30.9 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 27 trainers
Number of shoes
15.6 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
70.4 HA

Insole thickness

At 4.8 mm thick according to our caliper measurements, the XC72's insole is just shy of our current lab average. However, it still provides us with a nicely cushy footbed and good arch support that somewhat offsets the firm midsole as we test the shoe. 

Test results
XC72 4.8 mm
Average 5.4 mm
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
3.1 mm
Insole thickness
13.3 mm

Stability

Lateral stability test

While shoes with high stacks tend to feel rather wobbly, the XC72 bucks that trend by feeling extremely well-planted as we shift our weight from side to side. Apart from the sturdy midsole, several factors play a part in the shoe's stable ride which we'll explore in the next sections. 

Torsional rigidity

The XC72 puts up a mild level of resistance as we bend and twist the shoe in our hands, earning it a torsional rigidity score of 3 out of 5 on our subjective scale. This provides us with a mix of comfort and stability as the shoe is able to conform to the natural contortions of our foot to a certain extent while still providing a relatively level base.

Test results
XC72 3
Average 3.5
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

The shoe's reinforced plastic heel cup is rather stiff, leading us to give it a score of 4 out of 5 in our manual assessment. This level of stiffness combined with the shape of the heel cup gives us an excellent rearfoot lockdown that mitigates any excessive lateral movements. That said, we did find that our heels were rubbing against the stiff counter which was quite uncomfortable when we had thin socks on. We therefore don't recommend going sockless in this sneaker. 

Test results
XC72 4
Average 3.3
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

Using our caliper, we measured the XC72's midsole to be 102.9 mm wide at the forefoot.

New Balance XC72 Midsole width in the forefoot

This is considerably narrower than average but, thanks to the features we just discussed, this doesn't hamper the shoe's stability very much. Instead, it lends the shoe a sleek look that's key to its nimble nature and aesthetic charm. However, it does mean that this shoe doesn't boast much of a platform for those with wide feet. 

New Balance XC72 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
XC72 102.9 mm
Average 108.9 mm
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
100.0 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
121.0 mm

Midsole width in the heel

The midsole is also significantly narrower than average at the heel, measuring only 75.8 mm wide. This also wasn't too much of an issue during testing, with the squared outer edge giving us a good surface area of grippy lugs underfoot to dig into the ground with every landing. 

New Balance XC72 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
XC72 75.8 mm
Average 83.4 mm
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
69.4 mm
Midsole width in the heel
103.1 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

We secured the XC72 to our workbench and found that 28.4N of force is required to bend the shoe 90 degrees, making it stiffer than the average sneaker. As such, the shoe actively resists the natural movement of our foot during our stride which, on the one hand, sacrifices some level of comfort.

On the other hand, however, this further contributes to the shoe's stable ride which makes it a supportive choice for those with foot conditions like plantar fasciitis that are exacerbated by excessive flexion. 

New Balance XC72 Stiffness
Test results
XC72 28.4N
Average 23.2N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
5.8N
Stiffness
51.8N

Grip / Traction

Apart from being incredibly grippy, the XC72 takes a unique approach with its tread pattern to maximise traction wherein the outsole is split down the middle. 

New Balance XC72 4hr

On the lateral half, we have a pattern of spiky, triangular lugs that do a good job of biting into uneven and soft terrain while the medial side is comprised of round and equally spaced nubs that work great on smoother surfaces. This combination had us feeling as surefooted as mountain goats while testing this shoe whether we were on asphalt or dirt, wet or dry. 

New Balance XC72 rbwrb

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

While its platform is quite narrow, the XC72's toebox is surprisingly roomy. We measured it at a whopping 111.2 mm wide at its widest point, leaving our lab average in the dust. This means that it should provide a comfy fit for most foot shapes although, as previously mentioned, the narrow midsole means that those with broad feet will likely feel constricted within the shoe. 

New Balance XC72 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
XC72 102.9 mm
Average 99.1 mm
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
94.0 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
107.7 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

The area around the big toe is also much wider than our current lab average at 101.3 mm wide.

New Balance XC72 Toebox width at the big toe

We therefore had no issues with hotspots or blisters as our toes had plenty of room to play out as we sautered about town. 

Test results
XC72 75.8 mm
Average 75.2 mm
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
65.7 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
82.7 mm

Tongue: gusset type

The XC72's tongue isn't gusseted, though the central lace loop helps to prevent it from sliding off to the side. 

New Balance XC72 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
XC72 None

Comfort

Tongue padding

Using our caliper, we measured the XC72's tongue to be 3.7 mm thick, making it much less padded than average.

New Balance XC72 Tongue padding

As such, the laces did feel quite present across our instep once we were locked and loaded. 

New Balance XC72 Tongue padding
Test results
XC72 3.7 mm
Average 8.7 mm
Compared to 35 trainers
Number of shoes
1.0 mm
Tongue padding
23.0 mm

Heel tab

The XC72's heel cup flares upward to form a tab that we can pull on to make sliding the shoe on a little smoother and easier. 

New Balance XC72 Heel tab
Test results
XC72 Pull tab

Removable insole

The XC72's insole is fully removable, so those in need of custom orthotics for added arch support can use them with this shoe. 

New Balance XC72 Removable insole
Test results
XC72 Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

With no reflective elements to speak of, we recommend exercising caution if waling along a dimly-lit road at night in the CX72. 

New Balance XC72 Reflective elements
Test results
XC72 No