The New Balance 710 started life as the New Balance Rainier, and while there's some minor differences, the spirit of adventure is intact. Sneakers and hiking shoes are a story that's rarely expounded on - the adidas SL72 was a design inspiration on some early lightweight hiking designs that dispensed with the weightier appearance of their 1960s forefathers, the LD 1000 helped birth the ACG line and when Rainier Mountaineering guide Lou Whittaker hiked in some New Balance tennis shoes (which we believe was a pair of CTs) 100 miles along the Baraldu River after an injury, the New Balance approach to trekking was born. Lou requested a tennis shoe style upper with a lug sole, and that's what he got. The shoe was spec'd out as a light hiker, but it proved capable of much more.
Worn during the 1982 trip up Mount Everest's North Wall, these weren't Mickey Mouse in any way. They even went through Irian Jaya's jungles for six-months and held up well. Boardlasted and carrying the now-ubiquitous Vibram sole, the New Balance Rainier was built with lateral support in mind but somehow managed to be incredibly light too. In fact, if any sneaker could justify a J. Peterman style write up, it's the Rainier. It even had a less hardcore but still rugged sibling in the shape of the Allagash. Understandably, given New Balance's focus on running and unwillingness to bellow about the power that's housed in their archives, the Rainier story was left to those in the know, but never exploited. The New Balance 710 has bolder branding than the Rainier's small stitched logo and the outsole is altered from the Vibram OG, but the D-rings and panels are extremely close to that classic.
The 574 boots took some elements of it, but these were laden with the Rainier's DNA. The 1300-style version last season was terrific (even if the sample had a touch of the banana-toe that the production version didn't), but these dark grey suede versions even top the excellent but expensive and hard-to-find nonnative duo, with the off white sole retaining that lightweight spirit. New Balance aren't playing in 2011 and if you like this style (which is set to land soon in the store) Rainier fans are in for further treats over the coming seasons.