Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

The military begins distribution of Made in USA running shoes.

It’s been a long process to get here, but thousands upon thousands of America’s freshly minted soldiers are finally wearing Made in USA athletic shoes, supporting more than 1,000 workers in America --- thanks in large part to New Balance’s work.

We’ve been following this story for a while now, but if you’re running a bit behind here’s a bit of background on why the U.S. military wasn’t providing its men and women with Made in USA shoes -- pretty bizarre, huh? 

| Photo by David Salafia

For years, the Department of Defense (DoD) purported that it simply wasn’t possible to provide its servicemembers with Made in USA running shoes because there wasn’t an appropriate Made in USA option available. This claim allowed the DoD to sidestep the Berry Amendment, a federal mandate to outfit servicemembers in uniforms and equipment 100 percent made in the U.S.

But New Balance didn’t take no for an answer. 

In 2014, New Balance produced a shoe that was both resilient, affordable and made in its New England factories. Nonetheless, the DoD remained unpersuaded and continued to provide its servicemembers with vouchers to purchase athletic shoes for training uniforms from a market rife with imports.

In 2016, following years of New Balance’s lobbying efforts to publicize the importance of supporting American manufacturing and the communities it nurtures, Congress passed legislation to close the loophole in the Berry Amendment that allowed the DoD to circumvent purchasing Made in USA athletic shoes. Now New Balance is one of three companies to have won an initial DoD contract for Made in USA running shoes.

This year, the DoD initially purchased 128,750 pairs of New Balance sneakers with an additional contract for 120,000 pairs possible. In total, New Balance’s agreement is valued at a total of $17 million, ensuring that the company’s more than 1,000 U.S.-based factory workers have plenty of work ahead of them.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who championed the legislation to ensure the DoD purchased Made in USA running shoes, said:

“The men and women of America’s armed forces exemplify the best of our nation’s values, and the men and women of New Balance exemplify the best of our nation’s manufacturing heritage. I am so proud of the hardworking New Balance employees in Skowhegan, Norway, and Norridgewock who have kept the ‘Made in America’ label alive and well in the footwear industry and have proven that there is no challenge that American workers cannot meet.”

San Antonio Shoes, which manufactures in Texas, and Propper International, which manufactures in Missouri, were also awarded contracts for athletic shoes and will collectively provide 309,00 pairs with a possible 288,000 to follow.   

U.S. Air Force recruits at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, nearly 900 in number, were the first to receive their shoes on Jan. 2. The Navy will distribute the Made in USA sneakers to its recruits in April while the Army and Marine Corps have scheduled distribution for October.

We’re thrilled that the Department of Defense is giving America’s servicemembers a running start to their careers with great Made in USA shoes. Our nation’s brave men and women deserve nothing less.

Watch the video below to see how New Balance makes it Made in USA shoes in Lawrence, Mass., from the very first stitch to the final boxing.