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Fear Not, New Recruit – Your American Made New Balance Running Shoes Aren’t Ugly

During last week’s Warrior West Expo, I had a chance to check out the Berry compliant running shoes being offered by New Balance in response to DoD’s announcement that new recruits will now use their vouchers for running shoes to buy American made products.

Until now, troops have been buying foreign made kicks. Now, the same money that would have purchased these shoes manufactured oversea will be used to buy ones made here at home.

Running shoes have remained the last frontier of Berry compliance for DoD. New Balance and Saucony have stepped up and invested in the technology to manufacture running shoes right here in America. Hopefully, this is only the first step and others will follow. This opportunity is only open to those manufacturers who offer Berry compliant shoes and are willing to undergo certification.

Fortunately, DoD made this happen on their own, as past attempts in Congress were blocked by the likes of Sen John McCain (R-AZ) and others. One more time. Congress did not direct DoD to take this course of action.


The New Balance 950v2 is a low cut running shoe that incorporates ABZORB cushioning in the heel and forefoot. They’ve been working in this military version for some time.


As you can see these aren’t “ugly”, as they were recently referred to by the seemingly anti-American manufacturing website Gawker. Ignorant rants like theirs fail to comprehend the importance of the Berry Amendment in maintaining the protective edge for our service members.

Socialism, it isn’t. Ask the countries that have outsourced the production of their defense related textile needs how that is working to for them. They’re not exactly pushing the envelope. America remains the world leader in the development and production of protective clothing and individual equipment for the warrior. It’s investment in our industries like this that make such development possible.

Unfortunately, the ignorant comments regarding this development aren’t confined to Gawker. I’ve seen some really ridiculous stuff spewed all over, including Facebook, various blogs and even here on SSD.

Let me address a few of these claims by internet “experts”.

Everyone will have to wear the same shoe
This is restricted to new accessions so serving members will continue to purchase and wear the shoes of their choosing, just like now. New recruits receive a voucher for running shoes during processing for initial entry training. Now, instead of foreign made shoes, they’ll be offered American made trainers.

I’m still trying to figure out how buying American made products from companies that employ American workers is bad. But, I’ve run across several who feel that the Berry Amendment, which dates from WW II, is antiquated and should be repealed. That is, until I have them consider the alternative. I haven’t met anyone who wants their helmet and armor manufactured overseas.

“Follow the money!” aka “they paid off Congress” aka “they’ve hired a retired General to make this happen”
I’m pretty much sick and tired of this meme. I don’t know of anyone who is actually involved in graft or the greasing of palms. This business space just isn’t that lucrative. In truth, New Balance would be better off selling offshore made shoes or selling American made ones at full retail. The numbers here aren’t that big as they are restricted to new accessions. Make no mistake, New Balance is in business and they are going to profit but they’ve done it (invested in the required infrastructure) in part, because it’s the right thing to do.

Writ large, there isn’t that much money in textile items, at least not ones made in America, for DoD. Granted, some companies, particularly armor manufacturers, made some good money during the height of the war, but considering we are a capitalist society, that’s not a bad thing. However, in case you haven’t noticed, that train has left the station and many firms are hurting in the face of Sequestration.

But, but, but…they’re not Brand Y…I wear Brand Y
Don’t fret, unless you are a new entry, this doesn’t affect you and even if you are, you can buy your favorite brand after basic, even if they aren’t part if this program. The same goes with boots.

This move by DoD is a good thing and if, by happenstance, it turns out to not be, I’ll be there to talk about it.


39 Responses to “Fear Not, New Recruit – Your American Made New Balance Running Shoes Aren’t Ugly”

  1. Will M says:

    If it is not socialism, it is not embracing the free market economy either. Not wanting your “insert x here” made overseas, is an ideological issue not a practical one. The truth is, many of the items that we purchase off the shelf to meet an unmet need (garmin foretrex GPS units etc), are made overseas and are higher quality than what is made in the U.S. Just because it is made here does not magically increase the quality. It is bad for the american worker because we could be doing something more productive with our time and increased human capital instead of manufacturing sneakers at an increased cost to the american taxpayer.

    • SSD says:

      Why are they increased cost? Do you somehow truly believe that the makers of American shoes and the makers of Chinese shoes are charging the same mark up? No, the American manufacturers are going to profit less from this than their overseas competitors.

      If you believe in a true free market, would you prefer that your armor be manufactured by the lowest bidder regardless of where they are located? Would it be ok for your FR clothing to be manufactured in an unfriendly country that offers low manufacturing costs due to low wages and government subsidies, just because the price is better?

      Start looking into how those other markets are able to offer such low pricing. You may find that the Berry Amendment has nothing on them.

    • Mike Nomad says:

      Socialism vs. Free Market Economy… For fuck’s sake, they are not mutually exclusive, and neither one has anything to do with the OP (which I happen to think is spot-on).

      Since we are talking about New Balance, athletic shoes, and overseas production, I will relay my experience regarding their product changes as they relate to their choice of manufacturing.

      I like(d) their very-overbuilt walking shoe for my daily driver. When I first started wearing them almost ten years ago, they were made in the US. I could get more than a year, not quite a year-and-a-half out of a pair. Failure was consistent: A combination of the “bounce” going out of them, and simply wearing through the tread. Price? A little less than a hundred.

      Then they started making them in China. Build quality was shit: Blown seams, de-laminating soles, and tread that would not last as long. I would get 8 months out of them, tops. Price? A little more than a hundred. A couple of rounds of that, and I stopped buying their shit product.

      A little while back, I heard that NB was going to start making more shoes in the US. I went to a store to see what was up. My preferred daily drivers are no longer made in China. Now, it’s Vietnam. I bought a pair to see how they… run. Price? Up again, to about a hundred-and-a-quarter.

      If you want to talk about how things are bad for the American Worker, and how they could do “something more productive” with their time and increased capital, what is it you have in mind?

      Wages in this country have been essentially flat for the last 25 years, income disparity has skyrocketed, worker’s rights have been reduced to almost 1930s levels, while corporations are paying record low taxes, making record profits, off-shoring most of their cash, and going on with nine kinds of butt hurt about “not being able” to bring the money back to the US.

      Having read and lived enough history, and going to the trouble of understanding it, I prefer to try to keep my money here. If there is not a suitable product, then I look for an overseas solution. Is buying US made more expensive? I have found that is usually so. But then, while blue collar wages here are approaching shit, they are far better than what most of the “manufacturing” world makes.

      Meanwhile, the infrastructure in this country continues on its slow march to third world shithole conditions.

      Not all things made in the US are crap, just as not all things made overseas walk on water. Rather, they usually get here by container.

  2. Bill says:

    Berry Amendment aside, sort of, I hope that the manufacturers, and the service, put effort into ensuring that the shoes are purpose designed and fit to the individual. I’d almost rather see an entire training class in the same shoe, as long as that shoe had enough variations to fit all foot and movement types, somewhat like the interchangeable backstrap feature on some pistols. But that is a hell of a lot of SKUs or cage codes or whatever they are called in the .mil.

    That being said, I support the Berry Amendment in theory, but would like to see PT instructors, podiatrists, exercise physiologists and hardcore runners test the soles off them and make sure that they are an adequate if not superior product compared to the other providers.

    Those aren’t ugly, I’d wear them, but then I’m a middle-aged fat guy like they lampooned on the SNL New Balance skit. Shouldn’t the real argument be over whether they are too reflective or not reflective enough? 😉

    • SSD says:

      Amazingly, folks are all worked up over the fit for trainees yet their issue boot is a one size fits all affair that they spend a lot more time in than running shoes. I don’t hear a peep over that.
      Additionally, there won’t just be one shoe. Already, two companies have stepped up, NB and Saucony. Hopefully, more will join in manufacturing Berry compliant trainers.

      • Glen says:


        That is because so many of us don’t wear them. I have my mandatory two pair buried away somewhere…

  3. Dev says:

    I don’t know why anyone is complaining at all, they look absolutely fantastic. They probably fit well too, judging from the (few) pairs of US-made New Balances I have.

    You guys are absolutely lucky to still have a manufacturing capability that produces quality goods at affordable prices. Take a look at the ADF standard issue runners, for example. Not only are they absolute rubbish both looks and performance wise, but they aren’t even made locally, as much as i’d love to buy a pair of locally made ones.

    As SSD once said, the race to the bottom is over. It’s time to pay for quality goods what they are worth paying for.

  4. Woody says:

    I agree, those shoes are not ugly.
    They look a lot better than the woodland camo ones I was issued in boot camp. Not that style mattered in that environment anyway.

    Our initial issue in boot included a slew of cheap Chinese junk that fell apart.
    War bags, hygene bags, etc. came apart at the seams.
    The whole platoon needed to buy new crook-neck flashlights because the first ones werent the real deal and they were breaking after only days of use.

    Being self sufficient and being able to provide quality shoes to recruits in the face of any sort of international supply issue is a wise choice on the part of DOD.
    I hope they end up doing the same for the rest of the recruit equipment.

  5. Ben says:

    What is this voucher you all keep railing on about? IET soldiers get an Eagle-cash card with a pay day advance in it, they are taken to the mini PX near the reception site and buy all the stuff they need, that includes shoes.

    I know when I went thru I was forced to buy a shoe that didn’t fit well because of some one-size-fits-all chart about feet types. This is just more DOD flim flam, just like how a lot of senior leadership swears up and down that issued boots are the best.

    Country of origin is irrelevant, quality equipment promotes higher performance. If the USA made product is that good, Joe will spend money on it, forcing someone to buy a product “just because” or “because ‘Merica” is the WRONG answer.

    • SSD says:

      The money is referred to as a voucher system.

      • Ben says:

        It’s not a voucher, it’s Joes money. Nothing in the Army is free.

        As for the packing list for basic, myself and the majority of those who came in to reception at the same time did have new shoes, once again, the DS’s shot every private down because of the tradoc chart on foot types.

        • SSD says:

          Yes, it’s Joe’s money but he’s required to have a thing or two as part of his employment.

        • moped says:

          Funny story regarding shoes and that Basic packing list. Right before I shipped out (in 05) to Sill, I picked up a pair of the cheapest trainers I found at the mall. The day came we went over to the reception shoppette, did the foot type thing, went over to the shoes for my foot type and shit you not, there was the same exact brand new NB shoes I had been wearing for less than a week. For about $15 more than what I had paid for them at home! One of the DS’s was walking by and I asked him if I really had to pick up another pair of the exact same shoe that I was clearly already wearing,still new, since it was coming out of my check anyways. You guessed it, still had to buy them. He got a good chuckle out of me having to get another pair too. But it is what it is, Family day came around, had my parents take home the brand new PX pair I had locked up with my civi stuff and I had a nice new pair for when I left AIT for my duty station. Still kinda pisses me off that I had to pick them up though in this situation now that I think about it.

  6. Jose G says:

    Why are they providing them with vouchers to purchase running shoes on initial entry?

    I was given a packing list of what to bring and running shoes were part of that list. When I got to reception, the local PX had running shoes to be purchased by those that totally forgot to get shoes or other items that were on that packing list.. But that was out of their pocket, not the .Mil providing vouchers.

    Are they vouchers or an advance of their pay?

    Now, it’s nice to see companies producing products back int he states.

    • SSD says:

      Jose, I didn’t realize they had running shoes that long ago. I thought you guys wore boots everywhere. Aren’t you a run dodge and jump guy?

      But seriously, I went to basic training in 85 and they were I my packing list as well. They had some ugly assed Velcro flapped running shoes for the guys who didn’t bring any, available at the reception station shoppette.

      • Jose G says:

        I went in 90 and got out in 97, running shoes for PT or if you were some profile that prevented you from wearing boots. Even in Airborne school it was running shoes with BDUs. So to be honest, the voucher thing is kinda of odd since it’s part of the packing list.

        Most of these guys should have running shoes as is since it’s pretty common these days. Some might even have multiple pairs..

  7. middle man says:

    Apparel manufacturing has seen some movement back to onshore production the past couple of years. American Apparel (inexpensive fashion brand) in LA was probably at the forefront in fashion apparel. There was an news piece regarding the fashion brand Karen Kane moving a significant portion of production back onshore several months ago. The wife noted prominent labeling of Karen Kane as Made in USA on a shopping trip earlier this year. This trend is certainly outside the influence of the Berry Amendment.

  8. Desert Lizard says:

    Who cares that much even if they are ugly, which they aren’t. They’re going to be worn primarily in basic training through mud puddles, rain storms, etc. We’re not talking about making a fashion statement or going down the catwalk – we’re talking about providing our recruits with exercise shoes that will protect their feet and joints, hold up to abuse, while preserving our logistical supply lines to our military.

    Does the Berry Amendment go against a free market? I’d say yes. But a free market is not appropriate in ALL circumstances, just 99% of them. I’m a vocal supporter for laissez faire policy, but we need to be understanding of every single effect of a free market if we’re advocating for it. The pros of it are numerous and I’m not going to waste your time listing them here. But there are some effects that can be counterproductive to national security. One of those would be losing your manufacturing capability, which is nearly impossible to rebuild when you’re in a pinch.

  9. Luke says:

    My Professor just made us study the textile and fashion disruption caused by WWI when all our dyestuffs came from Germany. Even with all the domestic clothing production things were pretty tight.

    When viewed in that context the Berry Amendment makes a lot of sense. Nice to know we learned something from history.
    Of course the civilian situation would be much different today if there was a trade disruption, there is probably enough clothing in thrift shops and closets to cloth the country for a decade.

  10. Mike B. says:

    A lot of crying over nothing. I agree witht eh Berry Adm. Means American products made in America. I wonder how many above were the first to cry about the Beret Issue when it turned out that the Army was having them made in China. Made in AMerica means a lot over seas. Made in America sells. It’s quality. It means that American made brands are being chooosen first over other brands over seas. I’ve lived in Europe for over 23 years now. And have worked in the Tactcial Equipment business fro most of those years. People want American made. This means more American jobs, as long as the manufators are only hiring people who agree to work for less than the min wage.

    As for the runing shoe. I joined up in 1986, and can remember having to buy a pair of NB running shoes at teh PX for Basic. Thjey were great shoes back then. I bought a pair of NB made in China in 2011 when I was visiting family in the States, and they lasted 3 months. SO I hope that these are better quality. I also liek th eidea of Basic Training soldiers wearing the same shoes. They already wear the same boots, so the same PT shoes will be good. The UK Military have already been doing this for a while, and those shoes sell out to teh civis..

    Anyway, back to what should me a more important issue, fvcking Camo.. So the Army needs to take the lead in this issue and made a fvcking decision ASAP.

  11. Mike B. says:

    Correction to one point, I meant as long as the manufactors weren’t hiring people to work for less but for a correct salery.

  12. Guy says:

    Im not sure what all has changed but the “vouchers” given to basic trainees comes out of their pay. So why would they not be allowed to buy whatever shoe they damn well feel like? Don’t get me wrong, I like New Balance and the ideology of buying american made products. But if its their money……

    • SSD says:

      It probably has something to do with the fact that they joined the MILITARY.

      • Guy says:

        Berry Compliance doesn’t apply to items bought with service members wages or to the items offered for sale in exchanges so I fail to see how being in the “MILITARY” has any significance on this issue. I totally understand uniformity but last I checked 670-1 allows for “commercially available athletic footwear”.

        • SSD says:

          I think you answered your own rant. These are commercially available athletic footwear. Being in the military has everything to do with it. Apparently, if you’re in the military it’s a generational thing. When they told me to wear something I wore it. When I could get away with doing my own thing I did that. Considering it won’t ever affect you I’m kind of curious why you’re so worked up about it. Maybe you could explain?

  13. Doc B says:

    The shoes people place on their feet in general, but for PT especially, need to accommodate a multitude of things.

    First and foremost, people need to retrieve their heads from whatever orifice they store it in and try to understand that over a 20-year(ish) career of running and playing, physiological changes occur in the body, people occasionally age, and blah, blah, blah.

    Then you have to consider, what type of PT are we doing today? Beach run? Hard top? Basketball? Combat badminton, if air force?

    Further, a set of hooves and their movement will vary into one of many types by whatever individual we are examining, and care should be given to the selection of footwear in order to best accommodate that individual and extract the maximum value that can be gained from our time at PT. Opining that shoe uniformity is even a point of consideration does nothing more than illustrate how asinine things have become.

    If a soldier can run 2 miles in 10 minutes wearing shoes made by one manufacturer, but starts to develop muscular problems and/or can’t break 14 minutes with another pair, why in the blue f&*k does anyone care if the shoes’ maker was named Nguyen or Bob?

    Fine, fine, Berry has a point, I get it. However, that point is not at all universal, in much the same way that almost nothing ever is. There are – and must be – exceptions. Hold your kids accountable for possessing shoes, cool. Awesome. But the choice of what shoe to buy needs to remain open, if we actually care about the longevity of our force.

    • SSD says:

      Excellent points but somewhere in between the title of the article and the comment field you stopped reading. At least three times I made the point that this policy is for Basic Trainees only.

      • Doc B says:

        My response was aimed at the overall, and some of the comments made in here, not specifically at the post all by itself.

  14. Tom says:

    Yeah, this is absolutely ridiculous. Almost everyone on this post has noted that running shoes are on the packing list for basic training already. Why does a running shoe need to be berry compliant? That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Recruits should be able to run in any pair of running shoes they desire. There’s a reason why there is a market full of running shoes…….because everyone has a different preference in shoe. Once again the army feels the need to standardize things that don’t need to be standardized. Oh and SSD, as for your boot comment, the issue boots are garbage so I can only imagine how the berry compliant running shoe will match up among the rest. Most basic trainees are allowed to buy non standard boots when they go to AIT anyways and most do. So these boots will come out of joes pay, and once joe can get something better he’ll throw these out and buy a new pair. Once again these old school morons are attempting to bring “uniformity” where it isn’t needed. Nobody cares if you were in the army back in 80’s or 90’s. This army has been smarter, and more lethal than any other time in our history but we always manage to forget our lessons learned and pull stuff like this out of our ass.

    • SSD says:

      If no other reason resonates for you, how about this one? It’s the law.

      • Will says:

        Well, now it is, and it happens to be a stupid law, which is what everyone is trying to say.

        there is zero reason why our PT shoes need to be berry compliant, other than some US manufacturers getting to pat themselves on the back, and as of now, secure a relatively guaranteed source of income. It is not body armor or NVGs, or hand grenades.

        There was nothing wrong with the shoes on the market, so why are you hailing a forced solution, when there was never a problem to begin with?

        • Tom says:

          He’s an old timer man. He’s probably drooling at the thought of standardization. Maybe the privates can even spit shine those shoes!

        • SSD says:

          It’s been the law since WWII. Want a shovel? It will help you dig that hole faster.

  15. Tom says:

    For you to be supportive of berry amendment standardized RUNNING SHOES is ridiculous. That’s all there is to it.

  16. Hamilton says:

    Personally I only use New balance running shoes. They last longer for me and I like to run a lot. Nike always fit really tight and I ran right through the sole on several pairs. NBs last about 2 years for me if I take care of them, I think the value comparisons might be wrong by many commenters here. This is just my opinion.

  17. Jon Meyer says:

    The good that will come of this is getting more production back in the states. Guess what these companies will do? They will have these facilities in the states making running shoes and they will end up having other shoes made here as well. We WANT production back here. We WANT the jobs here. We WANT to make MORE high quality equipment here by hard working Americans. Our industry is nearly defunct. Why? Because we got too damn lazy and wanted everything CHEAPER and FASTER, not to mention our crony monopolized corporate industry wanted MORE and MORE money. We moved production off shore and then got strong armed into giving up trade secrets and how we make things; if they couldn’t do that, they reversed engineered it and sold it back to us at half price. Effectively killing our infrastructure even more than the cronies already were. I wish people would realize if we moved more production back here, we would have more quality options to choose from; including overseas options that aren’t made in some sweat swap by slave waged and generally underage people. There is nothing wrong with having a variety of options to choose from, but when your options of local products are slim to none, it sucks. Not to mention if some SHTF or large scale war erupted, we wouldn’t nearly have the capability production wise to keep up with demand; for here at home and abroad. We would be scrambling to get our shit together. That wouldn’t nearly be the case if we had a majority of our production back. Now that doesn’t mean nothing of quality shouldn’t come from foreign nations. Just look at Lowa, awesome high quality boots. It also doesn’t mean we can’t have some of our production elsewhere either, just not in shithole countries that strong arm us and reverse engineer our products for their benefit after we build some production there (CHINA!).

    The Army also needs to stop with this uniformity shit. Not every person walks or runs the same. They can’t all have the same boot or PT shoes. They need to train someone in MEPs to evaluate incoming recruits on how they run to determine what type of shoes/boots they need to buy/get issued when they get to reception. Stick them on a treadmill for 15 minutes when they are going through medical. Determine if they under/over/normal pronate, whether they have high/normal/low/flat arches and so forth. Not only could this save a tremendous amount on claims after service members get out, it can also keep them healthy when they are in, and even stop some from getting out due to injuries and so forth. There are places for uniformity and there are not, and when it comes to the health of service members, there should be minimal to none. You can keep uniformity in hair, uniforms, colors/camo, weapons, and so forth. You won’t lose it by them having different style boots in an approved color or different PT shoes. Don’t get me started on armor carriers either. That is a whole other discussion.

  18. z0phi3l says:

    Your first mistake was paying any attention to anything posted on a Gawker site

    They are openly Anti-American Socialist Liberals with an extremely open hatred for any of our Military Branches AND veterans

    The sites cater to the super minority that make Obama look Conservative in comparison