Will shoes ever be made in America?

Something I’ve been thinking about recently…
Would or Could shoes be made in America?? One of the larger issues today is the economy. Many economists blame our situation on the housing crisis and credit problems etc. One thing that cannot be overlooked however is the ever-growing trade deficit (exceeding 193 billion). With America sending out very little these days and importing all our goods (footwear/softgoods being a large industry) from mainly China…it is having huge implications on the economy. I wonder then if finding solutions to get a lot more done over here will ever become feasible or popular…kinda like how being sustainable or green is in right now. Just food for thought.

atleast some shoes are made in the USA

not sure about all or even most, but some New Balance shoes are made in the Boston area.

who else?

yeah, I know there are some made here and even more in Europe…but these are def a small minority of what’s going on over in China with footwear.

i get this inquiry a lot from my clients who are looking to do more local production for one reason or another.

the important thing to realize, is that its not only labor and shipping costs involved, but also an entire infrastructure. mold makers, material suppliers, last makers, etc. not to mention the technical know how…

i dont see footwear production moving (back) to the US anytime soon, as a result, except perhaps for a few very small-scale bespoke or simple products (ie. moccasins, slippers, etc.). its just not really feasible or cost-effective, esp. in a market where most consumers are looking for more technical products (ie. more specialized production), at lower prices.


I agree with u R…

I still think its fun to think about how huge it would be if a major footwear company…such as Nike, were to figure out a way to get the process and jobs done in the states (obviously it is not currently cost effective). I think there could be a lot of advantages in some ways…the jobs it would create here, possibly less pollution from shipping resources and people across the ocean, the ability to boast about stimulating local economy, no problems with people pointing fingers at labor exploitation etc, and not contributing to national trade deficit.

From a leadership standpoint if a major corp made such a move I think it would cause others to figure out how to get it done as well.

Maybe “Made in USA” could be cool again :slight_smile:

That would be funny/crazy since my understanding based on the (MSNBC ?) story from a couple months ago is that idea behind Nike business plan came from Phil Knight’s masters work on outsourcing manufacturing to Asia. If that seemed crazy at the time and was a wild success, who’s to say the same pioneering company couldn’t swing it back the other direction?

nice to daydream, but it’s not gonna happen. there’s really no reason to it, business-wise or otherwise. global shipping may be reduced, but with the economies of scale working for suppliers in asia (there are more global markets for footwear than just he US), it cant make much of a difference.

aside from flag waving, “made in the USA” doesn’t do much in real terms.


Yeah…I think that if it were to happen tho there might be other industries that strategize so that Asia isn’t owning so much of the U.S. economic sovereignty. Everything these days is getting done over there, from tv’s, houseware items, all kinds of products. But yeah…no way no how its gonna happen…but with all the economy talk its an interesting issue to think about for American companies anyway.

I used to work here… was in fact my first job on the shoe industry. it was a nice concept, in a very romantic way, but I don’t think is going to happen. It was a great experience and I kept a good supply of dress shoes; which I made with my own hands…


Doesn’t New Balance make some shoes in the U.S. Not sure how many but I have few pair. :wink:

yep…my understanding that they do still …at least some percentage…not sure tho. Here is an old ad they ran from back a bit.

I believe New Balance makes the uppers in Asia and ships them here to be assembled.

SAS (San Antonio), PW Minor(New York), and Monroe(Oklahoma) all make shoes in this country. Not sure how they make the math work though.

I believe New Balance makes the uppers in Asia and ships them here to be assembled.

The make the entire shoe in New England. They have 6 factories in the United States: Cohagen, Skowhegan Maine, etc. They only make 2%-25% (it matters who you talk to) of their footwear line in the USA.

New Balance labels all shoes with a domestic material content of 70% “Made in the USA”. The FTC makes sure the product containing both domestic and imported materials, the domestic material value is at least 70%.


It doesn’t matter much anyways, you couldn’t employ the same number of people here to do the work. You would have to hire 1/50 the staff and automate.

I’ve seen work boots that were made in Canada. I saw a video of the manufacturing process. A lot of computer controlled cutting and I think even stitching. The workers only moved stuff around, stitched the upper together and put the boots in a mold for the sole. Very few people were involved.

It’s far better for the economy to keep the design and engineering here, than the crap factory jobs.

not all NB are made in england either. the majority I believe are made in china, with a few lines made in the US or the UK, and some of those only “assembled”.

bottom line is that labor cost are typically around 5-10% of FOB cost, so you can imagine the difference in retail price if all were made in the US.

i do agree though that trying to keep labour in the US/n.america is a lost cause. the thing is with footwear that most of it real has to be done by hand, not automated, so footwear production will likely never come back, nor does it make much sense to.

as i mentioned earlier, the biggest thing is still the infrastructure, not so much even the labor.

FWIW, i think the changing in the US and elsewhere from labor to design and IP scale economies is a good thing.


I would take what they say in their ads with a pinch of salt - the uppers are mostly cut and closed in China, they have been in trouble in the USA some years ago for putting Made in USA labels in shoes that clearly weren’t.

We’re quite lucky here in the UK, we still have some manufacturing. I have clients with their entire production in the UK. It is growing because people are concerned about human rights practises in China and also their carbon footprint.

At one stage all my customers were manufacturing in China only, now, I’m seeing some of it come back to Europe. It’s different for sneakers, but we do have Walsh in the UK. This is a truly British product.


You never know what is going to come back, look at American Apparel. I think it would be fine to have more manufacturing in the states. Manufacturing diversification and knowledge base are generally a positive economic attribute. Yes, our lost infrastructure is a problem. If we had (or when we have) to pay the true cost of industries that have so fully externalized some of their cost structure we may find it makes sense to manufacture them closer to the point of use. My 0.02.

There is at least one company making shoes in America:

Like them or not, some Crocs are Made in USA:
Great analysis of New Balance and “Made in America”:

For ‘Made in America’ the “all or virtually all” rule applies, and US content must be disclosed for automotive, textile, wool and fur industries:

New Balance has 3 factories in Maine and 2 in Massachusetts, including one that is connected to their R&D offices in Lawrence. Up until the 1990’s, New Balance was a fairly small volume shoe company that made a majority of their shoes in the US. Then all of a sudden their shoes became extremely popular and their sales grew something like 600-800% in a matter of a few years. I’m sure we can all understand that the reality of the situation required them to look to Asia to support the demand. It is very difficult to produce shoes in the US, and it’s not just labor costs. Materials are more expensive here and they are more limited than what is available in Asia, so maybe we could give them some credit for producing at least some of their shoes here. It’s that much more than any other major company produces here. Some of you make it sound like some big scam, when really they just outgrew themselves.

Fair enough, but much of the comments /links on this thread are regarding advertising or labelling that implies something that isn’t entirely true - the consumer thinks that the whole product is made in the USA, when it isn’t.

This kicked off over ten years ago…

Technical sneakers (i.e. compression moulded eva runners and the like) were invented in Japan (Mizuno, Asics Tiger etc) …and originally produced in South Korea, so they’ve never really had the technology outside of Asia, or bothered to import the machinery to the Western World to manufacture them. It’s not viable to inject outsoles in the West or close the uppers, it never has been, the skills have always been in SE Asia, they have not been moved there.

Me? I don’t really give a toss where the shoes are made - the NB Chinese factories are superb. But I feel that the consumer should be given a mrore truthful picture, in order to make a better informed decision. It’s not just sneakers, so many Italian companies stitch their uppers in Albania. I feel that there is even more dishonesty when we get to the luxury goods market.