New Balance Shoe: Materials Aren’t All Made in USA

New Balance Shoes Made in USA

The assembly line at a New Balance factory in Boston in 2012. Associated Press

New Balance—the iconic U.S. sneaker maker—has long marched to its own drummer on “Made in USA” labels.

Are New Balance Shoes Considered Made in USA?

About a quarter of the shoes New Balance sells in America are churned out of the company’s five New England factories, an oddity at a time when 98% of the shoes sold in the U.S. are imported.

But New Balance also acknowledges that only about 70% of the value of its Made in USA shoes reflects domestic content and labor. The outer soles, for instance, are imported from China, apparently clashing with what the U.S. government says can be labeled “Made in USA.” The Federal Trade Commission states that a product has to be “all or virtually all” made in the U.S. to qualify. And in the 1990s, the FTC brought an enforcement action against New Balance over its claim.

That set off a contentious legal battle that still resonates in U.S. manufacturing. The FTC eventually dropped its action against New Balance’s use of the label on shoes from its U.S. factories while simultaneously reiterating the agency’s “all or virtually all” standard. Critics say that has sown confusion.

“We look at the New Balance shoe case as clear proof that the federal law is not being enforced,” says Richard Holober, executive director of the Consumer Federation of California. California has a state standard that requires products must be 100% U.S.-made in order to qualify for the label.

Mr. Holober says his group has fought bills to set a percentage, such as 70% or 75%, for calling something American made as well as “conformity bills,” which would make California’s rule harmonize with the federal standard. “We fought that on the belief that the federal law is not enforced and we can do better,” he says.

Transparency is key for New Balance

New Balance says it isn’t misleading consumers because it always includes tags that spell out the company’s 70% threshold. “We’re very clear about what we consider to be ‘Made in USA,'” says Matthew LeBretton, a company spokesman, who adds that the shoemaker has never been sued in California.

John Donboli, a San Diego attorney who has represented California consumers in class-action cases against manufacturers of other goods, says he hasn’t looked at New Balance closely. “There’s probably a lawsuit there, but I haven’t had a client buy New Balance shoes and bring a case to me,” he says. “It’s my sense that they came up with their own standard, and that’s their effort to [provide] corporate disclosure.”

Do you agree with New Balance?  Should the FTC get involved?  Would you purchase New Balance shoes? Here is a list of Made in USA New Balance Shoes we found on Amazon. The list might contain some shoes Made in USA with domestic and imported materials. Always double check listing when using Amazon. 

SOURCE:  Wall Street Journal


Author Details
Established in 2010, The Made in America Movement is the leading independently owned, non-partisan organization promoting businesses in the USA, reaching over 520,000 American consumers.
23 replies
  1. Lloyd Gray
    Lloyd Gray says:

    70 percent is better than 0 percent. I would buy. In order for U.S.companies to survive and compete, many of them have to do some importing. The very LAST thing we need is more regulation.

    Reply
    • MARGARET JARVIS
      MARGARET JARVIS says:

      THAT MIGHT BE SO ABOUT REGULATION, BUT I HAVE ALWAYS WORN 6 1/2 SHOE, AND I SEE IN SOME IT TELLS YOU THE SIZE FOR DIFFERENT SHOES. I HAVE FOUND WHEN THEY ARE MADE ELSEWHERE SOME OF THEM THAT I HAVE BOUGHT HAS SOME PART OF SEWING THAT IRRITATES MY FOOT. I PREFER MADE IN AMERICA BE MADE IN AMERICA. I HAVE PRAISED THEM SO HIGHLY THAT THEY HAVE GOT MANY OF MY FRIENDS AS CUSTOMERS…

      Reply
  2. Tristan Lee Monroe
    Tristan Lee Monroe says:

    The tricky part is New Balance is the only running shoe I have found that is made in America, even if it isn't 100%. If I'm not mistaken, the last time I saw a tag it said "Assembled in America" and not "Made in America," but I may be wrong. This is one of those things where there aren't other options, so it's like Lloyd said…70% is better than 0%.

    Reply
  3. Carol Lindeman Ritchie
    Carol Lindeman Ritchie says:

    If you buy some made here stay away from the 900 series. My husband has had two (expensive)pair and the soles literally fall apart. I just read 'imported from China'……guess that explains it.

    Reply
  4. M
    M says:

    G.H.Bass&Co. I bought Propel hiking boot, womans and it says all over the box Made in USA but the boot is made in China, they are nice and fit well but I am ticked off that they blantently lie….What gives???

    Reply
  5. Chris Everhart
    Chris Everhart says:

    Made in America My experience is they are made everywhere but America. I have 3 separate pair that I ordered because they were available in a 4XTRAWIDE. Thought to myself hey great I got shoes that are gonna fit good and they are made in America…. NOPE, They are made absolutely everywhere except America, 1 pair is made in Indonesia, the other 2 pair are made in China. At least the money that bought them was earned here in America that’s about it and because of their lies that money is now off to china and Indonesia..

    Reply
    • The Made in America Movement Team
      The Made in America Movement Team says:

      Thank you for your response, Chris. As you can see, your comment was posted. All first time commentators on our posts are filtered and read prior to posting. This helps us get rid of spammers.

      As for New Balance shoes, you really have to seek out the Made in USA label when shopping their shoes. They make 25% of their shoes here in the USA. So, although not every shoe they make is made here, they are making an effort to make a portion of their shoes here. We cannot say the same about Nike, Reebok, Addidas, etc…

      Thank you for supporting American made.

      Reply
  6. Ben casteel
    Ben casteel says:

    I just bought an NB/813 made in Indonesia. NOT AMERICAN! The last pair of new balance that I will buy! NOT AMERICAN not for me…

    Reply
  7. Michael
    Michael says:

    Just ordered two with the Made in the USA label. 70% is better than the others. I got the 993 and 1540. I’m just sampling these for now to see how they fit. I’ve visited the factory stores in Brighton, MA and Lawrence, MA. The one in Brighton was right next to the factory. They aren’t adjacent any more since moving to bigger quarters.

    Reply
    • Robert Leonardi
      Robert Leonardi says:

      Mike , I do feel what your saying . The problem is , if you don’t buy the shoe thats 70% made in USA , then you are buying the shoe thats 100% made in China , Indonesia or Vietnam . I wish the labor rates weren’t so tilted and that we could a;; produce on a level playing field . There would still be many manufacturing jobs left here . It is so tilted , that they can produce an item < ship it half way across the world , and still charge cheaper than if it was made here ! SMH

      Reply
  8. Roderico D Garcia
    Roderico D Garcia says:

    Just bought a pair 990 series yesterday. I should have read this first. New pair doesn’t feel it is Made in America for $200 that’s why I wind up on this site, I doubt if it has a 70% value. I would buy much lower in price next time of diff brand but would last just as long.

    Reply
  9. Yvonne Shelton Crumpler
    Yvonne Shelton Crumpler says:

    I bought a new pair of New Balance sneakers (in April this year) and they were made in the USA, with some material from the EU. I like New Balance and buy them since I thought they were 100% USA. I prefer to purchase whatever I want to be made in the USA.

    Reply
  10. Doug
    Doug says:

    Bought a pair of 990v4 and a woman’s 1540v2 – both state “Made in America” and the quality is much better than the ones made in China. I have five year old 993’s and they are still going strong. NB is the only company offering these.

    Reply
  11. Dikran Elgatian
    Dikran Elgatian says:

    I’ve been a loyal New Balance customer for 25 years and am very label conscious. So I always look on the product before I buy, I promote the 990 series or higher they fit great look great and I get my monies worth from each pair. NB is the only shoe athletic shoe I will ever wear for the next 25 years. Thank you NB.

    Reply
  12. Steve Clark
    Steve Clark says:

    Over the years I have bought maybe 20 pair of New Balance 925’s, thru 928. I have bought my last pair. The last 3 or 4 pair have been garbage. They are made in Vietnam and last about 6 months. The only way to keep the uppers from tearing loose from the soles is to buy them so wide you feel like you are wearing snow shoes. Too bad, they did save my feet from planter fasciitis. At nearly $150 per pair I can’t afford to buy such cheaply made shoes.

    Reply
  13. Konrad
    Konrad says:

    So yeah, I buy the 70% made in America New Balance shoes and put my 100% American feet in them. I figure it adds up to about 99% pure red, white and blue content.

    Reply

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