Rule Mandates Recruits Buy USA-Made Athletic Shoes

RunningThe Pentagon has issued a new rule that will require recruits arriving at basic training to use an $80 cash allowance for running shoes to buy only a product made entirely in the United States.

The new rule puts the Defense Department squarely in line with the so-called “Berry Amendment” mandating the department buy U.S.-manufactured goods and products whenever possible. The law has been around since 1941 and was passed to provide protections to U.S. manufacturing, but was beefed up in 2006 to ensure that DoD funds were not used to buy a broad range of products unless they are entirely made in the U.S.

By then, the number of U.S. companies making athletic shoes in the U.S. was down to one, New Balance, which is headquartered in Maine. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, provided the Pentagon with prototypes and design plans for “Berry Amendment-compliant” athletic shoes in December, according to an April 25 letter from Acting Secretary of Defense Christine Fox to Michaud.

Fox told Michaud in the letter that, currently, “no footwear manufacturer sells Berry Amendment-complaint athletic shoes” but that several have the capability to do so.

Michaud called the new Pentagon rule “a tremendous victory for American manufacturers.”

“It only makes sense that we equip our country’s bravest men and women with products made by some of our country’s hardest working manufacturers,” he said.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said he was pleased the Pentagon’s decision, which he said complies with Congressional intent and is what the American people want.

“If we can provide U.S.-made athletic shoes to our troops – and I believe we can – we should do so,” Levin said.

Navy Times reported that Marine Corps will not be affected by the new rule because it does not provide a one-time allowance specifically for footwear, but a general clothing allowance.

Fox said in her letter to Michaud that athletic shoes meeting the law will become available only after being tested to ensure they meet the recruits’ needs. Until Berry Amendment-compliant shoes are available, recruits will be able to buy any brand that meets their needs, she wrote.

“If, for a given shoe type category, no Berry Amendment-compliant option exists in the commercial marketplace, other shoe models appropriate to recruits’ requirement will continue to be made available,” Fox told Michaud.

Of course there are questions of just how “Made-in-America” New Balance shoes really are. Last year, only a quarter of the New Balance shoes sold in the U.S. were produced in America according to a company website. This is considerably higher than competitors, but it still leaves the question of whether New Balance does meet the requirement.

About the Author

Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is a reporter for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.
  • DaVe

    I’d rather run barefoot.

    • moondawg

      Don’t expect the military to treat the cuts, bruises and abrasions to your feet for free. That would be a LOD No.

    • Musson

      Converse AllStart Chuck Taylors! Tell me they are still made in the USA.

  • moondawg

    I don’t run anymore, but New Balance makes a good walking shoe that is comfortable and supports the feet.

  • Alan of Austin

    Sounds like DOD / Congress should make the shoes standard issue if they want to make sure american companies make the shoes.

    • A.J.

      Maybe we, as Americans should start supporting American shoe-makers so the DOD doesn’t have such limited options.

    • michaelmacarthur

      Standard issue doesn’t always mean made in America. My first beret was made in Shri Lanka. Seriously.

    • There is really no such thing as standard issue. If you look at a recruit’s first LES, you will see that everything “issued” comes out of their paycheck.

  • Rev

    This is stupid- protectionism more times than not,does not allow the consumer to get the most for their money (in this case it’s really taxpayer money) give, get or allow these kids to get the best shoes the $80 will buy. Where it’s made should be secondary.

    • Patriot

      Stupid-protectionism or Patriotism? Just a question.

    • Formr nvy

      Rev, if you look to child labor abroad and or the lower pay rates abroad… that is why we in the USA do not produce very much… and why our economy is strongly supported and influenced by construction etc…

      If we continue to support and or exploit nations that have low wage (where COL is lower too) etc… we will purchase ourselves further into poverty as we have done so…

    • US Army

      That’s BS…. What if we are at war with the country that makes the shoes? There’s a crucial reason for protectionism…. to protect ourselves.

      • The Stig

        Then the Army will make you run in boots, the way God intended it. But until that unlikely day, I think we’ll all be okay. Plus we’d have to go to war with pretty much all of Asia before we ran out of sneaker making countries.

        Otherwise, you make an excellent point. . .

    • Dave

      When there are no manufacturing jobs in the USA eat your Chinese shoes.

  • madeintheusa

    In the same way, commissaries ought to carry avocados only from clean sources. (“Blood Avocados: The Dark Side of Your Guacamole”:

    • Musson

      Coming soon: Blood Limes – The Blood Oranges Little Brother!

  • A.J.

    Isn’t about time we took an active role to Give America A Chance.. I don’t know what some of the commenters are thinking if they think American made shoes are second rate. My New Balance shoes (4 years old) are still going strong… and yes, they are part of the 25% that are made in America. My DW’s NewBalance (American made and 5 years old) are taking her on a 5K this weekend.

    • Charlie

      I’m sorry, but New Balance is not a serious running shoe. Good try though.

      • Brett


      • Stephen

        And to be honest, most soldiers are not “serious runners.”

    • Elizabeth Davis

      I love my NB. I only buy the ones that are made in the USA. They are more expensive but fit really good. I broke my foot in the Marine Corps and walked on it for almost 3 years before a Army doctor realized that my foot was broken. They have the extra depth in them so I can put a orthodic in them.

  • David

    There isn’t a single American shoe company worth running in or buying. Another ridiculous loss for the military.

    • moondawg

      Based upon what factual study?

      • Charlie

        Based upon anybody that is a serious runner. If you’re doing your 3 or 5 miles, sure… go get your Asics or your New Balance, whatever. If you are a real runner, and take it seriously…pushing 10+ miles at a time (multiple times a week) then there’s only one American shoe company that I know of that produces anything of quality, and that’s Brooks. Other than that? All your top of the line shoes are definitely made outside of the U.S… Zoot, Mizunos… you want a good quality shoe, you’re not going to find it in America pal.

        • Chris

          I agree and to add to that each person has different feet and different brands work best for different people. Once I started using Mizunos I have not bought another brand of running shoes since. They fit my feet the best and I have had a lot less problems with my knees and IT band.

  • Jason

    I am so glad I am retired ! I can NOT believe the military could get stupider but time and time again recently they have com through and shown me how wrong my assumptions are.

    • Guest

      Jason…this directive is coming from politicians in Congress and will require DoD to comply. Not sure there is a choice in there for the military to respond. Rather than doing their real job (creating an honest budget, funding the military, etc) Congressmen spend their time on crap like this.

    • wade

      No, what was stupid was having to run in boots for 20 years!

  • Jack

    Can I be retroactively paid for all those Corcoran jump boots worn out during PT in the late 50’s – mid 60’s?

  • Jim Laubach

    Protectionism only wastes American tax dollars to support industries that are no longer competitive. The truth is, whatever the playing field we have to learn how to compete on it. Industries that can’t disappear in favor of American ingenuity — startups that not only compete in the world marketplace, but dominate it. That’s the way of the world, folks, whether we like it or not.

    • DaBig

      So it’s an industries fault they can’t compete if another country subsidize that industry? If they follow US EPA regulations and OSHA requirements? While in other countries they dump toxin and exploit their workers. Allow child labor? I’m not for protectionism but would like a level playing field. Also the purpose of the Berry Amendment is to guarantee we can domestically produce what we need in time of war for war. Can see making companies like FN and Beretta make our weapons here. Make our jump boots, uniforms, helmets even socks here. Not sure last time we sent unit in PT gear to attack something. Sorry this is nothing more than a congressman exploiting the purpose of this law for a constituent he represents. But hey that is part of his job, to help bring jobs to his district.

    • Brad

      Can’t compete when products are Union brotherhood made… way to expensive. A non – union “shaper” makes $15 hr, while the brothers make $22 hr.

  • Brett

    This is a stupid decision. Every runner’s feet are different and every runner should be allowed to wear the shoes that are most comfortable for them and do the best job of protecting and supporting THEIR feet, regardless of manufacturer. Runners may go through several brands before finding the one that best meets their needs. If that manufacturer changes their design and/or materials used in their shoes, then the runner may need to find another brand.

    • straps

      And if there’s ANYONE who’s intimately familliar with her or his feet, it’s the average 18 year old entering the military (overweight and sedentary, making shoe decisions based on what they saw a celebrity wearing as part of a social media promotion). Reading is Fundamental. This applies to RECRUITS entering training. When I went in, dozens of dudes showed up for the first PT formation in BASKETBALL SHOES. Freakin’ BASKETBALL shoes. You could do waay worse than New Balance, which is DEFINITELY a 90% solution.

    • michaelmacarthur

      Agreed. Feet are different. Where I work( in a hospital) most people wear either soft shoes with good support, or sneakers. I prefer my New Balance minimus shoes. They are really light and rugged. They also have absolutely no support, which I also enjoy. When running I have a different pair, just for running. I wonder when the last time Mike Michaud hit the pavement on a good run? My guess is, never.

  • SGMBob

    I applaud the decision. If U.S. – made running shoes are available, then why should we NOT select them over a foreign-made shoe. This is not protectionism. It’s common sense.

    • Guest

      SGM, you are right-it is common sense to buy American. The problem here is finding those American made shoes-sure, they’re out there. We hear it from New Balance quite frequently, but here’s the problem: go to NB’s website and start looking at prices. Then start looking for the FEW that are made in America, and take a peek at those prices. Even with the military kicking in $80, that new recruit who isn’t making much money might still have a tough time coughing up the extra cash.

    • tiger


  • Richy

    I didn’t read the post but I can tell you this, When I went to boot camp we were taken to the PX on base and told what we needed to get, Shorts, 2 pair, White running socks, 6 pair, and sneakers by NEW BALANCE and that my friends was in 1982! NEW BALANCE has been making running shoes for the military for a long time. When you buy them they have the made in USA logo and what branch of service your in. I tried to find those local but could not. I think you can olny get them on base. They are made in five locations.… And they a great shoes.

    • Rusty

      Well when I joined up way back in 80 we wore combat boots an fatigue pants and tee-shirts and we did ok with that too.

    • wade

      And some of us were in long before that recent date!

    • I remember those days! Joined up in ’79.
      And all of this stuff came out of my first paycheck!

  • Jen Williams

    This isn’t a government purchase, this is the government dictating what brands these people must spend their pay check on. The $80 cash allowance isn’t given to them. It is pulled from their paycheck. The Berry Amendment says nothing about where soldiers can spend their paycheck.

    • Stephen

      Not only is it not a “DOD purchase,” it is not an acquisition contract with any one vendor and it $80 is well below the small purchase exception in 10 USC 2533a(h).

      This is just a silly political stunt.

  • CaptainDoc

    BUT it is ok to hire a potential enemy to support a space station, purchase missal components from China, buy foreign vehicles, guns, clothing, aircraft components and combat boots from other nations. There is a law that prohibits purchase of anything not made in the USA that someone conveniently forgets but applies to a pair of shoes.

    • straps

      What’s a “missal” component?

      • CaptainDoc

        something that goes bang whether or not it is misspelled.

  • John Altevers

    When I went through basic training 11 years ago, we were issued US made New Balance running shoes. Just go back to that to comply with the law and everybody is uniform in appearance.

    • Sorry, but you weren’t “issued” anything. If you look at your very first LES, you paid for everything that was “issued”.

  • Perry McMullin

    COMING UP… The government will be telling us what condoms to buy and use. Maybe the military should set an example FIRST and buy U.S. produced items.
    Government, hear me now; GET YOUR OWN HOUSE IN ORDER FIRST!

  • Barry

    When I was in boot camp in the 60’s we ran in our boots because if you had to run toward or away from your enemy you probably wouldn’t be wearing sneakers!!

    • B33tle

      Absolutely! And there was no “PRT” or “PFT” at all. The time that would have been wasted preparing for and “doing” these silly exercises was used to improve our proficiency in our ratings.

    • George Smith

      Basic 1961 and too 1966. Only boots. Legs still screwed up.

  • muttling

    This protectionism is older than 1944, the Buy American Act went into effect in 1933 and what a cluster f*** it has caused!!!

    If you’re building a water or waste-water treatment plant, your programmable logic controller has to be the Texas Instruments unit which is 3x the price of the Japanese controllers and doesn’t work nearly as well. Brass ball valves that would cost $20 if you buy Italian made at Lowes or Home Depot cost $150 plus shipping to get American made.

    We’ve created welfare companies who only sale to the Federal Government because their products are stupidly expensive and no one else will buy them, but we’re required by law to go to these companies.

    • DaBig

      Can go either way, say I need those brass ball valves to build a submarine. During time of war am I getting them from the Italians? Having things domestically produced has advantages. Maybe the Italian government realize this and subsidizes there brass valve company. They give them tax breaks and incentives. That if added to the price would make their brass valves close to the same price as ours.

  • andy konopka

    Typical politic crap…A congressperson is just supporting a contributor to his political fund. If you can’t stand the heat,get out of the fire…if you can’t build it better than your competitors, get out of the business. And yes, you politicians need to do as you say, before forcing American citizens to do as you say…here that Obama!!

  • jffourquet

    make athletic shoes an issue item, like boots and low quarters. Don’t make stupid rules.

    • B33tle

      Best suggestion of all!

  • nate

    Go to a real running shoe store, experts will watch you run and tell you best shoe for you. new balance is for walking.

  • Go to a real running shoe store, experts will watch you run and tell you best shoe for you. 99% sure it won’t be NB.

  • Ken

    Funny how we are buying a lot of Russian made helicopters for the Afghans. let’s just ban all foreign products for our military.

    • tiger

      Well, they work. They are easier to maintain And a hell of a lot closer to tech support than half way around the planet in the USA.

  • Vitsing

    Somehow I think the sailors know better what footwear is best and the Admirals and Bureaucrats should just butt out.

  • jay walls

    Why don’t our Washington officials, also make a law requiring, or better yet, forcing companies to keep their manufacturing plants here in the U.S.A. ?
    Or better yet. Why don’t the U.S. Military to back to performing all PFT functions as the foot gear uniform be COMBAT BOOTS.?????!!!!!! And made in here in the U.S.A.??? Or is that the thing of the past??

  • Rokranger1989

    i am overpronator and have problem with high arches, biggest pain in foot when you are doing PT or long distance running. New Balance is IMHO the best running shoe out there among many! MADE IN USA – HOOAH!

  • Zspoiler

    At least they some what have a choice. While in boot camp in the Marine Corps ,we had to run in combat boots.It was a real joy.

  • jay walls

    But at least the when you run in boots, it builds up your ankles muscles. When I was in ARMY basic in 1976, we ran in boots. Nobody ever had shin splints. But after the ARMY started having trainees run with running shoes, trainess started to have all kinds of cases of shin splints. Back when we ran in boots, we just only had issues with blisters. That was the only medical condition with feet that ever existed. Now since the running in running shoes, both shin splints, and blisters was the foot medical condition. So not only did the ARMY defeated the purpose of running ion boots, by allowing troops to run in runniong shoes, but caused another medical condition with feet. Running in boots maybe a pain at first, but that is just like anything elese with PT. Keep doing it, it doesn’t hurt as bad as it did at first. No I say get back to running in boots.

  • jay walls

    And also, stop issuing those civailan style sweats for PT. You don’t need them. Just have a few extra pair of the class C uniform, for PT. That is what they are for in the first place. And No more grey T-shirts that says ARMY. Everybody knows you’re in the ARMY. Just wear the OD color T-shirt with your uniform. GET BACK TO THE BASICS. Or is that to ALL MALE?

  • jay walls

    @muttling. Sounds like me, you like foreign products so much. Perhaps your loyalty is not with America. Well if you’re still in the military, when your ETS rolls around, maybe you should immigrate to one of those countries.

  • Dan

    Since Congress is paid from taxpayer money, why don’t we mandate they buy a pair of NB too if they are good enough for our troops. To take it a step furthur, the POTUS is also paid from taxpayer money. Every piece of clothing on him, his wife and his children, should be made in the good ole USofA too. Somebody has taken a good idea (Buy American) and gone all types of stupid with it as they try to selectively enforce the act.