New Balance: Made in the USA

Watching ESPN’s SportsCenter this morning, I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this spot for New Balance. It features their shoemakers hard at work in the company’s Skowhegan, Maine factory.

Looks like the folks on Madison Avenue are waking up to Americans’ desire to know how and where their clothes are made. The commercial beautifully displays what I’ve tried to express through this little blog: there are people in this country still passionate about making something and doing it better than anyone else in the world. New Balance has been making some of the best shoes — not just running shoes, shoes — in the world since the company was founded in 1906.

new-balance-992-993-comparison-5Earlier this year, in the market for some new running shoes, I had my eye on the New Balance 993, the latest update of their classic 990 series. Visiting three different running stores, the kinds with cameras on the treadmills and a “tread analyst” on staff, each sized my foot with different results. One, a 12, made me feel like a clown; the other, a 10 1/2, required a shoe horn, a gulp of grit, and pinch of patience; and the last, good ol’ 11, much like Goldilocks was… just right in my opinion, but the salesperson insisted I was wrong.

Everyone steered me away from this shoe. I am by no means a “runner,” I’d explain to them. I run no more than five miles at a time, and my training is spurtive. I ended by saying the same thing to each of the sales associates, “I just want something simple, sturdy, preferably made in America — something that doesn’t look like I have strapped spaceships to my feet.”

I bought a pair of Brooks’ Ghost. Lighter than the 993, I still feel every part The Rocketeer when I run. What compels shoe companies to fashion their best shoes of shiny vinyl and bright neon mesh? I am not dancing back-up in a video for C&C Music Factory.

I hope to burn through this pair much faster than my last, a pair of Asics which held up for five years; I can finally run in the shoes I want, salespeople be damned.