Most people in the UK think that they can’t get hold of trainers made in England, and if they do, they will be expensive. However, the truth is that you can still buy British-made trainers at an affordable price – but you’ll need to know where to look.
Unfortunately, China dominates the market with its low-cost manufacturing and has taken over most of our high streets with their cheap (and sometimes not so cheap) trainers.
Ethically it’s becoming harder to justify spending money on goods and services from China and other countries.
A recent Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) report identified 83 foreign and Chinese companies as allegedly directly or indirectly benefiting from abusive labour programs. Nike, Adidas, and Puma were all named in the report.
Apart from concerns about the working conditions in Asian factories, the environmental impact of shipping shoes halfway across the globe is troubling. Not to mention the economic consequences of offshoring British manufacturing.
In the 1960′s, the UK footwear industry employed 100,000 people making 200 million pairs of shoes – today, 4,500 people are making 5 million pairs.
When purchasing my next pair of trainers, I was determined to strike a tiny blow against rampant Globalism.
I wanted to buy a pair of trainers made in the UK, but this didn’t prove easy. Nearly all the big brands use China, Vietnam, or Indonesia for their manufacturing.
MADE IN ENGLAND
Following a lengthy search on the internet for ‘British Made Trainers’, I eventually found a company that still manufactures their trainers in the United Kingdom – ‘Norman Walsh Footwear‘.
Norman Walsh is the last British-owned designer and manufacturer of traditional sports footwear, with continuous production in Bolton, England, since 1961.
The British brand marked its 60th-anniversary last year, but Norman Walsh’s association with British sporting success goes back further.
WHO WAS NORMAN WALSH?
After leaving school at 14, as was the custom then, Norman Walsh followed in his father’s footsteps and became a cobbler. He found an apprenticeship with John W. Foster and started work with the company in 1945.
He impressed early on and was selected to make the Fosters De Luxe, a track spike. The spikes were made in 1948 and became the choice for many Olympians, including those competing at London’s games.
In 1954 Norman was selected by Roger Bannister to make running shoes for his famous and successful attempt at becoming the first man ever to run a mile in less than four minutes.
In 1961, Norman amicably parted ways with Foster Bros. to create a company under his own name – Norman Walsh Footwear.
The ‘Walsh‘ brand has been making sporting footwear for English Cricketers, Track Runners, and Footballers since 1961. Not to mention the specialised shoes they’ve created for climbing Mount Everest and fell running.
BUYING MY TRAINERS
Walsh’s trainers have a classy retro feel, which appealed to me. I settled on a style called ‘New Glory – Dead Red‘, and they cost me £88, about the same price as Chinese manufactured brands such as Nike or Adidas.
However, the trainers I ordered were made in Bolton and delivered anywhere in the UK via the www.normanwalshuk.com website. You can even order a Vegan-Friendly running shoe. The website is super easy to use, and you can pay via PayPal.
My trainers arrived a few days later, and I was thrilled with my purchase. They were great trainers, very comfortable, and they looked great too. The upper was firm, and the sole very flexible to allow rolling of the foot over all surfaces. I’ve posted a pic below of my trainers.
ARE BRITISH MADE TRAINERS MORE EXPENSIVE?
To summarise, there are many benefits to buying British, and one of the main arguments against it is the cost issue. Almost every article you’ll read will tell you that the stuff we import from China is so much cheaper.
However, a quick look around my local JDSports store tells a very different story. Nike Air VaporMax Evo retails for £190 in JD, that’s £30 more than the most expensive trainer at Walsh’s online store (Walsh V-Ripple £160). The Adidas Terrex running shoe costs £140 at JD, the equivalent trainer on Walsh’s website is £125.
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My point is the price difference between buying British, and Chinese isn’t as big as you might think. Don’t get me wrong; there will always be some small supplier in China that can knock out a cheap trainer for less money. But when it comes down to your well-known brands (Adidas, Nike, Reebok etc.), you’re not saving any money buying Chinese-made trainers.
Knowing I’m supporting a small UK business rather than sending my money to countries with dubious human rights records has been good. So if you’re on the lookout for new trainers or sports shoes, it might be worth investing in quality English-made footwear like Norman Walsh.
I have no relationship with Norman Walsh, and I did not receive any money or merchandise for writing this article. I paid the full price for my trainers from the company’s website. The links on this page are here to help other people, like me, who struggled to find an English-made trainer.