Trelleborg provides engineered polymer solutions for just about every application imagineable. Through the recent acquisition of polyurethane specialist Uretek, it has also entered the shoe market, by developing a brand new application for shoe manufacturer New Balance.
“Putting together a pair of high-tech shoes that people feel really comfortable in is a science,” says Matt LeBretton, Vice President of Public Affairs at New Balance, adding that a typical athletic shoe requires about 30 components. “It’s a very complicated process that takes a long time and a lot of suppliers. In this case, we had to not just develop a shoe with world-class, first-in-class materials, but also find U.S. suppliers – and go to the government in Washington with it.”
New Balance set out to convince the U.S. government that athletic shoes for the military should be “Berry compliant,” just like everything else worn by soldiers. The 1941 Berry Amendment stipulated that U.S. military clothing had to be produced domestically, but athletic footwear had long been excluded because of a lack of domestic manufacturers.
That was before New Balance came along with its 100 percent all-American shoe. Over the course of about four years, New Balance persuaded Congress and the Defense Department to change the government’s position on athletic footwear.
“We wanted to make a shoe with the highest technical performance, but also light, and it’s going to be durable enough to withstand any conditions or terrain,” New Balance spokeswoman Caitlin Campbell said.
The sneaker’s aesthetic design is derived from the company’s ultra marathon shoe, the Leadville 1210 but made entirely from U.S.-sourced materials. The original shoe was made with the 100-mile Leadville Trail Marathon in mind.
“The shoe is made from different materials, and it has a different color wave, black and silver, sort of an understated, conservative look,” Campbell said.
After the decision was made to offer a U.S.-manufactured shoe, Sarah McGuire, Director of Marketing and Corporate Counsel within Trelleborg Coated Systems in the U.S., met with officials at the Pentagon to understand what kind of testing was required to get the New Balance shoe on the shelves. “It was a galvanization on the product-development level as well as on the sociopolitical level,” she says. “And we achieved it by working alongside our customer and doing all we could to make this business a reality.”
LeBretton refers to the shoe as a “pride piece” and says that while New Balance also has suppliers overseas, this was a way of securing the supply base in the United States so the company can make more shoes locally. His goal is o have Trelleborg as a long-term partner.
This article has been reproduced from T-Time, Trelleborg's magazine for customers and stakeholders.
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