Ethically manufactured running shoes?

Anyone know who makes them?

1 to 20 of 41 messages
23/01/2007 at 14:44
I'm after a decent pair of running shoes (to train and run up to half marathon distance) but am concerned about sweatshop working conditions.

Allegedly, the working cnditions for Nike, Addidas, Reebok etc... are awful.

Does anyone know a good manufacturere who have an ethical code of conduct that they actually adhere to?

Many thanks
Duck Girl    pirate
23/01/2007 at 14:52
hmm - no-one's that great. New Balance do assemble most of their shoes in the UK (& some are vegan if that's an issue).
23/01/2007 at 16:04
There are some New Balance shoes exclusive to JJB that are made in China :¬(
Duck Girl    pirate
23/01/2007 at 16:22
their website says which are made in EU though (mostly Keswick for shoes, Portugal for clothes).
And anyway, surely proper runners wouldn't be seen dead in JJB ;)
23/01/2007 at 16:26
Aren't Asics good? Not absolutely sure, but worth a look.
23/01/2007 at 17:47
The New Balance running shoes are only stuck together in cumbria uppers to midsoles.

the components are still all made in china
23/01/2007 at 17:51
Tough one, check out a mag called ethical consumer, it does regular reviews of things and did one on shoes a while back. Basically most manufacturers are sh*te, it's more a question of who is least worse, seem to remember Saucony were okay and NB. As for Nike? Forget it
23/01/2007 at 17:55
Are Nike really awful?

I'm sure audits must have been done. I doubt 5 years olds are making the shoes.

At a guess I'd say that the factory brings work to the region & pays above average wage.

I'm for shopping ethically but on what evidence do you base the assumption that the likes of Nike, Asics et al are unethical?
23/01/2007 at 18:25
In a westernised society such as ours we would agree that making people work at a very young age, and doing so for a poor wage would be uncalled for - but it's more accepted in other parts of the world where the economoy is not so good, and people are used to working this way. It's probably not thought of as so bad to these people doing the job, as it is to us. But of course, I could be wrong..

However, don't get me wrong on this. I hate the thought too - it's exploitation, and everyone deserves a fair wage for their work. When larger companies act in this way, then it's obvious that saving money is the obvious motive (when considering how much such companies make, it does not need to be).

To be blunt though, it wont stop me buying Nike, Adidas or other running manufacturer's shoes and clothing simply for the fact that they make good products that I can find good use in. But do I care to think about where it comes from, and think the issue is a touchy one? Yes, and we know it's not right.
23/01/2007 at 18:46
Kieren, regarding Nike, I read No Logo by Naomi Klein which gave details of the unsafe working conditions and illegal proactises undertaken by Nike and other glocal manufactuteres(in extreme cases, workes are forced to work overtime, sometimes do 16 hou shifts and are inhected with amphatamines to keep them productive. Phil Knight et al don't stop at turnign a blind eye, they create smokescreens around the facts, coming out with policies aimed at improving their ethical image but which are not adhered to. I can't vouch for the validity for these first page googe links but they give a flavour of what Nike are up to...

Stuart G - even if you didn't give a monkesy about unethical practices ), does it not grind your gears that prices have not fallen in line with productin costs.

I think that despit my principles I might end up buying unethically manufactured shoes. So which manufacturer would be the least unethical I wonder?
Duck Girl    pirate
23/01/2007 at 18:53
well, i go for NB as 'least worst'.
Nike have improved since 'No Logo' - they started by improving their PR & not doing anything on the ground, but after they got found out for that too they do seem to have improved a bit.

Anyone ideas about bike kit, or even useful places to do the research? I'm actually in charge of finding a new supplier of women's kit for the bike shop i work in, and would really like to find someone with at least some human rights / environmental standards (apart from my own feelings then i think it would be a good buisness decision for the shop).
I've heard rumours that Pearl Izumi are not so bad, but does anyone have any basis for that? I can't even find a Europe website for them.
23/01/2007 at 19:01
M60 Steve - Yes it does annoy me a bit. But *sometimes* I can ignore the price of products and simply assess their worth instead. The Garmin Forerunner 205 for example shouldn't cost as much as it does, but for what it can actually do as a device, outweighs what I paid for it I feel. It's the same with the other products - clothing or shoes - cheap they may not be, but if they do as they are meant to, and last, then there is value in that.

Right I'll stop talking rubbish - basically yes it would be fairer if prices were cheaper since production costs aren't exactly high, but as a marketing strategy for a big company, it's clear that that would be a foolish move.

If only it weren't all about money eh? We can only dream that sports manufacturers truly care about the individuals and not profit..
23/01/2007 at 23:26
Thanks for the links M60 :)

The first one is talking about issue 10 years ago. I'm pretty sure lots of multinationals that outsourced to poorer countries at that time. I don't think they gave a lot of thought to how these places were managed but I really think with public awareness as it is teh bigger companies that so many vilify have been forces to do well in these areas if not to be ethical then to protect their brand image.

I think in terms of ethical shopping the cheap stuff we buy from highstreet chains like topman / topshop, H&M, Tesco, M&S etc need to be looked at too.

I couldn't get the 2nd link to work - I couldn't seem to access a free version of the PDF
23/01/2007 at 23:30
They are all still at it, Topman, Marks & Spencer, Nike, Addidas, Puma, Primark, BHS, blah blah blah...

Their PR has improved but not much else.
26/01/2007 at 13:04
A really interesting thread. It’s a question I've tried to find the answer to and came to a similar conclusion about ‘least unethical’ and tend to veer towards Ronhill and Brookes for clothing and New Balance for shoes.

I have checked on and as far as I can see they don’t say anything about their ethical policy but I think they manufacture in Eastern Europe (is that more or less ethical that some other countries?!) and they are not a multi-national a ‘local’ company to me (Manchester) so I like to support them.

At least some manufacturers are acknowledging some ethical issues

I do own Nike stuff, it feels and fits really nice, but am making efforts to spend less with them. Have just checked their website and couldn’t find any ethical/code of conduct info.

The current issue of ethical consumer does have a trainers buyers guide! My partner gets this mag so will report back!
26/01/2007 at 17:26
Whilst it is certainly true that in the past, Nike et al have had real problems with child labour and, and have indulged in some pretty questionable labour practices, it is also fair to say that a lot of the criticism of them has not moved on either. Many of the facts touted about some of the working conditions are out of date, as Keiran found, and there is also the issue that Nike in particular tends to be targeted by NGO's looking to score points off the biggest name out there. As Keiran and M62 Steve both point out, there are a lot of smaller manufacturers have got away with some equally questionable practices because they haven't been targeted because it doesn't make such good headlines.

Whilst Nike (looking at them in particular, as they seem to be the main source of irritation for most people) still have a long way to go, they really have made great strides in the last couple of years. In fact, in 2005 they took the very bold step of publishing a complete list of all the factories that they source from, so that anyone who wants to go and check them out is able to. This really is quite a big step, and one that no other company had done.

Large companies have also suffered because a lot of the manufacturing they do is actually outsourced to other companies, often local ones, who do not have codes of conduct regarding labour practices etc. Which raises the question of how far down a supply chain an individual company's responsibility goes. Whilst in the past this has been used as a convenient shield (think Coca-Cola) for bad practices, the complexities of modern supply chains make being 100% sure of good practice in all operations almost impossible. If you don't believe me, there were suggestions that some of the Make Poverty History wristbands had been made in factories with very questionable labour practices....oh the irony!

Anyway, companies are now working much more cleverly with local people to improve standards in factories etc. For example, a group of international companies, together with one of the Prince of Wales Charities and the Vietnamese government have been working together for the last 6 years in Vietnam to improve health and safety conditions in factories there - check out

So yes, there is probably still a long way to go, but the picture is often not as black and white as some campaigners try to present it.

You can check out information on this sort of thing in the Good Shopping Guide, which includes lots of information on a wide variety of products. A good company is Howies, - a small ethical but technical company based in Wales. Otherwise, why not drop a line to the big company that you like to buy kit from, telling them that you want them to be more ethical? Most websites have a feedback forum. And most big companies now produce annual corporate responsibility reports that will give you information about their policies and practices (although obviously these are mostly good-news stories, but some will tackle difficult issues).

Phew - sorry for the lecture. Its a really interesting, complex topic, and one that I've looked at through my work - hence the rant. But its great that people want to take these things into consideration when buying - that's what forces companies to change.
26/01/2007 at 22:27
Kitty D, that would be great if you let me know about The Ethical Cnsumer article on trainers!
26/01/2007 at 22:35
Thanks gsm, a really interesting and informative post. Howies website looks good if a bit pricy, some nice bargains in the sale items though!
30/01/2007 at 20:02
Ethical consumer magazine has a Ethiscore report on trainers, see Interesting. I am not sure that the ones that score well are running shoes though. My partner has a pair of the Blackspot sneaker [A] [O], they look great, but wouldn't be doing any mileage in them.

No one stands out really

30/01/2007 at 22:30
I say the Balckspor tones a while ago. Isn't the balckspot designed specifially to kick Phil Knight in the a**e?

Thanks for the link KittyD.
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