Where do I find sweatshop-free shoes?
January 29, 2006 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Where can I find nice athletic shoes (skate, running, or basketball shoes) that are sweatshop free?

I have done some serious searching for this, and I am convinced they are not to be found. I currently have a pair of Blackspot sneakers which are awesome when it comes to labor relations but aren't so good in terms of performance for competitive sports. No Sweat suffers from the same problem in that all their shoes are Chuck Taylor-esque. I'm looking for something that would be a little nicer for some basketball. The only thing I've found that comes even close is New Balance, but I am troubled by the fact that most of their shoes are made in China even though some are made in the US. I'm not concerned about which materials the shoes are composed of. I thought of buying used shoes but I've heard that they can be hard on feet because they become molded to the foot of the original owner. Any ideas?
posted by raddevon to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Vegetarian Shoes makes sweatshop free footwear of all styles.
posted by cmonkey at 2:03 PM on January 29, 2006

There's an alright collection of shoes at Vegan Essentials. Like you said, materials aren't necessarily the issue, but some vegans care about humans too.

And I just found this, kind of interesting. You can search for shoes made in the U.S.A. on this website, but there's only dress shoes and boots...
posted by deep_sea_diving_suit at 2:04 PM on January 29, 2006

Some companies from "Shop Union Made" (some of their external links are wonky - just google the name of the company or manually fix the url).
posted by fionab at 2:07 PM on January 29, 2006

When I started running the only shoes that fit me well were Nikes. I hated the thought of wearing Nikes and contacted the Dutch version of the cleanclothes.org foundation. They said that they were not aware of any good alternatives (in my country), and that it may not be the best idea to boycot the clothing companies, because if the people working in sweatshops lose their jobs, they are probably worse off than now.

So, now I wear Nike shoes, and to pay off my conciousness I write letters to the evil companies.

Of course, you are in the US, there are probably better products available to you. Cleanclothes has a FAQ: Do you have a list of "good" or "clean" garment brands, retailers or manufacturers?
posted by davar at 2:11 PM on January 29, 2006

Here is New Balance's Supplier Code of Conduct. It may make you feel better about buying NB shoes, since they have stated standards to which their subcontractors must adhere. Then again, so does Nike. The thing about corporate codes of conduct is that they are only enforceable to the extent that the companies themselves choose to enforce them. And often, they are implemented in response to bad publicity, as a means of improving their rep. On the other hand, there are companies that actually have a sense of corporate social responsibility driving their conduct, and I have always had the sense that NB fell into that category.
posted by amro at 2:33 PM on January 29, 2006

New Balance 991's (currently, I believe, being replaced by 992's) are made in the USA.

They have the added advantage of being incredibly comfortable and, in my experience, quite durable.

They are not, however, inexpensive.
posted by dersins at 3:26 PM on January 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Saucony makes excellent athletic shoes and vows to use only legitimate labor in doing so (see link for their policy).
posted by visual mechanic at 4:29 PM on January 29, 2006

I toured a compound in China that included a New Balance factory. I was there to see some electronics manufacturing plants owned by the same company, so I did not see the inside of the shoe factory. However, the compound as a whole was surprisingly nice. The inside of the electronics plants seemed hospitable enough. From the outside the dormitories look fine (certainly better than the surrounding rural area) and there was nice amenities including shops, restaurants and entertainment. The compound also included a privately owned water reservoir and power plant.

I was certainly not there to judge the humanity of the place, so I didn't do that kind of investigation. As far as I know the inside of the dorms could be hell-holes and the hours could be horrendous.

Anyway, I've always worn New Balance and nothing about my experience would make me alter my behavior.
posted by mullacc at 9:13 PM on January 29, 2006

Not for you and your basketball needs, but for future MeFi-ers checking out the "sweatshops" tag ... Red Wing shoes and Birkenstocks are both, I believe, sweatshop-free.
posted by Alt F4 at 11:23 AM on January 30, 2006

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