One of the few remaining privately owned, American footwear firms, New Balance ranks highly in the world of athletic and sports shoes. It was started in Boston in 1906 where it was known as the "New Balance Arch Support Co."
The modernity of such a name as far back as 1906 shows the innovation at the very basis of the firm. At the time, the company did indeed make only that one product - a three point arch support that provided an entirely "new balance" to the wearer. Designer William J. Riley had emigrated from the UK and had designed this arch to help people obtain perfect balance regardless of the design flaws in the human foot and in many shoes.
The company focused exclusively on the popular arch supports for the next fifty years and it wasn"t until the 1960s that the firm turned its attention to footwear. This was the era of the first running shoes and track shoes, and New Balance entered the market with the "Trackster" - which was the first of its kind.
It came in a variety of widths, which was a new innovation, and it used a rippled sole which was also unique to running shoes.
Perhaps it made sense that the ingenuity behind New Balance would be housed in a city like Boston. As the home to MIT and to Boston University, it was a natural product for any athletes from such technical schools. And thus it was that the track teams from all of the surrounding colleges - including Tufts, MIT, and BU decided to use the Trackster for their teams.
The success of the shoes spread and New Balance quickly became a college favorite. This eventually spilled over into the marathon and running culture that seemed to evolve out of Boston. However, New Balance stuck to its original model of quality craftsmanship and service.
By the 1970s, the firm had truly taken off and was beginning to develop a global reputation. Though this drew the eye of investors, the firm retained most of its US manufacturing basis.
As of 2014 only thirty percent of their shoes are manufactured outside of the US That percentage is still kept under rigid quality controls and crafted in the firm"s UK facility in Flimby, England. The company has also established operations in Vietnam and China.
However, when a pair of New Balance shoes has at least 70% domestic value (meaning it is made up to 70% in the US) it is distinguished with the "Made in the USA" label. Currently, one out of every four pairs of shoes they sell in the US has been made domestically.
Though the firm started out with track shoes as their emphasis, today they make a full range of shoes for men, women, and kids. Each group includes:
Plus, New Balance has an option for those in search of custom shoes too. Using their website, the visitor builds a pair of sneakers according to their specifications and they are then crafted at the nearest facility.
Commitment to the Future
Though New Balance is over 100 years in age, the firm has a long-standing commitment to giving back to employees and the communities in which their facilities exist.
They have developed environmental initiatives, CSR or corporate social responsibility efforts, and their "moving forward, giving back" campaigns too. These sweeping initiatives cover everything from the live cycle of their materials and products to the strengthening of the communities in which employees live and work.
Of course, any firm that hopes to compete in the world of athletic shoes and designer footwear often needs more than just a solid reputation. This is why New Balance has slowly built a collection of brands that also come with a background of quality and durability. Currently, they are the umbrella for:
Warrior Lacrosse gear
Each of these firms has an independent stance and reputation in footwear manufacturing, but are generally under the guidance of New Balance and its dedication to quality.
What About the Chicken?
Many people wonder why a chicken appears on the New Balance signage, and often features in images on the website. This has to do with some corporate mythology that says that the original New Balance product - that unique "three point" shoe insert - was designed by observation of a chicken"s foot. This was then transposed to the insert in order to provide that new balance.
Today, the company"s innovative designers look well beyond such fundamental concepts, and even challenge the convention"s within the industry. New Balance shoes are known for their unique features and impressive quality, and they aim to retain this reputation.
New Balance. Inside NB Overview. NewBalance.com. 2014. http://www.newbalance.com/inside-nb-overview.html