Army Issued PT Shoes…Good or Bad Idea?

When you raise your right hand, take the oath of enlistment and ship off to basic training you eventually wind up at a CIF where you will receive everything you need.  The Army will give you a ruck sack, boots, helmet, uniform, APFUs and other essential items…but not sneakers?

No, the Army will instead give you an allowance to go to the PX and purchase those.  However, this may change in the near future as the Department of Defense has issued a formal request to have American manufacturers make an athletic sneaker for service members of all branches.

For the longest time, the Department of Defense has “resisted” the 2002 Berry Amendment (which mandates that all clothing for Soldiers must be made in the USA) and has allowed Soldiers to make their own choice with regards to athletic footwear.  They based this decision on safety and their belief that it should be up to the Soldiers to decide what shoes provide the most comfort and will reduce their potential for injury, especially during Basic Training.

Let’s face it, each Soldier has unique needs and individual issues associated with running and other physical activity, so that makes sense right?  The rational was that narrowing a Soldiers choices to just a few sneaker brands might result in more and/or increasing injuries.

So what has changed?  Well in the vast lobbying political landscape, there has been increased pressure on the Department of Defense to “comply” with the Berry Amendment and begin executing contracts with US shoe makers to ensure that the Department of Defense is buying American made shoes.  The position of lobbyists and others in Congress is that the voucher does not ensure that Soldiers are purchasing shoes that are being made in the US (which the Berry Amendment was established to do…ensure that all clothing for Soldiers is US made).

If you ask a lobbyist, the Department of Defense is “stalling” as it simply has only asked for US manufactures to come forward to conduct “market research”.  However, there is confidence at many levels that in the near future the Department of Defense will strike contracts with US manufacturers like New Balance and Saucony to begin issuing US made sneakers to Soldiers.  What do you think?  Are Army issued PT Shoes a good or bad idea? 

Let me provide a couple perspectives on the issue (keep in mind that these are just positions that people may take, not my own personal views on the issue):

-This issue is no different than boots.  I mean, the Army will issue you boots during basic training that you must wear during training.  These boots are American made and under contract with the DOD to manufacture.  However, once you graduate basic training and ship off to your first duty station, you can take your massive paycheck to a store and purchase your very own, high speed sneaker style boots.  Same thing with PT shoes.  Wear what the Army says you have to during basic training and then when you leave, go buy the shoes that you want.

-American shoe manufacturers must be under contract as the Berry Amendment dictates.  US Manufacturers like New Balance and Saucony make excellent sneakers that will provide Soldiers with many choices that will ensure proper support for Soldiers undergoing physical training.  Vouchers do not ensure that only US made sneakers are being purchased by Soldiers.

-Boots are one thing, but PT shoes are completely different.  I have worn New Balance, Brooks and other US brands and they do not provide me with the support I need.  I prefer Nike (which is not a US brand).  Why should I be forced to wear sneakers that make it more difficult to run during PT?  Why should I be forced to wear sneakers that make my shin splints worse than they already are?  PT shoes are as specific to the Soldier and their needs as anything else.

-This is just another attempt for lobbyist to protect the financial interests of their clients and they are playing a technicality game with the Amendment.  This isn’t about the Soldiers and their welfare, but the dollars “lost” by big businesses who stand to lose when they do not have a secured, guaranteed contract with DOD.

What are your thoughts?  Should the DOD be forced to issue Soldiers PT shoes?  Are there other ways that they could satisfy the Berry Amendment without forcing shoes on Soldiers?  Leave your comments!

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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19 thoughts on “Army Issued PT Shoes…Good or Bad Idea?”

  1. I wanted to add a bit more to this debate where the military is saying wear must be American made. We spoke about NIKE and not being American. I pointed out that I had worked at Nike in Missouri before moving to beautiful Puerto Rico.

    I wanted to mention that at Nike, I sometimes worked on a line that was making something just for the United States military. It is a special material that is saving many lives. It is put in helmets, and in the floors of personnel carriers.

    If a company is willing to make items like this for our military, I believe whether they are U.S. bred, or elsewhere, they should be able to provide other things to soldiers.

  2. I didn’t know about the Berry Amendment. I do agree that all clothing should be American made.

    I think having sneakers issued to you is a good idea. If they are uncomfortable, then a soldier needs to address that and get them replaced until a pair that works is found.

  3. This is a such a tricky subject, as I understand all the sides. I feel as though safety is most important. I know I am on my feet all day at work and if I was unable to choose my own footwear, it would make for very awful days. But I do understand that all apparel should be made in the US according to the amendment. So a logical solution might be finding US shoe companies that could be contracted to provide shoes, but still allowing the soldiers to make their own personal choices to ensure safety during their physical exercises.

  4. As I’ve noted in other comments on this website, I’m old school. In truth, I think that unless soldiers are going to be wearing their running shoes on deployment, then they should be wearing their boots for PT. If they are in a combat zone, receiving incoming fire, they aren’t going to take time to remove their boots and put on their trainers before running taking cover.

    However, since it HAS become a question, I think running shoes should fall into the same category as boots. Issue a pair, and if you don’t like them, go buy some you do like. If the boots don’t have to be American made, then the shoes shouldn’t have to, and vice versa. If they do — and technically at this stage, it looks like they do — then offer a wide variety of American brands in the PX.

    The Army can’t put out contracts with American companies until they have written policies on what the requirements of the shoes are, so until they develop that, the Berry Amendment stands as unenforceable in terms of running shoes.

  5. I think that limiting the selection of items to Soldiers that are EXTREMELY preference-based (ie. shoes) is a mistake. First, does it really matter what PT shoes a Soldier wears when training? I don’t think so. Each Soldier should have the option of choosing which shoes they find best suited to their individual preferences. Why increase discomfort, increase injury rates, and decrease level of happiness?

  6. Candace makes a great point about knowing what your feet need are and shopping accordingly. I am on my feet all day and if I wasn’t allowed a choice in my comfortable footwear I would probably be crippled! I believe Chuck has a great compromise too: have a vast selection of acceptable shoes at the PX. I think what grinds my gears about this whole debate is the fact that people who’ve never worn a uniform or gone through basic training are going to make more demands (on your feet this time) because of big business contracts??? Come on, Man!

      1. LOL…Come on, Chuck! Congress makes the rules for all of us and most of them have never served a day in their lives. The way it works is that boots-on-the-ground soldiers will have to make a big (yet diplomatic) enough stink to convince Congress of the right solution.

  7. Chuck, Nike isn’t United States? That is new to me. When I lived in the St Louis area, I went to work at 4pm Friday night, and got off at 5am the next morning. I would do the same Saturday and Sunday. I was making those inserts filled with gas that go into the bottom of the Nike shoes. We manufactured the complete shoes. Now, I did think we were in the United States, but maybe O’Fallon, Missouri isn’t in the U.S. (LOL)

    I do think that a soldier should have the right to choose what they wear on their feet.

      1. I believe that if we seriously studied any of the manufacturers, we are going to find some of the items in the products they are claiming are made in the United States were actually made elsewhere. Take Chevrolet for example; the claim is their cars are manufactured in the U.S., but if you were to go part by part throughout the car, I believe you would find the largest percentage of it came from China or Taiwan. I sometimes think that we as individuals get a little too extreme in this mentality. Just my opinion.

  8. Please no! I already buy my own boots because the ones the army issues are not good for my feet. If the “give” us PT shoes as well it will be very hard to find one that fit in withthe regs, that I can wear when I go out and buy my own anyway.
    I am not complianing they can not possible make a shoe to fit every minor difference or comfort of each Military person, that is why I buy my own instead of getting a silly medical profile so I can get the boots I need.

  9. This is really a great debate question, Justin. I personally do not believe the Army should issue one set of standardized running shoes to Soldiers, mainly because everyone’s feet are very different.

    I think a much better solution would be to give all Soldiers a voucher to buy shoes from the PX. Make the voucher only good for running shoes, have it set for a certain dollar amount, give it an expiration date, and make it only redeemable for shoes at the PX. Let the Soldiers pick the running shoe that is best for them.

    If it has to be American shoes, so be it. Let the voucher be good for only American made shoes at the PX. Make sure the PX has a LARGE variety of American made running shoes to choose from, if they have to be American made.

    Just my two cents. I’d love to hear what other people think about this.


    1. Candace Ginestar

      Chuck, when I was at basic a decade ago, we were taught how to choose running shoes, and how to fit them. Then we were given a voucher to take to the PX and select the proper type of running shoe based on if we were neutral, a pronator, etc. They weren’t the best choices, but they got us through the 9 weeks of BCT. There are a lot more options now, but the basic principles remain the same. Educate the Soldier, and let them choose what fits them best.

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