RUNNING BRANDS CHIPPING IN TO HELP COMBAT COVID-19
By Brian Metzler
Along the Merrimack River in Lawrence, Mass., there are dozens of former factory buildings that are being converted to condos and shops and modern office buildings.
But there is one particular old factory that’s still a factory. And for most of the past four decades, it has produced New Balance running shoes.
The Boston-based shoe brand has always taken great pride in being the only sporting goods brand to manufacture running shoes in the U.S. Now it’s pivoting some of its domestic factories into production facilities for personal protective gear necessary in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).
When every other brand sent its shoe manufacturing overseas in the late 1970s and early 1980s to reduce costs, New Balance went the opposite direction and restored a 19th century textile factory building in Lawrence and started making its 990 series running shoes there.
Since its re-opened in 1982, American workers have produced 15 million pairs of shoes from that factory. It’s a testament to the brand’s commitment to domestic jobs, but it has always allowed the Boston-based company to speed up innovation or pivot production in time of need. They can produce prototypes, custom footwear or one-off models for an athlete or a promotion in a pinch.
As of last week, New Balance was using that facility to produce prototypes of face masks for doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers caring for the rush of patients suffering from the coronavirus. The company says it will scale its process and adapt its other domestic factories accordingly beginning this week.
“The global COVID-19 health crisis has called on individuals and organizations to bring their expertise and resources to solve new and extraordinary challenges,” New Balance announced on its website recently. “We are coordinating our efforts with our government officials and local medical institutions as well other U.S. consortiums and testing facilities.”
The brand has also committed $2 million in non-profit grants through the New Balance Foundation to support local, regional and global communities as the world battles the COVID-19 virus.
It’s another sign of the running community coming together in a time of need.
“We firmly believe it is our civic duty to support our communities in need around the world,” said Anne Davis, managing trustee New Balance Foundation. “As we witness the growing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are inspired by the acts of humanity, kindness and compassion that have emerged in support of one another during this health crisis. Guided by our values, NB Foundation will remain generous, flexible and responsive recognizing the uncertainty created by these challenging times.”
MORE BRANDS, MORE ACTION
Several other brands in the running and endurance sports industry are doing their part, too. Nike and Superfeet are also making mask and face shields for healthcare workers, while Nike, Under Armour and Brooks have pledged money for coronavirus response efforts. Plenty of other brands are donating in-line product to first responders and healthcare workers.
“Companies like Nike need to do our part,’ Nike CEO John Donahoe said during a Q3 conference call. “Based on needs identified by the teams and health professionals at Oregon Health & Science University, our teammates are working right now about how to best help, including prototyping face shields of OHSU and others.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: BRIAN METZLER
Brian Metzler is the author of “Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture and Cool of Running Shoes” (2019, VeloPress). He has run races at every distance from 50 meters to 100 miles, wear-tested more than 1,500 pairs of shoes, is a three-time Ironman finisher and occasionally participates in the quirky sport of pack burro racing in Colorado.
He’s the founding editor of Trail Runner magazine, is a former senior editor at Running Times and editor in chief at Competitor Magazine. He’s the author of “Running Colorado’s Front Range” and the co-author of “Natural Running: The Simple Path to Stronger Healthier Running” and “Run Like a Champion: An Olympian’s Approach for Every Runner.”
FOLLOW JACKRABBIT AND OUR RUNNING CREW
Follow JackRabbit and our running lives on Facebook where we share training tips, interviews and gear guides for every runner’s lifestyle.
Comment below how many pairs of running shoes you have in your collection? There is no shaming here at JackRabbit!