Are you thinking about copping a new pair of sneakers? While hypebeasts queue around the block for a new Nike release, they’re actually liming up to buy a Chinese-made shoe. If you want to support American sneaker manufacturers, you’re going to need to choose between other lesser-known brands.
This post looks at the best USA-made sneaker brands. We’ll make our recommendations for the best footwear in several categories, giving you options to suit your lifestyle.
The History of Sneakers in the USA
The history of the sneaker dates back to the later 1890s, where people would wear “plimsolls.” These crude sneakers were all the rage until 1892, when the US Rubber Company released a more comfortable design, with a rubber sole and a canvas upper.
The shoes, known as “Keds,” were the first modern reiteration of the sneaker. The shoe got its name due to its silent wear, allowing people to sneak up on others without being heard. Hence, the moniker “sneakers” was born.
In 1917, Marquis Converse designed and manufactured the first sneaker specifically designed for the basketball court on the back of Ked’s success. Named Converse All-Stars”,” the shoes were an instant hit, and in 1923, Converse landed its first endorsement deal with then basketball legend Chuck Taylor.
“Chucks” we a smash hit with Americans, and they remain as one of the most popular models in the Converse range today. In fact, Chuck Taylor All-Stars are the most popular and best-selling sneaker models of all time.
In 1924, off the back of the success of Converse All-Stars, Adi Dassler launched the sneaker brand Adidas, and more show manufacturer’s started launching sneaker ranges.
It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that kids started wearing sneakers as a fashion accessory. The influence of pop-culture stars like James Dean wearing sneakers accelerated the adoption of the shoe throughout the American population.
In 1984, sneaker sales exploded. Basketball superstar, Michael Jordan, signed a contract with Nike to produce the first model in the “Air Jordan” range. Jordan continued to wear his branded sneakers throughout his career, and they remain one of the most popular Nike lines, nearly 20 years after he retired from the game.
With the success of basketball sneakers, more brands started launching models to accommodate the growing need for sneakers in the American market. Manufacturers began designing shoes for every sport, from basketball to running, skateboarding, and more.
Why is American-Made Quality Superior?
Unfortunately, most large American brands started to outsource production and manufacturing to China to reduce costs. As a result, the top American sneaker brands no longer manufacture shoes in the USA.
This manufacturing dilemma means that the majority of the top American brands are, in effect, actually Chinese shoes, not American shoes. The next time you head to the store to buy a pair of Nikes, check the label, and you’ll find it bears the manufacturing title of made in Vietnam or China or another poor Asian country.
While Nike and other American brands shipped production offshore, many American-based brands started popping up in the market. The reality is that while Nike and other brands manufacturing in China use quality control, they can’t compare to the quality offered by real American textile companies.
American-made brands use the finest materials, with a manufacturing process that ensures the best longevity in your sneakers. As a result, you can expect American-made sneakers to last longer, and while they might be more expensive than other brands from China, they give you more value on a cost-per-wear basis.
What are the Best Sneakers made in the USA?
We scoured listings online looking for the best American-made sneaker brands. We curated this list of our top choices, including styles and designs to suit any sport or leisure activity.
#1 SOM Footwear
SOM is our pick for the leading American sneaker brand. The company produces sneakers with outstanding design and comfort, designed to wrap around the foot for a comfortable fit. With SOM sneakers, you get a roomy toe box to let your toes do the walking without feeling your foot move around in the shoe.
Our top model available from SOM is the Trailhead. This sneaker offers you a sports-specific design, with abrasion-resistant SuperFabric® for a snug fit and waterproofing of your feet when you’re out on the trail.
The sneakers have a minimalist look, with a low profile and excellent comfort and support for your feet during any activity.
#2 San Antonio Shoes
San Antonio has one of the most impressive ranges of American-made sneakers. The brand offers plenty of styles to suit any activity or sport and excellent levels of comfort. Whether you’re heading to the basketball court, bombing hills on your skateboard, or dressing for a walk on the promenade, there’s a style of San Antonio shoes to suit your needs.
The shoes feature high-quality fabrics and wear-resistant soles, with excellent finishing and stitching. These sneakers are great for active or casual wear, and they come in a range of styles. San Antonio is an expensive brand, but you can expect to get a long service life out of your shoes.
COMMUNITYMade sneakers are another top-quality American brand offering your shoes for activity and lifestyle needs. The company has its manufacturing facilities based in downtown Los Angeles, making it one of the leading west coast brands.
COMMUNITYMade manufacture sneakers for men and women, with a range of styles to suit any footwear requirement. One of the most interesting features of the COMMUNITYMade brand is its downtown LA showroom.
Visiting the showroom gives you a place to hang out with other people in the community and talk about issues affecting your life. Grab a coffee and have a chat with other fashion heads in the store. The “front living room” of the stores acts as the brand’s showcase, and the flagship DTLA shoes are available to fit and buy on-site.
The brand has a reputation for launching shoes in vibrant colors and stylish designs. Check out the Women’s Molino sneaker, with all design and manufacturing done in the USA. COMMUNITYMade sneakers are the ideal choice for casual wear, and they also work with formal clothes where you want to create that “dressed-down” look.
#4 Opie Way
Opie Way is making waves in the sneaker community as a newcomer to the market, thanks to the brand’s use of stylish designs and premium materials in their sneakers.
The Riverside Lo-Style is our favorite model in the Opie Way range, providing a low-top sneaker featuring a classic tanned leather look. However, no animals have to give up their lives for your shoes, and Opie Way is one of the first brands to introduce “vegetable” tanned leather.
If you live a vegan lifestyle, Opie Way sneakers are a top choice for your footwear. The company has manufacturing facilities in Asheville, North Carolina, with each pair of shoes crafted by hand under the direction of talented shoemakers.
Due to the hand-made manufacturing process, you may have to wait up to 5-weeks for the company to manufacture your shoes and ship them to you. Opie Way offers plenty of sneaker styles and vegan leather products like duffels and belts.
If you’re a runner looking for the best pair of minimalist running shoes you can find, we recommend going with SoftStar. This manufacturer specializes in athletic sneakers, with designs to cover a wide range of sporting activities.
One look at these shoes might make you think they’ll fall apart on the first use. The sneakers have a paper-thin design on the upper and soles, with a lightweight finish, you won’t even notice on your feet. However, looks are deceiving, and these shoes have a strong, rugged design that lasts for years.
You also have plenty of options for picking shoes with a thicker sole for trail running or a razor-thin sole for streetwear. Choose the design that matches your lifestyle, with the street sole model offering A 2mm thickness for optimizing your stride when running.
The SoftStar sneaker range also comes with a zero-drop sole, making them ideal for enhancing your natural stride and running form. We also love that SoftStar designs its shoes for use with or without socks, providing equal comfort levels with both wearing styles.
SoftStar has an American manufacturing process, and they don’t outsource any part of the production to the third world. As a result, you get shoes featuring US-sourced materials for the finest quality and expert construction from a team of skilled craftspeople.
#6 Carson Footwear
Carson Footwear is a premium American sneaker brand, and the company makes some of the best trail running shoes available. Carson also utilizes the zero-drop method, creating a minimalist running shoe offering you high-performance on the track or trail.
We love the 5mmm built-in sock liner that comes with every pair of Carson’s. The liner provides superior comfort, and it wicks away moisture from your feet while running, keeping your feet dry while preventing blisters.
Carson sneakers feature a durable polyurethane outsole and midsole built for withstanding the most demanding conditions on any trail. The shoes are remarkably lightweight, with a slimline, sleek profile that ideal for trail running. The soles also feature excellent tread, giving you traction in all running conditions.
Carson has its manufacturing facilities in Milwaukie, Oregon, with each pair of shoes meticulously handcrafted to your specifications. Carson uses high-quality materials in all its footwear to ensure optimal longevity from every shoe it produces.
#7 P.W. Minor
If you’re looking for the best American-made orthopedic sneakers, you can’t go wrong with the P.W. Minor Strap II Shoe. Sure, these shoes may look bulky, but they actually have a lightweight design, with superior comfort levels for people with foot or gait problems.
The company has its manufacturing facilities based in Interlaken, New York, and got its start as a women’s boot manufacturer. However, its success saw it branch out into a footwear range, including sneakers for men and women.
When ordering your P.W Minor sneakers, you have the option of selecting a customized fit for width and length. The result is a custom fit that’s snug and comfortable. We like how P.W. Minor manages to pull off a casual look with the shoe while keeping high levels of functionality and comfort for the wearer.
The sneakers don’t have the typical bulky look of orthopedic footwear, and you get outstanding durability and longevity with these sneakers.
The simplistic design of the P.W. Minor Strap II sneaker makes it easy to fit and remove the shoe, thanks to the Velcro straps. You get an easy adjustment of the fit for comfort, and the company also offers lace-up options in its range.
We end our review of the best USA-made sneaker brands by looking at the offering from Lucchese. Founded back in 1883, Lucchese started as a manufacturer of cowboy boots. With manufacturing facilities in El Paso, Texas, Lucchese expanded its footwear range in 2014 to include stylish sneaker designs.
The Lucchese After Ride Slip-on is a fantastic example of what Lucchese has to offer. This model features a slip-on design for comfort and hassle-free wear. You get a thick, durable sole that’s impact-resistant, with genuine leather uppers and superior stitching that won’t fray.
We like the casual look of the After Ride model, and it’s a great choice for casual or semi-formal wear, thanks to the stylish tanned leather and elegant stitching.
Wrapping Up – What Can We Expect in the Future?
With trade wars escalating, we can expect that more local sneaker manufacturers will start popping up in the coming years. While USA-made brands might not have the global appeal of Nike, Adidas, or Puma, you’re getting an authentic, American-made sneaker.
Why spend hundreds of dollars on imported brands made in China or Asia when you can buy locally? Supporting local American footwear manufacturers helps to drive the economy.
Not only are you getting a high-quality sneaker with better quality and finishes, but you’re supporting American businesses when they need it most. Which American sneaker brand is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!