Although the main Nike headquarter is located in Beaverton, Oregon, the athletic shoes that Nike provides to consumers worldwide are produced in hundreds of factories around the world, and have never been produced in factories in the United States. The largest producers of Nike shoes are the factories located in China, Vietnam and Indonesia, although dozens of other countries also contain Nike factories; these countries include Malaysia, Pakistan, India and Thailand.
Nike does not directly own these factories; rather, they hire factory owners to produce the shoes using the materials and designs provided by Nike. The Nike company itself focuses almost exclusively on designing the shoes and, after they have been produced by the factory, advertising and marketing them in the most appealing way possible.
The production of all athletic shoes is divided into the making of the three main parts of the shoe: the top of the shoe, called the upper; the midsole, the part of the shoe that cushions and protects the foot; and the outsole, or, as most consumers refer to it, the sole. It is variations in the type of material used for each of these three parts, as well as their combination, that makes the difference between types and brands of shoes, including Nike shoes.
The midsole of the shoe is generally made up of a combination materials such as polyurethane, Phylon, Phylite (a combination of Phylon and Nike Free Run rubber), and EVA, a flexible, foam like material.
The outsole of the shoe is formed from a blend of synthetic rubber compounds.
Nike shoes are unique amongst most athletic shoes in that the experimentation and design process for each new model of shoe can sometimes take up to 3 years. However, this extensive amount of research has paid off for Nike many times over the years the introduction of the pioneering midsole cushioning system, first sold in Nike Air shoes, changed the way all athletic shoes were produced.
Nike has frequently been criticized for the use of third world country labor and questionable environmental practices in the production of its shoes.
Numerous labor watch groups have accused Nike of allowing child labor, abuse and flagrant violations of wage and overtime laws to go unchecked in the factories that produce Nike shoes. Although Nike does not own the factories and is not directly responsible for the workforce, increased attention on the exploitation of the factory workers forced Nike to become more proactive in monitoring factory conditions, including forming the Global Alliance for Workers Nike Free Run and Communities, a group dedicated to assisting in unbiased work condition assessment.
Nike’s large factories have also brought it criticism from environmental activists. Nike has made environmental concerns a major part of their public presence, actively promoting recycling with programs such as their Reuse A Shoe campaign.
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