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UK Gear’s training shoes were originally designed in association with the Royal Army Physical Training Corps (RAPTC). These elite fitness professionals were closely involved in the development and tested our products in some of the most inhospitable conditions on Earth. Only when approved by the Military do we consider our products... Built to survive.

Army trainers to give firms a run for their money

>>16 September 2004

The Army made a risky foray into the world of commercial sportswear yesterday by announcing that it was introducing its own brand of luxury trainer.

Made in Vietnam, more expensive than any number of similar products and developed with a small Midlands company that has never made shoes before, the success of the UK Gear PT-03 long-distance running trainer could decide the future direction of the Armed Forces' commercial ventures.

Already the venture has run into controversy after it emerged that the trainers being sold under the Army's crossed swords logo are not army issue. Instead, soldiers are issued with the more basic Hi-Tec silver Shadow or an unbranded pair of trainers.

Around 400 soldiers around the world are testing the new brand, and they will be reviewed by a procurement board next year.

One army source said he was not optimistic that the trainers would be widely adopted because they were too expensive and "quality is not always the overriding factor". The show will be available in shops from Saturday costing £79 a pair.

Rob Spedding, from Runners World magazine, described the shoe as "competent" after a half-hour, five-mile test. "It's a pleasant shoe to run in. They are not ground-breaking and they are not going to set the shoe industry on fire, but they are the sort of shoe you forget about when you are running in them. It won't do too badly against well-known rivals."

He said that they could be £10 or £20 cheaper than similar shoes from Nike and other manufacturers.

Colonel Robin Clifford said that the Armed Forces were breaking new ground because this was the first commercial product to be developed in association with the Army and sold for profit.

It follows a 1998 Treasury order that all government departments must use "irreducible spare capacity" - underused land, personnel and skills - to make money or enhance public relations.

The Army allows film companies and businesses to hire its buildings and land but this project takes this principle one step further.

If this experiment is a success the Army stands to make millions in royalties from both this product and similar tie-ins. Camping equipment, mobile communications, training courses and clothing lines are among the ranges that could be stamped with the Army's logo in future.

If it fails, the Army will be accused of cheapening its image in a desperate attempt to raise money. "This is probably not the sort of thing you would expect the army to get involved with,"" Colonel Clifford said. "The key to all of this is to make sure whatever we do actively promotes the Army's image and reputation both within its own community but also with the wider world. This is what we have been exploring here."

The trainers were designed and developed by David Hinde, who runs UK Gear, a sportswear company that supplies equipment to the West Indies cricket team. He approached a friend in the Army, who made contact with Lieutenant-Colonel Phil Watkins, from the Army Elite Physical Training Corps.

Colonel Watkins agreed that his men could be involved in the testing and development of the product. The Army denied that Mr Hinde was given an unfair advantage over his rivals because he had exploited a personal connection with the Forces.

However, when asked how the shoe differs from others on the market, Mr Hinde was hard pressed to identify specific qualities. "There's not one thing that I can point at and say that's different to any other shoe. I can't say there's not another shoe that doesn't do the sort of long-running capability," he said.