• Designed by the Military...
  • 21 Day Test Run
  • Dependable Toughness
  • Comfort Guaranteed
  • More Miles for Your Money
  • Our Brand Philosophy

...for the Military

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.

The Daily Express - Shoes that keep Army on its toes

>>21 October 2010


The pace is hotting up for a British running-shoe maker whose ground-breaking designs have won it multi-million pound deals to supply the UK and US military.

Entrepreneur David Hinde says his firm UK Gear has runners worldwide in its sights with its new, super shock-absorbent trainer, the £95 PT-1000, designed to stand up to 1,000 miles of pounding and ensure comfort every step of the way. Hinde’s products have been developed with Britain’s Army Physical Training Corps, the section in charge of the force’s fitness. The partnership has been the cornerstone of the independent company’s success.

UK Gear has outflanked international rivals such as Reebok and Nike with high-performance footwear for military personnel. UK Gear’s PT-03 shoe, available in shops for £79, was the first commercial product to gain the Army’s crossed-swords insignia. The company is now an official supplier and a pair of its trainers is part of every new recruit’s pack.

The association helped open doors with the US military and has paved the way for a £20 million turnover in 2012, says Hinde, 47. He employs 20 staff in Wolston, Warwickshire, alongside a small team in the US, but costs dictate manufacturing be in Vietnam. The shoes, which comprise 90 per cent of output with the remainder being sports clothing, are made of a secret-recipe composite material.

“Others can read patents, so our data is classified. We want our reputation for quality manufacturing integrity to do the talking, not publication of what our footwear is made of,” says Hinde.

He tested the materials at the Satra products performance research centre in Kettering, Northants and undertook extensive trials with the Army, including spells in Afghanistan and Norway. That has led to desert and winter versions of the PT-03, part of a 16-product range. The trainers are appearing in high-street stores such as Blacks and Sweatshop.

After leaving school at 16 in the Midlands, Hinde qualified as a mechanical engineer. When he witnessed “the heart being ripped out of British manufacturing” he went to London, got into sportswear and learnt how to sell. That completed his apprenticeship to become an entrepreneur and create a specialist British sportswear clothing brand. In 2004 he began collaboration with the Army after cold-calling its fitness instructors. But before that costs from foreign competition squeezed him into a corner. “I decided if UK Gear was going to have a future we would have to restructure, and concentrate on our core strength, innovative design, and outsource production,” he says.

For a couple of years the company did not trade, using cash in the business to keep going while it focused on footwear development. With self-investment and a small sale of shares in 2003, the business grew steadily. Then the recession hit. Hinde says: “Like many small manufacturers, we used bank loans to pay for stock financing. It worked well and it gave us margin to grow.

“Then it just all dried up. We do not own our premises and the banks are just interested in asset-based finance now and we’re stuck because our value is in our business. This is a black hole many small firms have been plunged into and we had to come up with a new strategy.

“We could not just give up on all we had achieved at the critical moment,” he adds. Hinde decided that the only way to sustain company growth was through venture capital investment with Catapult, which bought a £1.1 million stake.

“It took a lot of effort to find the right deal but it was essential. It’s this that has paid for our push into the US and diversification into the high street,” says Hinde. "The withdrawal of trade finance was a massive blow. We found an alternative, but our growth suffered.

“There’s a lot of talk about wealth and job creation through innovation, but it hasn’t translated into actual investment,” he adds.