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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.

PT-03 / GT-02 - Defence Focus Magazine : Army's got soul

>>20 April 2009


From dap to desert trainer. Designer shoes by British Army (no, not Armani)

Defence Focus
Report by: Ian Carr

When Captain Paul Sanderson of the Army Physical Training Corps (APTC) joined up as a boy soldier in the early eighties, he and his mates were expected to provide their own jogging shoes for training.

True, the Army would issue basic daps. Anyone of a certain age will remember these simple rubber soled shoes from their schooldays, standing about in draughty gyms, legs emerging from baggy shorts like lengths of cotton with knots tied in them.

“Whatever the activity, cross country running, five aside football or gym work we had to provide our own footwear. Some would wear the daps, or run in their squash shoes or heavy army boots,” said Paul.

Eventually the Army recognised that this wasn’t acceptable and started to provide off the shelf trainers – like the HI-TEC Silver Shadow. Although better than nothing, it was still not good enough to satisfy the many different activities that soldiers have to perform.

What was really needed was a specifically designed shoe. Which was where UK Gear, a British Sportswear company producing performance clothing for elite athletes, stepped in. Joining forces with APTC, UK Gear has launched two unique training shoes designed to withstand some of the world’s harshest environments.

David Hinde of UK Gear said “We were the first to produce technical performance clothing for all the Commonwealth Games teams of Scotland and Wales. But I wanted to start producing performance running shoes, which is technically much more complicated than clothing. So I knew we needed to get dependable feedback during the design process. Experience had shown me that depending on professional athletes for this wouldn’t be good enough.”

David knew that he needed reliable people for whom physical exercise was important and who knew what they were talking about. “As I thought about my options I just kept coming back to the British Army. PTIs who spend all their time in trainers know straight away what is right and wrong with a shoe. They are like test pilots when it comes to performance footwear.” In 2004 he contacted the APTC and since then a mutually beneficial relationship has developed between the Army and UK Gear.

“It was perfect timing for us,” said Lt Colonel Nick Challinor, Senior Master at Arms APTC. “We knew what we really needed was a training shoe properly designed for our needs which would allow us to get soldiers fit without injuring them. Our aspiration is for every soldier to be issued with
suitable footwear at the correct time and to be re-issued when needed.” That’s roughly every six months for an outdoor shoe, 12 for an indoor one.

So the project, described as a “unique relationship” by David Hinde, hit the ground running with APTC and UK Gear jointly working on the requirements for the shoe.

From the moment the starting gun went off it was clear that each individual would need at least two types of shoe, an indoor trainer suitable for activities that involve lots of changes of direction – squash, five aside football, and circuit training, and another with the support and grip that could cope with soldiers running long distances in a straight line either on road or on trail, possibly carrying packs and equipment.

With that in mind the APTC, put their best feet forward and with the help of 50 Guards tested the new shoes to destruction. The trainers were pulverised in various extreme environments including Afghanistan and Norway.

“We got people from different backgrounds, keen runners who put in a lot of road miles to heavier blokes who just wanted to go out from time to time.” Said Capt Sanderson. Armed with questionnaires to help standardise their feedback they reported back how the shoes performed. “Which meant that right from the start we could influence the design” said Lt Colonel Challinor. “We could tell David about a problem and it’d be immediately rectified.” The end result is a range of shoes bearing the Army’s logo. The GT-02 for indoor use and the PT-03 road and trail trainer which comes in desert and waterproof winterised versions. The desert version is designed to be used in temperatures up to 50 degrees C and
can be fitted with gators for added protection.

As well as getting exactly the right shoes for their needs, APTC instructors have also benefited from getting kitted out for free by UK Gear. Now that the designs for the shoe are on the market, and having gone through the proper procurement process, UK gear is set to supply shoes to the rest of the Army, and the aspiration is to provide all personnel deploying to get a pair to take with them to theatre.

Not only do the shoes perform, they also pass the “looking cool” test and many troops are choosing to buy the shoes for themselves over many well known brand leaders.