How to Ship X
Shipping shoes from China to the USA

Shipping shoes from China to the USA

Looking to import shoes from China to the USA? Look no further! We put together a complete guide with everything you need to know, from sourcing to shipping!

12 mins, 30 June 2021
Bookairfreight’s Key Takeaways:

• Choose OEM if you want to have more design flexability, and ODM if the manufacturer has the exact product you want to sell.

• Finding a manufacturer who already sells in the USA already, makes life easier.

• Air freight is cheaper and quicker for goods under 150kg. Ocean freight is cheaper for goods weighing over 150kg.

Step 1. Sourcing

The first step of importing shoes from China to the USA is to decide the type of product you want to import, and become knowledgeable of the sourcing options available to you.

1. Choose Your Niche

Decide on the niche of your online store and the type of products you want to sell.

There is a wide variety of shoe types, including sneakers, boots, high-heels, loafers, oxfords, etc. and they all have many variations in terms of design and materials used.

For example, different manufacturers specialize in different types of shoes. If you know exactly the type of product you want, you’ll much easily narrow down your supplier options during your search.

2. Choose Your Sourcing And Design Method

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and Original Design Manufacturer (ODM) are the two options importers have in terms of sourcing and designing their products.

Importer chooses their products from a manufacturer’s catalog of existing designs Importer designs a product from scratch and then sends it to a manufacturer to produce as per their exact specifications
commonly referred to as “private labelling“ Provide your manufacturer with all the measurements
Importer cannot make any structural design changes to shoe models Provide your manufacturer with all materials you want to use for each component, the colors and design, etc.
Options for customizing certain aspects of the product, such as the materials used, colors, custom branding, and insoles OEM products significantly reduce the cost of production

Step 2. Manufacturing

Once you’ve identified the type of shoes you want to import as well as your sourcing method, it’s time to find a supplier.

🚨 4 key tips that will help you cut through the clutter and find the best Chinese shoe manufacturers out there🚨.

1. Find Manufacturers Who Sell In The USA Already

A big misconception about Chinese shoe manufacturers is that they will automatically be experienced and able to sell to importers based in the United States.

In actuality, most Chinese manufacturers focus on the domestic Chinese market, on other countries in the Asian continent, and on developing countries such as India or Nigeria.

When doing supplier research, only consider suppliers whose main market is the USA.

2. Make Sure The Manufacturer Follows The Rules And Regulations For Importing Shoes Into The USA

The USA has specific rules for importing footwear into the country that your products need to comply with.

These rules and regulations cover things like restrictions, labeling, document safety requirements, fiber compositions, and more.

ASTM, ANSI & CPSIA Regulations

ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials), ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and CPSIA (The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) are the three bodies in the United States that regulate footwear products.

OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration) outlines all the testing requirements for footwear products here.

Labeling Requirements

• Country Of Origin: Federal law requires all products sold within the USA to have a label indicating their country of origin. For importing from China, this would be "Made in China".

• Leather labeling: If you are importing leather shoes, you are required to specify the type of leather used in the manufacturing of the product. This includes imitation leather too. For more details, read the full guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on the labeling of leather products.

Besides these two mandatory labels, most manufacturers will also include labels with the materials and textiles used in the production of their footwear products.

Packaging Requirements

There are also regulations that apply to footwear packaging, and packaging in general.

These are restrictions on the quantity of heavy metals allowed in the composition of the materials used in packaging such as dyes and printing inks.

Such restricted heavy metals include: lead, cadmium, mercury and Phthalates.

Bookairfreight’s Tips:

Ask the manufacturers you’re considering to provide proof of compliance with all the above-mentioned laws and regulations.

3. Ask Manufacturers About Their Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ)

This means that they will agree to manufacture your products only upwards of a certain number of pairs ordered.


Shoes Minimum Order Quantity

For shoes, there are different MOQs per model, per color, and per size. On average, these are the minimum order quantities for each category:

Per Model
1,000 - 2,000 pairs
Per Color
500 - 1,000 pairs
Per Size
250 - 500 pairs

Note that the Per Model quantity is greater because it includes the option of choosing different sizes/colors. (e.g. 5x400 pairs of different sizes and colors for each model)


Bookairfreight’s Tips:

Make sure to clarify the minimum order quantities of manufacturers at the very beginning of your talks.

Shoe Boxes Minimum Order Quantity

Unfortunately, for custom-designed shoe boxes, the minimum order quantity when working with a manufacturer is as high as 5,000 - 10,000 boxes.

For standard, non-customized boxes, there is no restriction of how many you can buy. You will be able to match the quantity of boxes with the quantity of shoes ordered.

Fortunately, there is a solution. Companies like PackMojo have emerged who offer custom-designed packaging at order volumes as small as 30 units.

You can get an instant quote from them here. (use the code BAF10 at checkout for a 10% discount)

4. Research Manufacturers In The Right Places

To make the process of importing from China easier, several platforms have been created that allow buyers and sellers to connect and engage in trade activities.

Here are some of the most popular (and secure) platforms for connecting US-based importers with Chinese shoe manufacturers:

Alibaba: Alibaba has a large number of manufacturers available on their platform with products ranging from heavy machinery to accessories and shoes.

DHgate: DHgate is similar to Alibaba and you will find most shoe manufacturers in both places. We recommend DHgate as a second platform to try if you can't find any on Alibaba, as they do tend to have slightly more variety in their offering.

Made-In-China: Made-In-China is similar to Alibaba and DHgate, with the key difference that 80% of their traffic comes from the Western market (US and EU buyers), while the other two get 80% traffic domestically (Chinese buyers). Their product offering is not that large, but if you do find options that interest you, the manufacturers are more likely suited for importing to the USA.

Bookairfreight’s Tips:

Watch out for middlemen or trading companies purporting to be manufacturers! If they are unwilling to provide you with the relevant documentation, it’s a big red flag and we suggest you move on.

Step 3. Shipping 

Phew! The final part of importing shoes from China to the USA is shipping.

1. Choose Your Shipping Method

Air freight and ocean freight are the two main methods of shipping merchandise internationally.

Air Freight

Within air freight, you have two options: express courier and traditional air freight.

Express courier is faster (4-7 days delivery time), and it is 10-20% more expensive than traditional air freight.

Traditional air freight on the other hand is cheaper but has slightly slower delivery times (13-15 days).

Get an instant air freight quote.

Ocean Freight

Within ocean freight, you also have two options: FCL and LCL.

FCL (Full-Container-Load) means that you ‘rent’ an entire container just for yourself. This is recommended only if you have enough merchandise to fill an entire container (upwards of 20 tons)

LCL (Less-Than-Container-Load) means that you share a container with multiple importers. This is the preferred option for most businesses because it makes ocean freight very cheap and accessible.

Get an instant ocean freight quote.

Air Freight Ocean Freight
To ship small volumes of merchandise, because contrary to popular belief, air freight is actually cheaper than ocean freight for shipments under 150kg If fast delivery times are not a priority
To cover an urgent demand, because of the faster delivery times compared to ocean freight For shipment volumes upwards of 150kg, because ocean freight starts being incrementally cheaper than air freight as volume increases
To ship high value products, because air freight presents a lower risk for goods to be lost or damaged during transit compared to ocean freight. Delivery times are the same for both LCL and FCL options: 20-30 days

Read our full guide on choosing between Air Freight vs Ocean Freight

Bookairfreight’s Tips:

You don’t need to use just one or the other, you can use both! Send the bulk of your merchandise with ocean freight which is cheaper and slower, and use air freight to address urgent demands!

Chargeable Weight

One important thing to explain here is how freight carriers calculate the quotable or chargeable weight of your shipment.

Chargeable Weight = Gross Weight vs Volumetric Weight (whichever is greater)

Gross weight is the actual weight of your shipment, when put on a scale.

Volumetric weight takes the size of your shipment into account as well, not just the weight.

There are products out there that take up a lot of storage space, without necessarily being heavy. The Chargeable Weight formula was created to equalize this size-weight disparity between shipments.

Shoes are the type of products that fall into the category of being charged by volumetric weight.

When shipped in shoe boxes, they end up occupying a lot of storage space, and they are not necessarily heavy items.

So make sure to calculate the volumetric weight of your shipment in order to get accurate quotes.

2. Calculate Your Taxes & Duties And Get Your Import Documents

It’s smart to calculate your shipping costs in advance, so besides freight rates we will also show you how to calculate your taxes & duties.

Taxes And Duties

The other types of shipping costs are the taxes and duties you will pay for importing your products into the country.

Taxes (aka tax tariffs) are based on the country of origin of your product, as well as the class of products it belongs to. 

To find the specific tariff rate that will apply to your imported shoes, you will need to go to the official Harmonized Tariff Rate government website.

Duties are the taxes you need to pay Customs for bringing your goods into the country.

Duty is based on import value, and for lower values (below $800 in the United States) you actually don’t need to pay them.

For import values over $2,000 you will also need to purchase a Customs Bond.

Get a quick estimate of what all your taxes and duties will cost you using this tool. (note that you will your product’s Harmonized Code to use it)

Import Documents

The two main documents you will need for your shipment are the Packing List and the Commercial Invoice.

Besides these, the United States also requires importers to have a Customs Bond, if their shipment’s value is above $2000.

There are two types of Customs Bonds, one for single use (Single Entry Bonds), and one for continuous use over a period of a year (Continuous Bonds)

The last necessary piece of documentation is the Importer of Record: the owner, or buyer, or trading firm that is in charge of all import obligations for a shipment. 

We speak about import documentation in more detail in our Complete Guide to Importing From China.

3. Find The Right Freight Forwarder

The final step is to find a freight forwarder who can get your products from your factory to your warehouse quickly, cheaply and safely.

Should You Use Your Factory’s Freight Forwarder?

We propose it is not, for multiple reasons:

They will have higher rates than freight forwards.

They won't have any value-added services, such as helping with shipping documents, customs clearance andtaxes & duties, or offering free insurance.

But there is hope! 🌈

Some freight forwarders are modernizing the industry and implementing a customer-centric approach where customers benefit from many value-added services.

Don’t settle for less!

A freight forwarder is ultimately a long-term business partner, and it is worth spending the time to find the right one.

If you have further questions about importing shoes from China to the USA, or anything else, feel free to shoot us a message.

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Mikhyle Moos

Local Digital Marketing manager and content creator at Bookairfreight. I am someone who loves literature, but here to simplify interesting topics within the logistics industry that are easy to digest.

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