Norman Walsh was born on July 20th 1931 in Daubhill, Bolton, the youngest of three brothers and a stepbrother.
Upon completing his schooling in 1945 at the customary age of 14, Norman Walsh entered into the footwear industry following the path of his father William, who was also a cobbler. He commenced his apprenticeship at J.W. Foster & Sons, a Bolton-based company.
His outstanding progress and skills did not go unnoticed, as it soon became clear that Norman was a prodigy, and in 1948, Joe and Jeff Foster handpicked him to manufacture the ‘Fosters De Luxe’ track spikes utilized by the Great British Summer Olympic teams and several other athletes competing in the games, including renowned names such as Alistair McCorquodale, Maureen Gardner, and Arthur Wint.
Norman’s name and work gained extensive recognition among numerous professional athletes, making him a highly sought-after craftsman. In 1958, Norman designed the boots worn by Nat Lofthouse during the FA Cup Final, in which Bolton Wanderers FC emerged victorious against Manchester United FC, with Lofthouse scoring the match-winning goals. This match is regarded as one of the greatest FA Cup finals of all time.
In 1961, Norman Walsh departed from the Foster brothers, Boldly establishing his individuality, he launched his eponymous brand - WALSH
During the 1960s, Norman Walsh dedicated himself to refining his skills and producing a wide variety of handmade specialist sports shoes customized to fit the unique requirements of each client.
During the late 1960s, located on the outskirts of the Peak and Pennine regions, Norman’s exposure to the rugged and untamed terrain led him to develop the pioneering Pennine Adder, the first-ever mountain running shoe. The shoe immediately became popular amongst local runners and scramblers who frequented the mountainous terrains of Northern England, eventually catching the eye of the esteemed fell-running athlete Pete Bland. In 1970, through the inception of the Fell Runners Association, Norman and Pete collaborated to create the the world’s first fell-running shoe; the Walsh PB.
The Walsh PB proved to be highly effective in the challenging athletic environments it was designed for. Its exceptional performance caught the attention of renowned mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington and his team, who opted to use it for training purposes and during their initial stages leading to the historic first ever sucessful ascent of Mount Kongur in 1981. Additionally, the team utilized the Walsh PB again in 1985 for their expedition on the southwest face of Mount Everest.
Norman Walsh pioneered the application of EVA in the midsole of footwear in 1971, resulting in improved cushioning, flexibility, comfort, and weight reduction. This milestone is considered by many as the inception of modern trainers.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Walsh rugby boots experienced immense demand due to their exceptional design, superior quality, and high-performance on the field. Walsh surpassed all other brands combined with regards to the number of professional players sporting their boots at Wembley, with 9 out of 10 top goal kickers in Rugby League also donning Walsh rugby boots.
Walsh excelled in cricket as well, garnering accolades on the field. Tony Greig, the esteemed English test cricket captain, was not only fond of donning Walsh cricket boots, but his fellow teammates and numerous professional players from the Australian and West Indies teams also shared his affinity for them.
During the late 1970s and early 80’s, the rise in popularity of road and marathon running prompted Norman to develop specialized marathon shoes, including the Ensign, Whirlwind, Tornado, and Champion. Additionally, in line with the Olympic Games of 1984 and 1988, Norman introduced the LA ‘84 and Seoul ‘88 models respectively.
In October 1978, wearing a pair of Walsh Tornado, ultra-runner Don Ritchie completed 100 km on the Crystal Palace track in a time of 6 hours, 10 minutes, and 20 seconds, with an approximate average pace of less than six minutes per mile, setting a world record which remained unbroken for 40 years.
Walsh remains capable of meeting the demands of rigorous performance, as evidenced by its current track record. Notably, Jamie Bunchuck, a prominent British explorer, selected the PB trainer to facilitate the inaugural on-foot traversal of Kazakhstan’s expansive ‘Betpack-dala’ desert in 2014. Despite spanning over 190 miles, Bunchuck managed to complete the length of the desert in just 8 days, running the equivalent of 7 consecutive marathons.
In 2012, the Olympic Games made a return to London, and Walsh utilized the occassion to unveil the ‘Casual Heritage’ range. This collection featured some of Norman’s most noteworthy creations from his extensive catalogue spanning over five decades, which was adapted for fashion wear.
In 2016, Walsh launched the ‘Craftsman Project’ which paid tribute to British craftsmanship through the use of traditional and renowned materials. The project involved partnering with reputed manufacturers and brands such as Abraham Moons, AW Hainsworth, British Millerain, Ventile, Brisbane Moss, Halley Stevensons, and Harris Tweed.
Throughout the last decade, Walsh has cultivated its reputation of excellence through a series of exclusive partnerships with distinguished brands, designers, and retailers. Walsh takes great pride in having collaborated with distinguished names such as Anthropologie, Barbour, Boden, Chivas Regal, Dover Street Market, Fortnum & Mason, Fred Perry, Joseph Cheaney & Sons, Lexus, L.K. Bennett, Margaret Howell, McCann London, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Paul Smith, Represent, Solovair, Starbucks, Sunspel, Universal Works, and YMC, among others.
With proud roots in Bolton, England, Walsh has maintained its authenticity, tradition, and excellence by solely operating under British ownership, design, and manufacture. Norman's story is one of unbridled passion, determination, and a deep respect for the art of shoemaking. Walsh reminds us that passion and dedication can keep a remarkable industry alive for decades. His legacy lives on through his eponymous brand, which continues to craft high-quality sports footwear with a distinctly traditional touch.
An emblem of experience, trust, and authority, this Bolton-based enterprise has pioneered paths in the world of shoemaking.