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HQ 963462

November 24, 2000

CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 963462 GGD


TARIFF NO.: 6403.99.60

Mr. Teryl Orrico
Nordstrom, Incorporated
1617 6th Avenue, Suite 1000
Seattle, Washington 98101

RE: “Spikeless” Golf Shoe; Not Sports Footwear

Dear Mr. Orrico:

This letter is in response to your request dated September 22, 1999, concerning the classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) of footwear described as a “spikeless” golf shoe. The shoes will be made in China and a sample was submitted with your request. We regret the delay in responding.


The sample shoe, identified as the “Cameron,” is a man’s lace up shoe with a “saddle” pattern. The upper is composed of leather and the outsole is composed of molded rubber. The outsole is configured with several wedge-shaped features described as “gripping bars” and numerous cone-shaped features (most of which are flat-topped) described as “nubs.” The molded rubber features project outward in distances between approximately 1/8 of an inch and 3/16 of an inch, measured from the
surrounding area of the outsole. The shoe is said to be created specifically for golf and to be designed as “spikeless” in order to protect grass. Advertising literature states: “THEY’RE AS COMFORTABLE AS A THREE-INCH PUTT ON A 75º SPRING AFTERNOON. YOU CAN EVEN WEAR THEM OFF THE COURSE.” The “Cameron” shoe is made available in both men’s and women’s sizes.


Whether the “spikeless” golf shoe is classified as “sports footwear.”


Classification under the HTSUSA is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that the classification of goods shall be determined according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relative Section or Chapter Notes. In the event that the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRI may then be applied. The Explanatory Notes (EN) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, which represent the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level, facilitate classification under the HTSUSA by offering guidance in understanding the scope of the headings and GRI.

Chapter 64, HTSUSA, covers footwear, gaiters and the like and parts of such articles. Heading 6403 provides for footwear with outer soles of rubber, plastics, leather or composition leather and uppers of leather. Subheading note 1(a) to chapter 64, HTSUSA, states:

For the purposes of subheadings 6402.12, 6402.19, 6403.12, 6403.19 and 6404.11, the expression “sports footwear” applies only to:

(a) Footwear which is designed for a sporting activity and has, or has provision for the attachment of spikes, sprigs, cleats, stops, clips, bars or the like.”

It has long been Customs position that subheading note 1 to chapter 64, HTSUSA, should be interpreted narrowly. See, for example, Headquarters Ruling Letters (HQ) 956942, issued November 7, 1994, and HQ 955260, issued November 3,

1993. In order for the shoes to be properly classified as “sports footwear,” both requirements of subheading note 1(a) must be satisfied, i.e., golf must be recognized as a “sporting activity” and the molded features which protrude from the outsoles of the footwear must be “like” the listed exemplars – “spikes, sprigs, cleats, stops, clips, bars.”

Customs has recognized a range of activities such as rock climbing, bowling, hiking, riding, and hunting, as being sports or sporting activities, a consideration that is separate from the issue of whether the footwear designed for those activities constitutes “sports footwear”. We of course consider the sport of golf to be a “sporting activity.”

With respect to the “spikeless” golf shoe, we note that the phrase which states that “”sports footwear” applies only to:.” in subheading note 1 to chapter 64, HTSUSA, conveys an intent to reasonably limit the array of footwear that is classified as “sports footwear.” On this basis, Customs does not broadly interpret the exemplars “spikes, sprigs, cleats, stops, bars or the like.” It is Customs position that the terms include projections that are attached to, or molded into, the soles of “sports footwear” in order to provide traction during outdoor sporting activities such as golf, field sports (e.g., baseball, soccer, American football, rugby, etc.), or track and field events. Customs has also considered crampons and similar attachments for rock and ice climbing boots to be comparable projections. The listed exemplars, generally, are projections which possess relatively sharp points or edges that are designed to dig into turf or ice. (See, e.g., HQ 955014, issued April 11, 1994, and HQ 956942, issued November 7, 1994.) In order to effectively dig into turf or ice, such projections, generally, must also be spaced fairly widely apart. The physical characteristics and necessary placement of the exemplar projections tend to render everyday walking in sports footwear impractical.

In Rossi’s The Complete Footwear Dictionary (1994), the term “spike” is defined as: “A short, sharp metal piece protruding from the bottom of a shoe used for traction.” The term “cleat” is also defined therein as: “A knob or spike on the sole of a shoe for increased traction.” The fact that “spike” is defined as a “sharp metal piece protruding” and that “cleat” is defined as a “spike on the sole” indicate that, to be “like” these exemplars, a projection should be rigid and sharp or pointed. The additional fact that the phrase “or the like” immediately follows the exemplar terms, suggests that the remaining exemplars, some of which are not defined in a manner related to footwear, are “like” one another in physical characteristics and the manner in which they provide traction.

The walking surface created by the closely spaced projections of the “spikeless” golf shoe is fairly uniform. The projections are sufficiently close to the surrounding outsole that it appears everyday walking on flat, hard surface would be quite comfortable. Advertising literature emphasizes the shoe’s comfort level and the fact that it may be worn on or off the golf course. You note that in New York Ruling Letter (NY) B88831, issued September 9, 1997, Customs classified as “sports footwear” a golf shoe which featured what was advertised as a spikeless outsole. Although neither the length nor spacing of the outsole projections were mentioned in NY B88831, we assume that the features protruded at least ¼ of an inch from the surrounding area of the outsole, and that, unlike the shoes at issue here, they were not designed for use off the golf course. It is our determination that the subject “rubber traction bars and nubs” are not “like” the spikes, sprigs, cleats, stops, clips, or bars associated with “sports footwear.”


The man’s “spikeless” golf shoe identified as the “Cameron” is classified in subheading 6403.99.60, HTSUSA, the provision for “Footwear with outer soles of rubber, plastics, leather or composition leather and uppers of leather: Other: Other: Other: Other: For men, youths and boys.” The general column one duty rate is 8.5 percent ad valorem.


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