The History of Running Shoes

How did sneakers/running shoes become what they are today?

I know that when you pop down to the store to get some new running shoes (because your old ones are falling apart on you and the dog has played with them just one too many times - like mine), you probably don't think about how they got to be like they are today, but really, just for a minute, let's.

The running shoe (or sneaker) is a rather new (by new, I mean only a couple of hundred years old!) invention, which came from the industrial revolution, which pretty much meant that shoes could be made on an assembly line, rather then being hand-produced by a shoemaker as they were before then. Admittedly, they didn't pick up steam until the early 20th century, when Hollywood decided to make them popular.

The 1800's. Woah! Our first rubber-soled shoes were produced called Plimsolls. OK, they were primative, but still! They were rubber-soled and this is where anything has to start. Nothing really big happened until 1892, when Goodyear started making shoes from canvas and rubber, and eventually decided to call them Keds. Snappy.

In 1917, Goodyear went BIG and advertised Keds as being an athletic shoe. They eventually became known as sneakers, because of the rubber sole, they could 'sneak' around silently'. And in 1920, Adidas came on the scene with Adi Dassler making his own, handmade training shoes in his mothers washroom, with zero electricity. Well, you really do have to start somewhere don't you??!!

Alright, lets fast-forward a few years... to 1950. Albert Einstein warns of nuclear war, the Soviet Union claim to have a bomb, Mt Etna erupts, communist riots in Berlin and... Sneakers become the preferred footwear of teenagers around the world! (there's good news in every year!). Their popularity zoomed when James Dean is photographed in jeans, and, yes, sneakers. The sneakers are the symbol of rebellion.

The middle part of the 1900's is where the running shoe really become predominate. People like Joe Namath became known for their performance, and shoes. In 1968 the company called BRS changed their name to become Nike! And just 4 years after that in 1972, some clever cogs at Nike (Bill Bowerman for those taking notes - and a co-founder of Nike!!) poured rubber into his wife's waffle iron to create the Nike Waffle Racer (released two years later, in 1974) with all the grip that, well, a waffle does! I hope they cleaned the waffle maker afterwards.

In the later part of the 20th century, it was all about style. Limited editions, celebrity endorsements and hey, things were getting big. In 1987, the Nike Air Max shoes are launched, and this really introduced athletes to the Nike Air System. Nike were doing it big (and still are...)!

Well, sneakers, running shoes, whatever you want to call them have most certainly come a long way since the primitive 'Plimsolls' which graced the 1800's. On their journey to the successful shoe that they are today, we get to thank the industrial revolution, some clever inventors, a washroom, a 'sneaky' name, 1950's teenagers and a waffle iron. History is bizarre sometimes, isn't it???