Running shoes: a brief history
From humble beginnings to the vast corporate empire we know today
As early as the 1700s, English runners start developing lighter shoes. Made from thin leather, those early designs need regular care and maintenance.
Adolf Dassler begins making athletic shoes, focusing primarily on running spikes for athletics. In 1936, Jesse Owens wears Adidas shoes to compete in the Berlin Olympics.
Legendary Ethiopian athlete Abebe Bikila wins the Rome Olympic marathon barefoot in world record pace. Four years later, he sets another world record while wearing shoes. Cue debate...
Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman found sports giant Nike – originally named Blue Ribbon Sports – basing their designs on Bowerman’s waffle iron experiments and selling shoes from the back of a car. It’s the start of the cushioned heel craze.
Reebok debuts its new InstaPump technology at a trade show, in an attempt to combat the phenomenal success of the Michael Jordan-inspired Nike Air craze. In less than a year it revolutionises the sports shoe market, selling $1 billion worth of products.
Vibram releases its iconic FiveFingers – a minimalist shoe designed to give runners the sensation of running barefoot. They reach an all-time high in sales after the release of the book Born to Run in 2009.
Hoka One One is formed in 2009 by two passionate trail runners who release a maximally cushioned shoe designed to go downhill faster, which goes a long way to starting the modern cushioned heel craze.
Lake District-based Inov-8 launch the first sports footwear to feature graphene, a one-atom thick carbon sheet thought to be 200 times stronger than steel. Thin, light and flexible, Inov-8 claim graphene delivers the world’s toughest grip.