Run­ning shoes: a brief his­tory

From hum­ble be­gin­nings to the vast cor­po­rate em­pire we know to­day

Trail Running (UK) - - The Science Behind... -

18th cen­tury

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.

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