- The first soft shoe dates back to Mesopotamia; it was made of leaves and twine and was worn for hunting and combat games. As competitive sports gained in popularity, people wore soft shoes made of cotton uppers and rope soles for greater flexibility. In 1830, the "sand shoe" was invented, which had a cotton canvas upper and a vulcanized rubber sole, originally intended as a beach shoe. By 1868, this casual shoe was the preferred choice for aristocratic lawn games. In 1870, the British Dunlop rubber company created its version of the sand shoe, the "Plimsoll," at the same time that the Americans created the "sneaker." Although there are many variations of the origin of the term sneaker, the most popular definition cites the noiseless characteristic of one who could "sneak" around in them. Sneakers were so popular among athletes that soon their design was based on a specific end use, depending on the sport. In the 1880s, rubber tips were added to keep the toenail from poking through the tip. Englishman Joseph William Foster created handmade running shoes in 1895 that were worn in the Olympics in 1924. Later, in 1958, his grandsons started a sneaker company called Reebok, which later sold to Adidas in 2005, making them the second largest sneaker company behind Nike. In 1905, the BF Goodrich rubber company (American) produced its version of rubber-soled canvas shoes and, in 1937, using new Posture Foundation Technology, introduced the first sneakers with arch support, the PF Flyers. In 1906, American William J. Riley began making arch supports for people with troubled feet. He later founded the company New Balance, making running shoes in a variety of widths and in 1961 launched the Trackster, a high-performance running shoe. In 1917, U.S. Rubber marketed Keds, which became the first mass-marketed sneaker in the United States. In 1918, Converse launched the All-Star high-top basketball sneaker, known as the Chuck, along with a low-cut version, the Oxford. Adi and Rudolf Dassler (Germany), founded Adidas in the 1920s but Rudolf split to form his own sneaker company, Puma, in 1948. Advancements in sneaker design evolved as different sports required different performance demands, such as better traction, different arch support, lighter weight, and better soles and insoles. Technological advances moved the sneaker from the cloth tops and uppers with rubber soles version into the "athletic shoe" or "trainer," made of leather or waterproof synthetic leather that was breathable and fashionable. Trainers were designed with subparts to enhance performance for athletic endeavors such as basketball, tennis, cross-training, jogging, and walking. Athletic shoes quickly became the footwear of choice, not only worn for a broad range of sports but also as casualwear. In 1964, Blue Ribbon Sports was founded and, in 1972, was renamed Nike from the Greek god of victory. Nike became famous with the first "air-cushioned" shoe in 1979 and, after losing market share to Reebok in the early 1980s, rebounded with a massive advertising campaign featuring sports icon Michael Jordan in 1988. Throughout the 1990s, athletic shoe companies pumped millions of dollars into advertising and signed iconic sports celebrities to endorse their products. Keeping ahead of the curve and the competition has lead to expensive research and development labs such as the Nike Sports Research Lab, where athletes, designers, and podiatrists come up with new and innovative products. In 2004, Adidas created the "thinking sneaker" that contained a microchip that could modulate as-needed cushioning. In 2006, the Traquer sneaker was created by American scientist Isaac Daniel for Fele Footwear. These sneakers contained a Global Positioning System (GPS), which could be linked to a laptop, cell phone, or emergency services, designed to be able to track your child.
Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry. Francesca Sterlacci and Joanne Arbuckle.