In order to be able to truly understand all the changes and breakouts the modern running shoe industry is trying to promote, we should really look back to the very beginning. So much change has been made to this piece of footwear over the years.
From spiky to rubber soles, over brand rivalry and ingenious inventions, these pieces of footwear really have an interesting history. That said, let’s explore some interesting historical facts regarding running shoes and see how we got to the place we are today.
First running shoes
As mentioned earlier, the first pair of shoes worn as running shoes actually looked like ordinary men’s dress shoes of the time. They were made of lightweight leather and were very flexible. The only difference is that they had spikes on the bottoms and a band for additional support. These shoes looked like there were nails attached to the soles of the shoes. These were believed to offer better traction and were most likely used for cross country running. Nearing the end of the 1800s, Reebok came out with their version that featured leather spikes.
The rubber revolution
In the early 1900s, vulcanized rubber was invented. And so, the running shoes got a new type of soles. This is also the time that the term “sneakers” came to be, as people believed that the rubber soles allowed you to move around fairly quietly, i.e. sneak. This type of shoes became very popular among athletes sometime after the WW1. This is also the time Converse started making and selling their shoes. Puma and Adidas also hit the market during the first half of the 1900s.
The need for speed
Around the 1950s and 1960s, companies were looking for some innovative ways to make running shoes lighter. They believed that this will not only improve the experience but that it will also increase performance. Since this was also the time when long-distance running became more popular, the comfort of the shoes was also put front and center. That when running shoes with soft midsoles became a thing. They were initially being sold out of the back of a van at races by people who later on started their own manufacturing company known as Nike.
Nearing the end of the 1900s EVA was invented. The Ethylene vinyl acetate, or EVA for short, is a type of air-infuse foam that offered better cushioning and shock absorption. Interestingly enough, this material is still being used for best running shoes to this day. Moreover, the so-called waffle soles were also introduced by Nike and some of their modern pieces still feature them. Finally, this is the time when shoe companies teamed up with podiatrists to create suitable shoes for different gait types which lead to the first ever female-specific running shoes.
The end of the 1900s and the very beginning of the 2000s brought forth greater stability and security to running shoes. This was achieved by adding an inside wedge to running shoes that was meant to slant the foot of a runner slightly outwards. Since pronation was one of the leading causes of injury among runners, this breakthrough made a significant change. In 1987, Nike was the first company to introduce their now all-time-favorite shoes with heel-cushioning bubble technology. You guessed it right, that’s how Nike Air Max were born.
In order to progress, you sometimes need to go back
Between the years 2000 and 2010, some studies were conducted based on which it was determined that some people actually prefer running barefoot. That’s when Nike started to work on Nike Free, which was designed to offer a better connection between the runner and the underfoot surface. These shoes were lighter and more flexible with provided runners with a better understanding of the underfoot terrain. In 2006 a glove-like running shoe with individual pockets for every toe was invented by the company called Vibram’s FiveFingers.
The rise of smart shoes
Finally, from 2010 until this day, running shoes are getting smarter and smarter. With the help of modern technology, running shoes started getting more and more comfortable and customizable. Light yet durable fabrics, innovative cushioning systems better midsoles and ever-improving shock absorption are just some of the things that were offered to modern-day runners. On top of that, shoe companies of today are focusing more on sustainable solutions and smart technologies that will take any runner’s efforts to a whole new level.
With the world around us constantly evolving, we can only sit back and wait to see what innovations in this field the future will bring. Since audiences are always coming up with fresh demands, companies will have to adapt and come up with new ways to wow us. This is certain to bring even more changes and improvements in the world of running shoes. So, keep your eye out for the next innovation that’s about to come.
Ian Lewis is a father, writer, and a fitness nut. He’s passionate about many forms of strength training and spent years lifting all kinds of heavy objects.His favorite quote: There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.