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The Athletic Shoe

From Basic Form to Sophisticted Function

Dating back to 1600 BC, man has tried to invent better ways to make athletic shoes lighter, more efficient and more comfortable, and threw all these trials and errors, many different materials have been experimented with such as, leather, rubber, metal and canvas. Leather had been the preferred material for the soles of shoes but was quickly replaced once rubber soles had been invented. As each phase goes by, shoes have significantly improved from where they used to be. All over the world people wear sneakers for their comfort. They are no longer just a tool to enhance performance in a sport, they have turned into something that helps people with their everyday activities. And since it is being used all over the globe, athletic shoes have different names. In England they are known as trainers, joggers in Australia, gym shoes, tennis, sneaks and tackies in South Africa, as well as sneakers and tennis shoes in North America. During the 1950’s, Sneakers became more and more of an everyday clothing item and has stayed in fashion up until the present time. Sneakers are no longer just for athletics but also for fashion and comfort. Many companies such as Puma and New balance have looked into new ways to not only make athletic shoes but also to design them. With all the new looks and colors that sneakers have, anyone can find a shoe that looks as if it was made for them!

1600 –1200 BC

In Mesopotamia a type of soft shoes were worn by the mountain people who lived on the border of Iran. The shoe was made of wraparound leather, similar to a moccasin.

1790 AD

An aglet is the small plastic or fiber tube that binds the end of a shoelace to prevent fraying and to allow the lace to be passed through an eyelet or other opening. The modern shoestring (string and shoe holes) was first invented in England in 1790 (first recorded date March 27). Before shoestrings, shoes were commonly fastened with buckles.


Shoes made specifically for running appear.



Charles Goodyear discovered vulcanized rubber.

The American sneaker was developed and named after its quiet wear ability, and then patented by the name Keds. The sneaker was made primarily of canvas and rubber.


The first all-purpose shoe (sneaker) was made. Made Primarily of Canvas and rubber.


Converse designed a shoe called the All Star. The shoe was composed of a rubber sole and canvas upper and was designed to be an elite shoe for the professional basketball league


Adolph Dassler, A shoemaker, and his brother Rudolph, Decided to concentrate on athletic shoes. The Dasslers’ running shoes provided both arch support and speed lacing. The brothers later formed separate companies—Adolph, the Adidas company and Rudolph, the Puma company.


Another manufacturer of running shoes during the mid-twentieth century was Hyde Athletic of New England, although the company specialized in football shoes. A 1949 description of Hyde’s running shoe said that it featured kangaroo leather, a welt construction (a welt is a strip used to connect the upper to the sole), an elastic gore closure (a triangular piece of leather on the upper part of the shoe), and a leather sole covered in crepe rubber, a crinkly form of the material used for shoe soles.


One of the most unusual running shoes of the mid-twentieth century was worn by the Japanese runner who won the 1951 Boston Marathon. Called the Tiger, his shoe was modeled after a traditional Japanese shoe that enclosed the big toe separately from the other toes.


New Balance began to examine how running impacts the foot. As a result of this research, New Balance developed an orthopedic running shoe with a rippled sole and wedge heel to absorb shock. As running became more popular and joggers more knowledgeable, the demand for footwear that would help prevent injuries increased.


Waffle Sole introduced for better traction and was distributed to athletes competing in the US Olympic Track & Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

Timeline of The Athletic Shoe  

This booklet takes you into the history of the athletic shoe.

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