Years of Running Shoe History:
The Evolution of Athletic Footwear: A History
A Brief History of Running Shoes
Running shoes weren’t always around. The oldest known pair of shoes was discovered in 1938 in Oregon and was dated somewhere between 8,000 and 7,000 B.C. By the 1800s, most shoes had stitched on soles, but most were still not foot specific—the right shoe was the same as the left. By the end of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th, running shoes as we know them were just taking their first baby steps.
1898 – Saucony Shoe Manufacturing Company is founded in Kutztown, PA.
1906 – Rihachi Mizuno and his brother found Mizuno Brothers Ltd. in Japan.
New Balance is born.
1910 – By this time, Saucony is able to produce about 800 shoes a day.
1914 – Brooks Running, Inc. is founded.
1916 – Karhu, which means bear in Finnish, is founded.
1920 – Adi Dassler hires two shoemakers and begins making shoes by hand in his mother’s washroom.
1925 – Dassler develops track and field shoes with hand-forged spikes for better traction and grip.
1937 – By this time, Adi Dassler had 30 different shoes for 11 different sports.
1938 – New Balance creates their first running shoe for competitive runners. It comes with a money-back guarantee.
1948 – Adi and Rudolf Dassler go their separate ways and Rudolf founds Puma.
1949 – Kihachiro Onitsuka begins making athletic footwear in his living room in Kobe, Japan.
1952 – Adi Dassler makes the first track shoes with changeable spikes.
1957 – Dassler develops the first nylon half-soles for sprint shoes.
1958 – Reebok, named after an African gazelle, is founded.
1959 – Onitsuka designs a new marathon shoe with holes in various parts of the shoe. These holes allowed heat to be pumped out of the shoe and helped prevent blisters during marathons.
1960 – PUMA pioneers vulcanization technology to bond the sole and shaft of shoes together.
New Balance releases the Trackster, the first running shoe in the industry to be offered in multiple widths.
1964 – Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman found Blue Ribbon Sports as a shoe retailer. Bowerman begins examining their merchandise to see how he can improve them.
1968 – The market’s first jogging shoe is created by Adi Dassler.
1970 – Bill Bowerman begins experimenting by pouring liquid rubber onto a waffle iron, thereby creating the waffle sole.
1971 – Blue Ribbon Sports makes the jump from distributor to manufacturer and releases their first shoes, called “The Nike.”
1972 – Adidas develops sprint shoes using a combination of sharkskin and polyamide half-soles for improved traction.
Blue Ribbon Sports introduces the first shoe featuring Bowerman’s waffle sole.
1973 – Blue Ribbon Sports pioneers the one-piece toe for a better fit.
1974 – Blue Ribbon Sports introduces the Waffle Trainer, it quickly becomes a top seller.
1977 – Onitsuka chooses the name ASICS® for his company and the first ASICS® products are officially introduced to the U.S. market.
1978 – Blue Ribbon Sports officially becomes Nike, Inc and Frank Rudy partners up with Nike to create the first Air-Sole units.
1979 – Nike introduces the Tailwind, the first running shoe to feature the Air-Sole cushioning system.
1980 – Nike founds the Exeter Research & Development Center featuring an advanced biomechanics shoe testing facility.
Saucony releases the first ever slip lasted running shoe, called the Trainer 80.
1982 – Reebok introduces the first shoe designed especially for women. It was called the Freestyle™.
1987 – ASICS releases the Freaks A jogging shoe featuring their all new GEL cushioning system.
1988 – Adidas launches the TORSION® sole system that is still used today.
1989 – Adidas officially incorporates.
1990 – ASICS opens the Research Institute of Sports Science in Kobe, Japan as a place where scientists, athletes, and coaches can work together.
1991 – Saucony develops the first midsole that provides cushioning and support.
1993 – Nike introduces the Reuse-a-shoe program to grind up old athletic shoes and use them in the making of athletic courts, tracks, and fields.
Saucony releases the first molded EVA dual density midsole.
1996 – Mizuno develops the Cat Plus running shoe that features enhanced forefoot functionality.
1998 – Mizuno creates running shoes using artificial leather made from recycled plastic bottles.
2000 – Present
2003 – Karhu and the University of Jyvaskyla collaborate to create an evolution of Fulcrum technology.
2004 – ASICS introduces Biomorphic Fit design that allows the foot to distort naturally.
2005 – Vibram releases Five Fingers, a glove for the foot.
2006 – Nike releases the Air Max 360, the first shoe with a foamless midsole. Nike and Apple team up to launch Nike+, combining music, biofeedback, and data collection.
2008 – Brooks launches BioMoGo, the first ever bio-degradable athletic shoe midsole. Once in a landfill, BioMogGo breaks down 50 times faster than traditional cushioning materials.
2009 – Brooks releases the DNA cushioning system, the first ever “smart” cushioning midsole.
Reebok releases the innovative EasyTone toning footwear technology.