A History of Shoes


Minimalist Running Shoes Bring Us Back to Our Barefoot Roots

Over the centuries, shoes have ranged from the remarkable to the ridiculous, from sexy to sensible. We seem to be obsessed with shoes, whether for fashion, everyday wear or sports. But with advent of minimalist running shoes, we are tossing the heels and platforms and arches aside and returning to our barefoot-caveman roots. You might say we're baring our soles.

Follow along as we explore some notable moments in the history of shores:



1917: Keds are first mass-marketed as canvas-top "sneakers." The word "sneakers" is coined by Henry Nelson McKinney because the rubber sole lets people sneak around.

1918: Chuck Taylor joins the Converse Rubber Company and the Converse All Star is born. His love of basketball leads him to spread the word of the new game and sell the shoes.

1924: Brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler form the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory in Bavaria, Germany. The company eventually splits into two: Puma and Adidas.


1936: Vitale Bramani returns from a tragic alpine climb and is inspired to create the first vulcanized rubber shoe soles. Vibram (a combination of the inventor's first and last names) revolutionizes the sport of mountain climbing.

1936: Track-and-field legend Jesse Owens wins 4 gold medals in the 100m and 200m dash, 4x100m relay and long jump in the Olympic Games in Berlin wearing some of the first Adidas shoes. It's the first sponsorship for a male African-American athlete.


1948: The Adidas company is founded by Adolf "Adi" Dassler in Bavaria. His brother Rudolf forms his own company, Puma.

1960: The fastest marathon run in bare feet is 2 hr. 15 min. 16.2 sec. by Abebe Bikila (Ethiopia) at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome.


1970: Nike's Bill Bauerman experiments with rubber spikes by pouring a rubber compound into his wife's waffle iron, creating a sole that forever changes the design of running shoes.

1972: Marathoner Jeff Galloway wears Nike Moon Shoes, featuring the waffle sole. They are the first Nike shoes to be worn in competition.

1984: A young Grand Canyon river guide creates the world's first sports sandals, which will eventually become the Teva brand. Pronounced "teh'-vah" (not "tee-vah"), Teva is the Hebrew word for "nature."

1984: The Nike Air Jordan legacy is born. Nike signs Michael Jordan to a $2.5 million deal for 5 years, plus royalties and other fringe benefits.

1986: Charles Cole develops Stealth rubber to improve climbing on steep rock faces, and climbing shoes are changed forever.


1989: Reebok designs the Pump, a basketball shoe featuring an innovative pump on the heel that sends a cushion of air around the contours of the foot, and a release mechanism to get the fit just right.

1998: Roger Adams makes the prototype of Heelys Roller Shoes: a pair of Nike running shoes with heels cut out using a hot butter knife, a rod through the heel, and wheeled bearings from a skateboard, Kids are seen "heeling" as a new form of transport.

2004: After five years of extensive research and field testing, the Injinji Performance Toesock is awarded two design patents, one of them for its innovative AIS: (Anatomical Interface System) technology.

2006: Vibram FiveFingers are created as a performance product for running, fitness and outdoor sports and start a trend in the athletic footwear world. Coincidentally, these shoes show some resemblance to the feet of our Australopithecus ancestor, "Lucy."

2010: The Barefoot Runners of India Foundation organizes a race in Mumbai, India, and attracts 306 barefoot runners, the largest number ever.



3.2 Million Year Ago: Shoes have yet to be invented. But our human ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis, "Lucy," walks upright on bare feet more similar in structure to ours than to the earlier apes.

17th Century: Male ballet dancers are the norm. They wear high-heeled ballet shoes with buckles, modeled after those worn by King Louis XIV of France. It's a good look, along with those wigs.

1897: Konrad Birkenstock develops the first shoe with a contoured insole--wearing Birkenstocks with white socks is not popular until the 1980s.


1940: Nylon stockings are introduced to the U.S., but World War II causes a subsequent nylon shortage. Fashion-conscious dames draw lines on the backs of their legs to simulate the stockings.


1946: Bunny slippers hit the scene. Years later, they appear in the movie, A Christmas Story, worn by a humiliated Ralphie.

1950: Cinderella and her glass slipper hit the big screen in the Walt Disney Animated Classics movie series. She and her slipper are unharmed upon contact.


1955: Carl Perkins writes "Blue Suede Shoes." It's unclear whether he wore them or if anyone really stepped on them.

1956: Marilyn Monroe: "I don't know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot." Something to ponder.

1958: Alvin Alley and a group of young, black modern dancers perform for the first time as members of Alvin Alley American Dance Theater in New York. The now world-renowned company's signature dance styles are nearly always performed barefoot.

1966: "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," recorded by Nancy Sinatra, is released and hits #1 on the U.S. and U.K. pop charts.

1976: The music world sees stacked heels and glitter: Gene Simmons of KISS in monster boots, ABBA in tall platform boots and Elton John in sparkling platform shoes.


1985: Pee-wee Herman dances to the song "Tequila" in his white patent leather disco shoes in Pee-wee's Big Adventure.

1986: Imelda Marcos leaves behind 2,700 pairs of shoes in the Philippines after Ferdinand Marcos's regime is toppled. Did she ever wear them all?

1988: "Just Do It" is chosen by Ad Age as one of the top two taglines of the 20th century. Their tagline is now housed in the American Exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum.


1993: Patent number 5255452 is awarded to Michael Jackson and a team for shoes worn in the "Smooth Criminal" music video. The shoes allow Jackson and dancers to lean at a 45-degree angle, appearing to defy gravity.

2005: Jessica Simpson sings a new version of "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" in the movie, "The Dukes of Hazzard."

A History of Shoes

shared by judithgold on Oct 12, 2011 in Lifestyle


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This infographic provides a timeline for the history of shoes and how they have evolved and changed through the years. It also talks about the science behind minimilast running shoes and why they have...
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