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The Journey of Running Shoes

The Journey of Running Shoes

Running shoes are one of the basic things that can be easily found in one’s wardrobe.It is more of a necessity and less of a luxury amenity. Having a busy life these days, what gets neglected is one’s own health and the justification given often sounds like “I have no time for doing complex exercises and then for recovering from tiredness that one gets from it.” But running shoes are a boon to people of this sort as these shoes are designed not only to provide a firm grip to the ground but also give due assistance in running, jogging, or even brisk walking.These activities are good enough to keep a person’s fitness maintained.

As many other boons to humans, these running shoes also have a history of its own (and yes, it is a glorious one indeed). This invention that is less than 200 years old has its roots in the necessity of having a footwear light enough in weight that it could grip the ground well. There were initial attempts made to make these shoes from leather. But the attempts failed due to its tendency to stretch when wet.

But a major break through was made in the year of 1832 when Wait Webster of New York got the first patent for the process of fixing Indian rubber soles to shoes.As rubber is bouncier, provides the required cushioning and is flexible enough to be bent and stretched easily; it was a choice of preference then.

The History Behind Sneakers

What acted as a major push to the proposal of rubber soles was bringing up of the process of vulcanization in 1839 that is heating up rubber and adding Sulphur to make it stronger and more flexible. Not only does this process make the sole stronger but also prevents it from getting hard and brittle in winter and soft and sticky in summer. So this introduction of vulcanization acted as an enhancer to making rubber sole shoes.This design revolution made shoes lightweight, quiet, and flexible. This led to the creation of Keds: canvas and rubber shoes in 1892 by the manufacturer Goodyear. It wasn’t until 1917 when Goodyear made the correlation and started to advertise Keds as an athletic shoe. They eventually became known as sneakers, because of the rubber sole, they could ‘sneak’ around silently.

But efforts to make these shoes better never stopped.In the year 1852 another breakthrough came in the form of spikes when Joseph William Foster had his “eureka moment,” the founder of the company Boulton, now known as Reebok gave birth to the now widely used running shoes in cricket and other sports.

But it was till 1920 when the father of modern running shoes, Adolf Dassler started making shoes as it was he who started designing shoes as per the distance a runner is covering.It was first time that each shoe design had a special hand forged set of running spikes and each design was made especially for a certain running distance. Shoes were getting designed, keeping in mind whether the runner is a sprinter or a long distance runner. This really revolutionized the industry big time. By 1936, these shoes were internationally acknowledged as the best and were worn by athletes of the caliber of Jesse Owens.

Getting so much recognition for his designs gave Adolf Dassler the chance to kick start his own venture to become an entrepreneur and give birth to Adidas which later on got split into presently Adidas and Puma. This Era of 1920-1945 saw a lot many shoe making companies growing and coming into the ecosystem like Nike, Reebok, Puma, Adidas just to name a few.

This competition among these companies became very fruitful not only for the companies or end users but also for the continuous research and inventions leading to a lot many new designs giving birth to some out of the box models. Companies began to design shoes in multiple widths, accommodating more and more runners and its rippled outsole enhanced traction, absorbed shock and prevented from injuries altogether.

Since the 1960s, what this industry saw was more of experimenting, meeting the mass requirements by making shoes lighter. The first milestone came in the form of sponge rubber mid sole which provided cushioning against the impact of roads, leading to less injury.

In 1970s, a trend took the whole industry by storm to a whole new level. Running was suddenly seen as trendy.It became more fashionable type of leisure even for the rich people.It was this very trend that brought another player in this environment of running shoes that is Nike. One of its founder’s obsessions further became fruitful for the company. Bill Bauer man’s passion for making shoes for running lightweight as much as possible led the company’s initial formulation. Nike experimented with technology a lot and this led to a new hot technology called the waffle trainer inspired from waffle iron as pattern.

1976 saw birth of yet another concept called the space age. Frank Rudy collaborated with Nike, giving an idea of bags filled with pressurized gas that compress under impact. Thus, Rudy introduced air-cushion soles to the market, which are still used today, 40 years later.

In 1981, Saucony launched the Jazz trainer with the triangular tread blocks on the sole, which was a new way for footwear to absorb the impact on the runner’s mid sole during long runs.

In 1984, Adidas Micro spacer featured electronic pedometer stitched into the tongue – the first attempt to meld electronics with running shoes.

In 1986, ASICS launched their first trainer with GEL cushioning compound made of silicon. It was found to displace 28% more impact than traditional Air technology. GEL Cush system is still featured in all of ASICS’ cushioned shoes. Air Jordan I by Nike made the shoe tech fashionable as well.

In 1987, Nike made a revolution in the world of running, creating Nike Air Max – the world’s first sneakers with a visible air cushion as a shock absorber. In 2004, first version of Nike Free minimalist shoe was offered to athletes; however, non-runners also wore them in everyday life.

In 2005, Vibram released the Five Fingers shoe for kayaking, which was popularized among runners as a barefoot minimalist sneaker, allowing the foot to move naturally. In 2006 Nike launched the Nike+ Air Zoom, which allowed syncing your running shoes with your iPod to record time, burned calories, and distance.

In 2013, New Balance presented the first running sneakers manufactured using 3D-technologies.The laser scanner determines the individual characteristics of your foot, and the sole of your ideal runners is printed on the special 3D-printer bearing those characteristics in mind. In 2015, companies started offering super lightweight models, which weighed less than 3 ounces.

Running shoes today

There are lots of running shoe companies offering a wide range of sneakers for any tastes and needs today. They suit different surfaces, distances, and styles. The shoe technology today is not only limited to making shoes more fashionable or assisting but also to make life comfortable for people with posture deformities, for instance, people with flat feet.Minimalist and barefoot shoes are just the other examples of evolution of this industry. Just go and take whatever you want.

The next big thing to come will be performance shoes without laces. Instead, they use Velcro, bungee cords or zippers with more stretch material and brighter colours.Some shoes are also made from protocells—synthetic materials that have properties of organic matter.

Brief Bio: 'Tracer' an established Indian shoe brand, offers a wide variety of sport shoes, leather shoes, sandals and slippers for men, women and kids. With a strong belief that “Ever Step Matters”, Tracer aims at manufacturing high-quality products for people from all walks of life.

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