When a messenger started the history of running shoes development he probably did not wear what we would know to day as athletic footwear. Either he would have worn the same military sandals that he bought in, or he might have run barefooted.

There are doubts about the benefits of running shoes in some minds. Many people think it better to run barefoot. A certain Zulu chieftain would have agreed. He forced his soldiers to harden the soles of their feet until they had in effect built in boots made of their own calloused skin. They could run eighty kilometers over rough ground and fight a battle the next morning.

Around 1832 the idea of ​​sticking rubber along the bottom of shoes worn for tennis or croquet was thought up. On account of the fact that they were silent they proved popular among thieves coming to be known as sneakers, or sometimes plimsoles. These were also used for jogging and many athletes completed ultra marathons of eighty kilometres in plimsoles as recently as the 1960s.

Nazi Germany hosted the Olympic games in 1936, and it was a man called Adolf Dassler who developed special equipment for the event, initiating what was to become a huge industry. After the War Dassler found himself short of footwear materials and used scraps of canvas and leather gathered from military waste. He put three strips of leather across the tops of uppers to add strength and support.

After the war, the leisure industry began to expand, and with it the market for all kinds of shoes. Pastimes like jogging involved thousands of people on the roads wearing out leather. This was very good for manufacturers, and for sports shops that had long rows of goods waiting to be sold, at steadily rising prices.

Plain leather, rubber and canvas cave way to new materials which were lighter and more porous. They allowed air to circulate more freely around the food so that it was cooler and more comfortable. Flexibility mean fewer blisters. The days of 'wearing in a new pair' were over. They could be used right away.

The large numbers of athletes demanding new improvements in sporting footwear stimulated sports science. Detailed analysis of exactly how people run, striking the ground with one foot at a time cave even more impetus to the production of new designs. Some ankles turn in, and some turn out. The many thousands of times that this happens creates patterns of wear which can be noted by experts who will recommend appropriate new purchases. So the industry became increasingly sophisticated.

Running related injuries are quite often caused by jarring and jolting on tar roads. Research has gone into shoe designs that cushion the feet and ankles, providing protection against bone and muscle injuries. Some of these have a bubble of gel in the heels so as to create a sensation of running almost on air.

Faster personal best performances of women have far exceeded those of men in recent decades. The many thousands of female athletes have created demand for more attractive wear in delicate colors and fashionable designs. Manufacturers follow the needs of their customers, and also do their bit to nudge them towards needs they never knew they had. This too has marked recent trends in the history of running shoe development.


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