Sports shoes are as popular now as they have ever been. For a long time now, they have overlapped from the sports arena and into the consumer market. A huge industry worth billions worldwide, the sports shoe shows no sign of diminishing.
So what is the history of the sports shoe? How did they come about and why are they so popular?
It all began (as it seems many things did) in the Victorian era. In the middle of the 19th century, the UK was getting smaller. Transport was developing and so was industry. Class divides had never been greater. The need for leisure was growing. The seaside seemed closer than ever before. Sport was taking off with croquet, tennis, golf, cricket, rugby and soon to be football all forming. These were exciting times. But all this couldn’t be achieved in the traditional hard, black shoe.
Enter the Liverpool Rubber Company, who developed footwear specifically to be worn on the beach in comfort. Essentially, they had a rubber sole and a canvas upper. Known as sand shoes, these would become what we know as plimsolls and begin the journey of the modern sport or training shoe.
At the beginning of the 20th century, grooves were designed into the soles of the shoes to help them grip surfaces even better. The sports shoes were integrated into the Army, exploration overseas and in PE lessons across the country. At the Paris Olympics of 1924, the British team had state of the art footwear, produced by J.W. Foster and Sons. Successful on the track and field, ideas for new sports footwear went across the seas to America.
The early 20th century saw the production of the first basketball shoe and as sports grew in popularity after World War I, so the public wanted a piece of the footwear craze, as worn by their sporting heroes. By World War II, sports shoes were selling extremely well. With the help of a successful 1936 Olympics, there was no looking back.
As each decade passed, the sports shoe, or trainer as used in the UK became more of a must have item. Huge sports shoe companies sprung up from Germany, America and Britain. They began to take over the market from the conventional leather shoe of old. A fashion statement amongst the youth, trainers have spread beyond the world of sports and have become engrained in our culture forever.