Athletic Shoes Dominate The World
Vast numbers of people worldwide wear sneakers all the time, but few have questioned where and when they came about. Walk down any street and you will see how common sport shoes have become. They are a good addition to human life without any disadvantages which save the look that others may give you at formal events. Athletic shoes seem to be flawless, however they have a number of unnoticeable aspects that not a lot of people seem to be aware of. Consequently, it leads to a discussion about doing sports with or without shoes. Love them or hate them, you cannot deny they fill an important part in our daily life that cannot be easily replaced.
First of all, the word “sneak” was derived from the ancient English word “snican”, which also has another meaning, “snake”. By the 1500s, “sneaking” was explained as “to move or walk in a stealthy or slinking manner, as if ashamed to be seen” (Upton). Later on, by the year of 1643, a person who “sneaks” became known as a sneak. At that time, sneaking was challenging because shoes made loud and clunky noises. In the 1800s, rubber soled shoes were invented, which solved the problem, making footwear softer to walk in (Upton). An industrial revolution took place and the shoes were finally produced on a massive scale for the first time supplying the masses. Thanks to this event, there was no more dependence on shoemakers who cobbled shoes by hand (Upton).
The first shoes with the material of rubber were called “Plimsolls” and expanded in England (Upton). In 1917, Keds became the first sneakers to appear in markets (Azwar). A back story of Keds indicates that the founder intended to call them Peds from the latin word for feet, but it was already taken at the time (Upton). One year after the establishment, Converse All Star was born, basketball player Chuck Taylor persuaded people to buy shoes by showing why they should wear them when playing basketball (Upton). In 1924, brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassier established the Dassier Brothers Shoe Factory in Bavaria, Germany. The company eventually split into Puma, which was founded in 1948 and Adidas in 1949 (Azwar). Clearly, Adidas does not mean “All day I dream about soccer” as people thought, it follows the name of the founder (Upton).
In 1936, the first vulcanized rubber shoes were created and marketed for mountain climbing. In 1970, Nike’s Bill Bauerman changed the design of running shoes as a result of his experiments pouring a rubber compound into his wife’s waffle iron (Azwar). The Nike brand was named after a Greek victory goddess. It now appears as the best-selling sneaker brand (Upton). In 1984, Nike Air Jordan legacy was born, which takes after the name of basketball legend, Michael Jordan. In 1986, with a development of rubber, Charles Cole change the way to make climbing shoes forever (Azwar).
In 1989, the Pump of Reebok’s, basketball shoe, was designed. Reebok, which Adidas has owned since 2005, was inspired by the word “rhebok”, which implies an African antelope with high speed (Azwar; Upton). In 2006, Vibram Five Fingers were made (Azwar). In short, sport shoes were invented with the promise of getting better day by day. It plays an essential role in our active life.
Sport manufacturers try to come up every season with the most advanced shoes to compete with other businesses. According to Dengler, heels and forefoot experience different loads and forces during activities. Therefore, shoes made differently, with different materials work to help athletic performance and protect the feet from injury. At a medium pace, the heel of the foot hits the ground first, suffering from two to three times the body weight of the player. For basketball competitors, the shoes support eight times the body weight of the user (Dengler). Heel strike following by a push-off from the ground through the forefoot should be the optimal technique of the athlete. The goal aims to try to absorb as little energy as possible at the push-off time in order to enable the athlete to bounce off of the ground. Made with special materials, this kind of footwear supports forefoot area for runners so that they can perform better by gaining energetic benefit for the push off (Dengler).
Optimal shoes, act as an extension of the foot and hold the complex structure of bone, muscle and fatty tissues. They adopt viscous and elastic foam materials to make shoes. Ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) and polyurethane (PU) have evolved to be the most commonly used fabrics (Dengler). Heels, on one hand, made of viscous plastics absorb the impact forces during the initial ground contact. It also provides the foot with a soft cushioning effect (Dengler). Conversely the forefoot possesses the material of highly elastic plastics. It helps to minimize the loss of energy transmitted to the shoe during the running movement. Importantly, they try to avoid shoes “bottoming out” to protect the foot (Dengler). Exploiting the rubber underneath the shoes so much that they become worn out runs the risk of deformation. Deformation in shoes can lead to injuries. Shoes reaching their deformation capacity determines the ideal time to replace.
Qualities of sole materials tolerate unbelievable strict requirements. They need to go through “biomechanically oriented dynamic plastics” testing to consider real running conditions (Dengler). The machine compresses sample materials with a thickness of up to 20mm in a time interval of 30ms, which sounds like an intense, short period of time, to imitate the conditions. Besides, “the testing force must be boosted from 0 to 3000N, with a force application speed of 0 to 1.6m.s-1” (Dengler). “Only those who understand the foot can make good shoes.” claimed Dr Berthold Krabbe, manager of Adidas’s biomechanical department (Dengler). In other words, it takes a lot to come up with the ready-to-wear shoes, hence the price definitely confirms their value.
Sneakers embodies a healthy kind of fashion. Rather than chasing the trend of high heels, which comes along with many disadvantages, women now tend to go into comfortable and feet-friendly styles. “You go now and you have pages and pages and pages of designer-level sneakers to look at,” declared Jaime Barr, footwear and accessories editor at trend forecasting firm WGSN (Gustafson). Foot Locker’s most recent quarter shows that the popularity of this portion helped the business owner develop approximately ten percent in the same-store sales. According to National Purchase Diary Group (NPD), sales of athletic shoes and outdoor footwear rose six percent in past the six months to $15.7 billion (Gustafson).
Most people love athletic shoes but do not know how to select appropriate ones and the typical salesman is ignorant of their nuances as well (Kozlowski). There are nine types of sport shoes. The first one will be lightweight trainer as a design for speed and racing. Exceptions always exist, but in most cases, this shoe kind does not come with medial support, which helps from inner and the curve side of a shoe. Therefore, the athlete has to be aware that they do not possess as much cushion, stability and endurance (Kozlowski); second is cross-trainer, a special model for lateral movement, such as gymnastics and aerobics, or ones that need a “stable platform for heavy lifting” (Kozlowski); trail is the third one, promoting potent traction, impermeability, supplemental protection for upper part and mostly appears in dark colors. Some may hold lower “profile” so that the runner has more stability on bumpy roads and of course more protection to forefoot to avoid bruises (Kozlowski); the fourth one, stability kind, also known as support ones, “are designed for mild to moderate overpronators”, the condition that “when your feet excessively roll inward” (Kozlowski). This kind of shoes slows down pronation with medial support. Not a minority of runners can run very well in these stability shoes (Kozlowski);
The fifth one is cushioned stability, whose name already gives you an idea of what it represents. Basically, the more stability it earns the more cushioning it has. Not to mention the other name “high-end stability shoe” (Kozlowski); the sixth, is a neutral design “for biomechanically efficient runners who do not need active support inside their shoes” (Kozlowski). They do not include a medial post to improve the firmness of the shoes (Kozlowski); the seventh is motion control. For ones experiencing overpronation, this kind allows them to hit the “maximum amount of active medial support” (Kozlowski); the second to last one is walking shoes, not only for walking as its name but as a fine pair of running shoes with the look of walking shoes (Kozlowski); last but not the least, racing. Just like its name, it is for running and also known as “racing flats”. These shoes weight incredibly light and do not contain as much cushion as well as support (Kozlowski). Studies prove that these can help decrease times by four seconds in a mile, which makes it best for running under 6.2 miles. “Half-marathon and marathon runners should use caution before wearing racing flats” (Kozlowski).
Take a close look at three popular brands today starting with Reebok. Reebok has the best selection of shoes including dancing, studio, walking and yoga that usually cost under a hundred dollars. Customers who work on their feet all day surely want this kind of shoes. They deliver sizes for men from 6.5 to 15 and from 5 to 12 for women with the prices ranging from $54.99 to $174.98. The most popular model for men is the Outerra 2E for $74.99 and for women, $67.98 for the Women’s classic leather. People can purchase their own design Reebok for $112 (Montana).
Next, Nike, which conquers the largest selection of basketball shoes with a swoosh sign. They also manufacture snowboarding boots and skateboarding shoes. This brand suits best for athletes who love to play basketball and have interest in different supports in shoes. They carry sizes from 4 to 19 with the price from $55 to $295. Their most popular styles, Lunar Force 1 VT for men comes at the price of $140 and the Nike free HyperFeel Cross Elite for women with the price of $175. There is also the option to customize Nike running shoes with $135 (Montana).
Lastly, Adidas, which has a wide range of different prices. Their new model, Adissage was recently released with the ability to massage your feet. Customers that want a variety of choices and prices undoubtedly come to Adidas. They offer tons of shoes in varied sizes from 3 to 15.5 and 8.5k to 15.5k for kids. They own more than eight hundred shoes for men and over three hundred for women. Their prices start as low as $15.99 and rise to about $300. Their most common models develop into the $85 original C-10 for men and the $39.99 Element Refine Tricot for women. No different from the other two brands, we can also bring our customized shoes home with the price starting from $105 (Montana).
In contrast with the wealth gym shoes generate, Kavadlo, the author from “Rethinking Running Sneakers” confided that he had done some experiments of barefoot running after being loyal to forefoot running for a while. He concludes that the “highly cushioned shoes decrease your ability to sense the way your foot is landing; this is potentially the root of most running injuries […] the less cushioning the better” (Kavadlo). Just like wearing thick gloves, wearing an extremely high cushioned pair of shoes drives you to be less clever and not able to be as effective as you desired.
“When I wore shoes, it was difficult.”, commented Haile Gebrselassie, the world’s fastest marathoner (“The Shocking Truth”). This comes as a proof going against sneakers. Daniel Lieberman, biologist at Harvard University and his colleagues did a research measuring the running gait and impact on the body of runners with barefeet versus wearing shoes. The result sounds shocking that shoed runners land on the heel of the foot suffer a shock of 1.5 to 2.0 times of the body weight (“The Shocking Truth”). Besides, barefoot runners landed on the ball of the foot or with a flat foot undergo a shock of 0.5 to 0.7 times of the body weight. It points out that shoed runners experience three times the amount of shock than barefoot ones (“The Shocking Truth”). Obviously, we should acknowledge of this information. Meanwhiles, the indisputable importance of them discloses.
As reported by Kolecki, in the upcoming 10 years, athletic shoe sizes will be standardized worldwide. Then after, they will put electronic components into running shoes to gather physical characteristics and development information with a microchip and get them transferred to a computer. Also, a battery-operated lighting system for joggers in the evening (Kolecki).
Imagine a couple going sightseeing in a city for their honeymoon. The wife wears a pair of high heels. One of the heels breaks out of a sudden. The husband brings her to the nearest shoe store and buys her a pair of sneakers. So to sum up, in most circumstances, sport shoes are people’s first choice to walk in!
Ultimately, no matter what, sneakers play a significant and undeniable role in our daily life. Everything has its own good and bad sides, but sport shoes bring benefits more than disadvantages compared to running on barefoot. If athletic shoes did not exist anymore, what kind of shoes would support our feet in specific sports such as soccer (with cleats), basketball (high tops), or volleyball (gum rubber sole material)? What kind of injuries would occur rather than unpopular ones caused by sport shoes? The answer looks hard to tell but we can see that sport shoes were born to accomplish its work and nothing can stop them.