How Running shoes have evolved A brief History 2023/ Featured Image

How Running Shoes Have Evolved: A Brief History (2023)

Key Takeaways:

  • Running has been a fundamental human activity, with shoes playing a vital role in its evolution.
  • Running shoes consist of components like the upper part, insole, midsole, outsole, heel, and toe box.
  • For Notable milestones in shoe evolution, Check out the detailed infographic in section 3

Running has been a fundamental human activity since the dawn of our species. 

From chasing prey to participating in athletic competitions, humans have always had a natural inclination to run.

And that’s where running shoes have become handy. These shoes not only help us run fast but also provide cushioning that protects our feet from getting injured. 

However, these shoes were not like the ones we see today.

Running shoes have come a long way, evolving with advancements in technology, science, and biomechanics. But how did it all start?

Your answer is in this article. I have discussed everything in detail, so without further delay let’s get right into it.

Related Post: Why Running Shoes are So Expensive

Overview Of The Shoe

Before diving straight into the main topic, it’s important to understand some important parts regarding shoes. 

This will help you understand things quickly and clearly so you can easily differentiate between other shoes.

1. Upper Part

The top section of a shoe that provides coverage for the foot is referred to as the upper. 

It is usually made of synthetic or natural leather, mesh, or synthetic fabrics

The upper protects the foot and keeps it in place within the shoe.

2. Insole

The insole is the interior part of the shoe that the foot rests on. 

It provides cushioning and support for the foot and can be removable or fixed within the shoe. 

Insoles can be made of foam, gel, or other materials that absorb shock and provide comfort.

3. Midsole

The midsole is the layer of material that sits between the outsole and the insole. 

It is usually made of foam or other cushioning materials and provides shock absorption and support for the foot. 

The midsole can also be made of different foam densities to offer varying support and cushioning levels.

4. Outsole

The outsole is the bottom part of the shoe that comes into contact with the ground. 

It is usually made of rubber or other durable materials that provide traction and grip. 

The outsole can be designed with different patterns and shapes to suit activities like running or hiking.

5. Heel

It is the back part of the shoe that provides support and stability for the foot. 

It can be made of various materials, such as foam, rubber, or plastic, and can be designed to be higher or lower depending on the type of shoe.

6. Toe Box

Finally, The toe box is part of the front of the shoe that provides space and protection for the toes. 

It can be designed to be roomy or narrow, depending on the shape of the foot and the type of shoe.

Learn more about choosing the right fit of running shoes for your feet.

Watch the short video below on the anatomy of running shoes

How Running Shoes Have Evolved (Timeline)


What would you answer if I asked you about the earliest running shoes were made? 1865 or 1875. Well, you guessed it right if you chose option one.

One of the oldest running shoes was made back in 1865. It was made in the museum in England Northampton and resembled a men’s dress shoe.

In the late 1800s, companies also started inventing rubber-soled shoes, which made running shoes more comfortable and durable. 

In 1895, the first running shoe company, J.W. Foster and Sons, was founded in England, eventually becoming Reebok.


In the 1920s and 1930s, running shoes became more specialized for track and field events. They were lightweight and had spikes on the soles for better traction. 

The first spiked running shoes were invented in 1925 by Adi Dassler, the founder of Adidas.


During World War II, running shoes became popular for soldiers, who needed durable shoes for training and combat. 

After the war, running became a popular recreational activity, and running shoes began to evolve to meet the demands of casual runners.

In the 1950s, the first running shoe with a cushioned sole was invented by Blue Ribbon Sports, which would later become Nike.


In the 1960s and 1970s, running became a mainstream sport, and running shoes evolved accordingly. 

Shoes with cushioning and support were invented to prevent injuries and increase comfort. That was when one of the enduring innovations took place in the shoe industry.

Yes, I am talking about Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA). It is an air-infused foam that provides cushioning and absorbs shock.

The EVA was first used in the Villonava shoes in 1975 by Brooks. 

In the same decade, Nike’s Bowerman also introduced the waffle sole that provides extra support and rebound while running.


Between the end of the 1970s and the start of the 1980s, there was a considerable increase in marathon finishers. 

Therefore, various companies started investing more in their shoes to make them more running-friendly

In 1982, Nike introduced the Air Force 1, the first shoe with Nike Air technology. Moreover, shoes with gel-cushioned soles were also invented in this period.

2000s- 2010s

During this period, something astonishing happed. Harvard professor Daniel E Lieberman suggested in the article that barefoot running can be more effective even on hard surfaces, and the idea became popular.

So there was again a shift in the design of running shoes. In simple terms, the shoes were returning to their basic designs. 

Companies like Nike introduced a new shoe in the market named Nike Free, which was lightweight and had a light outsole, making runners feel more connected to the ground.

2010s- Present

Although the idea of barefoot running faded away with time, it left its footprint in the shoe industry. 

From now onwards, running shoes have become lighter, more comfortable, and customizable

Moreover, shoes have become environmentally friendly, so they don’t cause threats to the environment.

Here is the summary of the timeline of running shoe evolution

Running shoe evolution (timeline) Infographic/ How running shoes have evolved
Evolution Timeline (4 Main Periods)


In conclusion, Running shoes have been on the market for so long. They were first introduced as simple leather shoes with spikes on the bottom, but with time they have evolved significantly. 

Now, different technologies and expensive materials are used to manufacture running shoes, making them lightweight, fast, and durable.


How have running shoes developed?

Running shoes have developed through continuous advancements in materials, design, and technology.
Key milestones include the introduction of cushioning, arch support, and lightweight materials.
Nowadays, shoes cater to various foot types and running styles, incorporating responsive midsoles, improved traction, and personalized fit.

How has technology improved running shoes?

Technology has significantly improved running shoes by enhancing cushioning, support, and fit.
Innovations include advanced midsole materials for shock absorption and energy return, adaptive lacing systems for a customized fit, and biomechanical analysis to tailor shoes to individual running styles.

What are unique about running shoes?

Running shoes are uniquely designed to provide support, cushioning, and traction specifically for the demands of running.
They often feature lightweight construction, breathable materials, and specialized midsoles to absorb impact and promote energy return.

What is the Speciality of running shoes?

The specialty of running shoes lies in their purpose-built design to address the specific needs of runners. They offer targeted cushioning and support, helping to reduce impact and prevent injuries.

When were modern running shoes invented?

According to a article about the evolution of sneakers through the years the inventor of modern running shoes is “Adolf “Adi” Dassler (the founder of Adidas) created the modern running shoe in 1925.
It gained massive recognition when Olympic Gold Medalist, Jesse Owens, wore a pair of Dassler’s shoes to the 1936 games.”

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