A Brief Overview of the History of Sneakers

Even though many people are too busy to care about where their designer brand sneakers originated from, to industry leaders, the history of sneakers is a crucial part of their business. By looking back at the history of sneakers, we can not only gain valuable insight on how shoes have evolved but also how we evolved.

A Rocky Beginning

The history of shoes spans back to over 40,000 years ago. The first shoes were of leather by the mountain people of Mesopotamia. They were crude precursors to the moccasins later worn by Native Americans. When you think of mountainous terrain such as ragged sharp cliff faces and rocks, and cold winter months, it’s easy to guess why shoes were invented. Can you imagine going barefoot in sub-zero temperatures? There is a thing called frostbite, which I’m sure ran rampant in the cold winter months in the mountains.

A Glimpse Into The Future of The Pre-Modern Day

Fast forwarding many of thousands of years into the future in our handy-dandy teleport machine; a great-grand cousin of those early prototypes emerged in the late 1800s when Elijah McCoy invented the first rubber-soled footwear called Plimsolls. Plimsolls were the direct parent of modern-day sneakers. One of the most notable features of earlier versions of sneakers was that they resembled what in the modern day would be labeled cleats. They actually had metal spikes on the underside of the shoes. They were originally called "running shoes." However, the term sneakers was first coined because of the fact that these shoes didn’t make the same clunking noises associated with the other shoes of that time period.

All-Stars and Keds

The first company to come out with sneakers was a company called the Converse Rubber Corporation. Converse Rubber Corporation first released their sneakers in 1908 known as the original Converse All-Stars. Converse is one of the most popular brands in the world even today. In 1916, a company called Keds came out with their first shoes which like Converse were made out of rubber and canvas. Keds formed pro-Keds which were originally high-top athletic shoes for basketball players. Their first shoes were released under the product name “the Champion.” They were the first shoes to ever be introduced into a sports team when they were introduced into basketball. They quickly gained popularity in basketball and other sports. They went on to expand until they were bought out by Stride Rite in the late 1970s. These shoe styles are still prominent in today’s culture.

Nike and the Beginning of the Modern Era

A very popular brand called Nike’s came out with their first sneakers in 1964 right after changing their name from their original one called “Blue Ribbon Sports” It was founded by college basketball player Phil Knight and his coach Bill Bowerman of Oregon. They are now one of the most well-known shoe brands in the world that have produced products such as the Air Force 1 and Air Jordan.


In 1992, the California company Sketchers started producing sneakers out of Manhattan Beach they called skate shoes. The first shoes that sketchers ever released were called cascades boot, they didn’t make sneakers until later. Right after Sketchers became popular, they expanded to make not only men’s shoes, but also women's and children's. They put a great emphasis on designing sneakers for the younger crowd. One of the best things about the Sketchers company is that for quite a while they supported charities with a portion of their sales after they gained notoriety for their later released lines of sneakers. Sketchers is among the most popular and innovative brands of sneakers in today’s markets and pioneered the modern-day light-up shoe. They now sell over 3000 kinds of shoes for all ages and genders in over 160 countries. Talk about expansion. They are backed by many celebrities from Demi Lovato to Kim Kardashian, and yes, even to Ringo Star, the former drummer of the ever-popular and dearly cherished band the Beatles.

Shoes Will Continue to Evolve As We Do

As you can see, sneakers have been an important part of human culture for a long time and they will probably continue to be. Understanding the history of shoes is not only interesting, but a good thing to know if you ever want to go into business in the shoe-making business or if you just want to impress your friends with your knowledge of shoe history. Knowing about the history of sneakers provides valuable insight into today’s fashion culture.

Back to the general guide