Sneakers have been around for a while. People wore rubber soled shoes, called plimsolls in the late 18th century. However, they were very primitive. For one, there wasn't a right or left foot. The U.S. Rubber Company introduced Keds, which were more comfortable rubber sneakers with canvas tops. These sneakers were mass-produced by 1917. They were so quiet that anyone could sneak up on them.
Converse All-Stars, the first shoe designed specifically for basketball, was produced by Marquis Converse that year. The shoes were endorsed by Chuck Taylor, an Indiana basketball star, in 1923. They became Chuck Taylor All-Stars. These shoes are among the most popular in basketball.
In 1924, sneakers became international. Adi Dassler, a German man, created the first sneaker known as Adidas. This shoe became the most loved athletic shoe in the entire world. Adidas was worn by Jessie Owens, a track star who won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics. Rudi, Adi's brother, started another sports shoe company called Puma.
Sports shoes were mostly worn to play sports during the first half century of the 20th Century. In the 1950s, children started to wear them as fashion statements. After seeing James Dean wearing sneakers in the movie Rebel Without a Cause, more teenagers followed the trend.
The 1984 signing of a contract by Michael Jordan to wear the Nike Air Jordans, the most well-known sneaker ever created, really saw sneakers go mainstream. His shoes were still a top seller even after Jordan left the NBA. Reebok, Adidas, and Nike all began to compete for the best sneakers. They added wild colors and eliminated laces. Sneakers were made for all sports, including skateboarding, walking and cross training.
Performance is improved by new sneaker technologies. Nike's Air Force uses small pockets of gas to provide better cushioning. Reebok has introduced The Pump--air that is pumped into the shoes to make them more snug. Spira Footwear has added a spring to the soles of its shoes to ease foot stress.
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