What’s on Your Feet? One Sole to Another
By Katie Mitchell
Whether you call them; trainers, kicks, joggers, sneakers, tennies, runners, or gym shoes; have you ever really thought about the evolution of your athletic shoes and how they came to be on your feet? As we trail blaze up mountains, run the rouged roads, or move swiftly across courts, we owe a great ode of appreciation to the soles that keep us grounded with a solid foundation to attempt these incredible feats.
These early athletic shoes, were known as plimsolls, named after the water line of a ship’s hull, and were worn by vacationers, and slowly started evolving, with details like engravings on the sole for added grip, as they made their way onto tennis courts and even on the feet of soldiers in the British Army in the early 20th century. Then came the company J.W Foster and Sons, who we can thank for inventing, what is recorded as one of the first running shoes, in which they added spikes to the soles to assist with reaching greater traction and speed.
Once these shoes made their way to America, the US Rubber Co. with the help of inventor Charles Goodyear, created the line knows as Keds, by putting canvas atop a flexible rubber sole, and were marketed as ‘sneakers’ . The demand for sneakers grew post World War II, as sports and athletics came to be seen as a sign of patriotism. In the 1920’s famous athletes of the time spurred the popularity of sneakers, like famous basketball player Chuck Taylor and his endorsement of the nostalgic Converse All Stars.
And so athletic shoes took off, constantly reinventing and morphing into new styles or with emerging technologies. They come in many colors, brands, and styles. They have celebrity endorsements and are designed by some of the highest fashion houses. Some with fancy embellishments, some with shoelaces and some without. Now and days it’s hard pressed not to get a kinesiology lesson when picking out athletic shoes, as they seem to have varying elements which compliment one’s use, body, or personal style. The days of the ‘Plimsoll’s have passed us by, by about 150 years, but it’s those early designs that kicked off generations of all new kinds of kicks.
I love my Chuck’s, remember my beloved Air Jordan’s, and now swear by my Brook’s Heritage Collection; but those are just my kicks for kicking it. When I’m ready to kick my own butt, lacing up my New Balance’s, have been a long tradition, and one that’s been a tradition for many dating back to 1906!
Now when you strap on your modern version of a plimsoll, give thanks and praise to the shoe gods, one sole to another !