From running barefoot to running in shoes that cost a small fortune…. running sure has come a long way. Today there is such a wide range of shoes available, it takes mental gymnastics to decide which shoe would be right for you!
It was in the last century that we saw so many changes in running shoes. In the beginning of the century, running shoes were simple rubber-soled plimsolls. Today they are air- cushioned, sometimes filled with gel capsules. So they look good, feel good and add up to better performance.
The first running shoes, also called “keds”, were a result of the invention of vulcanized rubber. For the first time, people could wear shoes that they could actually play a sport in. They were light, comfortable and didn’t make a sound when you walked. That’s how they got the name “sneakers”.
Over 100 years ago, J.W. Foster and Sons of England (now known as Reebok) were the first to introduce shoes specially meant for running with spikes in them. Its owner, Joseph William Foster wanted to make a shoe that would encourage the sport of running. In 1925, a German named Adolph Dassler made shoes with hand-forged spikes. It was so specialized, there were specific models for specific distances. The material was hi-tech and light. These shoes were worn by the leading runner of the time, Jesse Owens. Adolph Dassler’s company later split into Adidas and Puma, both leading sports shoe manufacturers today.
Research in running shoes forged ahead and the need for speed and comfort produced even better footwear. Three types of running styles were found. In the neutral style, the heels hit the ground, while the foot goes in a straight line as it moves forward. In the Pronation style, the heel hits the ground, while the foot moves to the inside as it goes forward. The Supernation style was a little different where the heel hits the ground and the outside of the foot moves forward. Shoes were made to fit these varied styles and athletes now had the option of having shoes custom-made.
One of the most recent inventions is the cushioning system. It was found that foam, silicon, and air gel absorb shock. An even better product is ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA); a substance that has millions of tiny air bubbles that cushion and absorb shock. Some of these inventions were offshoots of the space research done to make clothing and footwear for astronauts!
To find the perfect shoe, your biomechanical needs should be studied. A ‘wet test’, is taken – that is, the shape of your foot on a dry floor or piece of paper. This would reveal whether your feet are flat, normal or highly arched. Based on a few more tests, the right shoes are found. This process has benefited athletes by helping in achieving better speeds, causing fewer foot injuries and longer career spans.