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- New innovations in sneaker technology are unveiled each and every year.
- Business Insider teamed up with Highsnobiety footwear editor Chris Danforth to take a look at some of the most innovative sneakers throughout history.
- These landmark sneakers range from advancements in cushioning and sole technology to experimenting with computerized parts.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
One of the world’s most innovative sneakers was invented with a waffle iron in the early 1970s; today, companies are experimenting with futuristic auto-lacing and 4D technologies.
"Going back to the 1900s, Converse and PF Flyers innovated with these vulcanized rubber soles, so that was a big one," Danforth told Business Insider. "But obviously, some of the biggest touchpoints for sneaker innovation are later with Nike."
While not all of these individual sneakers have stood the test of time, many — like Nike Air and Adidas Boost — have gone on to become some of the most successful sneaker lines in brand history.
The sneaker innovations Danforth highlighted are spread out over nearly fifty years of sneaker design. They also include a variety of innovation types, from advancements in cushioning and sole technology to experimenting with computerized parts. Several include production stories that have become a part of brand folklore, such as Nike cofounder Bill Bowerman using a waffle iron to create his infamous sole pattern.
Keep reading for a look at some of the most innovative sneakers in history.
1. The Nike Waffle Trainer was released in 1973 and made waves with its innovative sole design.
The concept stemmed from track spikes, only without the spikes. Instead, the waffle mold left small, protruding squares to better grip surfaces. First marketed in 1973 as the Waffle Trainer, the shoes originally cost between $21.95 and $24.95. Later adaptations included the upgraded Nike Waffle Racer version and countless others.
"[The Waffle Trainer] was probably one of the first big Nike innovations," Highsnobiety footwear editor Chris Danforth told Business Insider. "The resulting shoe was the Waffle Racer, but that resulting shoe pattern was also used on a few other subsequent Nike shoes."
2. The Nike Air Tailwind was released in 1979 and started the iconic Nike Air franchise.
Six years after Bowerman’s invention of the waffle sole, NASA engineer Frank Rudy pitched a new design concept to Nike. His sole technology included encapsulated air bubbles.
"The first shoe in 1979 was the Nike Air Tailwind," said Danforth. "It had a hidden air bubble in the sole of the shoe." The air bubble stayed hidden "until about 10 years later, in 1987 when they released the Air Max 1, which had the visible air."
Nike’s air technology has since been included in countless versions of Nike sneakers, including the infamous Air Jordans and Air Force 1 lines.
"The level of innovation that’s gone into Nike Air — it probably has to be the most effective and best-marketed sneaker technology ever," added Danforth.
3. At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Adidas unveiled its Micropacer shoe, which included the first in-sneaker computer technology.
While various sneakers today include mileage tracking, the Adidas Micropacer was the first of its kind. The sneaker had a built-in calculator that recorded and saved distances logged while running.
"The idea of a shoe with a computer in it? The Adidas Micropacer should be mentioned for sure," said Danforth.
A rerelease of the original shoe is available today, though it is significantly more expensive. On Adidas’ website, the newest Micropacer sells for $200.
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