Sneakers

Sneakers (also known as athletic shoes, tennis shoes, gym shoes, runners, takkies, or trainers) are shoes primarily designed for sportsor other forms of physical exercise, but which are now also often used for everyday wear. The term generally describes a type of footwear with a flexible sole made of rubber or synthetic material and an upper part made of leather or synthetic materials. Examples of such shoes include athletic footwear such as: basketball shoes, tennis shoes, cross trainers and other shoes worn for specific sports.

The term ‘athletic shoes’ is typically used for shoes utilized for running in a marathon or half marathon, basketball, and tennis (among others), but tends to exclude shoes for sports played on grass such as association football and rugby football, which are generally known as ‘studs’ or in North America as ‘cleats’.

Attributes of an athletic shoe include a flexible sole, appropriate tread for the function, and ability to absorb impact. As the industry and designs have expanded, the term “athletic shoes” is based more on the design of the bottom of the shoe than the aesthetics of the top of the shoe. Today’s designs include sandals, Mary Janes, and even elevated styles suitable for running, dancing, and jumping. The shoes themselves are made of flexible compounds, typically featuring a sole made of dense rubber. While the original design was basic, manufacturers have since tailored athletic shoes for their specific purposes. An example of this is the spiked shoe developed for track running. Many of these shoes are made up to very large sizes for athletes with large feet.

Running shoes come in a range of shapes suited to different running styles/abilities. Generally, they are divided by running style: the majority are for heel-toe joggers/runners which are further subdivided into ‘neutral’, ‘overpronation’ and ‘underpronation’. These are constructed with a complex structure of “rubber” with plastic/metal stiffeners to restrict foot movement. More advanced runners tend to wear flatter and flexible shoes, which allow them to run more quickly with greater comfort. Sneakers have become an important part of hip hop (primarily Pumas, Nike, and Adidas) and rock ‘n roll (Converse, Macbeth) cultures since the 1970s. Hip hop artists sign million dollar deals with major brands such as Nike, Adidas, or Puma to promote their shoes. Sneaker collectors, called “sneakerheads”, use sneakers as fashionable items. Artistically-modified sneakers can sell for upwards of $1000 at exclusive establishments like Saks Fifth Avenue. In 2005, a documentary, Just for Kicks, about the sneaker phenomenon and history was released.