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Nike Air to adidas Boost: 11 of the Most Innovative Sneaker Technologies of All Time

Explore the ideas, materials and systems pushing footwear forward.


Footwear technology is constantly shifting and evolving. Today, more than ever, innovations are introduced at breakneck speed as ideas are shared between industries, and manufacturing capabilities reach unprecedented precision and scale.

Early footwear innovations started with rubber, which is why companies like Vans and Converse were founded as the Van Doren Rubber Company and the Converse Rubber Shoe Company, respectively. Since then, the footwear industry has diversified beyond rubber, and now the conversation around footwear innovation revolves around next-generation materials that the founders of Vans and Converse likely never could have imagined.

In the late ’60s and early ’70s, increased competition in the footwear market pushed brands like Nike, adidas, Reebok, ASICS and others to innovate in new and exciting ways. Each innovation represented a landmark in its own right; moments that changed the trajectory and, ultimately, the history of the footwear industry. Sneakers haven’t been the same since.

From 1970 on, here are 11 of the most innovative sneakers of all time.