“What the modern athlete asks of their feet goes far beyond what they were designed to do.” Tinker Hatfield
Shoes can be difficult to get right, there are so many factors to decide on; color, size, price, brand, purpose. What was once merely a functional form of protection has now become a scientific tool to enhance performance and image. Recently, a pair of 1972 running shoes, one of the first pairs to be designed and made by Nike, sold for $437,500. This shattered the previous record set for a pair of sneakers sold at public auction and demonstrates the value some now place on shoes in our lives. They are no longer just a functional tool; they are a manifestation of our personality and a catalyst for greater performance.
Scientists have spent decades researching human movement to develop technologies that; increase speed, lower injury risk and improve durability. They have found that we tend to move via one of three ways; Neutral, Pronation, and Supination. With Neutral movement, the heel hits the floor first and the foot continues to move in a straight line along a direct path. With Pronation, the foot can be seen contacting the ground at the heel first, but then continues to move off to the side, with the inside of the foot hitting the floor next. Supination involves the heel hitting the floor first, followed by a sideways movement towards the outside of the foot.
Thankfully, there have been some very cleaver people who have spent a lot of time in science labs, crafting the best shaped shoe for each of these foot types. Technology developments have also been forced upon brands with the surge in popularity of the ‘active lifestyle’ image. Leggings, spin classes, exploring and Instagram worthy yoga poses have demanded better products to allow this kind of lifestyle to exist. We now pay far more attention to what our bodies tell us and look to invest in products that satisfy our body’s needs. Knowing what it is that our body needs to exist in this new athleisure culture is crucial to the longevity of your active lifespan. Paying attention to our feet and the right footwear offers increased support, decreased injury risk and a sense of freedom that we often take for granted.
As with all technologies, it is fascinating to see how a certain piece of tech can evolve with new manufacturing practices and better research, leading to fascinating innovations. Take tennis (as it is my favorite sport) for example, when the sport was first invented, it was primarily played on grass. The modern game now sees participants play on; tarmac, carpet, acrylic, clay, grass, artificial grass as well as being played both indoors and out. Therefore, brands have had to develop technologies that allow tennis players to move freely and confidently in any given environment. Tennis shoes are now built with clay soles, grass soles, all-court soles, carpet soles etc. All these factors must be encompassed into a shoe that is also built to last as long as possible.
You could go as far to say that shoes are a ‘tool’ that we use now, an extension of our bodies that allow us to do everything we want to do physically, but better. Look at the Olympics in 2020, there are 33 sports scheduled to take part at the games in Tokyo, Japan. Imagine if every athlete across all 33 sports only had one type of shoe available to them to carry out their sport. I can’t imagine Usain Bolt would be running the same 100m times in a skateboarder’s Van’s as he would in his Puma’s. The point being is that, footwear, is playing a crucial role in our species’ pursuit of physical excellence.
Footwear is also pivotal in our ability to participate, whether at the highest level of sporting excellence or at the social level. They are an enabler for our physical activities, which is why we feel so strongly about making sure as many people as possible have access to a pair. We have seen firsthand, the difference a pair of shoes can make, and it is our sole (no pun intended) motivator to continue helping as many people as possible. The right footwear allows a person to participate, which ultimately gives them access to new communities. Your Sunday afternoon football community, your weekly running club community or your golf holiday community all come from that participation. It is our ambition, drive and passion, to help as many people put their feet in the right footwear so that they too can engage in their favorite sport, one step at a time.