When Were Tennis Shoes Invented

When Were Tennis Shoes Invented: The only modern type of shoe to be invented in the last three hundred years has been the tennis shoe. Since then, the athletic tennis shoe has grown into not only a high-tech piece of sports equipment but also a symbol of prestige and an individual personality expression. Tennis shoes are sometimes referred to as ‘tennis’ or ‘sneakers,’ and are no longer only for sports. They are a significant component of the modern American wardrobe.


Plimsoll Shoes has been gracing the tennis courts from the 1800s. Vulcanized Rubber is a type of rubber that has been modified chemically. In 1839, Charles Goodyear started making this rubber which is more durable that usual rubber. All the other businesses started following this strategy, and athletic shoes were being produced using rubber that has been mixed with vulcanized rubber. They were introduced in the market in 1892 and were called Plimsolls

The shoes were then called sneakers as when someone wearing them walked, the shoes made no sound. They did not have a right or a left shoe either. This design remained until the late 1960s when various tennis shoe designs became popular when their models were made by other businesses.

Also Read: When Were Sneakers Invented? 

This makes the tennis shoe the original historical sneaker and sports shoe. One thing, however, is certain; the original pair is far from what we have today. Today’s tennis shoes are made for tennis players, and other shoes are made to fit other sportsmen like the runners.

The US Rubber Company started producing their tennis shoes in 1916. These were known as Keds and were manufactured with Canvas fabrics. The soles were made with rubber. The following year, a similar version named All-Star shoes were produced by the Converse Rubber Corporation.

The type, however, experienced minor changes. It was not until the 1960s that, through innovation, many designers began to develop the quality of athletic shoes. During this era, the leading designer was Bill Bowerman.

Bill was the coach for the University of Oregon. By using nylon instead of canvas to give the player more stability, he intended to design a tennis shoe that was lightweight. To cater to the comfort of the runner, he decided to build a shoe that had a comfortable inner sole.

Through these reforms, Bill built a business that is known today as Nike. He called the business after the goddess of victory in Greece. Companies such as Puma and Adidas then began designing their updated version of the tennis shoe with regard to the specifications of the player.

Eventually, in the design and production phases, tennis stars became involved, helping the humble tennis shoe gain momentum. The tennis shoe today has a totally different feel and looks according to its divergence from the original edition.


Adidas wanted to do something different than everyone else. They already were producing shoes with rubber and canvas. They got Robert Haillet agreeing to use their new shoe made in 1964 using leather. When he retired a few years later, Adidas wanted to get someone else as the face of their newly produced shoe. They went to Stan Smith and in 1971, he took the place of Robert Haillet.

As he won his two Grand Slam singles titles, Smith wore the shoe, and gradually Haillet’s name and likeness were disassociated from the shoe, making way for Smith to take over altogether. Although the shoe’s construction did not change much, Smith says he suggested more safety around the Achilles, hence the inclusion of the green padding on the back of the shoe, and a tongue that did not change.

Adidas had Stan Smith, Rod Laver, and Ilie Nastase shoes in the 1970s. Although leather was introduced by Stan Smith, other companies rapidly followed suit. There also came the evolution of materials.

As like Adidas, all the other brands started bringing a change in their production trying to make a resemblance with Stan Smith shoes. In 1970, Leather was added by K Swiss Classic, and Puma followed this as well in the 1980s.

All other companies that used fabrics earlier started following this strategy and started using leather. Adidas brought in their Rod Laver in 1970 which brought in a revolution. It had an outsole of polyurethane and the toes had suede. The upper had a mesh polishing. From 1980, production quality of these shoes started to improve even more and all the other companies were joining the competition. They were in a silent war of who is able to produce the best shoes in the market.

As Nike rose in popularity, the Nike Air Trainer 1 with lateral support, a foot-securing harness for side-to-side movement, and a heel raise were designed by shoe designer Tinker Hatfield that was higher than a standard court shoe, but lower than a conventional running shoe. Before it entered the training rooms, though, this trainer hit tennis.

In 1986, following his return to tennis, McEnroe asked Nike for something more contemporary before the commercial launch in 1987. After seeing his success in a yet-to-launch pair of tennis shoes, Nike decided to give him the specific outsoles for use on both clay and grass.

Nike had branched out its tennis offerings by the mid-90s, outfitting Pete Sampras in the Air Oscillate and Andre Agassi in Hatfield’s Air Tech Challenge III.

But, Nike was not only the brand which reached the peak of success. Adidas, Converse, Puma, New Balance, Diadora, Lotto, K Swiss, Fila, etc. brands also started producing good quality tennis shoes and took over the market.


A new technically focused course for tennis shoes was set by the introduction of leather in the 1960s. However, the history of the tennis shoe was still carved out of canvas and rubber.

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