The Evolution of Sneaker Design [An In-Depth Look]

Shoes have been around for a while. We’re talking as far back as 40,000 years ago. As soon as people saw the value in protecting their feet, shoes became part of a person’s wardrobe—usually only if they could afford it. 

Years went by and populations rose and fell, as did political powers across the globe. Social classes further divided the rich from the poor and certain types of footwear were worn only by those with money, power, and prestige. But others of a lower class developed foot coverings that allowed them to quietly go about conducting shady business such as robbing or mugging people. 

These “sneakers,” as they were known, were also used as performance-enhancing footwear by early tennis players at the start of the 19th century, but they had a hard time shaking off the initial less-than-couture label.

Sneakers Make It to the Big Leagues

It took decades, but eventually, the “sneaker” shoe was adapted from play on the tennis court to a different type of well-known court: basketball. The Converse Rubber Shoe Company manufactured the first-ever basketball sneaker in 1917. Other sneaker companies also began forming around the same time. Adidas got its start in a small German village in 1924 when Adi Dassler created a sports shoe in his mother’s laundry room. 

Adidas would go on to be the first sneaker to gain international recognition for their appearance on the feet of Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics. For years after this iconic moment, sneakers would be considered solely a sports shoe. Converse All-Stars came into being during this time and were worn nearly exclusively on the basketball court. 

It wasn’t until 1950 when the famous actor James Dean wore a pair of sneakers that the general populace began to consider sneakers as a fashion statement that could be worn just about anywhere, including on and off the basketball court. 

Sneaker design and the world of sneakerheads in general really took off in 1984 when NBA star Michael Jordan collaborated with Nike and introduced the very first Air Jordan model. The original Air Jordan is still one of the bestselling sneakers, even today. Designed to be the perfect combination of fashion and functionality, Air Jordans opened the floodgates for a sneaker design craze that has only picked up speed as time’s gone by.

Who Are the Most Famous Sneaker Designers?

Hundreds of years ago, shoe cobblers worked to provide decent shoes that would protect people’s feet. Today’s sneaker culture alone—among all the other types of shoes out there—generates billions in revenue each year. Companies spend millions on marketing research, branding, and sneaker design. 

It’s safe to say how we view shoes, particularly sneakers, is forever changed. Some sneakerheads spend hundreds of thousands of dollars building up elaborate sneaker collections. Care and cleaning of your sneakers have become relevant and highly important. And just look at how much famous shoe designers influence the types of sneakers we put on our feet. The following are some of the most influential sneaker designers to ever make an imprint on the sneaker industry:

  • Tobie Hatfield (Nike): Known for work on the Nike Free
  • Aaron Cooper (NIke): Known for work on Air Pippen, Air Zoom Ultraflight, Trainer 1
  • Sergio Lozano (Nike): Known for work on Air Max 95
  • Robbie Fuller (adidas): Known for work on adiZero Crazy Light and Crazy Light 2
  • Peter Moore (Nike): Known for work on Air Jordan 1
  • Scott Hewett (Reebok): Known for work on The Question, The Answer I - VII
  • Tuan Le (And 1): Known for work on And 1 Tai Chi and And 1 Lottery Mid 
  • Tinker Hatfield (Nike): Known for work on Air Jordan III, IV, XI, Air Max 1, Huarache runner, Air Safari

How Long Does It Take to Design a Shoe?

Designing a sneaker involves many people and many different processes. The entire process of designing a shoe, from start to finish can take up to 18 months. And that’s only if you don’t agonize over the design elements and look of the shoe before moving into production.

How Do You Design a Sneaker?

Sneaker designers work closely with entire teams of people to make the magic of designing a sneaker possible. However, designing a sneaker yourself can happen rather quickly thanks to modern technology, and the marketing tactics of various shoe companies. You can work through Nike and other famous brands to create and design sneakers.

Find illCurrency Apparel to Match Your New Kicks

Once you’ve found or designed the sneakers you’ve always wanted, check out our apparel to find high-quality sneaker tees, hats, hoodies, and more to wear with your fresh new kicks.

Older Post
Newer Post
Close (esc)


Use this popup to embed a mailing list sign up form. Alternatively use it as a simple call to action with a link to a product or a page.

Age verification

By clicking enter you are verifying that you are old enough to consume alcohol.


Shopping Cart

Your cart is currently empty.
Shop now