How Sporting Shoes and Athletic Wear have Evolved
Over the years, athletic clothing has progressed at a very fast rate. There was a time where athletes competed in either common clothes or no clothes at all. As years progressed and the science of human movement became more widely studied, the development of athletic footwear and clothing became a finely-tuned apparatus geared toward enhancing human performance. Today, the science behind developing athletic clothing has never been more advanced and this has churned out some clothing that is a far cry from its ancient relatives. In fact, the only thing that has been retained seems to be the utilitarian nature of the athletic wear.
How Shoes have Developed
Shoes have perhaps seen the greatest amount of change over the generations. Many changes in materials, design and overall functionality have gone into the development of modern shoe technology for athletes. However, there are still a number of things that seem to have been retained from years past in regard to how shoes work. These retentions are designed to both utilize the beneficial aspects of older shoe styles while simultaneously embracing new technology. The result is a market full of shoes that have had more science built into them than any other type of athletic wear.
In the old days, the great native running tribes were able to run down herbivorous animals in what was known as "persistence hunting." Persistence hunting really does mean that the hunter just keeps running longer than the animal can keep running. Runners at the time either ran barefoot or they ran in very rudimentary sandals that tied around their feet. These sandals were little more than thin pieces of leather with string sewn through them. Despite this, these runners were able to perform feats of physical endurance that are nearly unheard of in the modern age.
Since then, shoes have been built in nearly every time of natural and synthetic material imaginable. In the early days of real shoe development, people looked at shoes in much the same way they looked at horse hooves. They were meant to be thick-soled and supposedly built to withstand the harsh conditions of a long run. Over time, people began to see the folly of these designs and move on to more advanced designs. These more "advanced" designs were built upon the fledgling science of kinesiology, or the study of human movement. Scientists would study how humans ran and see which running styles were most often used by the long distance runners.
This information has been invaluable in the development of modern shoe styles and the impact of kinesiologists cannot be overstated. As the bank of knowledge surrounding human movement has grown, so too has the knowledge surrounding how to tap into innate human physical potential. This has led shoe developers to engineer specialized synthetic materials that provide impact resistance that mitigates stress fractures over long runs. It has led to the development of breathable materials that stretch along with human movement. It has also led to shoes with wider toe boxes to accommodate for how toes spread when a foot hits the ground. So many of these advancements would not have been possible without the information found through kinesiology.
There is also a growing trend toward refining these advancements to their most basic features. The growing popularity of "barefoot" or "minimalist" running throughout the country is a good indication of this. This type of running requires a shoe that is built out of only the most basic amounts of material. The shoes are also designed to provide extra-wide toe boxes and many other features necessary for this style of running. The idea behind this growth in popularity can be found in the general understanding that humans were not born with shoes on. Humans never naturally wore shoes early on in their development. It stands to reason that running in a mostly barefoot manner could be beneficial to runners.
The use of non-toxic materials has also been on the rise in the athletic clothing world. Due to the amount of shoes the average runner goes through in a year, there is a major push to introduce non-toxic materials into shoe manufacture. This is to help fight against the damages that can come from an overabundance of shoes filling landfills.
The Development is Not Over
Despite the many advancements found in shoe technology over the years, the development of new technologies is far from over. In the future, trends seem to be pointing toward a greater cohesion between ancient running technology and modern materials. More and more runners are embracing the concept of things like forefoot strike running and minimalist running in general. This is projected to lead designers down a path of embracing this fundamental shift. After many generations of moving toward greater and greater complexity, shoes may finally be moving back toward embracing older technologies to engender a more natural running gait.