To some, a pair of sneakers are just a necessary article of clothing. To many others, sneakers are not only just a fashion statement, but a way of life. A “sneaker” is any type of footwear that has been designed for sports or physical activities, although that definition is fairly broad. There are many different kinds of sneakers and sneaker companies, however a few remain to be more popular than others. Brands like Nike, Vans, Reebok, and Adidas come to mind. However out of the many different sneakers that are out there in the world, a few specific models can be considered some of the most influential and “game changing” sneakers of all-time. These sneakers either used revolutionary new materials, or were the first of their kinds. Regardless, a few different sneakers do come to mind when we look at pairs that stood out above the rest, and these sneakers will or already have gone down in history. So, here are the biggest game changing sneakers of all time:
Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
10. The Nike Air Max 1
The Nike Air Max 1’s were one of the most important sneakers that Nike ever made, due to one huge factor: that thing in the heel. Originally released in 1987, these were the first sneakers to incorporate “visible air”. The original models were designed by Tinker Hatfield, and the air compartment in the sole provided extra cushioning and comfort. I have a pair of SB Janoski Max’s that also incorporate the air sole, and they are one of the most comfortable shoes that I’ve ever worn. These were so game changing, because again, no other sneaker used this unique sole.
Photo from Nike.com
9. The Adidas Superstar
Released in 1965, the Adidas Superstar attempted to solve the problem of crushed and worn toe boxes by incorporating an aggressive shelltoe design. While sneakers that incorporated this design were not new, it was just something about the way Adidas did it that made the shoes extremely eye catching. The Superstars would then go on to become an iconic sneaker that has lived on today, influencing the designs of many other shoes.
Photo from Adidas.com
8. The Vans Authentic
Skateboarding grew in increasing popularity during the 1960’s, and while originally mocked as a “fad”, it developed into a full-fledged action sport. In the early days of the sport, skateboarders were wearing a variety of shoes that were marketed for other purposes. Then in 1966 a few guys came together to create a company called “The Van Doren Rubber Company” which would later evolve into just “Vans”. They produced a simple, deck-styled shoe and sold them directly to customers known originally as the “Vans Deck Shoes”. These caught on very fast, and those deck shoes would eventually become known as the Vans Authentic. These sneakers are widely regarded as the first skateboarding sneaker ever made and started a revolution. I consider these sneakers to be similar to a Ferrari 250 GT California in that even though they both were designed back in the 1960’s, their designs have lived on to become timeless classics. While extremely basic, these shoes are still very popular today as you’ll see many people still wearing them (I even have a pair). But the real reason they game changers is again, these were basically the first skateboarding shoes to become popularized.
Photo from Vans.com
7. The Nike Air Force 1
Designed by Bruce Kilgore and originally released in 1982, the Nike Air Force 1’s quickly became one of the most influential basketball shoe, and sneaker of all-time. These technical high-top shoes with a velcro strap would soon become one of the most popular basketball sneakers at the time, effectively making all other styles fairly obsolete. These sneakers set the standard for modern basketball shoes, they’re one of the most popular sneakers ever, and have influenced who knows how many different sneaker models to this day.
Photo from Nike
6. The Reebok Pump
Reebok saw the technical basketball and athletic shoes that Nike was producing during the 1980’s, and decided that they wanted to take things up an notch. The Reebok Pump was originally released in 1989 as a stylish high-top sneaker that offered one feature that had never been seen before. The Pumps were the first shoe to incorporate an internal inflation system that allowed the wearer to regulate the fit. Users would “pump” the sneaker up via the basketball seen on the tongue, and this sent air into the lower and upper tongue of the shoe allowing the wearer to change the fit as needed. This technology was revolutionary at the time, and honestly it still is today. But above all else, the combination of this technology and the sneakers style made them really cool.
Photo from Reebok.com
5. The Adidas Samba
The Adidas Samba was a soccer training shoe that was first introduced all the way back in 1950. It was one of the first of its kind, and quickly became one of the most popular sneakers ever. While it seems very simple, these sneakers were revolutionary and ahead of their time. The Sambas were worn by both athletes and individuals looking for a stylish shoe, and their design has gone on to influence many others. They are one of the best selling Adidas models of all-time, in addition to being a iconic classic.
Photo from Adidas.com
4. The Vans SK8-Hi
While the original Vans Authentics are widely regarded as the first skateboarding shoe, the SK8-Hi’s could be considered the first sneaker that was truly developed for skateboarding. The shoe was first released in 1978, and it’s aggressive design and high-top construction made it the perfect shoe for skaters seeking ankle protection. If you’ve ever gone skateboarding, you know how important ankle protection is and these were the first skate shoes to incorporate such a design.
Photos from Vans.com
3. The Nike Mag
In the 1989 film Back to The Future II, we saw lead character Mary McFly (Michael J. Fox) uses his time machine to go into the future. In the future of 2015, he is depectied in the film putting on a fictional pair of Nike’s that were stylish and able to tie themselves. Many people wondered if Nike would ever produce the shoe, however they seemingly never did. Then in 2011, Nike revealed that they would produce a limited quantity of 1,510 pairs of the “Nike Mag”. The sneakers were sold at auction and all the proceeds went to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Pairs of the sneakers sold for anywhere between $2,300 to as high as $10,000 dollars. The sneakers were a smash hit and sold out almost instantly. They are so groundbreaking as they are essentially the first mass produced sneaker that were based off of a fictional pair of shoes. While the real Mags weren’t able to tie themselves, they were still a very cool sneaker.
Photo from uncrate.com
2. The Air Jordan I
The Air Jordan I’s, as the name implies, were the first shoes that Nike created for legendary basketball player Michael Jordan. Designed by Peter Moore, the Air Jordan I’s were first released in 1984 and were essentially the first of their kind. Michael Jordan was actually banned from playing in this shoes, however he chose to ignore that and was fined every game that he wore them. The sneakers became a smash hit and were instant classics. These are the first shoes that established the Air Jordan brand, which is arguably the most profitable and iconic sneaker brand to this day.
Photo from Nike
1. The Converse Chuck Taylor All Star
First produced in 1917, the Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars are easily the most iconic and influential sneaker of all-time. These were essentially the first basketball sneakers ever produced. They have gone largely unchanged for almost a century now, and still remain to be a popular shoe among many. It’s incredible that any article of clothing can live on unchanged for so long, and the All Stars arguably pioneered the basketball sneaker industry as a whole. You can even make the case that none of the other sneakers on our list wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for these pair of sneakers.
Photo from Converse.com