The Invention of Jogging
Part 1: The Sneaker Company
Once upon a time (1962) in Portland, Oregon two men, the first, a recently graduated track athlete from the University of Oregon, and the second, Bill Bowerman. University of Oregon's head track and field coach and one America's greatest ever track coaches started a shoe import company, Blue Ribbon Sports.
In the '60s, the best shoe factories are in Japan, so they partner exclusively with Onitsuka Tiger to distribute on the west coast.
Ontisuka Tiger, now known as Asics.
Fast forward to 1965 and University of Oregon athlete and Olympic hopeful, Kenny Moore suffers a stress fracture in his third metatarsal. His coach, Bowerman, is frustrated with the lack of support provided by his (Onitsuka brand) sneakers give his foot, so he gets to work on a solution.
Ontisuka Tiger, courtesy of Blue Ribbon Sports, is killing it in the American market, they're finally starting to catch up with Adidas and the Converses as genuine leaders in the sneaker market.
It's also around this time, that Bill Bowerman strikes gold.
He comes up with the Onitsuka Corsair, the first sneaker with a dual density foam rubber heel insert. The Corsair is also the first sneaker to feature a heel-to-toe drop de-loading the Achilles tendon.
Onitsuka's management in Japan aren't sure and raise concerns about the elevated heel. Bowerman is convinced and Blue Ribbon are stoked, they have designed a winner.
Bowerman and the team at Blue Ribbon have a falling-out with Ontisuka and they discontinued importing Ontisuka in favour of designing and manufacturing their own sneakers, under their own brand.
Blue Ribbon isn't a catchy enough name, so the team is desperately throwing around ideas.
At the last minute, it looks like Dimension Six will be the new name. Right at the death, they changed their mind and go with Nike.
Remember the other founder of Blue Ribbon? He hated the name Nike and was strongly opposed to it, even after it was official. His name?
Part 2: How Nike (Kind of) Invented Jogging
Jogging is actually a modern concept, before Bowerman, Knight, and Nike the idea that people would run for extended periods of time with no real destination in mind was reserved for athletes and odd-balls.
Back in 1966, before Bowerman invented the elevated heel and the Cortez, he partnered with a doctor and wrote _Jogging. _a book outlining the benefits of regular jogging as a health and fitness method for everybodyafter spending time in New Zealand.
Jogging took America by storm.
Then in the 1970s, Nike poured gasoline on the Jogging fire when they took the cushioned heel to the next level, inventing the Waffle Sole.
It had a high traction, high durability outer sole, with foam cushioning and foot control and support on the inside.
Heading out and pounding the pavement was now easy as throwing on a pair of sneakers. Jogging was now the go to fitness and health activity for everyone.
The problem is a cushioned supportive shoe, while it seems like a brilliant idea in theory actually causes more problems than it prevents.
Adding a cushion to the heel allows you to overstride and reach the foot in front of your body as you run leading to a heel strike. It's basically taking a walking gait pattern and speeding it up. Take off your shoes and try to run, You'll quickly notice that running with a heel strike (aka jogging) is basically impossible, it's just too painful.
What's the most dangerous sport in Australia? I'll give you a hint, it's not cross-fit, it's not rugby, and it's not AFL. It's recreational running. 70% of all Australian runners will be injured in any give 12-month period. And heel striking with a straight leg in front of the body is one of the leading causes, but don't throw out your sneakers just yet. It takes time and patience to adapt and transition from a heavy shod style of running into a lighter, easier barefoot-style running.
Running is itself a movement skill that requires learning and practice, check out this article and video for tips on how to run effortlessly.
At Core Advantage, we are big fans of minimalist footwear and barefoot training. It is however not without its inherent risks, be sure to consult a podiatrist, physiotherapist or osteopath before considering if it is right for you. This article and video offer a basic guideline of how to implement a gradual transition to minimalist running.
And last thing. If you're interested in shoes at all, two great books.
The first, Born to Run takes a look at ultra endurance running and explores the concepts of minimalist running. The second is Shoe Dog, Phil Knight's autobiography tells the story of Nike and how it came to be the powerhouse they are today.