Like most great sporting achievements, Adidas shoes were born of intense competition—in this case, between two siblings. In the 1920s, brothers Rudolf “Rudi” and Adolf “Adi” Dassler founded the Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory), a small-town shoemaking business in Herzogenaurach, Germany. Adi was an athlete and trained cobbler who focused on designing innovative shoes, receiving his first patent for a pair of running shoes in 1925, while his brother Rudi handled sales and business development.

As the Nazis rose to power, both brothers became card-carrying members of the party, and Rudi eventually joined the German military forces. Connections to Germany’s ruling party helped fuel the brothers’ shoe business, particularly leading up to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, as Adi sought access to the influential coaches and athletes attending the global sporting event. The glad-handing paid off—Adi was able to get a pair of the company’s spiked leather track shoes onto the feet of American runner Jesse Owens, who broke several world records and won gold medals in four different events.

Though the Dasslers were selling more than 200,000 pairs of shoes a year by the end of the '30s, the brothers increasingly butted heads over their business, and when World War II ended, Rudolf left to start his own company just across the river. In 1949, the duo formally established their new companies, respectively named Addas and Ruda (though they were eventually rechristened Adidas and Puma). With the stakes thus raised, the Dassler family feud permeated their entire hometown, as employees and neighbors chose sides in the battle of the two shoe manufacturers.

After Rudi had a falling out with West Germany’s head football coach, Adi saw another great partnership opportunity. He had already made the Samba, created as a football training shoe in 1950, so he was familiar enough with the sport to be named the West German team’s uniform manager. When West Germany unexpectedly beat Hungary at the 1954 World Cup, Adidas’ black-leather football boots with three white stripes immediately became famous.

In the decades that followed, the company continued to leverage the publicity of sports celebrities to lift its brand. Named for French tennis player Robert Haillet, Adidas’ first leather tennis shoe dropped in 1963. In 1971, after Haillet retired having never won a grand slam event, the company signed a new endorsement with American champion Stan Smith, whose name still graces the design. A year later, in 1972, Adidas SL all-around trainers were introduced for the Munich Olympics, where they were seen by millions of TV viewers.

Meanwhile, back in the 1960s, and at the urging of American distributor Chris Severn, Adidas ventured into the untapped market for basketball shoes, which was then dominated by the canvas hi-top Chuck Taylor model made by Converse. In 1965, Adidas released the Supergrip, a low-rise leather shoe with a cushioned heel, arch support, and padded ankle, as well as a hi-top version called the Pro Model. After experimenting with additional toe protection to decrease drag for tennis players, the company debuted the low-top Superstar in 1969, with its now-iconic rubber cap or “shell toe.”

During the 1970s, the Superstar became the go-to shoe of professional basketball players as Adidas aggressively pursued endorsement deals with players both in the NBA and ABA. Th...

Eventually, Superstar sneakers—more casually known as Shelltoes—reached a whole new customer segment via rappers like Joseph “Run” Simmons, Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels, and Jam Master Jay, who wore their Adidas shoes on MTV and at live performances during the 1980s. In fact, Run-DMC released an entire song about the classic shoes in 1986 called simply “My Adidas,” which led to their own endorsement deal.

After Adi’s son Horst Dassler died suddenly in 1987, the company faltered and nearly went bankrupt as Nike surged to number one in the athletic shoe industry. However, during the next couple decades, Adidas refocused its efforts on technological innovation, the nostalgic appeal of heritage shoes, product variety, and partnering with contemporary celebrities like Kanye West and Pharrell Williams, all of which helped regain much of its lost market share.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

All About Shoes

All About Shoes

From Canada's Bata Shoe Museum comes a visually impressive exhibit focusing on the history of the shoe from traditi… [read review or visit site]

Virtual Shoe Museum

Virtual Shoe Museum

This virtual museum from Shoe Icons Publishing showcases over 800 pairs of shoes and related reference information.… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Adidas Originals Hawaii Vintage Excellent Cond. Made In France Sz 8 Never Worn Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Cp9654 Kanye West Men's Us Size 16 ~ Brand New Adidas Originals Men's Size 5 (women's Size 6.5) Yeezy Boost 350 V2Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra White Black Sz 4 Cp9654 Authentic Adidas Confirmed Yeezy Boost 350 V2 White/core Black/red Zebra Size 6Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Cream White Pirate Black Bred Footaction ReceiptAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Size 10.5Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Men's Size 11 Deadstock Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra White Black Sz 14 Cp9654100% Authentic Adidas Yeezy 350 V2 Boost--zebra Colorway--size 12--deadstockAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Preorder Cp9654 Size 10 Limited 100% AuthenticAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Size 10.5Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 ZebraNew In Hand Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra 100% Authentic Receipt Free ShippingAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Size 7.5Guaranteed Pair! Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Us 7 Brand New 100% AuthenticAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Cp9654 Size 14 From Footlocker Pentagon CityAdidas Yeezy 350 V2 Zebra Size 10Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Cp9654 White Core Black Red Size Uk 11Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra W/receipt Sz 10.5Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Cp9654 Zebra Print 100% Authentic!! Size 11.5Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Black White Size 7Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Us 9.5 Brand New 100% AuthenticAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Sz 7New Ds Adidas Yeezy 350 V2 Kanye West Sply Black White Red Zebra Cp9654Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Cp9654 Size 14 Footlocker King Of Prussia MallAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 - Size 8 Adidas-yeezy-boost-350-v2 Men's 7.5 Brand New Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Size 9 With Receipt From AdidasAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Size 12 Jordan Satin Kaws 4 12345678supremeAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Design By Kanye West In Zebra Pattern Size 10Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Size 11 FinishlineAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Cp9654 White Core Black Red Size Uk 11 - NewYeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Size 14 AdidasYeezy Boost 350 V2 - Zebra - Sz 9.5 Confirmed Order Adidas.comAdidas Originals Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra | Size 10100% Authentic Adidas Originals Zebra Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Sz 11.5 W/ ReceiptAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Kanye West Zebra White Core Black Red Cp9654 Nmd 9.5Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Size 10 With Receipt From Adidas StoreAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Us 8 Brand New 100% AuthenticAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Cp9654 White Core Black Red Size Uk 10 NewAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra100% Authentic Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Og With Dtlr Receipt Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Size 10 W/ Receipt100% Authentic Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Size 10Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Us 8 Brand New 100% AuthenticAdidas V2 Zebra Yeezy Boost 350 Shoes- Size 11.5Trade Or Sell: New Authentic Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebras 8.5 Ds Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 “zebra” Sz 10 100% Authentic!!!Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Size 11 Confirmed Order Black White Free ShipAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Size 9 Sold Out-confirmed Cp9654 Adidas Yeezy Zebra V2 350 Boost Size 11.5Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Uk8.5/us9Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Us Sz 11 Brand New From Adidas.comAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 - Zebra Uk: 8 Authentic Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 OreoAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Size 8 Authentic With Receipt From Footaction 10100% Authentic Adidas Originals Zebra Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Sz 11 W/ Receipt Adidas Yeezy Zebra V2 350 Boost Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Size 9. 100% Authentic. Brand New. Never Worn