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 Nmd Human Race Friends And Family (goat Certified)Jeremy Scott Adidas Harley Quinn Original ShoesAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 'zebra' Ds 100% Authentic !! Sz 10Adidas Ultra Boost Arizona State Men's Size 112015 Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 Pirate Black 9.5Adidas Yeezy 750 Boost Pre-owned Size 9.5Adidas X Yeezy Pirate Black 350 Boost 2016 Bb5350 100% AuthenticAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Beluga Grey 100% Authentic Kanye Sz 9.5Bnib Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 "zebra" Cp9654 Size Us8.5 Uk8 Eu42Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 BelugaAdidas Yeezy Boost 750 Grey Glow 9.5Yeezy Boost 750 Adidas Size 12 100% Authentic Deadstock Triple BlackNew 100% Authentic Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Creme White Size 5 Adidas Originals DsAdidas Yeezy 350 V2 Zebra Size 11 Deadstock 100% Authentic Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 Moonrock 5.5Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Black White By Kanye West 2016 Brand New Ds OreoAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 "beluga" - Size 10 With Receipt Adidas Pw Human Race Nmd Black 12Adidas Yeezy Boost 750 Triple BlackAdidas Yeezy Boost 750 Grey Gum Glow In The Dark 100% Authentic Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Cream White Us 5.5/ Eu 38Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2, Black Red, Size 11Adidas Sns "datamosh" Green Size 13 Brand New Men Adidas Ultra Boost Sns Tee Time Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Black Red 9.5Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Black White Cp9654 Guaranteed Authentic 10.5 Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Cream White Size 82015 Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 Pirate Black 8Adidas R1 Pk Sns Red Datamosh Size Us10 Deadstock - Very Rare100% Authentic Adidas Originals Cream White Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Supreme Sz 9.5Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Beluga | Eu41 Us8 | New With Box | 100% AuthenticAdidas Yeezy 350 Boost V2 Cream White - Us 6.5Adidas Originals X Sns Nmd Pk Datamosh Glitch Collegiate Orange Size 11 Bb6365Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 Pirate Black Size 12Adidas X Sns Nmd R1 Datamosh Bb6365 - Size 11- Order ConfirmedAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Beluga 9.5Adidas Originals Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra White/black 10Adidas X Sns Nmd R1 Pk "datamosh" Vapour Steel Size 11 Bb6365 !order Confirmed!Adidas Nmd Human Race Burgundy Men Size 11Adidas X Sneakersnstuff Sns Nmd Pk Datamosh Pack Bb6365 Orange Sz 11.5 AuthenticAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra 9 UsAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Black White With Receipt Size 14Bathing Ape Adidas Nmd R1 Camo Sneakers Sizes 10Adidas Yeezy Boost V2 Cream White / Cp9366 Us 7.5Brand New Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra Cp9654 White/black Sz 12.5 GuaranteedAdidas Sns Nmd R1 Pk Datamosh Size 11.5 Sneakersnstuff Glitch Yeezy Ultra BoostAdidas Yeezy 350 V2 Black Red 2017 Bred Boost Sply Sz 10 Kanye West Cp9652Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Cream White Cp9366 Size 10.5Adidas X Sns Nmd R1 Pk Datamosh Pack Blue Bb6364 Sneakersnstuff Confirmed Sz 11Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Black Copper 7.0Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 Turtle Dove Size 10 AuthenticAdidas X Sns Nmd R1 Datamosh Bb6364 - Size 9 - Order ConfirmedAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Cream White Cp9366 Ds Adidas Receipt 100% AuthenticAdidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Black White Oreo 11100% Authentic Adidas Originals Cream White Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Sz 9 W ReceiptAdidas Pw Human Race Nmd Yellow 10Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Cream White Size 11.5 With Receipt (new With Tags)Brand New Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Cream White Size 11Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Black White Size 12Adidas Rick Owens Mastodon Pro Model Black Pearl Size Us 9.5 Brand New In Box