When people think of the most infamous sneakers of all-time they’ll probably thinking about how they boomed in popularity in the ’80s and ’90s. In reality, many of the classic sneaker designs that we wear today can trace their roots back to the 70s. Here we’ll look at the best 70s sneakers and you may be surprised by how familiar some of the designs are. So sit back and enjoy as we take a trip down memory lane.
Here are the Best Vintage 70s Sneakers
1. Nike Cortez
The Nike Cortez deserves its place in history as Nike’s first sneaker that was made for the track. The shoe was designed by Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman who was a successful running coach and helped to popularize the idea of running as a hobby.
Nike initially started out distributing the shoes from other companies but eventually moved into making their own, and the Cortez was born. It became a hit and with it, the company became a success.
The design was a classic too as people fell in love with the infamous Nike swoosh. The sneaker showed what was capable with running performance and it was the start of Nike’s journey to being one of the world’s megabrands.
2. Adidas Top Ten
Year – 1979
Basketball went through a power revolution in the late 60s and 70s as the play became quicker, the impacts became harder and the dunks became more dramatic. With the change in tempo, there also needed to be a change in the quality of footwear.
Adidas were at the forefront of that and had already released a range of quality 70s sneakers throughout the decade. In 1979, they sought the help of 10 of the best players in the league and put all of their design technology into the Top Ten.
Its use by a range of pro basketballers made it a huge success but most importantly, it performed extremely well on the court. At the time, it was the best basketball shoe ever made.
3. Nike Tailwind
Year – 1978
Putting an air bubble in a pair of sneakers? Many think it was the Air Max 1 which first showcased this new technology and cushioning method. In reality, The Air Max 1 was simply the first to show the bubble from the outside of the shoe. It all started with the Nike Tailwind.
It was the idea of Frank Rudy to put an air pocket in the heel and Nike loved the idea. This new level of cushioning was a huge hit due to the comfort and shock absorption it provided.
Runners loved using the sneaker and other manufacturers were inspired by it. Nike were brave to go with such a unique idea and in the ’80s, we’d see many shoemakers attempt their own revolutions in shoe performance and design.
4. Onitsuka Tiger California
Year – 1978
The story of Onitsuka Tiger and Nike was an interesting one. As we mentioned, Nike’s co-founders Bowerman and Phil Knight originally started out distributing shoes and did so under the name of Blue Ribbon Sports.
They had exclusive US distribution rights to Onitsuka Tiger’s and helped to propel the Japanese company in the US but soon realized that they could sell their own.
Onitsuka Tiger eventually merged into the ASICS brand in 1977 but kept their original name for their 1978 California shoe. Nike would soon overtake them in terms of popularity but the California helped to progress the new running craze that had hit the country.
5. Nike Waffle Racer
Year – 1977
The waffle design was another innovation that came from the mind of Bill Bowerman. He first captured the idea in another iconic pair of 70s sneakers, the Nike Oregon Waffle. Bowerman literally used his own waffle iron to test out the idea.
Before the waffle design, almost all running shoes were low and flat. This is ideal for some conditions but not others. The waffle effect on the sole is better over uneven ground and helped to give the shoe a high level of grip. There was also more rebound which meant that the outsole, along with the midsole, absorbed more shock.
The Oregon Waffle came out in 1973 and four years later, Nike perfected the innovative design and made the Waffle Racer, which was lighter and more stable.
6. Vans Era
Year – 1976
Vans Era shoes are incredibly popular today and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a modern design. The infamous style, however, can be traced back to 1975 when the sneakers were under their original name, the Vans #95.
They were designed by renowned skateboarders Stacy Peralta and Tony Alva, and had all the qualities skateboarders were looking for with a padded collar and a non-slip outsole. When you add this to the wide variety of color combinations, there’s no wonder they became so popular.
Their versatility has made their popularity skyrocket and they are often worn now for casual wear.
7. Converse One Star
Year – 1974
Around the early 70s, basketballers found many high-tops to be restrictive and limit their on-court movement. The Converse One Star was the answer to this problem as the low-cut design allowed for more ankle flexibility.
The shoes only had a short run of production but soon found cult status, driven by vintage collectors from Japan. At the time they were called the ‘All Star’ but after their reissue in 1993, the name was changed to what we know today.
They were a huge success and their popularity was only increased with stars such as Kurt Cobain often having them on his feet.
8. Nike Blazer
The Blazer was another brilliant shoe released by Nike in the early 70s and it was their 3rd shoe. Originally made for basketball, their popularity was helped by George “The Iceman” Gervin wearing them on court. It was the first time Nike sneakers had been on an NBA court, it wouldn’t be the last.
They had the innovative design you’d expect from Nike at the time with leather uppers, a nylon tongue and a rubber midsole. It gave a level of support and traction we take for granted today but was revolutionary at the time.
The 70s sneakers soon became a fashion icon that could often be seen on street corners and nightclubs, along with the court.
9. Puma Clyde
It was in 1958 that Puma trademarked their formstrip, the iconic band of color that sweeps from the front foot all the back to the heel. The design was made as it helped to give the shoe stability but it would soon become their defining image.
Fast forward to 1973 and that formstrip was never more prominent and proud than on the Puma Clyde. They were made in collaboration with Walt “Clyde” Frazier and their cool and stylish design was soon a hit.
The subtle and elegant details of these 70s sneakers has given it timeless popularity.
10. Adidas SL Trainer
Year – 1972
It doesn’t get much more iconic for Adidas than their SL Trainer. It wasn’t made as a pure performance shoe as it was more of a casual cross-trainer. Made in time for the 1972 Olympics, it was given to athletes to be worn between events.
That led to it featuring on many podiums and also gaining popularity as a casual-wear option. It’s was a design classic and commonly featured on Starsky’s feet in the cult-classic Starsky and Hutch. It’s another timeless classic.
11. Adidas Campus
Year – 1971
One of Adidas’ most famous silhouettes was released in 1971 and originally gained popularity as a basketball shoe. Back then, they were under the name of ‘Tournament’ until they were re-released in 1980 under the Campus name.
NBA players wore them on the hardwood floors but they soon became a common sight on the streets. This was largely driven by Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys who would elevate this shoe, along with some other Adidas sneakers, to greatness.
They are versatile 70s sneakers that combines quality and style which gives it everlasting popularity.
12. New Balance 320
New Balance has a great history of being able to make brilliant running shoes and has been doing so since the 1960s. The 320 helped New Balance compete with many of the major brands as their sneaker gave running comfort like never before.
That popularity boomed with the help of Runner’s World magazine who named it their #1 shoe of the year. The use of new materials helped to bring the shoe under 10oz and it showed what was capable in terms of low weights while maintaining high quality.
For more retro Sneakers, check out the best 80s Sneakers Here
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