Adidas black, grey and red NuFoot Driving shoe

10 Popular Sneaker Designs of All Time

RSVP today to join Adidas designer and industrial design school alum Aric Armon’s free 90-minute interactive workshop on footwear design, on August 11 at 7PM on ZOOM.

When you put your shoes on before heading out the door, have you ever stopped to think about what went into creating them? Getting the shoe to fit is not as simple as creating something wearable and comfortable for your soles.

The industrial design field includes practical and creative techniques, tools, and concepts for coming up with fashionable and functional shoe designs. To give you an idea of how successful this type of design can be, the following are some of the most notable sneaker design concepts in history.

Converse Chuck Taylor All Star

White Converse Chuck Taylor All Star sneaker

Converse Chuck Taylor All Star sneakers, which debuted in 1923, have become one of the most widely recognized shoes of all time with their star logo, white toe cap, and thick, white soles. Converse sells more than 270,000 of these athletic shoes per day, and they have helped the company reach a global revenue of $1.85 billion. Professional athlete Chuck Taylor was part of the design process for these shoes, which featured his signature starting in 1934.

Adidas Samba

Black Adidas Samba sneaker

Adidas Samba sneakers have sold an estimated 35 million pairs to date, making them one of the top selling Adidas shoes overall. These shoes made their debut in 1950 as soccer shoes featuring three stripes on the sides. Over the years, Samba models have continued to have the distinctive striped design that made them famous, with the white stripes on a black background being the most popular.

Onitsuka Tiger Corsair

White Onitsuka Tiger Corsair sneaker with red and blue detail

Onitsuka Tiger designed the Corsair with help from Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight, two designers who went on to start the Nike brand. The Corsair, which came out in 1969, has a visually striking and colorful curved stripe design.

Puma Clyde

Gold and black Puma Clyde sneaker

The Puma Clyde, which debuted in 1973, featured the company’s notable suede design. This choice of material set these basketball shoes apart from the competition and helped make these shoes a popular brand for everyday use, not just for athletes. In 2019, the Clyde was among the footwear sales that made up 46.4 percent of the company’s overall revenue.

Gucci Tennis 84

Black Gucci Tennis 84 sneaker

Gucci is mainly known for being a high-end fashion brand, but the company found success with humble soccer training shoes. Gucci Tennis 84 sneakers, which came out in 1984, brought a luxurious style to sneaker design that wasn’t seen before. Gucci Tennis 84’s high-quality materials had it selling for over $1,000 per pair, although the price came down a bit for its 2014 retro comeback.

Nike Air Jordan 1

Red and White Nike Air Jordan 1 sneaker

Nike Air Jordan 1, which debuted in 1985, had a huge impact on the world of sneaker design that has lasted over the years. These sneakers originally featured a red and black color scheme, along with Nike’s famous Swoosh logo. Initially banned from the NBA for its colors, Michael Jordan helped make these shoes famous by continuing to wear them on the court. In just one year, Nike Air Jordan 1 made $126 million in sales.

Nike Air Max 1

Black, white, and gold Nike Air Max 1 sneaker

Nike Air Max 1, which came out in 1987, made use of Nike’s air cushioning technology and introduced the visible air window to shoe design. This window in the shoe’s sole provides a glimpse of the inside parts of these famous sneakers. Tinker Hatfield designed this iconic shoe,  which is among the best-selling sneakers in France. The Air Max 1 also remains a popular sneaker choice in the U.S. and several other countries.

New Balance 576

White New Balance 576 sneakers with red and black detailing

New Balance 576, which debuted in 1988, launched a subculture of “dad” sneakers. Designer Steven Smith worked on creating the style for this model and several other New Balance sneakers, which are known for their simple, functional design, especially for those with flatter and wider feet.

Reebok Pump

Black and white Reebok Pump sneakers

Reebok Pump shoes, which came out in 1989, featured pumping technology that was influenced by the design of ski boots. These high-top sneakers came with a higher price tag than usual, but that didn’t stop them from becoming a popular shoe in the ‘90s. By 1991, Pump sales had hit the $500 million mark.

Vans Half Cab

Black Vans Half Cab sneaker

Vans Half Cabs debuted in 1992 as a sneaker made for skateboarders. With input from professional skateboarder Steve Caballero, these shoes featured padded ankle lines for extra support and have become one of the most popular shoes for those who enjoy this sport.

If you’re interested in creating sneaker designs, an industrial design degree might be right for you. Students at Academy of Art University’s School of Industrial Design are given the skills and resources to follow in the footsteps of these successful sneaker designers, with help from classes such as Product Design 1 and Product Modeling.

Get in touch with our admission representatives for more information on our art and design degrees. We are also accepting applications now for the fall semester, which will be available via online classes.  

Hero image: Adidas NuFoot Driving Shoe student work by Daewoong Park, BFA Industrial Design 2016