Dangerously Random Question: Sneakers?

Why are they called sneakers?

As my wife and I were out walking the other night, she asked me where the word sneaker comes from. My immediate response was that it probably had something to do with sneakers being much quieter to walk in than previous styles of shoes, but I was not exactly sure. So, I decided to do a little bit of research and see where the name comes from.


Keds, first made by U.S. Rubber Company in 1916 and shown above, were the first shoes called ‘sneakers’. They were constructed by fusing a rubber sole to a canvas top. The term ‘sneaker’ was first used by Henry Nelson McKinney, an advertising agent who worked for N.W. Ayer and Son, because the rubber sole of the shoe made them much quieter compared to other shoes with leather soles. Keds were not the first rubber sole shoes manufactured by U.S. Rubber though, and the first rubber heel for a shoe was patented in 1899 by Humphrey O’Sullivan.

Also an interesting note is that in Britain ‘sneakers’, now often referred to as ‘trainers’, were also once called ‘gumshoes’, which became a term for police detectives due to their need for stealth in order to capture criminals.


Sources and Further Reading:




About Boy Danger

I have many interests including clay sculpture, art, music, reading, writing, movies, and video games. I am hoping to share these interests through my blog and find other people interested in these things as well.
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