In the 1970s, the self-focused Me Generation rapidly embraced running and jogging as part of a larger exercise craze, and sought expensive athletic footwear as a means of flaunting their status. This surging interest in fitness encouraged new sneaker companies to get in the game. In 1972, Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman founded Nike in the effort of making lightweight, high-performance running shoes. Nike’s first sneaker, the Cortez, was extremely well received. The 1974 Waffle Trainer, inspired by Bowerman’s experiments with pouring rubber into his wife’s waffle maker, cemented the brand’s popularity; the shoes’ bright colors and high cost making them objects of conspicuous consumption.

As competitors, including ASICS, Saucony, Reebok, and Adidas, increasingly offered eye-catching footwear, running shoes segued from athletic shoe to lifestyle footwear, a trend that has remained strong to today.