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Running Shoe Brand Names: History & Meaning Behind The Industries Top Brands

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Gather round, class; it’s time for a brief history lesson. With every fantastic running shoe brand comes an equally compelling origin story, and today we’re going to dive into how these brands got their start. 

For instance, if it wasn’t for a salesman at Nike, your favorite cross-training shoes could have been called Dimension Sixes. Or, if there wasn’t a case of familial disputes in war-torn Germany, Puma may have never even existed. 

We’ll dive into the performance of these shoes for another day.

For now, let’s take a quick jump back in time and delve into the origins story of some of your very favorite shoe brands. 


Nike was founded in 1964, but it wasn’t always known as Nike. It was originally called Blue Ribbon Sports of Portland, Oregon. Not quite as catchy. 

When founder Phil Knight’s relationship with his manufacturer started to go south, he decided it was time for a good old-fashioned rebranding. 

At the meeting of the minds, Phil suggests naming the company Dimension Six. It’s a cool name, I’ll give him that, but it’s more fitting for a sci-fi series than a running shoe.

Others at the meeting threw out names, but none caught on. Then, salesman Jeff Johnson suggests Nike: the Goddess of victory. And the name stuck. 

Even the classic Nike swoosh has Greek Mythology origins. In Greek Mythology, the swoosh represents the wings of the Greek Goddess. With a new name and a sleek logo, the rest is history. 

If it wasn’t for Jeff Johnson at that brainstorming session, your favorite trainers might be called your Dimension Six’s- which is a bit of a mouthful. 

2. Adidasadidas logo

I wish I could tell you that Adidas is an acronym for ‘all day I dream about sports’ because that’s much more flashy than its actual origins. However, the history of Adidas is quite exciting, and a classic case of sibling disputes propelled its success. 

The company was founded by brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler and was called the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory, founded in Germany in the early 1920s. The two brothers eventually parted ways, but their split had nothing to do with shoes. 

The story goes that the two wives did not get along, and Rudolph suspected that his brother was responsible for his forced enlistment in the army and subsequent imprisonment by the Allies.

After World War 2, the two brothers parted ways and started their own shoe companies. Adolph named his company Adidas after his nickname ‘Adi’, and the first part of his last name ‘Das’. 

What happened to Rudolph, you ask?

His shoe company was named Ruda (‘Ru’ from ‘Rudolph’ and ‘Da’ from ‘Dassler’). If you think you have never heard of them- think again!

The company was rebranded a few months later to Puma – which may sound familiar.

3. Hoka One Onehoka logo

The company was founded by Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard in 2009 and made a lot of waves with their maximalist running shoes.

Hoka’s are known for their oversize outsoles and heightened durability, but what does that strange name mean?

The name Hoka One One translates to ‘fly over the earth’ in Māori, an Eastern Polynesian language. 

More importantly, how do you pronounce it? The correct pronunciation sounds like ‘Hoka own-a own-a’, rather than ‘Hoka won won’. 

However, when Deckers Outdoor Corporation bought the company in 2012, they claimed that it’s pronounced ‘Hoka won won’. 

To avoid any long arguments over the corrected pronunciation, I always refer to them as just Hoka’s!

4. ASICSasics logo

Were you a little disappointed that Adidas wasn’t an acronym for anything? If so, you will be pleasantly surprised by the meaning of ASICS!

The company was founded straight from the living room of Kihachiro Onitsuka in 1949. Kihachiro Onitsuka believed that physical fitness was essential to live a happy and fulfilled life. 

The name ASICS stands for the Latin phrase Anima Sana In Corpore Sano. Translated into English, it means a sound mind in a sound body. 

5. Sauconysaucony logo

The origins and history of Saucony are pretty uneventful. They were founded in 1898 by four businesspeople in Kutztown, Pennsylvania.

Their first factory was situated on the banks of Saucony Creek, where the brand gets its unique name. The term Saucony is Native American for ‘place of outlet’, which is very fitting for a running shoe brand!

It’s also essential to note proper pronunciation. I have to admit that I mispronounced it for years until a running friend corrected me.

The proper pronunciation is ‘Sock-un-ee’ with emphasis on ‘Sock’. 

6. Brooksbrooks logo

Last but certainly not least is Brooks. This company is one of the older shoe brands on the market, but the brand suffered from a few hiccups along the way.

Initially founded in 1914 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by John Brooks Goldenberg and were initially called Bruxshu (I see what you did there, Mr. Goldenberg!)

If you love your EVA midsoles, you can thank the folks at Brooks. In the 1970’s they were the first brand to introduce running shoes that utilized EVA foam in their midsoles for a soft and snappy ride.

They were one of the most popular running shoes of the 1970s, but changes in production and quality caused the brand to declare bankruptcy in the 1980s. 

After a series of sales, brand overhauls, and innovations, Brooks has clawed its way back into becoming one of the leading shoe brands today.

Innovations such as BioMoGo technology, DNA midsole cushioning, and High-Performance Green Rubber, have made Brooks running shoes one of the most popular brands in running circles. 

Let’s Get Running

No matter what brand you reach for the next time you lace up your sneakers, these companies have earned their spot as some of the most influential brands on the market. The road ahead may not always be easy, but it’s a road worth traveling. 

Class dismissed!


  1. Mary Hanbury & Emily Cohn, Here's what 24 of the most popular brand names really mean, Online publication
  2. Brian Cronin, Sports Legend Revealed: Did Adidas get its name from the acronym , Online publication
  3. Wikipedia, Adidas, Online publication
  4. ASICS Staff, About ASICS, Online publication
  5. Gordy Megroz, The Clown Shoe That's Changing Minimalist Running, Online publication
  6. Brian Metzler, 20 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Running Shoes, Online publication
  7. Matt Welty, 50 Things you didn't know about New Balance, Online publication
  8. Wikipedia, New Balance, Online publication
  9. Wikipedia, Saucony, Online publication

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