The History of Reebok Footwear

Written by Marc | 26/04/2017


Brand Focus


Today, Reebok is one of biggest brands alongside Adidas, Nike, Puma and many other various footwear brands. However, Reebok wasn’t always called Reebok, and was actually founded in Bolton, England by Joseph William Foster who named it after himself in 1895.

Joseph William Foster created one of the earliest spiked running shoes at the time, and after five years of progression, he discovered his company in the name of ‘J.W. Foster’.


Soon after, he would involve his two sons into the family business, changing the company name to ‘J.W. Foster and Sons’. They then opened up a factory called Olympic Works and it wasn’t long before they became well-known among athletes for the use of spikes on running shoes, making them pioneers.

In 1958, two of the founder’s grandsons Joe and Jeff Foster formed a companion company called “Reebok”. As for where the name originated from, it comes from a species of an African Antelope (Grey Rhebok).

The Expansion of Reebok

In 1979, Reebok caught the attention of an American businessman called Paul Fireman at the Chicago International Sneaker Trade Show. Fireman was working for an outdoor sporting goods store when he decided to negotiate a deal which would allow him to license and distribute the brand in the United States.

reebok classics

With the negotiations complete, the division would be called ‘Reebok USA Ltd’. The negotiation Fireman made would prove to be a big success as Reebok earned over $1.5 million in sales.

Reebok’s Alms and Star Signings

Reebok addressed their aim to focus on three trend growing aspects; exercise, increasing the number of women involved in sport, and street culture/casual wear. So how did they do this?

Well 1982 saw the release of ‘The Freestyle’, which was the first athletic shoe designed for women. Fitness pro Gin Miller became the face of the company’s aerobic fitness campaign and program, ‘Step Reebok’.


Reebok achieved sales figures of $13 million and ‘The Freestyle’ trainer still remains Reebok’s most sold shoe throughout their history.

1986 marked the switching of their founded Union Jack logo to the vector logo, still with a abstract Union Jack streak. This saw the company begin to present themselves as a performance brand, as they started to negotiate deals between professional athletes within the NBA and NFL; examples being Shaquille O’Neal, and Eli and Peyton Manning.

They later branched out to multiple sports, from tennis – with the signing of Venus Williams after winning singles titles at Wimbledon and the 2000 Summer Olympics – to Football, with big name players like Thierry Henry and Ryan Giggs.

Reebok also made another piece of history by signing their first non-athlete in music artist Jay-Z. The shoe was labelled ‘Reebok S. Carter – Jay Z’.

reebok workout

August 2005 saw big-name brand Adidas acquire Reebok as a subsidiary, meaning that two of the largest sport companies would unite but still maintain procedures under their separate brand names. Adidas then acquired all outstanding shares from Reebok, leading to completed deal of $3.8 billion.

As a result of this deal, Adidas took over as the official uniform and apparel supplier for the NBA in 2006.

Reebok now sponsors The UFC for all their uniform and apparel, and as for footwear, they offer a high range of sporting goods as well as casual footwear – another one of their aims.

Written by Jesse Jones

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