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Sport shoe wear as technology: socio-technical trajectories of high-heel cushioning

XXXI Congreso de la Asociación Latinoamericana de Sociología
ALAS 2017 – Montevideo

Grupos de trabajo : 01. Ciencia, Tecnologías e Innovación

Benjamín Juárez
Magister en Sociología


The shoes available in the market depend of a certain type of production: a network of actors of the business world, as well as doctors, specialists and consumers. In this presentation the aim is to tackle elements of shoewear that have influenced in the construction of running as a growing phenomenon, and therefore in the innovation of the technical artifact that are sport shoes. At the beginning of the XXth century professional athletes used sport shoes which were heavy, unflexible and durable. Since the 60s and 70s new interests arised by part of the shoe companies and new innovations appeared which mark the tendency unto the present. In a more recent period, in the XXIst century, appears a reevaluation of the type of foot strike required to run, and hence, a more minimalist sport shoe.

This paper attends mainly to the period between the 60s and 80s: how the innovation of higher heeled shoes, how it entered the market, setting a standard onto the corporeal customs of today of millions of persons throughout the world. Several pioneers contributed more than a half century ago to the spread of running and new types of shoes. In this case we consider at least four key figures for this expansion: (1) Arthur Lydiard, (2) Bill Bowerman, (3) W.E. Harris, and (4) Phil Knight. These key actors, from different positions --trainers, medical doctors, and businessman-- wrote of their experience showing the way in which the new shoes came to the world.

Today the world cushions their shoes of the majority of the brands and styles, and the custom of using shoes with high heels is massively spread and has, in consecuence, a wide impact at a social level, and in the concept of body and corporeal mecanics. What autorities legitimated this spread: the general and/or sport publics, science, intuitive businessmen, the market, or some anatomic-functional base?

This discussion is framed in a larger scope of research in which new patterns of mobility are seeked, that may escape to the economic and political imperatives of the majority, and understand the conditionings of how people move, escaping from the inertial mecanisms of a useless mechanical system.

Keywords: actor-network theory – socio-technical trajectoriesinnovationshoe wear – running