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Every year more and more people start to pick up cycling, swimming, running, and other types of endurance sports. According to Statista.com “In the United States alone, almost 60 million people participated in running, jogging and trail running in 2017.” And this number is constantly growing. As does the sport market. Let’s look at the history of sports gear inventions developed in the past 50 years that shaped the modern sports product development industry, as well as at the inventions currently being developed that help to improve athlete’s performance.

Running shoes

In the 1970’s running became a very popular sport among different layers of society. Some of the most important inventions and innovations developed in the past 50 years related to running shoes came from Nike, Adidas, Asics, and Reebok.

In the world of sports product development the most innovative Waffle Trainers lightweight sneakers were developed by Nike in 1972. But the real revolution the company made in 1978 with their first Nike Air Max technology. The shoes featured visible air cushion as a shock absorber. The University of Tennessee found that when athletes were running in the Air Max shoes, they used less energy than when wearing regular running shoes.

inventions developed in the past 50 years, sports product development, lanpdt

Later, in 1986 Asics created their first GEL cushioning compound made of silicone. Around that same time Adidas introduced Micropacer with electronic pedometer. This innovation became the first attempt to marry electronics and running shoes.

Inventions currently
being developed in running

The innovation in sports product development speeded up tremendously in the 21st century. The recent development of “The Nike Air Zoom Viperfly is completed by an Atomknit upper, which maximizes heel lockdown and decreases material waste. In addition, the foam in the heel provides impact protection and aids the transition from full-speed sprint to post-race walk.” The company was also working on the next generation of shoes. Air Zoom Victory are the shoes for shorter and faster races. They will include carbon-fiber plate for energy-return and a Zoom Air pod, which is an update of Nike’s regular air bags.

There is also an interesting Robo-boot concept that is in development by Vanderbilt’s Center for Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology. They are working on the spring-driven robotic exoskeletons that will “allow the world’s fastest human to reach a speed of 18 meters per second or about 40 miles per hour.”


The swimming sports product development is also in constant progress. The first wetsuits were developed in 1952. But for more than 30 years only divers and surfers used them. In 1987, the Quintana Roo founder redesigned them to improve triathlete’s performance. Later, other triathlon-specific companies saw the product’s potential. They further developed wetsuits in terms of hydrodynamics, flexibility, and comfort. The creation of flexible patterning in the arms and shoulders with maximum floatation in the legs and torso allowed for faster and more efficient swimming.

sports product development,inventions developed in the past 50 years, lanpdt

The current brands keep developing and innovating swimsuits. They’re combining them with modern technology for better experience and safety. For example, the latest Orca Openwater SW suit includes NFC identification system. The wetsuit features Emerid. It is a Contactless technology that provides instant information about the athlete in case of an accident or emergency.


Bicycle-related inventions developed in the past 50 years created a true interest in different kinds of cycling among the population. But the first, and the most impactful invention that truly switched gears in triathlon cycling, was the introduction of aerobars. This equipment improves triathlete’s performance exponentially making them faster and more efficient. It was first featured in the 1989 Tour de France, which facilitated Greg LeMond’s victory with an eight-second margin.

sports product development,inventions developed in the past 50 years, lanpdt

Since then aerobars have evolved non-stop bringing more comfort, improving aerodynamics, and pedaling efficiency. Among the leading aerobar brands today are Profile Design, Vision Trimax, and Redshift.

Sports bra

It is hardly arguable that the invention of sports bras by Lisa Lindahl, Polly Palmer Smith, and Hinda Schreiber Miller in 1977 was the revolutionary event for women’s athletics. This sports product development gave women of the 70’s and 80’s the freedom to run. They now could take part in marathons and go into professional sport with more confidence and support, both literally and figuratively.

The only thing was that those first bras weren’t designed for women with larger breasts. But Renelle Braaten, a volleyball player, solved that problem.

She created a sports bra using less elastic and stretchy fabrics and full-coverage back panel that supported the weight up front. It took her 9 months to refine her prototype.

sports product development,inventions developed in the past 50 years, lanpdt

And in 1992 her product hit the market, but became really popular only in 2004. Generally, this innovation and improvement of the existing sports bras found great appreciation. But the female distance runners needed something less compressive. For that reason, Cynthia Smith, a triathlete, created a supportive bra that would allow for deep breathing, comfortable wear, and be suitable for swimming as well. Her brand Lynx entered the market in 2011.

Sprots bra inventions
currently being developed

Since that time, more and more brands appear every day. And they aim at solving a variety of women’s needs with respect to sports bras. A Reebok Pure Move Bra is a great example. Back in 2018 they introduced sports bras with adaptive fabric technology.

The fabric adapts to the way your body moves and gives flexible support that changes based on the type of workout. This type of technology will lock the bra close to your chest if you’re running and jumping, but will loosen up for lower-impact activities like Pilates and yoga. In 2020, Reebok is introducing other sizes of this line.

They will also make some design adjustments necessary for women with larger breasts.

GPS Technology

The use of GPS tracks back to 1957. But then it was mostly used for military purposes. It wasn’t until the 2000’s that the military dropped the restrictions on the use of GPS technology by civilians.

From around 2004, we can see the rise of wrist watches that became number one tracking devices for triathletes, runners, swimmers, and so on. In the last decade the technological sports product development achieved never thought possible results.

Now, these devices can incorporate athlete’s biometric data, such as heart rate and power, which gives coaches, athletes, and amateurs more information on how to improve their performance.

inventions currently being developed, inventions developed in the past 50 years, lanpdt


The enormous number of sports mobile apps available today is just mind blowing. Every performer can find the one that fits best to their particular sport. These apps are there to guide you and help you achieve greater results. One of such apps is SHFT IQ.

It is your own personal coach with AI that measures your body running style and then gives you live feedback while you’re running. With all these data provided in real-time, you can adjust and improve your running performance, as well as reduce the risk of injuries.

inventions currently being developed, inventions developed in the past 50 years, lanpdt

As we can see, the sports product development had an increasing growth in the past 50 years. And it definitely accelerated with the development of computer technologies in the early 21 century. It’s exciting to see what other even greater sport inventions the next few decades will bring.


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