In 1890 in Holcombe Brook, a small village six miles north east of Bolton, Joseph William Foster was producing and selling regular running shoes when he came up with the idea to create a novelty spiked running shoe. After his ideas progressed, he joined with his sons and founded a shoe company named J.W. Foster and Sons in 1895. The company began distributing shoes across the United Kingdom and were worn by British athletes in the 1924 Summer Olympics held in Paris. In 1958, two of the founder’s grandsons, Joe and Jeff Foster, renamed the company “Reebok,” having found the name in a South African dictionary won in a running race by Joe Foster as a boy. The name is the Afrikaans for the grey rhebok, a type of African antelope. In 1979, at the Chicago International Sneaker Trade show an American businessman, Paul Fireman, took notice of Reebok. Fireman was working for an outdoor sporting goods store and negotiated a deal to license and distribute the Reebok brand in the United States. The division was called Reebok USA Ltd. Later that year, Fireman introduced three new shoes to the market at $60. By 1981, Reebok reached more than $1.5
In 1982, Reebok debuted the Reebok Freestyle aerobics shoe, the first athletic shoe designed for women. Fitness professional Gin Miller became the face of “Step Reebok,” the company’s aerobics fitness campaign and program. The following year, Reebok’s sales were $13 million. The company began expanding from tennis and aerobics shoes to running and basketball throughout the mid to late 1980s, the largest segments of the athletic footwear industry at the time.