Adolph "Adi" Dassler was one of the world's first designers and manufacturers of specialized athletic shoes. The soccer shoes and track spikes made by Dassler in the 1920s became the foundation of the international sports shoe company Adidas.
Dassler and his brother Rudolph "Rudi" Dassler founded the world's first athletic shoe company, Gerbruder Dassler (Dassler Brothers) in 1924. In 1920, Adi Dassler, who was an enthusiastic soccer player, designed the first cleated soccer boot; he also devised the first spiked track shoes at that time. The initial Dassler athletic shoe manufacturing was done in the home of Dassler's parents. The track shoes were very lightweight, with a thin-soled construction and a leather upper. These shoes were designed to be a snug fit, to permit the runner to obtain a maximum benefit from each stride, as the amount that the runner's foot moved from side to side on impact was reduced through this design.
The Dassler company achieved considerable renown among track and field athletes during this period. In 1936, Jesse Owens, the legendary American track star who won four gold medals at the Summer Olympics, wore track shoes manufactured by Dassler.
The Dassler brothers abruptly ended their corporate partnership in 1948, when Rudi Dassler left the company to found Puma shoes, an organization that would ultimately rival that of Adi Dassler in Europe. Adi Dassler renamed his company Adidas, an acronym formed from his own name. Dassler also introduced the now famous three stripe Adidas logo at that time.
Dassler continued to develop new kinds of athletic footwear. In 1949, he patented the Adidas soccer boot with removable rubber cleats. The cleats were fitted with a screw, and the cleat length could be adjusted for weather or field conditions. This technology was credited by the German national soccer team as playing an important role in their World Cup triumph in 1954.
Adidas began to manufacture other sporting goods, particularly sports clothing, in the 1960s. Adidas has been the official supplier of FIFA soccer balls and the balls used at the World Cup since 1970.
Dassler was an effective marketer of the Adidas brand; it became synonymous with sports shoes through the 1960s, and into the 1970s held as much as 70% of the lucrative North American sports shoe market. Many notable athletes, including four-time Olympic gold medalist Al Oerter and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wore Adidas shoes. Dassler's death in 1978 triggered a series of internal battles at Adidas that saw the company lose a significant portion of its market to Nike.