Follow this timeline to see how athletic shoes have gone from old-fashioned to high-tech.

776 B.C: Greek runners competed at the first Olympics. They were barefoot, but before too long athletes wore sandals to protect their feet from rocks and hot sand.

1500s: People who did a lot of traveling by foot (no bicycles, cars or planes, remember) added layers of moss inside their shoes. This provided a bit of cushioning.

1832: The first patent for the process of fixing India rubber soles to shoes was given to Wait Webster of New York. Rubber is bouncier and bends more easily than leather, the material traditionally put on the bottoms of shoes.

1839: Charles Goodyear figured out that heating up rubber and adding sulphur makes it stronger and more flexible. Using the process, called vulcanization, it's simpler to make rubber-soled shoes. And it keeps them from getting hard and brittle in winter and soft and sticky in summer.

1861: The first patent for a spiked shoe was recorded in England. The shoe was used for cricket at first, but was soon adopted by runners.

1870s: Flat-soled, canvas-and-rubber shoes became more common. They were called "sneaks" or "sneakers," words that refered to suspicious characters or burglars. In England, canvas shoes circled with bands of rubber were called "plimsolls." The rubber reminded people of the horizontal lines painted on ships' hulls to measure their loads. That measurement system was invented by a British nobleman named Sir Samuel Plimsoll.

1900s: Most rubber shoes were made by tire companies, not shoe companies. Goodrich, U.S. Rubber and Hood Rubber started to sell basketball shoes, including brands called PF Flyers, Keds and Arrow.

1923: Converse made its All-Star shoe the "signature shoe" of basketball player Chuck Taylor, the Michael Jordan of his day. As part of the deal, Taylor had to tour the country selling shoes.

1924: British runners Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell won medals in the Paris Olympics wearing shoes designed by J.W. Foster, founder of Reebok. (Their story was told in the movie "Chariots of Fire.")

1936: Jesse Owens won four golds at the Berlin Olympics wearing shoes made by Rudolph and Adolph Dassler. (The brothers later split and formed two new companies: Puma, named after the big cat, and adidas, named after Adolph's nickname: Adi.)

1940s: During World War II, rubber was needed by the military. Many sneaker factories were converted to make military supplies.

1964: University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman started his own company with one of his former runners, Phil Knight. The company's name was Blue Ribbon Sports, but seven years later it had a new name: Nike. The company paid a student $35 to design a logo: a V-shaped swoosh. One morning, while eating breakfast at home, Bowerman decided to pour rubber into his waffle iron, creating the first "waffle sole" for running shoes.

1970s: Jogging became all the rage, helping shoemakers sell their products to more than just athletes.

1975: The first Rotten Sneaker Contest was held in Montpelier, Vermont. The 2002 winner was 9-year-old Danny Denault of New Milford, Connecticut. His secret? "The cow pies," said Denault, who helps out on his baby-sitter's dairy farm. "They're just hard to avoid. They're everywhere."

1980s: Shoe manufacturers expanded beyond footwear, introducing clothing and other athletic gear. It's so desirable that some people were robbed of their high-priced sneakers, and a few were murdered.

2000: The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art hosted an exhibit called "Design Afoot: Sneaker Design, 1995-2000". Said the museum: "Sneakers are not just functional playthings: they are part of the way in which we present ourselves to the world. They are an essential part of the uniform of the urban nomad."

The Future?: Shoe industry experts predict the next big thing to come to your closet will be performance shoes without laces (instead, they use Velcro, bungee cords or zippers), more stretch material and brighter colors.