Top 10 – Retro Reebok innovations

Reebok have had their share of successes and failures when it comes to shoe innovation. Here’s a list of 10 of their most interesting retro innovations (as this is Retrobok, ZigTech is not included). Read on…

10. Swaybars

As seen on the Phase I, GL6000, 6100 and World Trainer amongst others – A simple material ‘hook’ which rises from the midsole to the lowest lacehole, to “help secure the forefoot over the midsole“. Simple enough – but a nice example of early Reebok sneaker design.


9. Fosters Heel Cradle™

Hardly the sexiest name for a piece of shoe technology. As featured on the Victory G and Victory XL (shown above) rearfoot section above the midsole. Adidas used a similiar application a few years later in 1989 with the ZX8000‘s heal counter.


8. Removable Arch Cookie

As included with the 1987 Phase I shoe – when Reebok sales were aimed more squarely at actual runners! Sadly not included with re-issues. Example cookies shown.


7. Dipped Heel Tab

Personally I could never understand why any running shoe would not have a dipped heel tab – allowing the runners’ achilles heel a more comfortable journey. This red tab was the unique selling point that sold those pair of Rapides to me back in 1987. My first Reeboks. Memories…

6. Midsole Flex Wave

“Helps keep the forefoot on the centre line of the shoe”
– Reebok GL6000 advert, 1986

As seen on the GL6000, LX8500, and DL5600. Regardless if the technology was proven or not, they gave some of the more expensive Reebok models an awesome aggressive detail – the Flex Wave visually emphasised the strike point of the runners’ motion.


5. Ventilator™

Such a simple concept – adding a semi-rigid, breathable mesh to the side of the upper (below the laceholes if that helps) was a stroke of genius as well as a clear technical step forward. With the current fashion of ultra-lite Sneakers (made possible by new materials and moulding techniques), Ventilator technology has made a re-appearance in a different guise with such models as the Ventilator Tech Classic, but it was also applied to the limited re-release of ERS Racers back in the mid-2000’s. Often paired with Hexalite™, and now of course with ZigTech™.


4. ERS™ – Energy Return System™

Reeboks’ direct answer to Nike Air, in 1988. Uses 4 x DuPont Hytrel™ E.R.S. tubes in the rearfoot section (though in the original ERS Trainer there are 6 smaller tubes under the forefoot also).

E.R.S. was phased out with the arrival of Hexalite as Reeboks’ prominent cushioning technology, though it was also used as a secondary technology on models of the Pump (and re-issues such as the Bringback) from 1989.

“Energy Return System (E.R.S.) is a technology created by Reebok where a series of cylinders composed of the plastic DuPont Hytrel are placed under the midsole of an athletic shoe. The system was introduced in 1997 1988 to compete with Nike Air, and was gradually phased out of production upon the arrival of Reebok’s Hexalite cushioning. Reebok claims that the cylinders act as springs, releasing energy after a foot strikes.” – Wikipedia (with correction)


3. Insta-Pump™

Almost literally turning the Pump mechanism inside-out, Insta-Pumps have proven to be one of Reeboks’ most striking, yet dividing, designs to date. In my eyes this is the nexus of Pump technology : lightweight, totally practical and negated the need for any lacing at all. Quite why Americans didn’t take to them like they did the OG Pumps can be explained by their designed purpose: Insta-Pumps were for Running/Training, Pumps were for the Basketball Court.


2. Hexalite™

Personally, I was never convinced by the concept of Hexalite (equatable to ASICS’ Gel at the time) but reviews were very positive. Also it certainly looked space-age and gave the shoes a fresh identity and unique selling point.

Hexalite is a lightweight, honeycomb-shaped cushioning material that provides enhanced shock absorption in areas of peak pressure. The Hexalite technology is 4 times more durable than EVA foam and absorbs up to 23% more energy than the equivalent amount of EVA Foam. Tough urethane film combined with the structural integrity of the honeycomb linkage make it one of the most durable cushioning systems used in footwear.” – Official Reebok PR

Hexalite continues on today in the form of Hexride.


1. The Pump™

Without doubt Reeboks’ most succesful innovation – beating efforts such as Nikes’ Air Pressure concept hands down, by masterly incorporating the Pump and release mechanisms into the shoe itself. Where would Reebok be today without The Pumps’ success?

“The Reebok Pump is a line of athletic shoes that was popular in the early 1990s. It was the first shoe to have an internal inflation mechanism that regulated a unique fitting cushion in two versions: the upper tongue; and also in the upper to provide locking around the ankle.” – Wikipedia

With the genius of a moulded Basketball as the pump (and later, a Tennis Ball applied to the Michael Chang signature Tennis Pumps), suddenly Sneakers became interactive. Reebok had to use Medical technology to create The Pump, as it was so revolutionary. Reeboks’ finest moment? I hope there are many more….


Posted on December 28, 2011, in Newsfeed. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. BokOne, nice summary of some great Reebok innovations. Personally pump and ERS were my top two… I was always fascinated with ERS and was hooked after seeing the CXT Ultra with it. The glory years of Reebok… If only they realised the great depth of shoes in their back catalogue they could match Nike on the retro front…

  2. “Where would Reebok be today without The Pumps’ success?”
    They would be owned by adidas and relegated into the realms of the also rans in the world of sports shoes…oh wait hang on…that’s where they are! :*(

  3. Where is the Graphlite on that list?