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Reebok is a global sports brand that manufactures gym equipment, accessories and apparel. In addition to providing top-quality products - in particular, sports shoes - it's also famous for its ethical stance and motto: "We honour the planet."


Reebok's aim is to reduce its environmental footprint and have a positive impact on the community. It has pledged to use 100% sustainable cotton - grown to Better Cotton Initiative standards - in all relevant products by the end of 2018. This type of cotton is grown using fewer pesticides and less water, while providing better working conditions for cotton farmers.

The company is also working towards incorporating recycled polyester in some product ranges, rather than conventional polyester. This reduces greenhouse gas emissions and the use of water and chemicals normally associated with creating the product.


Early history

With its headquarters now located in Canton, Massachusetts, Reebok's journey began in 19th century England - in Bolton, to be precise. Sports fan and amateur runner Joseph William Foster, who was born in 1881, began looking into innovative ideas for running shoes when he was just 14.

His granddad Samuel was a cobbler who made shoes for the gentry in Sandiacre, Nottinghamshire. In 1862, he was asked to design cricket shoes by top local cricketer Samuel Biddulph, whose white hobnailed shoes wouldn't grip hard ground when he used the new over-arm, fast bowling technique. Samuel Foster devised shoes that had longer, pointed nails - spikes - incorporated into the soles.


Spiked running shoes

Grandson Joseph, a member of the local harriers, spent much time in his bedroom above his father's sweet shop at 90 Deane Road, Bolton, perfecting the design of the first spiked running shoes. His prototype was ready in 1895, incorporating the idea his grandfather had piloted for cricket shoes.

By 1898, Joseph's ultra-light "running pump" constructed from soft yet strong leather and with six spikes for extra grip, was a reality. His fellow running club members were amazed by his shoes and he found himself being inundated with orders every time he attended a race.


Family business

Working from his father's back yard, Joseph began manufacturing shoes for local athletes. In 1904, the legendary Alf Shrubb smashed three world records at one race meeting wearing Joseph's running pumps. After progressing his ideas, Joseph founded his own business, JW Foster, opening a shop at 57 Deane Road. Athletes came from far and wide for a personal fitting.

His shoes were picked up by world-class athletes and in 1910 he opened the first athletic shoe factory. His spiked running shoes were used by the 1924 British Olympic running team. Famous British runners Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams - subject of the film Chariots of Fire - were wearing Joseph's running shoes.

His two sons later joined the family business, which became JW Foster and Sons. Following Joe's death in 1933, the Olympic Works factory continued under his sons' leadership.


The Reebok brand

Joseph’s grandsons, Joe and Jeff launched Reebok in 1958. The name came from a dictionary where the word "rhebok", a South African antelope, attracted their interest. The company became Reebok - a snappier, modern name.

In 1979, American businessman Paul Fireman negotiated a deal to license and distribute Reebok products in America under the name, Reebok USA Ltd. They focused on three aspects of fitness: increasing women's interest in sports products, exercise and expanding street culture and casual wear. The Freestyle in 1982 was their first athletic shoe designed for women.

Reebok branched out into other sports, including tennis and football, with US tennis player Venus Williams and footballers Thierry Henry and Ryan Giggs endorsing the brand. They also signed their first non-athlete, music star Jay-Z, to endorse the brand with the "Reebok S Carter – Jay-Z" street wear shoe.

Reebok Stadium

Reebok was acquired by Adidas in 2005 as a subsidiary in a $3.7 billion deal, with each sports brand continuing to operate under its own name.

Today, Reebok continues to produce world-class sports products in its environmentally-friendly manufacturing facility in Canton, Massachusetts, where electricity consumption has been reduced by almost 40% and natural gas consumption by almost 25% in 15 years, thanks to the company's energy management initiatives.

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