Just as cheerleading has transformed over the years from spirit and yell squads to the high intensity sport it is today, the shoes cheerleaders wear have evolved simultaneously to accommodate the advancing stunting and tumbling techniques. Cheer shoes also parallel trends that are abound in pop culture and fashion at any given time. In the 1950s, the saddle shoe was popular with both boys and girls, but quickly became more of a wide spread fashion trend for girls. Saddle shoes were typically white leather shoes with a black saddle-shaped piece of leather sewn over the instep and featured a smooth bottom, hard rubber sole. Different leather color combinations were possible as well. At the time, cheerleaders were focused on raising school spirit with vocal cheers and chants to the crowd. The hard rubber sole didn’t allow for much foot flexibility or cushion but jumps, kicks and stunting were not part of a cheerleader’s typical duties. Saddle shoes typically weighed around 15 oz., but were mainly worn for looks, not performance. Nevertheless, the saddle shoes had become synonymous with the typical American cheerleader. Once the 1980s and 1990s rolled around, canvas shoes like the Keds brand were popular not only with the general public, but also with all types of athletes. They were even often featured on the most popular television shows of the time. Not only were these shoes in style, but the soft-rubber sole and canvas fabric made it a much lighter and more flexible choice for cheerleaders. Cheerleading was growing rapidly, and modern day cheerleading began to devleop – advancing the use of jumps and stunts. The canvas shoes’ light weight allowed for easier movement. Today, cheerleaders wear sneakers. Big players have gotten in the game too – Nike, Converse, Reebok and Adidas now produce shoes that are specifically for cheerleaders. There are also other brands that are known for their cheerleading shoes, including Chasse and Kaepa. What makes cheerleading shoes different from a typical sneaker, you ask? There are many unique features that stand out: Lightweight- Now typically between 4 oz. and 8 oz., cheer shoes continue to get lighter each season, so cheerleaders can jump even higher. Finger Grips- Bases need to be able to hold on to the flyer’s foot so finger grips allow for easy placement of the base’s hands and eliminate risk of the flyer’s foot slipping from the base’s hands. Smooth Rubber Sole- While flyers are held up during stunts, the shoe is constantly in contact with the base’s hands/chest so the sole is smooth to reduce uncomfortable rubbing. Padding- Cheerleaders are constantly moving, jumping, and tumbling so cheer shoes use EVA cushioning as a lightweight way to absorb the shock from all the movements. Breathable- As cheerleaders practice and perform arduous routines, their feet heat up and swell, causing discomfort. To eliminate that, cheer shoes are made of breathable material to increase comfort throughout practice and competition. Synthetic Leather- This allows for easy cleaning so cheerleaders can look neat, clean, and pristine down to their toes! Just like the cheerleading uniforms and apparel have adapted to allow for greater ease of movement, shoes have also adapted to become lighter, be more shock-absorbent and are built with each stunt group position in mind. Which shoes do you recommend for cheerleading? Let us know in the comments!