In 1890 in Holcombe Brook, six miles north east of Bolton, shoemaker Joseph William Foster had the notion to create a spiked running shoe. After progressing his ideas he founded J.W. Foster and Sons in 1895 to manufacture and market his handmade sports shoes to athletes across the world. By 1924, Foster & Sons had established a reputation for a superior product and provided shoes for GB Olympic athletes including “Chariots of Fire” Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell.
Early Rugby boots tended to be what players wore for every day life with bars nailed across the soles for grip in the mud. University students and gentlemen would wear walking boots, while a collier would wear the same boots he wore down the mine. Early regulations (1900) specified studs no less than 3/4 inch in diameter and no longer than half the diameter, which were typically leather or tight packed felt fixed to the sole with 4 inch nails. In 1926 studs had to be leather and circular, rubber was allowed in 1948, aluminium in 1953.
These ads for made-to-measure, hand-sewn Foster Kangaroo Rugby boots are circa 1964. No doubt some senior committee members were enticed by these fine Lancashire items – Python trim no extra charge!
JW Foster’s grandchildren, Joe and Jeff Foster went on to found Mercury Sports which they renamed ‘Reebok’ in 1960 taking the word for an Antelope from a South African dictionary won in a race by Joe Foster as a boy. They’ve run a long way since then.