As 1990 dawned, Reebok excitedly welcomed consumers to a new decade with the first Pump model headlining a deep roster including the Omni Zone, Twilight Zone and the SXT Pump, the star of a new range known as Sports Conditioning. This is where things heat up. A patent submitted by Paul Litchfield and team for a ‘Reebok Athletic shoe having inflatable bladder’ was filed on September 27th, 1990 and issued on May 19th, 1992. The patent covers an athletic shoe with ‘an inflatable tongue or bladder for a more secure fit to the user’s foot. The bladder may include a plurality of chambers with a valve disposed therebetween to selectively inflate the chambers.’
A patent submitted by Bruce Kilgore and company for Nike, (which listed them as the inventors of a ‘Shoe bladder system’) is more specific, covering a dual-chamber switchable system. Was this ever implemented, seeing as the Pressure system seemed confined to the ankles of three Nike shoes? Was it a tactic to stall the Pump’s growth as a technology? Did Nike abandon further plans? Who knows?
The end result saw Reebok snatch market share immediately. Nike downplayed the Pressure’s lack of success by pointing to an apparently small run of just 35,000 units and explained the lack of advertising on account of the intended target audience being players with ankle problems. That didn’t stop Reebok infamously putting the inflatable boot in with their banned TV spot depicting a bungee jumping Nike guy plummeting to his apparent doom, while the Pump wearer stayed safely shackled. Genius.
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