When you tie up your favorite pair of sneakers in the morning, it’s rare that you think of how they came to be. You may think of big teams of R&D, suits & marketers behind global brands like Nike, Reebok, Adidas having meetings in boardrooms and pointing at graphs and influencers. However, the actual look and feel of a shoe usually comes down to one restlessly creative person doodling and dreaming up the future of footwear. Christian Tresser is one of the rare few who have done it again and again. Not well known outside of sneaker culture, Tresser is a bonafide legend to footwear enthusiasts.

Christian Tresser - Adsum
Always a keen soccer player, in action here for SPVGG Heßdorf (2001) .

It all sprung from Tresser’s love of his favorite sport, soccer. His first love eventually led him to playing at college in northern California, but a lack of bigger opportunities in the sport inspired him to leave the team after a year and enroll at The Academy of Arts in San Francisco. His training there would later allow him to combine his love of soccer and his talent for design. After landing a job with an independent footwear design company that did some projects for Reebok’s sub label “Boks”, he was hired on full time at the British brand to lead design and innovation for their Soccer and Running divisions. Tresser’s early days at Reebok led him to develop a stagnating soccer cleat to include new innovations like carbon fiber footplates, Insta-pump, and Graphalite, as well as create his most famous Reebok runners, the Aztrek, DMX Daytona, and the shoe close to our hearts, the 1992 Pyro.

Ryan Giggs - Adsum
Ryan Giggs, one of Reebok Football's poster boys during the 90s.

After his stint at Reebok, Tresser got swooped up by the swoosh and moved to Beaverton, OR to be the lead footwear designer. In 10 short months, he created legitimate classics like the Nike Airmax, Tailwind, Spiridon, and Mercurial. A string of hits that seems impossible to replicate in such a short amount of time.

Asked to comment about this prolific time he replied, “Ahh… gosh. It’s kind of crazy to have some impact that way. I don’t know. I try not to over think it… I just get these ideas, work on them, execute, and move on from them. I have a big appetite for innovation and design, especially in footwear. I keep trying to create and keep going. I’m like a shark in the water, I have to keep swimming or I die.”

Nike Air Zoom Spiridon - Adsum
Nike Air Zoom Spiridon designed by Christian Tresser (1997).

Not limited to shoe aesthetics, he also pushed forward innovation and became the first to use 360 degree 3M piping, full-length Airbags, hidden lace systems, fully mesh uppers, and popularized the recent use of synthetic materials in high-end soccer boots, creating the Mercurial out of one single piece of material.

Christian Tresser design - Adsum
Ronaldo with his Mercurials at the 1998 World Cup.

When questioned how he feels about changing the world of soccer footwear forever he simply said, “I don’t think too much ahead of myself at all. I do have a strange vision, that somehow…works for me. I start to create, and I go on a creative journey and I don’t think too much about what the future is and what it is going to be. I only get in the moment, what is inspiring me. The first Mercurial is that moment that changed it. I didn’t know it would do that, but it did… and that’s pretty cool. Where it goes from here, I don’t know, I just don’t. I don’t have that answer… I do know that I can do it.”

Christian Tresser footwear designs - Adsum
A table of Tresser innovation (image via kikstothepitch.com).

Christian Tresser is our type of guy. By that, we mean he fuses art, design, technical skill, thoughtfulness, passion, creativity, and a love of sports together; all the while remaining humble & content working without the spotlight. He seems to know his work will last beyond his time here and if you need any proof of that, just step into any good sneaker store today.