Joseph William Foster

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Joe Foster
Joseph William Foster

(1935-05-18) 18 May 1935 (age 86)
Years active1958–present
AgentA.M. Heath
Known forCo-founder of Reebok
PredecessorJoseph William Foster

Joseph William Foster (born 18 May 1935) is the co-founder (with his brother Jeff) of Reebok. He shares the same birthday 18 May, as his grandfather, also Joseph William Foster who had died 18 months earlier. Joe's grandfather was the founder of J.W. Foster and Sons and the pioneer of the spiked running shoe, and also developed the trainer (sneaker).[1]


In 1943 at the age of 8, Joe won an American Webster's dictionary in an 80 yards sprint race in his home town of Bolton. This was the dictionary where Joe was to find the word Reebok (the American spelling), in 1960. If he had won an English Dictionary he would have found the word spelt, Rhebok. Joe and his late brother Jeff were born into the J W Foster & family business, but on their return after 2 years away from home on National Service, they asked questions about the future. The year was 1955 and the brothers saw a business still rooted in the 1930s. Their father and uncle were now operating the business and very much like another sports shoe company (Adidas), spent more time feuding than collaborating. The result was that in 1958 Joe and Jeff left the Foster business to set up their own business.

6 miles down the road in the next town, Bury, the brothers founded "Mercury Sports Footwear", which after 18 months they changed its name to 'Reebok'. Joe had been advised to protect their company’s name by registering it.

Finding the word Mercury was registered by another company started the search for a new name and one source was Joe's Webster's dictionary. Leafing through for inspiration Joe came across grey rhebok, a small South African antelope, this sounded just right and was free to register.

The Reebok business developed with Jeff looking after production, Joe took charge of the sales and marketing side, as well as design which included the classic silhouette, outsole and the Starcrest. In the early years Joe travelled many miles introducing Reebok’s offering shoes to Sports Retailers up and down the country.

By 1965, Joe was on his way to the NSGA (National Sporting Goods of America) Show in Chicago, which was the start of many Global adventures and experiences that after 15 years brought him together with Paul Fireman[2] and later many stars of film and television.

As the surviving founder of Reebok, Joe still welcomes the opportunity to travel and recount those early stories from start-up to making Reebok the World No. 1 sports brand. Joe currently resides in Tenerife, where he is writing a book of his many experiences and adventures.


  1. ^ Colea, Jason (2016). Golden Kicks: The Shoes that Changed Sport. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 14–16.
  2. ^ "Reebok International Ltd. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Reebok International Ltd".

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