Sneaker can also reffer to an athletic shoe such as basketball shoes, tennis shoes or cross trainers. These shoes are sport specific shoes worn for varrious sports.
The British English equivalent of "sneaker" is "trainer" in its modern meaning; however, the traditional "sneaker" (pictured) is closer to the British "plimsoll". In some urban areas in the United States, the slang for sneakers is kicks. In Hiberno-English and Australian English the term is runners. In South African English the term used is takkies.
Sneakers have become an important part of hip hop culture since the 70s. Presently, numerous rappers sign million dollar deals with major brands such as Nike, Adidas or Puma to promote their shoes. Sneaker collectors, called "Sneakerheads", use sneakers as fashionable items. Artistically-modified sneakers can sell for upwards of $500.
In the 1800's a London Police Officer developed a rubber soled shoe in order to catch criminals in the act quietly, he called his invention "Sneakers". The name derives from the fact that the rubber soles made the shoes noiseless. The term "sneaker" itself was also used in 1887 by Boston Journal of Education:
“It is only the harassed schoolmaster who can fully appreciate the pertinency of the name boys give to tennis shoes — sneakers.”
The British English term "trainer" derives from "training shoe."