In 1927, company founder Werner Künzli opened his first atelier in Trimbach, near Olten. He specialised in the manufacture of ski boots. The success of this enterprise led to further developments and to the production of customised footwear for the football, skating, handball and cycling sports.
Unfortunately, the company was declared bankrupt in the economic crisis of 1938. Werner Künzli didn’t let this get him down, and he founded another company in Brugg. Together with a dozen employees, he began to produce ice-skates and ice-hockey boots.
In 1955, Werner’s son Kurt Künzli, a qualified footwear technician, entered the company, and in 1956, a new factory was opened in Windisch. This location still serves as the company headquarters and production site to this day.
In 1959, Künzli registered the sports shoe lacing patent. This consisted of five Perlon stripes which are integrated from the sole into the eyelet lacing and give the foot special hold. This sports shoe lacing patent, with its eye-catching 5 Künzli stripes, quickly developed into the trademark found on all Künzli sports shoes. The patent is registered in other countries and the shoes are now exported to Europe, the USA and Asia. Now Künzli sports shoes are everywhere: They are used by the national football team, as well as many top football associations; tennis versions are also on the move; ice skates are a part of the range, as are cycling, athletics, jogging, curling or parachuting footwear.
In the USA, Künzli initially distributed their products using several distribution partners. The model which is particularly popular is the "Game" model, the first leather tennis shoe – up until then, only canvas had been used. In 1966, one of the partners, the Swiss-born Brunner brothers, founded their own enterprise; Brunner Ltd., with the aim of marketing sports shoes with the 5 lace patent. In 1972, the import company was renamed K-Swiss – derived from Künzli Swiss. K-Swiss were soon producing shoes with the 5 lace patent under licence, and with the help of Künzli. At a later date, Künzli sold the patent for the USA – which has meanwhile run out – and the export of Künzli footwear in the USA was gradually discontinued. In 1987, the founders of K-Swiss sold their enterprise to a US investor group, which later provided the CEO.
In 1968 Werner Künzli decided to retire and Kurt Künzli took over in the footsteps of his father. The son devoted himself to the development of light sports shoes with that special finesse. Various inventions made Kurt Künzli into the pioneer of the modern, "gentle to the joints" footwear: The aforementioned patented lacing feature, the sandwich sole with heel supports, and the cushioned air padding, as well as the principle of two lateral, vertical stabilizers (Midsize-Protect), which protected against injury to the ankle.
In the 70's, the cheap competition from Asia challenged the innovative mindset of the company. Sports footwear was under pressure. Using constant consultation with doctors, chiropodists and sportsmen, Kurt Künzli improved on the Midsize-Protect system and turned it into today's Ortho®system. This is the point at which the robust Ortho® shoe was invented, an innovative medical aid which is indispensable today in the treatment of ankle or ligament injuries.
During the subsequent years, Kurt Künzli constantly refined this orthopaedic product line and finally developed the Ortho Rehab rehabilitation model. With revolutionary contents – instead of the usual lengthy healing process using a plaster cast, the shoe enabled to the patient to walk again within a few days, with no pain and the ability to place a full load on the foot itself.
In 1996, an unexpected illness robbed the then 65 year old Künzli of his life. The company succession was regulated with the appointment of Andreas Peter. A company auxiliary since 1988, the enterprise was taken over via a Management Buyout.
In 2004, a change of ownership rung the changes once again. Barbara Artmann stepped in as the first woman to head the enterprise. Under her aegis, the Swiss Olympic team in Athens availed themselves of Künzli's special creations. The new range of All'Tag brought together the big sports shoe tradition with the sneaker trend. Stylish and sporty leisure shoes were the result – exclusive footwear with Swiss esprit, and the five typical Künzli stripes.
In addition, the core competences in the orthopaedics area were reinvigorated: Now, with the Stability Bandage Ortho Night, Künzli stability protection is available round-the-clock.
In 2005, the Ortho Donna and Ortho Junior arrived on the market. The Open Light model helps patient into shoes that don't fit anyone else. The Protect prophylactic shoe programme is positioned and complemented with new models and designs. The foreign neighbours just have to pay attention. In particular the Ortho area is becoming ever more recognised, but even the All'Tag sneakers are presented internationally at knowledgeable boutiques.
In 2006 Künzli was once again asked to equip the Swiss Olympic team with sneakers, this time for the Winter Olympic Games in Turin. The model Oly Ice inspires athletes and officials, and was presented on the market for the first time in its original version.
Now K-Swiss, originally developed by Künzli, declared its intention to challenge Künzli for the five stripes invention. Künzli prepared a strong defence, and K-Swiss discontinued their action without further ado until K-Swiss then cancelled all distribution of footwear by Künzli in Switzerland. The US group also brought Künzli's All'Tag customers in Germany before the courts. Künzli fought and won this case. From now on, Künzli concentrated on the production and marketing of Swiss-made specialist shoes.
In 2007, Künzli launched the Ortho sandal, a novelty which is not only for use on hot days. All'Tag complements the winter shoe and sneaker assortment. The Swiss established clientele grows, and the exports to Germany have begun again.
For the European Football Championships in 2008, Künzli surprised audiences with models in a football style. Popular in particular was the shoe made from red buffalo leather. The fiery Draco helveticus sneakers with their embroidered dragon for the Swiss Olympic team also proved attractive to the non-footballing fraternity. From the Ortho® range, the Ortho® Swiss Colour was added to the range, and technical innovations reasserted Künzli's long-standing stability shoe. The Golf Protect was also launched. Its security convinces the players, its design the fashion conscious.
Künzli began 2009 with the All'Tag line in Germany and was lauded at the PREMIUM fair in Berlin, as well as at the GDS in Dusseldorf.
In addition, the Ortho line was introduced at the large orthopaedic congress in Berlin.
For Vancouver in 2010, Künzli was recognised as an official supplier to the Swiss Olympic team. These models are also available for fans in specialist shops.
Now that the Ortho Rehab Total footwear has been overhauled with the assistance of the ETH (Confederate Technical Biomechanics College) and top doctors, huge interest has been registered amongst customers.
The All'Tag line has also presented successful new versions, such as sneakers in a Derby cut and bottines for the winter.
Light Ladies' Leisure sneakers have reached the shops for summer 2010, and, as a special highlight, the edel.grün series too. These are models which vouch for the sustainability of Swiss raw materials, produced, tanned and dyed using natural and herbal substances. With the launch of the new CI, the All'Tag leisure footwear category has now been renamed the Classic category.
2011 Künzli lost the main lawsuit filed by K-Swiss and is forced to withdrawing the Classic shoes from German shops.
An innovation in shoe construction within the Ortho® line delivers an upgrade in look and stability function – for 7 renewed nice models.
March 2012: After 7 years of legal proceedings Künzli has landed the coup: 5 Klötzli replacing the 5 squares as the trade mark. Thus Künzli is getting rid of all trade mark conflicts – and yet completely remains Künzli. The Künzli Classic collection fall | winter 2012 is for the first time wearing 5 squares the new trade mark.
In July 2013 the 3 product lines by Künzli receive a logo of their own composed by the “first name” of the line and by Künzli as their “family name”. Künzli offers two lines of therapeutic shoes, Künzli Ortho, the shoe that stabilizes the ankle thus leading to a faster healing process of ankle injuries – and Künzli Protect, the clever Swiss shoe that protects from tilting. As far as fashion is concerned Künzli Classic wins the show with its noble Swiss sneakers.
In November 2013, with the relaunch of the line Ortho Standard, the change process of the line Künzli Ortho has started: an innovative system of lacing gives the forefoot improved support, limits the talus prolapse and renders a perfectly comfortable fit.
In September 2014 Künzli opens its own online shop. The noble sneakers of Künzli Classic, the clever shoes of Künzli Protect and several work boots of Künzli Ortho can now be ordered online. The new service and the new sales channel are soon very well accepted. Local retailers can use the online shop for checking their stock and for orders outside opening hours.
In November 2014 the design of the Protect line is modernized. The tilting protection – mechanical and activating the muscles – is now visible and the glossy surface of the system appears in technical silver.
December 2016 Künzli’s new style is called K style. With the new name and logo for the line of sneakers a bundle of innovation follows: a new authentic design confers the distinctive Künzli handwriting to the noble sneakers. Künzli accelerates its rhythm of new collections by putting new seasonal articles on the market every two months.