Clap skates were developed at the Faculty of Human Movement Sciences of the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, led by Gerrit Jan van Ingen Schenau, although the idea of a clap skate is much older; designs dating from around 1900 are known.
The clap skate was used first in the 1984/1985 skating season. It was, however, not until the late 1990s that the idea was taken seriously. In the 1996/1997 season, the Dutch women's team started using the skates with great success. The rest of the skating world soon followed suit, causing a torrent of world records to be broken in the following seasons, including the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Nowadays, all top level long track speed skaters (and many amateur enthusiasts) use clap skates.