A Pair Of Hand-Made Nike Prototype Track-Shoes Is Going Up For Auction

20 June 2020
Auction, Shoes, Footwear, Nike, Hand-Made, Track-Shoes
Images: Courtesy of Sotheby's
Home-made by the Swoosh's eventual co-founder Bill Bowerman in the early 1970's, and expected to fetch more than $100,000 at auction

There are a ton of reasons why sneakers now attain the same level of memorabilia status as things like jerseys, rings, autographs, and whatever else. In some cases, like the raft of Air Jordans that have released and re-released to great fan-fare over the decades, it's simply because even though they're made in greater quantities, they evoke memories of a particularly poignant moment in sporting culture. In other cases, it's because they have distinctive links to pop culture moments.

Some, however, are genuine relics of a time gone past, shoes that helped shape not only the histories of the companies that made them, but the development of what we know as athletic performance altogether. Now, one of these pivotal pairs of shoes has surfaced at auction, in the form of a pair of prototype track shoes that effectively formed the basis on which the biggest sportswear company of all time, Nike, built its success.

Shoes like this were where Nike, then simply the brainchild of Oregon running coach Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight, were where the company's earliest innovations were tested. The company, which had links to The University of Oregon's athletics team, used the school's athletes as practical case studies to test their shoes, forging the company's legacy as one intrinsically linked with the state it came from.

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In this case, the shoes put up for sale are some of the earliest dedicated track running spikes ever seen, hand-made by Bill Bowerman himself, who used to stitch and sew shoes together for the athletes on his team. These shoes were some of the earliest to boast the distinctive waffle sole, which aided grip for athletes constantly turning on typical athletics tracks, and something that has gone on to be a feature of billions of pairs of running shoes across the world.

The shoes pictured here were made for runner John Mays, a product of the Oregon track team, and a hopeful for the 1972 Olympic Trials. As such, it displays distinctive "MAYS" writing on the heels in Bowerman's handwriting.

The shoes are also accompanied by a hand-written note from Bowerman to Mays asking him to test out the modifications he made to the shoes, which according to Sotheby's he never did.

It's not actually known how many of these shoes still exist, but these are the first prototype Bill Bowerman shoes ever to go to Auction, and as such, they're expected to become some of the most expensive Nikes ever to sell.

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A similarly historic pair of shoes, some 'Moon Shoe' Waffle Racing flats, hammered for over $400,000 at auction last year, breaking the world record for a pair of sneakers at the time.

You can view the listing, and shoot your shot at acquiring the historic kicks, here.


Via GQ Australia