Sneakers, Sports Memorabilia & Modern Collectibles

A Closer Look: Bill Bowerman 1960s Pre-Nike Handmade Track Spikes and 1972 Nike Moon Shoe

By Sotheby's
The ultimate Nike sneaker auction representing the brand's most iconic designs and collaborations from the last 50 years. The fifty auction is open for bidding online 29 November - 13 December.

Eric LiBassi, associate sneaker specialist, walks us through two of our rarest, oldest pairs offered in our fifty auction.

Nike Co-Founder Bill Bowerman 1960s Pre-Nike Handmade Black and Blue Track Spikes

Bill Bowerman represents the heart of Nike. One of Nike’s founders, Bowerman was one of the greatest innovators of his generation in regards to shoe ingenuity and design. Obsessed with weight and performance, Bowerman would build shoes for his University of Oregon runners from scratch, often using an assemblage of raw materials.

The 1960s Pre-Nike Handmade Black and Blue Track Spikes pair represents an important chapter in the origin of one of America’s greatest companies, Nike. Handmade by Bowerman in the early 1960s, this black and blue mismatched pair features the original white laces along with four long metal spikes on each sole as they were designed for use on a cinder track.

1960s Pre-Nike Handmade Black and Blue Track Spikes

This particular pair was produced by Bowerman specifically for Clayton Steinke, who ran cross-country and track for the Oregon Ducks from 1960-64. Bowerman gave these spikes to Steinke in October 1960 during his freshman year at Oregon. At that time, Bowerman preferred to test his experimental handmade spikes on underclassmen.

In track, Steinke competed in mid-distance and steeplechase. In 1962, Steinke and the Oregon track team won the school’s first NCAA Track and Field Championship. Steinke garnered All-American honors in steeplechase. Later that year, Steinke traveled as an alternate for Oregon’s famed 4 x 1-mile relay team that competed in a meet against the New Zealand national team.

1972 Nike Moon Shoe

The Nike “Moon Shoe” is one of the most significant artifacts in the history of the multi-billion dollar athletic brand. One of only a small number of pairs known to exist, this Moon Shoe is a handmade running shoe designed by Nike co-founder and legendary Oregon University track coach Bill Bowerman.

As the famous story goes, Bill Bowerman was first inspired to create the innovative waffle sole traction pattern found on the brand’s early running shoes by tinkering with his wife’s waffle iron, pouring rubber into the mold to create the first prototype of the sole. The finished design of the traction pattern created better grip and cushion than most running shoes of the time, and the waffle sole was Nike’s first major innovation as a brand.

1972 Nike Moon Shoe

The “Moon Shoe” got its name from the resemblance between the impression that the waffle pattern left in dirt and the famous tracks left on the moon by astronauts in 1969.

This pair was hand-cobbled by one of Nike’s first employees, Geoff Hollister. Due to the handmade quality, each pair is irregular and one of a kind. The waffle outsoles are in two pieces because Nike did not have the technology to make one piece soles at the time.

The soles also have markings visible around the perimeter of the rubber from shears that were used to hand cut them into shape. The upper features a white nylon construction with black Swooshes hand sewn on each side with fishing line. The pair does not say “Nike” anywhere inside or outside the design, with only the side Swooshes designating them as a Nike shoe.

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