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Bill Bowerman Handmade Waffle Spike Shoes and Handwritten Note for John Mays


Bill Bowerman Handmade Waffle Spike Shoes and Handwritten Note for John Mays

Bill Bowerman Handmade Waffle Spike Shoes and Handwritten Note for John Mays

Handmade Shoes and Letter by Bill Bowerman

Leather, Glue, Goat Hide, Rubber, Metal & Paper

Shoes date to early 1970s, with most recent modification completed in 1974 (stipulated in letter)

Left Shoe: 4 oz

Right Shoe: 4.5 oz

The following condition report has been provided by Friton Design, LLC., 8550 SE McLoughlin Blvd., Milwaukie, Oregon, a contractor who was retained for the purposes of producing this condition report.

The shoes are in great overall condition. There is some wear with the exception of the new leather and waffle outsole on the right shoe. The leather is still in good condition with slight stiffening from age. The glue has discolored from oxidation and age.

The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE.

Please note this lot has an Irrevocable Bid.

Bill Bowerman is the heart of Nike. Bowerman, one of Nike’s founders, 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. This pair, made by Nike’s co-founder exclusively for his runner John Mays, represents an important chapter in the origin of one of America’s greatest companies, Nike.


The shoes themselves, produced in the early 1970s with its most recent modification in 1974 are glued together, as opposed to stitched. The brown glue can be seen throughout the uppers, especially where layers of material are held together. Unfortunately, as a result of this intensive and careful process – often undertaken in places without the proper ventilation – Bill would later suffer from nerve damage that would require him to walk with a cane. 


The shoes do have their original laces, and the aglets are frayed from wear. The lace-holes were hand-punched by Bowerman, and there are a total of 14 of them on each shoe. On the heel, the shoes say “MAYS” in Bill Bowerman’s handwriting. Mays was a runner at the University of Oregon in the early 1970s, and was Steve Prefontaine’s teammate and good friend. Upon graduating, Mays became the Sprint Coach at the University of Oregon.


Notably, the soles on these shoes do not match one another. The right shoe’s sole has waffles on it. The waffles of course, represent an important moment in the history of footwear, as Bill invented the design after being inspired by his wife’s waffle iron. The spikes do show wear, but the waffles and the back half of the right shoe appear mint. The reason for this is that Bill was constantly tinkering and modifying his shoes, and Bowerman added the waffles and a strip of white material to the right shoe for Mays to test (as discussed in the accompanying letter), which he never got around to.


The shoe’s rarity speaks to Bowerman’s famous protection of his spikes. Another known pair of similar Bowerman shoes are at the Special Collections and University Archives of the Knight Library at the University of Oregon.


The shoes additionally come with a graded letter from Bill Bowerman, evaluated by PSA/DNA as GEM MT 10.

The letter reads: 


1961 E. 19th 10/14/74 


John - the right shoe interval heel is the one we are testing for wear.


Can you write on this sheet the approximate mileage or yardage you put on this on the track.


Example Oct 14 4 X 110 - 3 X 165 - 110 - 55 - = 3/4 Mi

Track Jogging              M/2Mi


Call me occasionally & tell me what the situation is


Bill Bowerman