My Favorite Things 010

Vintage Nike Waffle Racers

I was born with an extra appendage on my left foot [i.e. polydactyly]. It was removed when I was young, and fortunately, other than inhibiting skating on my left edge, it hasn’t been a problem – but it does make me quite particular about the shoes I wear.

Over the years, I have tried on hundreds of pairs of shoes, sneakers, boots, and slides, looking for the perfect fit.

The most comfortable shoes for me were always from Ecco, or the Onitsuka Tiger, Adidas Dragon, and the driving shoes from Johnston & Murphy, but a few years ago I happened across a pair of vintage Nike Waffle Racers – and my lifelong quest for the perfect fit had come to an end.

The Nike Waffle Racer US 10, UK 9, EU 44 is the perfect fit.

Nike made a special edition Waffle Racer for J Crew several years ago, and it was the first Waffle Racer I ever tried. From the moment I laced them up, it was perfect. And from there, I slowly began my collection of vintage Nike Waffle Racers. And now my feet reject any other shoe, boot, sneaker, or slide. Other than the occasional dress shoe, my feet reside solely in Nike Waffle Racers.

Unfortunately, the vintage Nike Waffle Racer is no longer in production. However, this has made my still-growing collection of way too many Nike Waffle Racers pretty valuable.

The pickings are slim these days – unless you want to pay over $400 [which I refuse to do]. But searching through eBay, Poshmark, StockX, FarFetch, etc. remains an occasional ritual that still gives me the thrill of the hunt. Sometimes a vintage pair will show up for under a hundred dollars, and you know some guy is going to be really pissed when he finds out they are missing from his closet. Occasionally I get burned, but I have purchased vintage Nike Waffle Racers from all over the world, including Japan, Russia, Mexico, and Poland.

While my collection has become a source of entertainment for my family and friends, it has served a higher purpose – my feet feel great.

In other sneaker news, NikeCraft is launching its new General Purpose Shoe on June 10th. Even though the Waffle Racer is perfect, the quest for an even more perfect fit continues, so I’ll be hunting down a US 10, UK 9, EU 44 NikeCraft General Purpose Shoe as soon as I can. We’ll see if it measures up.

Nike Waffle Racer – the only thing missing is the icing sugar

August 5, 2021 4:00 PM

In the early 1970s, Hayward Field in Oregon was converted from a cinder track to an artificial surface. This meant a new standard for the shoes of the ‘Blue Ribbon’ brand, founded by Bill Bowerman and better known to us today as Nike.

Bowerman actually experimented with a waffle iron for a new shoe. His wife Barbara later told The Oregonian newspaper:

“When one of the waffles came out, he said, ‘You know, if you turn it upside down – where the waffle part is in contact with the track – that might work.’ So he got up from the table, went to his lab and got two cans of whatever you pour together to make the urethane and poured them into the waffle iron. “The end product was a running shoe without heavy spikes.

Barbara Bowerman

Bill was constantly working to change and redefine the status quo of his running equipment. His eureka moment was the Waffle Sneaker, which was successfully launched in 1973. The shoe is responsive and adapts to uneven running surfaces. It also helped spread the idea that not only the midsole but also the outsole can absorb shock.

Previously, many track and field soles were flat and low to the ground, but the waffle-inspired sole had small ridges that provided extra support and rebound. This was the first major innovation from a company that later revolutionized the sneaker industry with inventions such as Visible Air, Flyknit, Lunarlon, and others.

The first Nike Waffle Racer

Priced between $21.95 and $24.95, the running shoe, originally made in Japan, had a nylon upper and was first released in a red and white color scheme. However, the version that quickly became popular with local athletes bore the distinctive yellow and green design of the University of Oregon, while later models also bore the colors of other Californian colleges, such as UCLA.

The first campaigns for the Waffle Sneaker were launched with slogans like “Made Famous by Word of Foot Advertising” (Made famous by advertising with the foot) touted: “You’ve seen them on training tracks and fields all over the country. You know them for their quality, their lightweight, and long life.”

Later, canvas versions were launched, as well as a women’s version and a slightly revised and more expensive version called the Waffle Racer, which was launched around 1977 and cost around $30. The Racer kept the design DNA of the shoe alive and well, with the added benefit of a lightweight EVA midsole and a wider, slightly more stable design.

Nike Waffle Racer

Over the course of time, the original waffle sole has been used in a variety of Nike products, for example, in tailwinds and even in shoes for American football.

No one really paid attention to the famous waffle iron itself until an old device was unearthed near a house in Coburg, Oregon. That’s where former Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman lived. The wife of Bill’s son Jon Bowerman discovered it by chance, along with shoe treads that Bill himself had still made.

So Nike’s Holy Grail had been rediscovered and is now on display at the company’s headquarters in Beaverton. Nike historian Scott Reames said of the discovery: “It truly is the headwaters of our innovation. From a historian’s standpoint, it’s like finding the Titanic.”

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