Bowerman, Bill

The Nike Moon, the first with Bowerman’s waffle tread. (Tim Tomkinson)
Photo: Tim Tomkinson

A legendary Oregon track coach who cofounded the shoe company Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964; 14 years later, it became Nike. Sick of importing expensive European running shoes in the fifties, Bowerman designed and built his own pair for his athlete Phil Knight. “They were a white, rubber-coated fabric, the kind you’d use for a tablecloth you could sponge off,” Bowerman recalled in Kenny Moore’s biography, Bowerman and the Men of Oregon. Famously, in 1971 Bowerman invented the modern running-shoe tread by molding a rubber sole using his wife’s waffle iron. (See Waffle.) The first Blue Ribbon shoe to become popular was the Cortez, a black and white runner that today seems surprisingly fashionable. Bowerman died in 1999 at 88.

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