The Nike Waffle racer returns to our shelves this December to give us all a taste of what we can expect in 2020. What better time than now to dip into the Nike archives for a look at why this soles such a big deal. As well as an excuse to post a load of old black and white running photos… Scroll down to tuck in.
Ah the waffle rubber sole, where would the swoosh be without it? It’s the real deal, the starting point, genesis. A base for the decades of innovation that came after it. Originally developed by Bill Bowerman trying to mimic the shape of a humble waffle iron which coincidently happens to form a pretty good traction aiding pattern. This is of course back in the early days of Nike back when it was called ‘Blue Ribbon Sports’ the pre-Nike phase where Bill Bowerman would build meticulously crafted prototypes from real-time athlete feedback. Custom fitting shoes for his runners by drawing an outline of their feet, measuring widths and noting individualities, such as an extended heel or slim ankle. He experimented with swathes of textiles — kangaroo leather, velvet, deer hide, snakeskin and even fish skin — in the quest to find the ideal lightweight, stretchy and resilient material. As a result, Bowerman was churning out new creations on a weekly basis. Then sending the most promising experiments off to the Nippon rubber plant across the Pacific Ocean.
The Waffle Soled racer made a competitive debut in 1972 at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Eugene. The shoes were rough workings of what was to come. Nylon uppers that’d made the hop across the pacific were paired with fresh out the iron rubber produced there and then in Eugene. Dubbed ‘Moon shoes’ early on due to the tracks left in the dirt these workings were refined and become a phenomenon in 1974. The trainer appealed to both elite competitors and everyday joggers. TIME magazine wrote at the time ‘’grabbed by the army of weekend jocks suffering from bruised feet.’’ The Waffle Trainer put Nike firmly on the map as in the athletic footwear stakes, setting the stage for unparalleled growth.
Which leads us to the present, widely regarded today for their tireless innovation in the pursuit of absolute performance and smashing records, but this philosophy has been present since day 1. There would be no Kipchoge 2-hour marathons in Vaporflys were it not for the rigours testing of those early waffle spikes and the miles upon miles of track covered by Messrs Prefontaine and Moore in the pursuit of performance and intuitive design. I guess what we’re trying to say is everything you know and love about Nike can be traced back to the waffle sole and the tireless experimentation of the Blue Ribbon Crew.