Nike Co-Founder Bill Bowerman’s 1970s Handmade Waffle Spike Shoes Expected to Fetch at Least $130,000 in Sotheby’s Auction

Some of the rarest sneakers ever have been auctioned by Sotheby’s, and its newest listing is no different.

The auction house has just listed “Nike Origins: Bowerman Built,” a listing for Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman’s handmade Waffle Spike shoes from the early 1970s. The auction was created by Sotheby’s alongside famed sneaker collector, and sneaker museum ShoeZeum founder, Jordan Geller.

The shoes, according to Sotheby’s, are one of only a handful of pairs known to exist and were created before Nike was founded for John Mays, a runner for the Bowerman-coached University of Oregon track team. The shoes have been in the athlete’s possession since 1974.

Mays wore the shoes during the 1972 Olympic Trials, and according to Sotheby’s, were adjusted by Bowerman in 1974 and never used again. The right shoe features a waffle sole that the left shoe does not have, which Bowerman thought might be effective for Mays.

Nike Origins Bowerman Built Bill Bowerman Nike
Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman’s handmade Waffle Spike shoes from the early 1970s, part of the “Nike Origins: Bowerman Built” auction by Sotheby’s.
CREDIT: Courtesy
Nike Origins Bowerman Built Bill Bowerman Nike
The soles of Bill Bowerman’s handmade Waffle Spike shoes from the early 1970s.
CREDIT: Courtesy

Aside from the shoes, the auction will include a letter from Bowerman that asks Mays to test his design.”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,” the letter reads.

Sotheby’s stated the auction is expected to fetch anywhere from $130,000 to $150,000. Bidding for the auction opens today via Sothebys.com and will come to an end on June 26.

Although the expected price tag is high, it won’t be the most expensive auctioned by the auction house: NBA icon Michael Jordan’s autographed Nike Air Jordan 1s from 1985 were sold for $560,000. (The Jordan 1s that were sold in May topped Sotheby’s prior record-setting sale from July 2019 for the Nike Waffle Racing Flat “Moon Shoe” from 1972 that sold for $437,500.)

Bill Bowerman Letter John Mays
A letter written by Bill Bowerman to runner John Mays, which is part of a Sotheby’s shoe auction.
CREDIT: Courtesy
Bill Bowerman John Mays
Bill Bowerman (L) with John Mays.
CREDIT: Courtesy
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