Last week, an extremely rare pair of Nikes joined our vintage sneaker collection at Graduate Eugene.
Nike Moon Shoes are a genuine pop-culture artifact. One of the very first designs created by Nike cofounders Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman.
In 1972, Knight and Bowerman were looking to create excitement for their new company and capitalize on the U.S. Olympic track and field trials being held at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field.
So, they produced 12 pairs of an innovative new design and gave the shoes away for free — including this recently discovered pair owned by Olympic-hopeful David Russell.
HISTORY OF OUR NIKE MOON SHOES
Russell, one of 102 runners to qualify for the marathon at the 1972 Olympic Trials, was invited to a local Eugene athletic store to pick up free merchandise before the race.
As soon as he saw the “exotic” Nike shoes, Russell knew he had to have them. He was one of just a dozen runners to take a pair home.
“I stashed them away with other running memorabilia for decades thinking only my children would care,” said Russell. “I never could have imagined these shoes being commemorated in such an exciting and monumental way.”
Early Nike employee Geoff Hollister hand-cobbled the Moon Shoes using glue and fishing line. The custom shoes featured nylon uppers from Japan and Bowerman’s signature rubber waffle outsoles, hand-cut in Eugene.
Runners affectionately nicknamed the unique footwear “Moon Shoes,” inspired by the waffle-marked footprints they left in the dirt, which resembled those left on the moon by the Apollo astronauts.
The innovations first tested in the Moon Shoes led to the development of the iconic Nike Waffle Trainer in 1974 and helped solidify Nike as a preeminent shoe brand.
LOST & FOUND
Today, most of the first-generation Moon Shoes are still unaccounted for. Russell wore his pair for just six months before permanently storing them away.
Now, nearly five decades later, Russell’s rare pair has returned to its original home — Eugene, Oregon; TrackTown U.S.A.; the birthplace of Nike.
Come by Graduate Eugene and see the original Moon Shoes for yourself.
Photos by Athena Delene and Christian Horan.