NSW Spring 20:
The Story of the Nike Waffle Racer Shoes
In the build up to an anticipated collaboration between Nike and Off-White founder Virgil Abloh in late 2019, the Nike Waffle Racer Shoes were reintroduced with contemporary performance features that improve comfort, support and longevity. Recognisable through its exaggerated ‘waffle’ outsole, a number of distinctive colourways have followed from the initial re-release that are in keeping with the designs intriguing history and boast a close resemblance to the original models. Whilst the vintage design has been reimagined with close attention to detail, for any sneakerheads out there there are some noticeable differences from the original 1970’s design. For a closer look, we’ve delved into the story behind the Waffle Racer shoe and how it came to be.
A pinnacle moment in Nike’s history which changed the brands history forever and resulted in the development of previously discussed styles such as the Nike Air Tailwind 79 and Nike Daybreak, in 1972 Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman set out to create a new tread that offered an alternative to the hard spikes that marathon runners had become accustomed to. To do this, he took his wife's waffle iron - which didn’t survive the experiment - and poured a concoction of polyurethane across the surface which resulted in a new sole that provided improved traction with multi-sided polygon shaped studs. Dubbed as ‘the Nike Waffle Racing Flat "Moon Shoe”’ after the footprint left by the sole that was similar to those left by astronauts on the moon, only 12 pairs of shoes were made with this innovative tread pattern and were handed out to runners at the 1972 Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon. Translated into modern iterations a few years later, the uppers were made from canvas with suede added in support of the heel and decorative side Swooshes on either side for brand identity.
Following the success of selected runners during the trials, in 1977 Nike developed the design further into commercially ready models which they released under the name of ‘Waffle Training’ but after realising this could be a little catcher, changed it to ‘Waffle Trainer’ to improve sales. Colour was a key feature for each release for both style appeal to suit the fashions of the time and in contrast to white adidas models which were the most popular styles available at the time. Early colourways were representative of different university college teams, such as the Oregon Ducks whose green and yellow colourway can be seen on a contemporary release in close replication to the vintage design.
Proving a success within the mainstream runners market, the Nike Waffle Trainer was tweaked over time, with improvements to material and construction to ensure it performed its best but what has always remained is the pioneering tread pattern. The age of different styles can be recognised through subtle changes to the toe and heel panels, the thickness of the Swoosh emblems and the woven label that wraps around the top of the tongue. As a nod to the designs original look, for modern remakes such as the Nike Waffle Racer Shoes - Light Blue / Midnight Navy the midsole wedge remains and the label carries the original lowercase cursive logo design set against a red tone Swoosh. A common feature on vintage trainer styles, the exposed foam tongue also remains to provide cushioning around the top of the foot but a new memory foam sockliner has been inserted alongside dual-density cushioning within the shoe for improved comfort.
Whilst new colourways and contemporary updates present the infamous Waffle Shoe to a new generation, the Nike Moon Shoe continues to make history after an original unworn pair was sold for a record breaking $437,500 at New York City auction house Sotheby’s to interpreter Miles Nadal.
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