Here’s our take on those throwback shoes that made a boom. Depending on your age, there may be some running shoes that have passed you by. Others made such a splash they became part of running history either by appearing on the feet of our favourite athletes or being a must-have we were unable to get.
Here’s our top choices…
Onitsuka Tiger Corsair (1969)
The Japanese manufacturer made its way into the US through a partnership with early Nike incarnation Blue Ribbon Sports. The Corsair (or Cortez as it was originally known, Nike retained the name) capitalised on the burgeoning jogging scene. Designed by legendary track coach Bill Bowerman the generous level of cushioning made the shoe hugely popular with its target audience. It has since become a fashion staple in reissued form.
Nike Waffle “Moon Shoe” (1972)
Like all icons the Waffle “Moon Shoe” has a great origin story. Prototypes were developed by Bill Bowerman using his wife’s waffle iron (much to her chagrin). He was searching for a shoe suitable for all surfaces after the track at the University of Oregon was relaid with a synthetic rather than cinder surface. Just 12 pairs were produced in advance of the 1972 US Olympic Trials one of which sold at auction in 2019 for $437,500. Two years later, in a foreshadowing of recent trends, a production version was released to the public as the running boom gathered momentum.
Asics Gel Kayano
There’s something about the ‘bubble’ look in the sole of the Gel Kayano that made it an attractive choice to road runners. Launched in 1993, the Kayano took inspiration from the stag beetle, with the designer stating, “The shoe’s original outsole featured a lightning bolt-esque strike resembling stag beetle pincers when looking at both shoes.” The visible cushioning in the heel helped runners to feel a real sense of shock absorption that made the Kayano Asics’ most popular stability shoe. Now at over 20 versions in every colour you could desire, the Gel Kayano just keeps going.
Hoka One One Clifton
The unusual look of the Hoka Clifton made this shoe something of a Marmite choice for runners who either loved or hated them. Launched in 2014, the Clifton was first spotted on the trails with the chunky, ultra-cushioned sole making it a favourite of ultra running athletes. The Clifton now on version seven is popular with neutral runners on the road and trail, and the huge range of Hoka shoes ranging from the chunky Speedgoat to the rapid Rincon and Carbon X racers means Hoka is much more than just a quirky ultra runner’s brand.
In 2013, neutral runners were treated to something new that promised cushioned comfort and ultimate speed. Boost became a byword for fast as Adidas launched something new using Boost technology, a midsole made from thousands of particles. The UltraBoost was worn by road runners from the mile to marathon with the Boost technology making its way into further iterations of the shoe such as the Boston, Supernova and the ultimate racer Adizero Adios, worn in the women’s World Record finish of the 2017 London Marathon.
Nike Vaporfly 4% (2016)
You might have heard of this one. They were introduced as a prototype at the 2016 U.S. Olympic trials, much like the Waffle trainer, and has been producing controversy and records in equal measure ever since. They finally became available to the public after Eliud Kipchoge’s first attempt to break 2 hours for the marathon in an exhibition event in 2017. Despite the hefty price tag demand quickly oustripped supply. Such has been the dominance of the shoe at major road races that other brands have produced a racer with an increased stack height and carbon plate. Having caused both rule and record books to be written Vaporflys are arguably the most influential shoe since Mrs Bowerman sacrificed her waffle iron.