Craft & Design
Waffle shoes – Responding to a need

Image from InsideNikeRunning

Did you know that your sneakers are probably the result of a vision of insight at the breakfast table? Maybe you recall wearing shoes that looked like these back in the day. Bill Bowerman, was a successful track coach when he appropriated his wife’s waffle iron one day after breakfast.

Bowerman and his wife often ate waffles for breakfast-not an unusual or special event for them. Yet one morning, while thinking about his shoe designs and eating waffles, Bowerman had a flash of inspiration. He ran into the garage with the waffle iron and poured rubber on it. With that one idea, Bill created Nike’s now famous waffle sole. As it turned out, when placed on a lightweight shoe, the waffle sole gripped running tracks better than the established ripple sole. It soon became a major success story.

But makers beware:

Unfortunately, Bowerman’s desire for perfection cost him his health – the effects of exposure to toxic chemicals in the adhesives caused irreparable damage to his nervous system.

While reviewing a textbook last week, I saw a reference to the waffle inspiration attributed to Bowerman’s Nike cofounder Phil Knight. I hadn’t heard the story at all before, and both Bowerman and Knight were unfamiliar names.

The inspiration moment is one that we should all be working towards as makers. We can nurture these flashes of insight, and do our best to capitalize on these glimmers of the future. Notebooks, blogs, Flickr collections, wikis and more are a great way to both explore and record our ideas. What are you doing to collect your greatest ideas? What can you do to develop your fantastic idea and bring it to market, or share it with the world?

You might also want to check out Adam Savage’s article on moldmaking in MAKE, Volume 08, page 160. Let us know what you mold up!


Making things is the best way to learn about our world.

View more articles by Chris Connors