Sneaker Book Club: A Brief History of Speed
Welcome to the first instalment of the Sneaker Book Club, where we share some interesting tomes of anything and everything covering footwear. The only stipulation is the books have to be in print format, as we’re romantics for flicking through pages in our hands. We talk shoes all day, put it on the Internet, and also on paper. You’ve already bought Issue #41, right?
First off, is A Brief History of Speed, published by Nike in 2004 to coincide with the Genealogy of Speed exhibition. It’s quite a rare little book – it doesn’t pop up for sale often, and very little information is available about its production. Guess who got their hands on a copy though? Yours truly.
The Swoosh really went all out on this one. Book aside for a moment, the Genealogy of Speed exhibition had a custom space built on Elizabeth Street in Manhattan, New York. Its construction enlisted a multidisciplinary approach for the environmental graphics and custom architecture.
Further supplementing the exhibition was an interactive Flash portal (remember those?) mapping out the genealogy. As the Internet has progressed, the portal is on permanent redirect – and not even the latest in search engine technology can retrieve a peek.
Back to the book. A Brief History of Speed chronicles over three decades of Nike’s footwear innovations in their undying bid to make athletes faster and faster.
You can flip the pages to watch the shoes rotate and change in what must have been an extremely painstaking manual process.
Outside of the usual Nike sneakers that have been covered ad nauseam, there are some lesser-known models featured in the book.
1972 Moon Shoe
Handmade by Geoff Hollister after Bill Bowerman created its waffle iron tread pattern. Named so because of the tread’s resemblance to the lunar landing footprints.
1980 Terra T/C
The first running flat to feature Phylon foam cushioning. The T/C stands for ‘training/competition’. It was also featured briefly in the 1985 film The Goonies.
1996 Gold Shoe
This shoe broke the 200 metres world record. Twice. Designed by Tinker Hatfield’s brother Tobie, the spike plates were asymmetrical to optimise for the bend in the running track.
2001 Air Zoom Katana
Designed for the Asian market as a lightweight and wider-fitting shoe. This wasn’t the first time Nike created a product with anatomy in mind.
The original version was intended as an ultra-lightweight racing flat. Its most unique feature was its claimed 100-kilometre lifespan before its peak performance stopped.
Interestingly, the 90s era doesn’t cover as much innovation in the context of speed. Perhaps the Air Max revolution was taking place and did not quite meet the philosophical constraints of speed. This is technically true: Air Max is a cushioning system ultimately designed to protect the foot, not necessarily make it go faster.
To think of and list all the innovations Nike have pioneered in the 15 years since A Brief History of Speed definitely warrants another book being published. Now, that would be cool.
Now we're back to digging through our archives in search of the next Sneaker Book Club title...if there is a particular book you want to feature, DM our Instagram with your suggestion. Remember, it has to be available as a hard copy!
Stay tuned to see what book we look at next – it could be yours!