Best In Shoe
Running shoes have come a very long way
1966-1970 THE FIRST FLATS
In the beginning there were racing shoes. But they were not terribly good. ‘ Very few running shoes were available, if they could be called that,’ says running-shoe collector Dave Kayser, who started running in 1966. ‘They were heavy and stiff, usually with leather or canvas uppers.’
RW contributor Amby Burfoot, who raced on the nascent roadrunning circuit of the mid-1960s, remembers the New Balance Trackster. Introduced in 1960, it had a leather upper and rubber ripplesole, and was ‘ideal for practically any running surface’, claimed the ads. ‘It had a palpable amount of cushioning’ Burfoot recalls. ‘The minute somebody offered us a shoe with a little cushioning from road shock, we went in that direction.’
By the time of the 1968 Boston Marathon, which he won, Burfoot had switched to the Onitsuka Tiger Marathon, which many remember fondly for its lightness and comfort. Tiger’s training shoe, the Road Runner, had a built-up heel and foam rubber midsole. ‘That was one of the first shoes that felt like a real road-running shoe,’ says Burfoot.
Burfoot bought his Tigers from Jeff Johnson, the first employee of a new company called Blue Ribbon Sports, founded by Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman, which was
importing shoes from Japan and selling them from the back of vans at races. More about them later…
THE RW GUIDES The first Shoe Guide published in Distance Running News, the magazine that would become Runner’s World, came out in April 1967. It featured 14 ‘flats.’ Eleven of those models came from three brands: Adidas, New Balance and Tiger. The guide listed ‘best’ shoes in just two categories. The Tiger Road Runner topped ‘training’, while Tiger’s Marathon won the ‘racing’ category.
1967 Tiger Marathon wins best racing shoe in Distance Running News.