Bowerman inducted into National Inventors Hall of Fame

Anyone who's familiar with Bill Bowerman's career as track and field coach at the University of Oregon will not be surprised to learn he has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

This week, hall officials announced the 14-member class of 2014 inductees, who have made "extraordinary contributions to their respective fields, and in many cases, changed the world forever."

In Bowerman's case, he changed how runners run forever. 

Bowerman, who died in 1999, coached track and field at Oregon for 23 years, starting in 1948. Early in his career, he grew dissatisfied with the commercially produced shoes of the day.

They were either too heavy or too expensive, so Bowerman taught himself to cobble, and began building his runners their own shoes, striving for lightness above all— shoes so wispy they sometimes would fall apart after one race.

In 1964, he and one of his former runners, Phil Knight, co-founded a running shoe company called Blue Ribbon Sports. They imported Japanese running shoes to the United States before deciding to make their own shoes, based on Bowerman's designs. And they changed the name of the company to Nike. 

Bowerman continued his tinkering and experimenting to create a better shoe —  most famously, the Waffle Trainer, which he developed by pouring molten rubber onto his wife's waffle irons, creating the distinctive nubby sole. Along the way, he received numerous patents for his shoe designs.

Bowerman and the other 2014 inductees will be honored at a ceremony on May 21 in Alexandria, Va. Bowerman also is a member of the National Distance Running Hall of Fame, the USA National Track and Field Hall of Fame and the Oregon Athletic Hall of Fame. He's the namesake of the Bowerman Award, given each year to the most outstanding male and female track and field athletes.

Tim Christie