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40 Mind-Blowing Facts About Nike Shoes You Never Knew

For over 50 years, Nike has been fueling athletes’ dreams of glory one Swoosh at a time. But behind the famous brand lies some lesser-known stories that helped build it into the giant shoe brand we know today.

Lace up those Nikes and get ready for a wild ride through 40 unexpected facts about the world’s most iconic athletic shoes.

The Name Game

Let’s kick things off by decoding Nike’s famous moniker and iconic logo:

  • The Nike name comes from the Greek goddess of victory, Nike. An auspicious name for a sports company aiming to help athletes everywhere achieve glory!
  • Contrary to what your grade school gym teachers may have told you, Nike is pronounced “ni-key,” not “nyke” like the popular 1990s song.
  • Nike’s Swoosh logo represents the wings of victory sported by the goddess Nike.
  • The Nike logo was designed by Carolyn Davidson, a graphic design student, and it only cost $35, what a steal!

Fun fact: before settling on Nike, company co-founder Phil Knight briefly considered naming the brand “Dimension Six.” Can you imagine hardcore sneakerheads obsessing over DimSix Dunks? Neither can we!

Humble Beginnings

Nike’s journey from humble beginnings to sportswear supremacy is truly inspiring:

  • On January 25, 1964, University of Oregon track athlete Phil Knight and his coach Bill Bowerman founded Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS), the precursor to Nike Inc.
  • The very first Nike shoe prototype was famously crafted in a waffle iron, resulting in a grippy waffle sole pattern.
  • University of Oregon track athlete Phil Knight invested just $500 to import 200 pairs of shoes from Onitsuka Tiger to sell from his car trunk at local track meets.
  • By 1971 BRS became Nike Inc. and the rest is history – today Nike dominates over 60% of the global athletic footwear market.

Just Do It – Where Did That Come From?

Nike’s iconic three-word tagline “Just Do It” perfectly captures the brand’s go-getter athletic aesthetic. But the phrase has a surprisingly grim origin story:

  • In 1977 the words “Let’s Do It” were uttered by convicted killer Gary Gilmore before his execution by firing squad. An advertising executive (Dan Wieden) later adopted the phrase and transformed it into the aspirational slogan known globally today.

Making Tracks: Epic Nike Commercials

Nike commercials are the stuff of advertising legend – who could forget the iconic Spike Lee Mars Blackmon ads? Here are some of Nike’s most memorable on-screen moments:

  • Nike won two Emmy awards in 2000 and 2002 for outstanding commercials “The Morning After” and “Move.”
  • The iconic Mars Blackmon ads in the 1980s featuring director Spike Lee and Michael Jordan were game-changers. Uttering the famous line “It’s gotta be the shoes!”
  • More recently, Nike made waves featuring ex-NFL star Colin Kaepernick in their inspiring yet controversial “Dream Crazy” ad.

Whether touching or thought-provoking, Nike ads have a knack for getting people talking while selling shoes by the truckload!

Celebrity Connections

Being one of the most visible brands in sports and culture, Nike has had plenty of celebrity moments over the years:

  • Tennis great Ilie Nastase was the first athlete to sign an endorsement deal with Nike back in 1972.
  • And who can forget basketball phenom Michael Jordan’s record-shattering deal with the Swoosh in 1984? Air Jordans alone now generate over $5 billion annually!
  • Even The Beatles have beefed with Nike – they sued the brand in 1987 for $15 million over unauthorized use of the song “Revolution” in a sneaker ad.

From Ronaldo to Serena Williams, it seems like almost every sports star has been a Nike brand ambassador at some point!

University Roots

Nike still keeps strong ties with co-founder Phil Knight’s alma mater, University of Oregon. This has led to some generous donations over the decades:

  • Nike has given more than $100 million towards constructing and renovating campus buildings over the years. Phil Knight even has his own library named after him!
  • Since 2011 Nike has designed signature apparel and uniforms for the University of Oregon’s football team, updating its look every season.

Innovation in Motion

As the official uniform supplier for the NFL and NBA, Nike is constantly pushing athletic apparel forward through cutting-edge innovations:

  • In 2012 Nike’s NFL uniforms featured moisture-wicking fabrics to keep players cool and aerodynamically designed materials to improve performance.
  • The 2018 NBA uniforms were made from recycled plastic bottles and featured Nike Connect technology allowing fans to directly engage with players. Groundbreaking!

Staying ahead takes work – Nike pours millions into R&D every year to kit out athletes with the latest high-performance gear.

Kicking It Old School

Even with space-age fabric technology available, Nike occasionally looks back to early designs that just work:

  • In 2013 Nike launched the Flyknit Racer, a running shoe made from strategically knitted polyester that fits like a sock.
  • Multiple versions of 1985’s iconic Air Jordan 1 retro have been relaunched over the years much to the delight of sneakerheads.

Steps Towards Sustainability

With eyes on being eco-friendly, Nike is taking big steps to lessen their environmental impact:

  • Since 1993 Nike has run a Reuse-A-Shoe program recycling old sneakers into material for playgrounds, tennis courts, and more. Over 30 million pairs have been donated so far – not bad!
  • Aiming for zero carbon and zero waste footwear by 2030, Nike introduced Flyleather in 2017. Made from 50% recycled leather, it has a carbon footprint that’s 80% smaller – now those are some fancy footsteps!

Small everyday changes today will lead to big climate changes overall – kudos to Nike for lacing up for a greener tomorrow!


Ever pushing human limitations, Nike attempted to break the 2-hour marathon barrier in 2017:

  • Nike’s Breaking2 project saw three elite athletes try to run 26.2 miles in under 2 hours on a Formula One racetrack in Italy.
  • Kenyan Olympic gold medalist Eliud Kipchoge clocked an impressive 2:00:25, close but not under the limit. Still, it sparked renewed interest in faster human speeds.

Stranger Shoes

Nike has created some downright weird shoe designs over the decades alongside all the sports performance models we know today:

  • Long before Yeezys, Nike released Air Python snakeskin print basketball sneakers in 1987. Wildly popular then and…still wild!
  • Don’t forget Nike Air Foamposite “Area 72″ models from 2000 inspired by Roswell alien conspiracy theories. 
  • In 2016, Nike unveiled auto-lacing HyperAdapt 1.0 sneakers first envisioned for Back to the Future II. Battery-powered futuristic footwear at last!

Lawsuit Lows

With big success comes plenty of lawsuits too – Nike’s had their share over proprietary tech and trademarks:

  • After acquiring Converse, Nike also sued 31 companies in 2014 for ripping off the iconic All Stars shoe style. Most settled out of court.
  • Nike and Adidas settled a series of U.S. patent disputes over sneaker technology. The dispute started when Nike claimed that Adidas was infringing on its Flyknit technology with its Primeknit shoes.
  • Nike faced potential tax fines of over $530 million for allegedly misclassifying temporary office workers.
  • A Nike consumer accused the brand of greenwashing in a new lawsuit. In a complaint filed in a District Court in Missouri, the plaintiff claimed that Nike uses “deceptive and misleading” statements when marketing its sustainability collection.

Custom Culture

Collaborations with celebrities, athletes, and brands on custom Nike shoes have also been an effective (and cool!) marketing play:

  • Rapper Travis Scott’s viral Air Jordan collab shoes from 2019 resell for thousands today. Gotta catch ‘em all!
  • Unforgettable Air Yeezy kicks from rap god Kanye West are also collector’s items today, going for $50,000+!
  • And who could ever forget 2021’s infamous Satan Shoes by Lil Nas X made using modified Nike Air Max 97s with a drop of blood in the sole? Big scandal energy!

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, custom culture helps Nike shoes stay relevant today.

Global Reach

The Nike empire stretches far and wide today in terms of sales reach and manufacturing hubs:

  • There are over 1,032 Nike brick-and-mortar stores globally today spanning North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.
  • While founded in the US, most Nike shoes today are made in contractor factories located in China, Indonesia, India, and Vietnam.
  • Nike also operates regional HQs in Europe, Asia, and South America as well as Latin America manufacturing plants.

And there you have it – Nike’s origin story from humble home iron experiments to present-day sportswear dominance! With innovation in its DNA and limitless Air powering this global brand into the future, here’s to discovering the next chapter of game-changing Swoosh facts.

Just watch Nike – we won’t take our eyes off you!


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