Nike's Bill Bowerman poured rubber into his wife's waffle iron to create the prototype for these "Waffle Racing Flats" which debuted at the 1972 Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

The "Astro-grabber" turf shoe appeared in Baltimore sporting goods stores in the late 70's and disappeared in the early eighties. It had more support and was a bit wider than the flats. It also had a white cloth mesh upper which was more often than not adorned with magic markered checkerboard patterns and outrageous designs.

The shoes cost about $24.00 while the popular canvas Nike basketball shoes were about $21.00. Remember this is just before the modern shoe era began. Those white canvas Nikes with the colored leather look swoosh were required wear for every kid in the nation. The Puma "Clyde" and Adidas "Stan Smith" were the only other choices and they were rarely seen in lacrosse circles. UNC's Cinderella Championship team of 1981 and star players Dave Wingate and Michael Burnett popularized the high-top Chucks within the lax community for a few years. This was followed with the onslaught of high-top turf and cleated shoes for field sports. The Nike Shark replaced the Astro-grabber on Towson and Cockeysville store shelves and the fabled paint-it-yourself shoe with the wide tread was no more.
UNTIL NOW ! The 1997 Nike Air Canvas for turf comes in black or blue and is souped up with all the modern sneaker amenities like "Air-Cushioning" and a white "Poly-foam" mid-section. But it does mark the return of a low, canvas, wide tread shoe built for turf and wet grass. The Air Canvas retails for about 60 bucks, while the popular shoes of the day average about 70. It's the only shoe we could find that was really built for turf and had a cloth upper. This allows for easy home washing (not in the machine, though) and quick drying.

The tread is very similar to it's long dead cousin as it wraps around the base of the shoe and over the edge onto the top in the front, back, and side pivot points. A player like Virginia's Doug Knight has been seen, on occasion, toughing out the last few falling strides of a crease assault on the tips of his toes. He would like these shoes. He'd get another six to ten inches out of each of those steps as he places the ball in the net less than a second before he hits the taboo turf or worse, the pipe. Most of us, of course, do not have the ability to run on the tops of our feet or the speed to get there sans defender, but it is good to know that if we ever find ourselves falling toward the goal and still possessing rock, that we can get an inch or two more turf in our mask by pumping our legs and utilizing that little cleated patch atop the toe of this shoe for increased velocity. The side tread extensions are very valuable when making quick turns on wet grass or turf for all levels of players and the shoe is lighter than any we could find for this purpose. The front "collar" or tying mechanism of the Air Canvas is the widest we've ever seen. They look a little like the collar on Robin Hood's shirt, with loose ties. The fit is pretty comfortable and this of course uses less material making the shoe lighter, cooler and cheaper. They come with white laces. We preferred the black look.

The funky little spotted "air-cushion" detracts from the simplicity of the shoe's design but most popular shoes have some asymmetrical and embossed features these days, and the Air Canvas is, of course, in the very popular Nike "air" product line, along with the Michael Jordan basketball shoes. The treads last a lot longer these days. This is due, in part, to ten years of technological advancements. We also did not wear these shoes every waking moment for years as we did with the early version. They're not really made for concrete sidewalks and these shoes have way too much traction for gym use. This shoe is a winner, and not really a new idea at all. We're just glad they brought them back. We're going to buy extra pairs though, just in case they disappear again.

Learn more about Nike and sneaker history at the Nike Locker Room. This is a pretty cool site, but you need shockwave to use it. You can get shockwave at most freeware download sites. The Nike web site "home page" is also worth a look. Nike's absence stuck out like a sore thumb on the web for a while. They had a "we're working on a site" message at for months and months, while dominating every other form of public relations and advertising. Their site isn't dominating but it's quite good and changes often. A great Tiger Woods section is featured currently!

July, 1997