words // Katie Nelson

If there’s one shoe that made Nike a household name, it’s the Cortez. Designed by Nike co-founder and legendary track coach Bill Bowerman, the Cortez got its start as a running shoe. Bowerman’s goal was to design a more durable, comfortable running shoe that could withstand the rigors of distance running on pavement. Using his wife’s waffle iron, he set out to make a unique shoe bottom. After numerous failed attempts, he achieved his goal. The result was a shoe he dubbed the “Cortez,” after the notorious conquistador Hernan Cortes, conquerer of the Aztecs in the 16th century. The Cortez was the first shoe to feature the word “Nike” and the now legendary Swoosh logo – quickly setting a standard for its successors. Making its debut in 1972 and gracing the feet of that year’s US Olympic athletes, the Cortez became wildly popular among the public and put Nike on the map.

Forty years later, the Cortez is retired from its running career but still remains one of Nike’s most popular casual shoes. Attesting to its quality, the Cortez still provides unsurpassed comfort, support, and durability. It sits on a rubber herringbone outsole and features a thick foam midsole, used to provide maximum cushioning in the lightest design possible. Originally only available in leather, the Cortez is now available in suede and nylon for a range of style possibilities.

Available: Nike Cortez

The Lasting Legacy of the Nike Cortez