Old-School Sneakers: A Museum Curator’s Vintage Running Shoe Collection

Photo: Scott Draper

Dave Kayser didn’t start collecting running shoes on purpose. Like a lot of people who started training for races during the first running boom of the 1970s, he just had a lot of shoes he became attached to and didn’t want to toss in the trash.

Initially, he hung his retired models on a fence post in his backyard, but, as a professional museum curator, his passion for preserving history carried over into running and he became a serious shoe aficionado. Over the past 40 years, he’s collected more than 120 vintage models, ranging from 1930s handmade leather track spikes to some of the first mass-produced training shoes in the 1960s to the flashy, technologically enhanced models of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Kayser, now 63 and retired, gave us an up-close view of his collection, which is stored in a temperature-controlled environment in his home in the Boston suburbs. If you look closely enough at some of his favorites pictured in this gallery, you can get a glimpse of the evolutionary path running shoes have taken from their formative years to the present.

While some of the old-school brands and concepts have long since been extinct, you might be able to spot a few design elements and performance features that are still present in the modern running shoes you’re wearing now, as well as some of the traits that led to both the minimalist and maximalist cushioning trends of the past decade. You should also be able to see some of the models that have returned amid the retro sneaker craze of the past several years.

As much as running shoes continue to evolve, here’s a little proof that what’s past is prologue as we showcase 30 pairs of shoes from Kayser’s massive collection.

adidas Dragon, 1972
Adidas Dragon late 70’s
ASICS GT Cool, 1991
ASICS GT Cool 1991
Brooks Villanova, 1977
Brooks Villanova 1970’s
Converse Special-Edition Racing Flat, 1983
Converse Racing Flat 1980’s
EB Lydiard Marathon, 1970
EB Lydiard Marathon early 70’s
Mizuno Wave Rider 2, 1999
Mizuno Wave Rider 1999
New Balance 420, 1982
New Balance 420 1982
New Balance Trackster, 1960
Nike Air Huarache, 1991
Nike Huarache 1991
Nike Obori, 1972
Nike Sock Racer, 1985
Nike Sock Racer 1985
Nike Air Tailwind, 1979
Nike Tailwind 1978
Pony California, 1978
Reebok Dual Pump Runner, 1991
Reebok The Pump 1991
Saucony MS Trainer, 1980
Saucony Ms. Trainer 1980
Spalding Track Spikes, 1930s
Spalding Track Spikes, 1930s
Teva Trail Wraptor, 2000
Teva Wraptor 2000
Onitsuka Tiger Marathon, 1971
Brooks Vantage, 1976
Customatix Custom Trainer, 2000
Cutomatix 2000
ASICS Tiger Alliance 1985
Asics Tiger Alliance 1985
New Balance 320, 1976
New Balance 320 1976
Nike Air Pegasus, 1992
Nike Air Pegasus
Nike Elite Classic, 1982
Nike Elite Classic 1982
Nike Air Icarus, 1991
Nike Air Icarus 1991
Dunlap Osaga KT-26, 1978
Osaga KT-26 1980
Puma Disc System Runner, 1991
Turntec Road Warrior II, 1991
Turntec Road Warrior II 1991
Wilson Cross Country, early 1970s
Wilson Cross Country early 70’s
Shoe Collector Dave Kayser
Photo: Scott Draper

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