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.