Nike has back in its possession what the Oregonian calls the company's "Holy Grail"—the waffle iron that inspired co-founder Bill Bowerman to design his first innovative sole. Bowerman's son found the relic buried on his late father's property near Eugene, and the family gave it to Nike. (The company made a "generous" donation in return to the local high school track team where the family lives.) "It truly is the headwaters of our innovation," says the company historian. "From a historian's standpoint, it's like finding the Titanic."
As the story goes, Bowerman and his wife were making waffles in 1971 and talking about how to make a lighter, faster shoe. "As one of the waffles came out, he said, 'You know, by turning it upside down—where the waffle part would come in contact with the track—I think that might work,'" said his wife in a 2006 interview. Bowerman then used that same waffle iron to test his theory. It worked. For the full telling, see the Oregonian. (Read more Nike stories.)