When a friend told me he had read Shoe Dog : A Memoir by the Creator of Nike and that it was really good, I wasn't sure what to expect. I did not think my friend had poor taste, the book even had the little sticker that librarians put on ones that stand out — I just had trouble picturing how the autobiography of Nike's co-founder would really talk to me.

Well I was wrong, I couldn't be more wrong and the book really deserved its little sticker from Renaud-Bray. It did not take a dozen pages for me to be absorbed in the story of Phil "Buck" Knight, a young Harvard graduate of 24 years old wanting to escape his home state Oregon and explore the world.

We quickly discover during the first chapters his strong attachment to sport and more specifically running. This hobby is far from being unusual nowadays, but running in the sixties was definitely not seen as such. In fact, some people found it so weird that they were calling the police on joggers [1] .

Then follows the start of his adventure, importing Onitsuka Tiger (now known as ASICS) shoes from Japan to Oregon and selling them door to door on the West Coast. The revenue quickly grows, as well as the need to import more shoes every time. One thing that struck me while reading the book is how hard and unforgiving the whole operation looked like — and probably was (in a very similar manner as Pied Piper in Silicon Valley, running from one problem to a bigger one every year). The constant fights with the bank, the late shipments of merchandise and lack of communication from Onitsuka, the competitors that fought to obtain the exclusive rights to sell in the USA ; any of those had a non-negligeable chance of running this whole operation to the ground. However, their goal throughout the development of the company was simply not to fail, and they have avoided failure so well that I doubt many people ignore the brand today.

One reason it has grown to be so iconic, in my opinion, is because it conveys not only goods, but the idea of a lifestyle. One might give the example of Lululemon for a similar brand, altough not as big (Nike's revenues were tenfold in 2021). You might think that I am being corny and it is nothing but a marketing technique, but it is hard while reading this story to feel untouched by their passion, if not obsession, to help runners.

While on the topics of feelings, I was definitely surprised to be on the verge of crying multiple times — so there is way more in this bible of capitalism and free market than just a story about selling shoes, trust me. His trip around the world, his love stories and how he met his wife, his complicated relationship with his sons, the tragic death of his friend, his bonds with the sportmen — it just feels so real, so close.

My only reproach to this book is the message to the reader which goes like this:

Follow your dreams, do great things.

While he admits numerous times that he would love to start over, I couldn't help but be annoyed by this speech. The way he narrates book shows that he put everything after his company: his wife, kids, running (which is pretty ironic in his case) and wellbeing in general. This amount of sacrifices is maybe defensible for some, but certainly not for everyone and especially not me. Although his intent is probably to tell people to give their wildest dreams a chance, it is so easy to feel bad when reading this American success story and thinking you are not doing enough.

To conclude, running is an amazing hobby and I want to thank him deeply for all he did to normalize and create the great culture around it present today.