The Track Shoes That Broke the 4:00-Minute Mile

These spikes are the real deal– the actual track shoes used by Britain’s Sir Roger Bannister when he ran the first sub-four-minute mile in 1954. Bannister was a 25-year-old Oxford University medical student when he recorded a time of 3:59:40 seconds for the mile on May 6, 1954. Interestingly enough, he was 17 when he seriously took up running, but had never worn running spikes previously or run on a track. Today, Bannister is 81, and lives in Oxford.  He had a successful career as a world-renowned neurologist. He does weights, walking, and a little bit of running with a new hip. In 1975, he was the innocent victim in a head-on car collision. His ankle was crushed and though he was an avid hiker, he couldn’t run for over three decades. Then, serendipity spread her good fortune. He explained what happened next in a 2009 interview with the Daily Telegraph: “I found a new shoe, as used by the Kenyans based on something very cheap for them, the section of a car tyre. I thought, ‘what are these?’ and found they lead to a rolling action when you’re running, which reduces the impact. Running had always been part of my life and I had missed it. So it was wonderful, I’d always loved running in the country.” Though he never medaled in the Olympics, Sir Roger will be right at home in the 2012 London Olympics. (Originally appeared on Zero Drop.)

11 Responses to “The Track Shoes That Broke the 4:00-Minute Mile”

  1. Lergz Blastforth says:

    These look remarkably similar to modern nike track victory’s.

  2. Sue Law says:

    The shoes that Roger Bannister wore when breaking the 4.00 minute mile record were actually made by my father, Charles Law (GT Law@ Son) at his shop in Wimbledon Park. It is most probable that the shoes pictured are not the authentic ones. Having spoken to Roger Bannister several years ago, he wrote to me stating that he was no longer in possession of the shoes as they were lost at a time when he moved house.

    • MarkC says:

      Wow! thanks for reading Sue and adding wisdom and history to our pages. I teach medical students and the best story of the day was that he did his rounds on OB rotation in the morning, grabbed a lunch , boarded a train to the track, and ran 3:59. Here is a story shared by Dr Tim Noakes. Sir Roger was doubtful he could run sub 4 with the weather conditions. His coach Franz Stampfl calmly confided in him “I think you are ready to run 3:57”. And so Sir Roger lined up and ran 3:59. in subsequent weeks and months many more went on to break sub 4. The mind is the governor of it all…..but a track runner on cinders needs good spikes! I would loooove to get a spike from this era in the Shoeseum at our store. Mark

    • Tony Howell-Jones says:

      Sue, Your father made me two pairs of spikes in the 1950’s which helped me to perform as a senior international even though I was still a junior. One pair was black and white with a cross band of brown snake skin and the latter pair red and white. They were bought through Lillywhites. I managed to equal the British 100yd record and many meets in the sprints and high jump. I’m 73 now but syill have them in a trunk in the attic.


    • Job King says:

      Hi Sue,

      Great to see your post! I am an athletics historian with particular interest in running spikes and especially those made in England.

      Have over 300 pairs from the late 1800s to present, including a number of GT Law spikes and cross country shoes from across the decades. These have been displayed at British Athletics Grand Prix events including the Olympic Stadium and always create lots of interest.

      I’ve done some background research and amazed to find Law’s shoes were made in Towcester post-war, this is just down the road from Long Buckby Wharf where I grew up!

      Please do get in touch, would be great to hear more!!

      Best wishes,

      Job King aka onlyjobking

  3. Gary parker says:

    Hi Sue my nan worked for you father at his place in Towcester making sports shoes would love to have a chat about it as trying to find out more information

  4. Simon Ludlam says:

    Sue, I had an interesting chat with Nigel Miller ( famous for turning up too late to run the race) a couple of months ago. He also had his spikes made at Laws. He tells me they used to mark out their feet on tracing paper and send them down to your father to be made up. The really nice touch was the small strip of chamois leather that they put across the toes to stop them getting blisters – Nike just wont do it!

    Kind regards Simon

  5. Chris Simpson says:

    Hi Sue,
    During my rugby playing days I used three pairs of G.T.Law boots. I loved them as did everyone who had them. We used to say that they gave you an extra yard of speed! A while back I tried to research the whole Law phenomenon, with a view to writing an article ( or perhaps more). But beyond a certain point there was no one to ask about the details of the business, or his approach and philosophy in the making of his shoes. Perhaps you, Sue would be happy to engage in an exchange of information in order to help me!
    Yours Sincerely
    Chris Simpson

  6. Paul young says:

    My dad John Young worked for GTLaw in Wimbledon and spoke of the running shoes he helped to make including Roger Bannisters and the Welsh ruby team it’s good that the importance of the running shoes are being noted now.

    • Jane Adamson nee Law says:

      Hello Paul, I am the youngest of the three Law children, we lived in the flat over the shop in Revelstoke Road. I remember your father well, he was there all the time I was growing up, and was always nice to me when I worked in the shop on Saturday mornings as a teenager. He worked for Dad for a long time and I can picture him now hammering on the studs! Well, how good to hear from you. The sale of the Bannister shoes have brought back a lot of memories – my sister and I were at Christie’s to see them sold. Dad died 16 years ago but he would have been very proud to think they made so much money, I expect John would have been too!

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