Tobie Hatfield has a statue of Bill Bowerman in office to always remind him of Bill’s motto of “what can I do for the athlete?” That is Tobie’s mentality when he designs in the Nike Innovative Kitchen, where the best shoe designers in the world gather their thoughts and come up with the next big thing in the shoe industry.
Lately, Tobie has been very busy with the Nike Free footwear, which is an innovative idea that is based on the philosophy of what can Nike do for the athlete. The foot has muscles that are not used when athletes train in regular shoes. But with the Nike free technology you essentially train barefoot, which is actually a technique that is currently used by some athletes to strengthen their feet.
This is just one of the many projects that Tobie has been a part of since joining Nike in 1990. My personal favorite was his design of Michael Johnson’s famous “gold shoes” in the Olympic Games in ‘96, when Johnson took the gold in both the 200m and the 400m.
Besides being in awe of the infamous Nike Innovation Kitchen, we actually did manage to hear Tobie’s story and about the Nike Free. He majored in physiology, and went into coaching track at the Division I level in the NCAA. This helped him with the transition to Nike in 1990, when he was able to truly understand Nike’s mentality of “what can I do for the athlete?”
He now works alongside his brother who started as an architect, went into designing shoes, and designed the first thirteen pairs of Jordans.
The main thing that I’ll take out of this interview is that you can learn from other people, because seeing how passionately Tobie was towards Bill Bowerman’s philosophy and how incorporated it in his thought process and design process was truly amazing to see firsthand.