December 5, 2020

Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog: A memoir by the Creator of Nike – Review

Phil Knight is a runner first, and businessman second. As almost all people who take up running, jogging or higher level competition find, it is something which they just love to do. Runners are a strange breed who struggle to explain what is so great about pushing yourself, hurting yourself when running; and Phil Knight is no different to this.

Despite there nowadays being hundreds upon hundreds of running books available to read; each one covering a different topic and giving its own opinion on the right way to train, the journey of Phil Knight’s initial small Blue Ribbon shoe distribution firm growing into the company of Nike Inc. which we all know today was one I decided I had to read, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Phil Knight’s ambition:

To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.

Each chapter of Knight’s memoirs follows each year of the journey which built a small start-up in 1962 to a dominant brand by 1980.

For me I found the first few chapters and pages slightly slow, giving great detail of his travel which are nonetheless incredible, but it was after this where it was hard to stop reading; you connect with the writer Phil Knight and feel part of his journey, his successes, his failures, but also understand what he was out to do. Knight had one main desire to create a better running shoe, it was made by runners, for runners. Phil Knight explains the eccentricity of those early employees, none more so than Bill Bowerman – the 49% share holder in the early start-up and joint owner alongside Knight.

A book for the businessman

In Knight’s own words, his business and management style is slightly crazy. From not answering letters to dealing with the Japanese, Knight opens up to the real way he dealt with staff and suppliers in the early days.

These memoirs also open up to his background, his high standard upbringing, his failures, but also the lessons learnt which were needed to found and run one of this biggest companies on earth. Phil Knight plants his knowledge and business wisdom throughout the memoirs, leaving small bits of advice to any young entrepreneur such as his ‘fail fast’ approach.

Phil Knight in his early days as Nike creator
Phil Knight in his early days as Nike creator

Educated with an MBA from Stanford University, and then trained as an accountant, the lessons he learnt are brilliant portrayed to the reader, inspiring you to want to go out and start-up your own company and this is why I feel this is a brilliant book to read. It is not just a story but also an inspirational and educational book.

Although the book walks you through how Nike was built from the ground up, inevitably the outcome is known. Phil Knight succeeded in building a multi billion dollar business which now turns over $30 billion each year in sales with Nike being seen across the world on the feet of almost every athlete.

A book for the Runner

Not only is this a book for those interested in all things business and economics based, but also anyone interested in success stories and sport. As I previously said, Phil Knight was a runner and this love certainty comes across, building the company around his running compatriots, including the legendary Bill Bowerman.

Bowerman was an elite track and field coach at Oregon University – he coached 16 sub 4 minute milers – and co-founder of Nike Inc., writing his own books on running whilst contributing to the early design of the shoes. If you are interested in running and reading then Bowman’s book of Jogging is a must read, starting the craze for running, even making it cool.

Get Bill Bowman’s book Jogging here.


These memoirs from Phil Knight of how Nike has grown into what it is today is one of those books that really is more than just a simple story, it is more than just an autobiography. It is educational and informative, it is an inspirational memoir from the highs to the lows, giving an insight to what it takes to be successful.

Shoe Dog: A memoir by the Creator of Nike is available from Amazon here.

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