1999 Nike Cortez Restoration

The Nike Cortez originally released in 1972. Designed by Bill Bowerman for the 1972 Olympic Games, the Cortez was hailed as the first ‘modern’ running shoe. The Cortez is without a doubt one of Nike’s most iconic and important models, with a rich history which dates back even before it was officially known as the Cortez. The shoe has been worn by athletes, celebrities, East-coast gangsters and sports enthusiasts alike, and is still one of the most popular models in existence.

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(Above) Tom Hanks holding a fresh pair of Cortez’s in their OG colourway, in the 1994 film ‘Forest Gump’.

In my personal collection, I only have one pair of the Nike Cortez. My pair is a leather Cortez from 1999 featuring a predominantly white upper with a bold yellow swoosh and grey trimming. On the heel of the shoe, you will find the OG Nike lettering as well as a swoosh on each heel. This is an awesome pair! I acquired these about two years ago after finding them in a thrift shop in London. £20 is the price I paid, which is a steal in my eyes, especially given the condition I found them in!

A pair of shoes of this age is however not without its faults. After a few wears, the outsole began to separate from the midsole, due to the age of the glue holding them together. As well as this issue, they could certainly do with a bit of cleaning! Luckily, the Cortez is not a complicated model, so the separation problem should be an easy fix! Other models, such as any Nike Air Max silhouette, of this age would require much more work to get them back to looking their best. The photo below shows the issue with the sole separation, a problem which is apparent on both the left and right shoes.

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There are a few things you will need if you’re planning on carrying out a similar restoration:

  • Sole cement: I used the SneakersER Sole Bonder 125ml (£14.95)
  • Paintbrush: preferably a flat one
  • Clamps/something heavy

There aren’t actually too many steps to this reglue due to the simplicity of the model. The first thing I did was to remove the laces and the insoles from each shoe. Then I inspected the surface which I would be regluing. If there is any excess factory glue left on the surface, you will need to remove it using a thin layer of Acetone (nail polish remover). On my pair of Cortez’s, there was no factory glue left so I skipped this step. I then gently opened the gap between the outsole and midsole and applied a layer of the SneakersER sole bonder to both surfaces. You want to then leave the glue to dry for 15 minutes. In order to get a firmer bond, a second layer of sole bonder can be applied after the 15 minutes is up.

After 15 minutes, you want to press the surfaces together, making sure they line up perfectly. In order to get the best possible results, you want to clamp the part of the shoe you are regluing, which ensures the sole will not separate again the first time you break them out! Unfortunately, I did not have any clamps to hand so I improvised by placing a brick inside each shoe and propping up the toe. As I was only regluing the heel area of my Cortez’s, I needed to concentrate the weight of the brick towards the heel.

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You need to leave the shoes in this position for a good 24 hours for the best results!

Once you have left the glue to set, remove the bricks (in my case) or clamps. Check that the bond is firm by applying a light pull on the area which you have glued together. If the bond feels firm and the area is not separating, you’ve done it! After I completed the sole binding process, I gave the shoes a quick clean using a sneaker cleaning solution. You can use any solution but I used Crep Protect Cure, in particular, the Crep Protect travel kit, which comes in a small pouch with the cleaning solution, a brush and a microfibre towel (£14.95).

So there we go! The 1999 Nike Cortez’s are good for another 20 years (hopefully). After restoring my pair, I wore them for a whole week straight to test the durability and its fair to say they held up nicely. I’m very glad to re-add these to my rotation!

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Let me know if you have any questions regarding any sneaker restoration! Or get in touch on Instagram by following @crepcultureblog

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