Bowerman, who coached at the University of Oregon from 1949 to 1972 and was on Nike's board until last year, died in his sleep on Friday at his home in Fossil, Oregon, said a company spokesman.
He was experimenting with ways to make a lighter, more flexible shoe for his athletes when he invented the first light sole in his garage using latex, leather, glue and his wife's waffle iron. In 1964 he teamed up with one of his former athletes, Phil Knight, to chip in $500 each and make 330 pairs of the "Waffle-sole" shoes. They sold them for $3.30 each at track meetings from the boot of Knight's car, the first step towards launching Nike, named from the Greek goddess of victory. It became a multi-billion-dollar shoe and clothes firm.
Bowerman also helped to popularise jogging with a 1967 book on running as exercise. "He was for so many of us a hero, leader and most of all teacher," Mr Knight, the Nike chairman, said. "My sadness at his passing is beyond words." Mr Knight has called Bowerman the biggest influence on his life after his parents.
During his career at the University of Oregon, Bowerman coached 24 individual National Collegiate Athletic Association track champions and led his teams to four national titles. In 24 years as coach his Ducks teams finished 16 times in the top 10. He was also head track coach at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, marred by an attack that claimed the lives of 11 Israeli athletes, five terrorists and a West German policeman. Bowerman called it "the worst experience I've had in my entire educational and athletic life".
Bowerman, born in Portland in 1911, graduated from the University of Oregon, where he excelled at football and track events. He coached high- school football and athletics before taking the job at Oregon.
Two months ago Nike said a silhouette of Bowerman would appear on Nike running shoes alongside a smaller "swoosh", the company's trademark. (Reuters, AP)