A pair of 1972 Nike running shoes has sold for $US437,500 ($NZ653,432), shattering the record for a pair of sneakers bought at public auction.

The so-called “Moon Shoe” was one of the first pairs ever made by Nike and was designed by Nike co-founder and track coach, Bill Bowerman, for runners at the 1972 Olympics trials.

The shoes were the top lot in the first-ever auction dedicated to sneakers at Sotheby’s auction house in New York.

Sotheby’s said the price was a world auction record for a pair of sneakers.

The buyer was Canadian investor and car collector Miles Nadal, who had previously paid $US850,000 ($NZ1.2 million) for 99 other pairs of rare or limited collection sneakers offered by Sotheby’s.

The highest previous price fetched at public auction for sneakers was $US190,373 ($NZ284,333) in California in 2017 for a pair of signed Converse shoes said to have been worn by Michael Jordan in the 1984 Olympic basketball final, Sotheby’s said.

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Sotheby’s, better known for selling art works fetching tens of millions of dollars, teamed up with streetwear marketplace Stadium Goods to auction 100 pairs of the rarest sneakers ever produced in a venture that reflects their fast-growing status as collectibles.

The handmade “Moon Shoe,” with a waffle sole pattern, was one of only 12 pairs ever made and the pair that were auctioned are the only ones known to exist in an unworn condition.

Mr Nadal, the founder of investment firm Peerage Capital, said in a statement he was thrilled at his purchase, calling the “Moon Shoe” a “true historical artefact in sports history and pop culture.”

“I think sneaker culture and collecting is on the verge of a breakout moment,” he added, saying he plans to display them, along with the other 99 pairs he acquired in a private sale last week, at his private automobile museum in Toronto.

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– Reuters