The running spikes that Sir Roger Bannister wore when he became the first man to run under four minutes for the mile are to be auctioned off by Christie's in the autumn. The historic race went down in Athletics folklore and represents one of the iconic moments in sporting history. They represent the last tangible link that 86-year-old Bannister has with that momentous occasion and could fetch as much as £50,000 in the sale.

Extremely light spikes

To break a notable landmark requires not just a special athlete, it also helps if the sportsperson is wearing the footwear best suited for the task at hand.

Bannister plumped for a set of shoes fashioned by Charles Law of GT Law and Son, with weight being a key factor in their composition. The pair he ended up wearing for the race weighed in at just four and a half ounces (112g), far lighter than the spikes worn by many other athletes at the time. The decision paid off handsomely as the Britain crossed the line in 3:59.4.

Bannister said that "there was an advantage in having the shoes as light as possible" to attack the mile record. Recognising the importance of his ground-breaking performance, he added that the shoes had served him "great purpose".

Memories that stay with us

Records in sport are there to be beaten. With dietary developments and technological advances often comes improvements in times and distances.

We expect the limits of endurance and speed to continue to progress over the years, yet some records hold a resonance and particular significance. Bob Beamon's world record long jump in 1968 at the Mexico Olympics was one such moment. The image of the American seemingly hanging in mid-air stayed in the memory long after its occurrence for many sports fans.

The record itself also remained intact for some 22 years, until another American Mike Powell broke it.

The enduring image of Bannister's achievement on 6th May, 1954 at the Iffley Road track in Oxford was captured for posterity in black and white photographs, the four minute mile barrier was finally broken and the floodgates to faster times had been opened.

Unlike Beamon's later record, Bannister's new mile figures were smashed by Australia's John Landy with 3:58.0 just over a month later. Bannister's legacy to British (and world) athletics, however, was secured for all time because of the significance of his run.

Mile progression

Many have run faster since, with the current mile record from 1999 standing at a quite staggering 3:43.13 to the Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj. Such a time must have seemed unimaginable to many back in the 1950s, although maybe not to the forward-thinking, Sir Roger.

Interest expected

Sir Roger's parting from the shoes that gave him a place in sporting history are expected to be met with much interest from avid sports memorabilia collectors. Christie's have placed an initial estimate on the famous shoes of between £30,000 and £50,000, when they are due to be sold in September. It is believed that a charity for medical research will benefit from part of the proceeds raised by the sale.