Best for: All-court play
Key feature: Drag-on 2x upper for support and durability
Weight: 16 oz
The streamlined upper on the Nike Air Max Courtballistec 4.3, paired with Volt accents certainly combine to make arguably the best-looking tennis shoe on the courts today, but the choice shoe of Rafael Nadal is much more than just eye candy.
Over the past few years, the Air Max Courtballistec series has gradually improved in both style and performance to meet the demands of modern tennis, and the latest version, the Courtballistec 4.3, is even better yet. For starters, Nike has added more mesh on the upper compared to the previous model. This allows for improved breathability, and makes the shoe feel lighter than its 16-ounce weight might suggest.
The Courtballistec 4.3 is by far one of the most durable tennis shoes currently on the market. It’s reinforced in all the right places, including an extended toe guard that wraps around the medial side of the shoe for more coverage. A beefed up lip provides lateral support, and helps keep you stable during quick movements and sudden directional changes. The Drag-on 2x system in the forefoot encases the mesh upper and acts like a roll cage, providing yet another layer of support and durability.
If you’re the type of player who likes to get into long rallies and chase down every ball that comes your way, this is the shoe you want. The Courtballistec 4.3 has more than enough cushioning to get your through the toughest of matches. Not only does the shoe have padding lined all around the collar and heel, it comes with a little something called Max Air—sure you’ve heard of it. The Air unit in the heel absorbs shock from constant impact, and provides a soft landing zone for the heel. Paired with Lunarlon cushioning in the forefoot, the Courtballistec 4.3 helps reduce foot fatigue, keeping you in the game longer.
To bring it all together, Nike slapped a durable XDR outsole on the Courtballistec 4.3, which features a combination of herringbone and nub outsole patterns for all-court use. What does this mean for you? Well, its means the shoe handles great on hard court, clay, and even grass surfaces, making for one versatile tennis shoe. One thing I would like to point out is that the shoe does require a little bit of breaking in. It has excellent step-in feel, but was a little stiff at first in the forefoot. Though, after a few sessions, everything was golden.
The Cut: The Air Max Courtballistec 4.3 is light on the feet and the eyes. It’s built for players with an all-around game—players like Nadal, who like to control the tempo of the match by dominating the baseline.
Gurvinder Singh Gandu is a New York City-based writer and wear-tester for Sneaker Report, and contributor to Complex Media. Follow him @GurvinderSG for the latest in performance footwear and gear.