Nike has borrowed from various athletic departments to make some outstanding skate shoes, with tennis as a top category. Though early tennis shoes came from basketball shoes which eventually turned into skate shoes, it's interesting to see certain models transcend the sport they were intended for.
From the original Forest Hills model of the 70s (the predecessor to the SB Blazer that we know today), the Air Trainer High of the late 80s (influencer of the SB Trainers of last decade), to last year's Delegate-inspired Challenge Court SB, skaters have recieved their fare share of tennis cross-over shoes.
Let's take a look back at 10 Classic Nike Tennis Shoe That Should Get the SB Treatment.
Air Challenge LWP
LWP stands for Light Weight Performance and what made this shoe cool was that there was ample cushioning throughout it. There was Nike's Tensile Air (known today as Zoom Air) in the forefoot and a heel Air-Sole. The upper was made out of a dynamic-stretch sleeve and beefed up by Durabuck layer that was double stitched on top. Another new innovation with this shoe was an anti friction lacing system because each lace hole had its own loop, so the laces hung freely. This was a pretty advanced shoe for 1995.
The components here are already ideal for a skate shoe. All that really needs to happen is a smoothening out of the upper's Durabuck layer, because all those raised lines and textures are too bumpy for skateboarding.
Nike Vapor 9 Tour
This is the shoe tennis great Roger Federer plays in and it was inspired by a running shoe and designed by the legendary Tinker Hatfield. When the LE version debuted at Wimbledon this past June, the All English Lawn Tennis Club wasn't feeling the electric orange sole and banned the shoes entirely to Federer and Nike's dismay. Federer was excited about playing in the LE's because of the outsole's flex grooves that help your feet move more naturally on the court. The biggest plus with these is the Dynamic Fit system which wraps the midfoot and arch almost like a sock.
This shoe is ready for skating, with just a few changes. The sole needs to be reworked because skaters won't buy into a shoe that has defined points on the sole shaped for moves where you takeoff using your toes or heel. The midfoot area needs to be widened meaning the sole needs to be less contoured and more uniform shape-wise. The upper's rubber and synthetic leather overlays would need to be made of nubuck or some other skateable material for skateability and durability. The rubber could perhaps hold up, but that toe cap would need to extend all the way through the ollie area for durability. The end result would be a great looking shoe but finicky skaters would call it "too athletic."
Air Supreme Court 3/4
In 1992 Nike released this 3/4 version (advertised as being as wholesome as "Mary Ann" of Gilligan's Island) of the ASC which featured full length Nike Air cushioning. The midsole was made of Phylon, which is a foam cushioning compound that is lightweight, springy and durable. It had a toe-piece made of Durathane which was a material that could better withstand the wear that comes from constantly being on your toes.
This shoe is pretty much skateable as is, but filling that gap from the toe cap to the side panel would make it awesome. And maybe extending the toe cap an inch to provide a bigger ollie area would be cool too.
Nike Mac Attack
This was John McEnroe's pro model, which at the time was like a defiant backhand aimed above the neck of the bland, bleach-white tennis world of the mid 80s. Coming in silver and black the Mac Attack was openly adverse, and very different -- you might credit its look to the Vandal which came out around the same time. Because of the era in which it came out in there are no major technical specs to speak of here. This is a shoe with basic materials like leather and mesh and anyone who actually wore them will tell you that while they were an advancement in the sport at the time, they'd be considered quite uncomfortable today.
The Mac Attack is a zoom air insole away from being skateable. You put any insole in there aside from what it came with and you'll be in a winning position. The five holes in the ollie area have to go because skaters won't buy shoes with the holes in the ollie area. The toe area is nearly perfect already because of its round shape, and the black mesh's surface area just needs to be shrunk a bit (the same for the ollie area). The gradual descent in the cupsole width from heel to toe is ideal and if made of a newer, lighter material it would really be a great shoe.
Nike Tech Challenge II Low
Another Tinker Hatfield gem from the 1980s, the Air Tech Challenge 2 low debuted in 1989, with most people remembering the 3/4 version in the hot lava colorway. People loved the Tech Challenge II Low's vibrant colorways, air cushioning, and durabuck uppers. It was one of the first shoes to feature Durathane which according to Nike, doubles the life of the toepiece. Five years after the Mac Attack, Nike's technology, design and fashion sense put tennis shoes in a performance class of their own, and made them popular with collectors. This could be the one outside of basketball that started it all. Plus the Air Yeezys borrowed the soles, so you can get a sense of how powerful its aesthetic is.
This shoe is ready to skate as is.
The stuffy traditionalists at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club (AELTC ) were pleased with this shoe from Nike which came out in 1986 for Wimbledon. It was made of leather with the standard purple and green accents, not overdone so they would be to the AELTC's all-white apparel-themed liking. Rumor has it that Bruce Kilgore and Peter Moore designed it, and Moore left Nike the following year, but a Gucci patent surfaced with the same design as the All England. Soon after Nike moved their factories from Europe to Asia.
This shoe just needs a sleeker version to be skateable. It's already skateable, but shrinking the the cupsole slightly and connecting it all the way around instead of having that midfoot space would make it more appealing and sturdier.
Nike Air Ace
This was one of the first shoes to sport a visible air bubble in the sole and it was also a link between tennis and basketball through the hardwood classic Nike Air Revolution, which came out the same year. The Air Revolution was a high top version of the Ace and it also had a strap at the top. The Ace's simplicity seemed like a good idea in 1987, the year before it came out, but once the Tech Challenge line debuted this gem would become an afterthought.
This shoe is perfect as is with design that is built for skateboarding, but a much lighter version would be needed today.
Nike Air Resistance II
In 1996 Nike released this edition of the popular Air Resistance, which was heralded for its toughness. Some Nike Tennis models didn't hold up but this one had a toe area made of kevlar and was part of their NDESTRUKT series. This was also a shoe made for Jim Courier, and while he may not have been motivating sales, the sneaker's legend was. This shoe actually had a six month blowout guarantee which earned you a free pair if you blew through them. Part of what made getting to that point difficult was the regrind rubber which was made from the recycled soles of other shoes. This shoe was more advanced than the first, but people loved the first ones a lot more.
Nike Air Assailant
This is a shoe of lore, as it signified Andre Agassi's return to tennis, in the late 1990s. In 1998 this shoe hit the market featuring a tongue that was part of the upper, not on its own, and Nike's trademark air bubble and heel tag. The mesh came from the Air Jordan 13 and it made it look awesome.
Nike AIr Oscillate
Pete Sampras wore these shoes in 1996 and won the Australian Open, but he may have never worn them were it not for Tinker Hatfield. Yes Hatfield designed the shoes, but he did so without input from Sampras. Hatfield used feedback from tennis pros to create this shoe, which he told Sampras was a basketball shoe. After wearing these shoes in a pick up basketball game (Hatfield's idea) Sampras was hooked and wore these shoes in the 1996 Australian open. You already know what happened there.