10 Classic Tennis Shoes That Deserve Tech Upgrades

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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Unless you’ve spent the better part of 2014 under a rock, you’ve probably noticed a growing trend amongst sneaker brands. From flashy mid-tops to crispy lows, there’s been a strong interest and demand for retro releases of classic court models. In just the first two months of the year, we’ve seen huge drops like the return of the Nike Air Tech Challenge II and the adidas Stan Smith. Both models flew off the shelves quicker than ever before, and both Nike and adidas have more releases in the pipeline.

Unfortunately, these retro tennis models are just that: retro. As iconic and era-defining as many of these models are, their re-released forms aren’t suited for any serious use on the courts. But don’t write the tennis shoes of yesteryears off just yet. Instead of leaving these classic sneakers in the past, we’re proposing tech updates to bring them into the future. By mixing well-known style cues with more advanced materials and technologies, the potential is endless. These are 10 Classic Tennis Shoes That Deserve Tech Upgrades.

Riley Jones is a freelance writer from Charlottesville, VA and a contributor to Sneaker Report. With an unshakable affinity for basketball and all things ’90s, he can be found on Twitter @rchrstphr.

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Fila T1
Image via Fila

No. 10 – Fila T-1

Original release: 1984
Proposed tech update:
Super Action midsole

These days, Fila is known more for their retro gear and style than major innovations, but they’re still a top name in the world of tennis. Their Sentinel model, which is worn by pros likes Andreas Seppi and Janko Tipsarevic, features a highly-cushioned Super Action midsole that would be the perfect starting point for rejuvenating their 1984 classic, the T-1.

Puma G Vilas
Image via Only-Sneakers

No. 9 – Puma G Vilas (GV Special)

Original release: 1982
Proposed tech update: WebCage upper

The original Guillermo Vilas signature model from Puma is most associated with its chunky, cushioned polyurethane midsole. For a modern update, we wouldn’t change a thing about what made the Puma G Vilas stand out, but we’d like to see its leather upper swapped with the breathable, supportive, and flexible innovation that is WebCage, found on the BioWeb line.

Nike Air Supreme Court Low
Image via Only-Sneakers

No. 8 – Nike Air Supreme Court Low

Original release: 1993
Proposed tech update: 360 Air Max cushioning

Everything about the Nike Air Supreme Court Low screams early-mid ‘90s. From its clean, flowing lines to its forefoot support strap and perforated leather, the Supreme Court Low is one of those classics that can easily be ruined with the wrong update. That’s why we’d keep everything that made the shoe iconic, but replace its dated midsole with a more cushioned 360 Air Max setup.

adidas Rod Laver
Image via Holabird Sports

No. 7 – adidas Rod Laver

Original release: 1970
Proposed tech update:
adiprene cushioning

There’s no way around it: the adidas Rod Laver just LOOKS old. Its sophisticated, no-frills design helped to make it a lifestyle hit, and its mesh-based upper was perfectly functional on the courts as well. Changing the Rod Laver’s “blank slate” of an upper would result in a different shoe entirely, so we’d rather see some upgrades to the midsole with adiprene.

Puma Becker Ace
Image via In Flex We Trust

No. 6 – Puma Becker Ace

Original release: 1986
Proposed tech update:
FaasFoam midsole

The Puma Becker Ace released in 1986, featuring a slim, low-profile midsole and a supple leather upper. Decades later, their famous stripe logo placement is still one of the brand’s trademarks, and the Becker Ace to Faas conversion would be a seemingly painless one. Strip the soft, signature-adorned uppers and sandwich them on the brand’s FaasFoam midsole for a resilient, cushy feel on the court.

Nike Mac Attack
Image via Sneaker News

No. 5 – Nike Mac Attack

Original release: 1985
Proposed tech update: Flyknit, Flywire

Rebel without a cause, indeed. Whether or not you were a fan of Johnny Mac’s on (and off) court antics during the ‘80s, you had to respect the man’s game. The only thing that may have been meaner than one of McEnroe’s infamous tantrums was his impressive rotation of Nikes. Somehow, someway, the Nike Mac Attack continues to be overlooked in terms of a faithful retro. At this point, we’ve pretty much given up on that, but we wouldn’t turn our noses up at a Flyknit version, either. The Mac Attack’s mesh-based upper would transition seamlessly (no pun intended) into a knitted construction, and it’d do the nearly 30-year-old model some well deserved justice.

adidas Lendle Competition 2
Image via Sneakerpedia/a>

No. 4 – adidas Lendl Competition 2

Original release: 1984
Proposed tech update:
Sprintskin upper, Sprintframe support

The last time Ivan Lendl was the world no. 1 tennis player was February 28, 1983. Decades later, his impression is still felt, as evidenced by the likes of up-and-coming New York rapper Action Bronson (“Serve like Ivan Lendl up in the rental”.) We can’t help but think that a resurgence of his 1984 adidas Lendl Competition 2 model would add even more interest to the Czechoslovakian legend. The construction of the original Lendl Competition 2 could use some added support in the form of a SprintSkin upper and SprintFrame chassis, while leaving its bold white, blue, and red color blocking untouched.

Nike Air Tech Challenge 2
Image via Freshness Mag

No. 3 – Nike Air Tech Challenge II

Original release: 1990
Proposed tech update: Lunarlon cushioning

This is a tough one. Make the wrong change, and you’ll send the purists into a rage fit. Add a sensible, interesting tweak and it might be the next big thing. So let’s keep the instantly-recognizable design the same but change up the tooling a bit.

We don’t mean to offend any Air Yeezy diehards, but please, do your research. The Air Tech Challenge II served as the inspiration for the Air Yeezy 2’s midsole, not the other way around. In order to avoid further confusion and add a performance upgrade to the ATC 2, we’ll give it a Lunarlon midsole with a look that is distinctly its own.

Reebok Court Victory Pump
Image via Kicks Deals

No. 2 – Reebok Court Victory Pump

Original release: 1990
Proposed tech update:
3D Fuse Frame

In 1990, the Reebok Court Victory Pump was made famous by Michael Chang in its lime green colorway and was actually quite innovative for its time. It was the first Reebok model to mix the custom-fit Pump technology with bouncy Hexalite cushioning, bringing a whole new feel to the courts. Although both of these technologies are dated at this point, they’re still suitable for use on the court and aren’t in need of any major upgrade. Instead, the Court Victory Pump’s upper could benefit from a more breathable and supportive construction in the form of 3D Fuse Frame.

adidas Stan Smith
Image via Hypebeast

No. 1 – adidas Stan Smith

Original release: 1964
Proposed tech update: Energy Boost

Started… Okay, so technically, the adidas Stan Smith has already been given a tech upgrade with the Stan Smith Skateboarding line. While we appreciate the crossover appeal and the excellent execution, how about taking the Stan Smith back to the tennis court? Over the years, it’s become an immense success as a lifestyle sneaker, and its 2014 re-launch has brought the white-and-fairway green model back into the spotlight.

At the end of the day, the Stan Smith was a groundbreaking tennis sneaker and should be remembered as such. Sure, there have been countless variations and updates over the years, but none of them have been truly catered towards tennis performance. Our suggestion? Keep the iconic white leather upper intact, but swap the rubber outsole for one of the Three Stripes’ biggest recent breakthroughs: Energy Boost cushioning. The result would be nothing short of radical, and we wouldn’t be surprised if Stan Smith himself came out of retirement to try them out.

Riley Jones is a freelance writer from Charlottesville, VA and a contributor to Sneaker Report. With an unshakable affinity for basketball and all things ’90s, he can be found on Twitter @rchrstphr.

RELATED: The 10 Best Tennis Sneakers for Players with Flat Feet
The 10 Best Hard Court Tennis Shoes Available Now