Three years ago, the NikeCourt design team spoke to a number of tennis athletes about their off-court training and learned that some ran sprints while wearing track spikes in order to improve their speed. This insight presented a new challenge for the team: How to transfer this lightweight, formfitting footwear to the court?
“If you were to ask someone what a tennis shoe looks like, they would say that it's usually made out of leather and pretty wide and boxy on the toe,” says Michael Hui, Nike Senior Designer of Tennis Footwear. “[The NikeCourt Air Zoom Ultrafly] really shatters a lot of those myths.”
The initial design brief for the NikeCourt Air Zoom Ultrafly, Hui explains, was “to build a 'rocket ship'" for tennis, or something that could take the sport to a completely new area. “As a designer,” he adds, “you think visually. Putting the two together — a tennis shoe and a track spike — was the ignition point for what the rocket ship was to become.”
The resulting design introduces a radical, disruptive silhouette that borrows inspiration from American football, global football and track and field footwear. It also garners expertise from Nike’s Innovation Kitchen and groups such as the computational design team.
Lightweight and low to the ground, the NikeCourt Air Zoom Ultrafly features a track and field-tested Pebax® propulsion plate, hexagonal Nike Zoom Air units and Flyknit ankle cuff. The asymmetrical construction, which is most evident in the lacing, aims to help athletes cut diagonally across the court.
“The asymmetry of the shoe comes from this idea of being able to quickly move and push off,” reveals Hui, of the lacing and pods on the forefoot and heel. “Tennis is played on the edges of the shoes; you’re moving so quickly that you barely have time to really stand flat. The shoe is designed to provide maximum contact when you're on the corners.”
Power of the Nike Collective
The NikeCourt Air Zoom Ultrafly was born from Nike’s culture of collaboration. It borrows design elements from track and field, American football and global football footwear.