FEATURE: Meet the innovator who works with the greats of the game to design tennis shoes

Kevin Palmer

They are the wheels that drive success, but what input do the game’s top players have into the design of the shoes they wear on court? Kevin Palmer found out. 

Tennis365 sat down with Rene Zandbergen, Senior Manager, ASICS Footwear, as he revealed his close working relationship with Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic and French star Gael Monfils as he unveiled his latest product, the high-tech Resolution 8 tennis shoes.

What level of consultation do you have with the top players when you to come up with the perfect sports shoes?
A lot of consultation. We worked closely with Djokovic for instance, on the Court FF shoes. I spent months discussing his needs in detail, then we set out to design the perfect shoe for his exact playing style. We then made several prototypes for him to try until we finally landed on the current Court FF.

We had the same process with Monfils for the new Resolution 8, our top shoe for those players who are playing behind the baseline and require a lot of stability in their shoes. We also have specific shoes for those players who typically cover the entire court. For those players like David Goffin or Alex DeMinaur, we create footwear which is more flexible and lightweight – our top shoe in this range is the Solution Speed FF.

What are the big factors that need to be considered when you are designing a tennis shoe?
When we develop shoes in tennis we make sure that they are perfect for the tennis player. In Tennis, we identified two playing types, those who play at the baseline, and the player who moves all over the court – which we classify as ‘all-court’.

In the case of the Resolution 8, we focused on the stability of the shoe with the new Dynawall. This is extremely important for the player who plays on the baseline. This player is moving mainly from side to side during the game, so the Resolution is specifically designed for this player.

We also added the DYNAWRAP for better placement of the foot and a Full-Length outsole which increases grip during the side-to-side movement. If we think about the evolution of tennis shoes overall, the biggest factors we always consider are stability, flexibility, comfort, grip, cushioning, durability and weight.

Do you want the shoe to be a product people will wear away from the tennis court?
Every tennis shoe is of course specifically built for tennis courts which can be clay or hard court, and we offer different outsoles to make sure the tennis player can perform with the best traction/grip. But when the shoe is used off court because it is so comfortable or looks great then we see this as a compliment as well.

What is different about this shoe compared to others ASICS have made for tennis?
Since the shoe is made for the baseline player it has a big focus on stability whereas the player who moves all over court needs a more flexible, lightweight shoe. Every shoe is placed in one of the two pillars and we then apply the good, better, best structure which defines shoes for beginners, top players and athletes.

Gael Monfils shoes

Tell us about some of the technology in this shoe?
The Resolution 8 is very stable and offers three key new technologies which creates more stability:

1) Dynawall: which offers increased midfoot stability on the medial and lateral side of the shoe designed in a specific way allowing the shoe to flex and rotate inwards, while protecting from over-rotation outward
2) Dynawrap: which is a special upper construction which makes sure that the foot is locked down to the midsole when you pull and tie the laces and this supports the foot during the game
3) Torque control counter offering improved heel stability

How many people are involved in the process of bringing a product like this to market?
This is a very hard question to answer, but probably more than you think. It starts with our athletes, we focus on their needs to begin the process. Then our footwear design team gets to work, which usually includes five people, but we also have our sports scientists focused on human-centric design elements of every shoe.

In the case of the Resolution 8, it went through rigorous testing at ISS (Institute of Sport Science) to make sure the shoe is better than the previous model and our competitors. In the end, it truly is a global effort, with more than 50 people working towards the launch of Resolution 8.

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