A Cool Ride!
In tennis shoes, players are looking for ventilation and breathability to keep their feet cool and dry.
By Mitch Rustad
You can hone your strokes to perfection, find just the right racquet, string tension and attire to get you in that winning mood, but if your feet feel like burning coals in your shoes, all bets are off, especially as summer temperatures soar.
Tennis shoe manufacturers hear it from consumers all the time — durability and comfort are essential, but keeping feet cool and dry is also top of mind these days.
“It’s really critical, and one of the biggest things that we’ve noticed over the last few years is the need for cooling systems,” says George Poulos, global business director for footwear for Prince. “It used to be the best shoes were solid leather, but that’s not the case anymore. State-of-the-art shoes today feature more mesh and breathability. People want more ventilation, more breathable shoes.”
Adds Matt Beck, senior product developer for New Balance: “I think that over the years, the consumer has become more informed and has come to expect moisture-wicking capabilities on high-end shoes. We think it’s an important feature.”
But there is also a unique challenge for manufacturers when it comes to touting their new cooling technologies, says Greg Mason, senior sales director of HEAD Penn. “It’s impossible to demonstrate this technology at the retail level, because a consumer can’t feel this technology when they try it on in the store. They only feel it 45 minutes into a match,” says Mason. “You can’t demo a pair of shoes; they only experience this after they’ve made the purchase.”
That leaves word of mouth as the best remaining option, says Mason. “A lot of people are trying to tell that story in the retail shop, but I haven’t seen anything that tells that story real effectively, but you hope the store employee or sales person has had the shoe on and can tell your story.”
Here’s a closer look at what some of the leading shoe manufacturers are doing to keep feet feeling cool this summer.
Wilson’s new nanoWik technology features an innovative and ecologically friendly lining, utilizing nano technology and made from a bamboo-derived fabric that draws moisture away from the skin, eliminates the associated odor, and rapidly disperses wetness.
But the good news for your tootsies doesn’t stop there; nonoWik’s infrared ray (similar to restorative sunlight) and ionic effects can lead to improved circulation, temperature and metabolic regulation, cell growth and healing activation, says Wilson. NanoWik is featured in the Tour Spin and Pro Staff Fusion models.
First and foremost, consumers demand performance and support in their shoe, and engineers have long known that you can lose that vital support when you add cooling mesh for ventilation. But Poulos says the company’s new “home run” T22 model offers improved ventilation, breathable synthetic leather and an AirMesh tongue that increases air flow to keep feet cool. “The biggest thing for summer is breathability, and everyone is going to mesh,” he says.
For support, big external medial and lateral support straps keep your foot in place. “The external supports are built right into the shoes,” says Poulos. And for summer clay-courters, the mesh is layered in a honeycomb design (featuring two to three layers) to keep clay out of the shoe.
Every shoe in the line features the HEAD Cooling system, a state-of-the-art moisture-management technology creating a dynamic climate-control system within the shoe. It maintains ultimate breathability by absorbing and releasing excess heat build-up, says Head’s Mason.
“There’s not just one element required for cooling, it needs to be a whole system,” he adds. “The key to the whole thing is allowing the built-up heat and moisture to release during play.”
The new CT/WCT1004 tennis shoe features the company’s Lightning Dry lining, which manages moisture and keeps feet dry and cool even during long matches, Beck says. “Lightning Dry is a proprietary technology that was, and still is, used first in our apparel line to manage moisture transfer on our athletic apparel,” he says. “The polyester yarns in the fabric wick moisture away from the body to keep you cool and dry.”
The 1004 features a Lightning Dry synthetic and mesh upper. The technology also will be used in the company’s running, trail running and team sports shoes.
See all articles by Mitch Rustad
About the Author
Mitch Rustad has been a long-time freelance writer based in New York City.