Design Process of The NikeCourt Air Zoom Ultrafly with Michael Hui

Three years ago, the Nike Tennis design team apprantly questionned some of their athletes on their off-court training regimes. What the learned was that some actually wore track cleats with spikes attached, to help improve their speed. They basically wanted to find a way of creating a shoe that could transfer this lightweight, formfitting footwear on 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.”

Tasked with an initial design brief that, Hui explains, was “to build a ‘rocket ship'” for tennis. “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 result being what you see above and below, the NikeCourt Air Zoom Ultrafly. The design borrows inspiration from a whole host of sports, from American football to football and soccer cleats, as well as track and field footwear. Nike’s Innovation Kitchen and groups such as the computational design team also had their hand in the ideation and development process.

“The asymmetry of the shoe comes from this idea of being able to quickly move and push off,” reveals Hui. “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.”

You can check out some of the initial sketches and some final beauty shots of the NikeCourt Air Zoom Ultrafly’s, below.

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Mr. Bailey

Product Designer + Footwear Architect | Founder of @ConceptKicks |

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