How Nike turned SB Dunks and a record shoe into Olympic gold

Olympic shoes are about to be very different now that Nike SB is involved. The Tokyo Summer Games will mark the debut of skateboarding as an official sport, which will also bring Nike’s skate division on stage for the very first time.

No sneaker is more associated with Nike SB than the Dunk, and it is on this high and low silhouette that the ground has been set for the current landscape of prolific and quirky collaborations. Before anyone else, it was Nike SB that allowed creatives outside the company to DIY their sneakers for limited-edition releases in the early 2000s.

For those memorable first Olympics, it was only natural for the Dunk to get involved. And rather than pulling out their sneakers in the colors of the game’s ring or Team USA logo, as has become the norm in the larger sneaker landscape, Nike SB has kept its tried and true method of spooking. Like the skateboarders themselves, Nike’s skateboard lineup isn’t going to be completely polished just because it was invited to the Olympics.


Four collaborators – Parra, Quartersnacks, FTC and Bandai – were invited to design Dunks for the occasion. Parra’s shoes were designed to match the colorful printed uniforms also designed by the brand for teams in the United States, Japan, France and Brazil. The other three collaborators, however, focused less on the games themselves and more on skateboarding as a whole or the host city of Tokyo, which has long been a crucial creative source for both sneakers and streetwear. .

“There is a feeling of creativity which is integrated in skate culture, so there is almost nothing to say How are you come to life. ”

Nike SB has always been an eccentric brand, with a philosophy that revolves around a form as free as skating itself – and that shines through in the design elements featured in its Olympic collection. “There’s a sense of creativity that’s ingrained in skate culture, so it’s almost unclear how it’s going to come to life,” said August Benzien, senior creative director for the men’s lifestyle at Nike. Contribution. “I think the team did an amazing job pulling out really subtle details. If you know anything about these spaces, you are going to think that they have really been revealed. “

The craziest Dunk of the lot has to be the top of the line Gundam with interchangeable Swooshes. Two color combinations for the richly textured shoe will emerge, the most famous of which is the one made for the Unicorn Gundam. A cutout toe and raised panels make you feel like you’re wearing a machine and the Unicorn Gundam logo is embossed on both versions of the sneaker.

FTC, a skate shop founded in San Francisco and now with three locations in Japan, has turned to Japanese public baths as a design benchmark. The white leather of the Dunk Low has received a raised treatment similar to the tile, while the suede and translucent outsole, both blue, epitomize the immaculately clean nature of the communal baths.

The fourth and final Collaborative Dunk comes from Quartersnacks, a New York City skate shop named for cheap bodega goodies. Its black and white sneaker features zebra stripes in a nod to cakes with matching icing.

Of course, there is still a competition to be done. And for the sake of performance, Nike SB has unveiled the most technologically advanced sneaker ever, the Sandy ZoomX Bruin. The nearly 50-year-old sneaker was one of Nike’s original basketball shoes and has since been adopted as a streetwear staple. With a carbon fiber plate and added ZoomX cushioning, the Bruin now features some of the same technologies as Nike’s record Next% marathon line.

“The athletes could see there was something new and interesting in progress, but it is only they put their old shoes that they really understood what [Sandy ZoomX Bruin] provided them.

This high-tech skate shoe is named after Sandy Bodecker, the late Nike designer who led SB from the start and also worked on Breaking2, the original project which sought to break through the under two hour mark for the first time. of marathon. The initial attempt in 2016 was just short of the mark, but Eliud Kipchoge would eclipse the mark two years later by wearing the Air Zoom Alphafly Next%. (His recorded time of 1: 59: 40.2 is not, however, recognized as an official record.)

The benefits of Next% Series technology in running are clear, with record times and numbers like 85% energy return from the shoe to the runner. For skateboarding, the effect isn’t as quantifiable – and many, if not most, skateboarders aren’t very keen on wearing the most innovative shoe. “Whatever works, walks” is the standard mentality for skate shoes. Countless skaters still wear Vans or Converse Chuck Taylors which have remained largely unchanged for decades, despite the advancements made by the industry at large.

“To be honest with you, it was hard for us to understand,” says Benzien. “Athletes could see that something new and interesting was going on, but it wasn’t until they put on their old shoes that they really understood what [Sandy ZoomX Bruin] provided them.

Similar to how the top-of-the-line Next% are designed specifically for race days instead of training, Benzien says the Sandy ZoomX Bruin is expected to last around five hours of use. The initial prototypes couldn’t even last five minutes, and the design team also had to work with the first skateboarding Flyknit rod to make sure it didn’t stretch too much. Sustainability is still not the primary focus, as it is first and foremost a competition shoe – a new mindset for Nike Sb with the arrival of the Olympics.

Nike’s Olympic skateboard team, which includes 45% of female skaters, will have carte blanche in their choice of shoes at their events. The brand has not issued any restrictions on what they wear, which means there’s a good chance we’ll have the joy of seeing the Gundam Dunk in an Olympic event. In addition to the Quartet of Collaborative Dunks and the innovative Sandy ZoomX Bruin, Nike SB has also launched a “Rawdacious” pack of sneakers with color palettes based on either a pollen-like color or white.

Due to its spirit of adventure, SB has always been a division like no other within Nike. Now that skateboarding is at the Olympics, nothing has changed on Nike SB’s side, but Olympic shoes will never be the same again.

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