On July 19, 2018, Nike officially unveiled the NikeCourt Air Zoom Zero Tennis Shoe. Prior to this date, ATP athletes like Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock had been testing them out, as had WTA players like Elina Svitolina and Sloane Stephens. With their input, Nike refined the Zoom Zero to forge the models seen below:
At left is the Nike Men’s Court Air Zoom Zero Tennis Shoe in Black and White. At right is the Nike Women’s Court Air Zoom Zero Tennis Shoe in White and Black.
A Technological Leap for Nike
The greatest advancement featured in the Zoom Zero is the first full-length Zoom Air unit in NikeCourt history. In essence, it is designed to make explosive movements more efficient. The rear of the unit is placed directly beneath the heel, and above the midsole, for added cushioning during heel strikes. The front of the unit is top loaded and placed closer to the ground, beneath the midsole, to enhance responsiveness in the forefoot. You can actually see the Zoom Air unit through the middle of the outsole. This innovation is paired with a crash pad and additional heel cushioning for comfortable performance.
A primary purpose of the Zoom Zero is to offer a customizable and adaptive fit. This is achieved through the one-piece textile upper constructed to form to your foot as a sort of “second skin”. Implemented into this material are Gilly straps on the medial and lateral sides. They integrate with the laces for a secure fit along the full length of your foot. The final, and perhaps most noticeable, form-fitting component of the Zoom Zero is its half-bootie construction. It offers the responsiveness and comfort that you would expect from a full bootie, but with enhanced breathability due to its low-cut nature.
Taking on the Vapor X
At left is the new Nike Zoom Zero. At right is the Nike Men’s Air Zoom Vapor X Tennis Shoe in White and University Blue.
When the Vapor X was released at the end of 2017, it took the tennis world by storm. Tennis players of all skill levels, from top-level pros down to enthusiastic beginners, wanted to get a taste of the popular Vapor 9.5’s evolution. Right now, the Zoom Zero is generating similar buzz. While both are excellent performance shoes, there are several key differences that make it clear the Zoom Zero is its own, unique tennis shoe. Let’s take a closer look:
I’ll begin with weights because that will make each shoe’s overall purpose a little bit clearer. I wear a men’s size 10, so the weights listed here will reflect that size. The Zoom Zero comes in at 390g, while the Vapor X weighs 10g less at 380g. From a theoretical standpoint, this indicates that the Zoom Zero likely offers greater cushioning and/or support. In practice, this held true, as the Zero felt more cushioned and sat higher, while the Vapor X had a smaller heel-to-toe drop and sat lower to the court. Despite the added padding in the Zero, the shoe seemed to encourage an athletic stance on the balls of my feet, and had a smoother heel-to-toe transition.
As far as fit is concerned, both shoes had similar widths. That being said, the Zero’s upper felt more forgiving and form-fitting. I could move naturally, whereas I experienced slight discomfort in the medial forefoot while wearing the Vapor X (at least initially). This comfort does come at a cost, though, as the Vapor X is noticeably more breathable. Lateral stability was similar, but the outsole in the Zero felt a little bit thicker and less flexible. My only other observation regarding the Zoom Zero’s fit is that the entryway around the ankle was rather narrow. It was tricky to slide the shoe on and comfortably enter the half bootie.
To explore other leading tennis shoes, check out our blog posts below: