When I think of Fila, I can’t help but think of Bjorn Borg looking cool in a headband and a stylish warm-up jacket. When I think of The Sentinel, I’m reminded of a lousy Michael Douglas vehicle, or a laughably schlocky 1970s Exorcist imitation.
So when a company I associate more with fashion trotted out a performance shoe with a moniker that conjures bad cinema, my hopes weren’t terribly high. It didn’t help that, while I’ve never minded the look or fit of Fila shoes, I’ve also never found one that felt sturdy or supportive enough to do battle in. But after extended court time with the Sentinel, name aside, it rose above all expectations.
When I first put on the Sentinel (MSRP: $100) it had the feeling of what I refer to as a “high-heeled” shoe: It reminded me of models like the Adidas Barricade or Nike Air Courtballistec that have significant cushioning in the heel that seem to raise the back of the foot above the toes. For that reason I took the shoes for a couple of long walks before playing to allow for some settling in the heel. The memory foam lining in that part of shoe probably also helped get a more formed fit. However, there’s no need for much of a break-in period as they’re out-of-the-box ready.
That cushioning, along with a soft, ventilated, but supportive upper, resulted in a comfortable ride. The molded sock-liner gives a snug fit, but there’s enough room, especially around the toe box, that you don’t feel squeezed. That can also be dependent upon wearing the proper size, and the Sentinel runs about ½ size big. I normally opt for a size 12, but had plenty of room in a 11.5.
The outsole has a modified herringbone design that is intended for all surfaces. Upon first glance I thought it would be more of a hard-court shoe, but I tested them on clay and had no traction issues; it grabbed the court well when sliding and changing directions. Yet it feels like it has the requisite cushioning, stability, and durability features to handle the pounding of a hard court.
For what it’s worth, Fila says its roster of pro players, including Janko Tipsarevic, Andreas Seppi, and Julia Goerges, think the Sentinel is the best shoe the company has produced in many years. Obviously they have a vested interest, so allow me to say this: The Sentinel gave me a feeling of security I have not experienced in any previous Fila shoe.
The Sentinel is available in the following colors:
Black/black/neon green (above—it looks yellow, but it’s really closer to green)