Whenever we run shoe reviews, we try to impress upon readers that appearance should not be a factor. A smart player looks at a shoe as a piece of equipment, not a fashion statement. Fit and performance should trump any style concerns. A shoe can look great, but if it lacks adequate support or has a poor cushioning, it’s best saved for casual wear.
But if clothes make the man, or woman, it’s hard not to be swayed somewhat by style. When we do racquet reviews, we have the manufacturers send us blacked-out frames so playtesters aren’t influenced by the cosmetics. Unfortunately, that’s not possible when we evaluate shoes. I always wonder whether our weartesters can stay totally objective. It’s pretty rare to see somebody in a sporting goods store admiring a shoe’s flexpoint. Buyers tend to gravitate towards a particular model because of the way it looks. Once it satisfies the eyeball test, then they move on to whether they could actually play in them.
That’s why the most finicky shoe aficionados will go so far as to actually design their own styles. Nike was the first company I noticed with this practice, offering it on its website for their running and basketball shoes. Adidas has followed suit with the aptly titled miadidas.com. Not to be confused with Run-DMC song, it’s a website where you can take a base model of various Adidas shoes and basically go crazy.
One of the lines you can create with is the Barricade. For years it has been one of the more dependable high-performance tennis shoes, a staple on the pro tours (the Barricade II is still my favorite). As long as you can manage the weight, the Barricade is a definite asset for your feet. I’ve usually been satisfied with the color schemes, although it’s nice to have complete control. It’s not cheap ($140), but it does let you customize your shoe beyond just the appearance. You can choose the width, type of a sockliner, a hard court or all-court outsole, and even get different sizes for each foot, something many players struggle with.
Another shoe with a rich tennis history you can design is the Stan Smith. Now I would never advise playing competitively with “Stans” anymore, because it has basically no support features. But they’re pretty cool. And when you’re off the court, that’s something to consider.