In the 1980s skateboard companies started to pop up around the globe. However, skateboarding still had a relatively small community and not enough to attract serious interests from major shoe companies such as Nike, who were battling it out for precious basketball trainer territory. This gave smaller companies a chance to gain ground in the skateboarding market. Airwalk trainers led the charge, developing an oversized shoe that combined an inflated tongue, a thick sole, and a suede exterior.
Although Nike never officially entered the skateboarding market in the 1980s, many of its shoes gained a following in the skateboarding community because skateboarding shoes and the Nike basketball shoes shared many similarities. Strong grip, durable ankle support, and relative comfort were some of the offerings that attracted skaters to Nike trainers.
The 1990s saw the rise of skateboarding into prominence and the vast improvement of skate shoe technology, with DC Shoes making major advances in shoe design. The company added stronger fabrics, multi-density rubber, gel pockets, plastic eyelets that encased exposed shoelaces, and soles with a gum like grip that improved foot-to-face traction. Airforce One Shoes began to dominate the skate shoes market. In the mid-1990s, skate shoes went mainstream. Their evolution was influenced as strongly by popular culture as by the demands of skateboarding. The loud, blocky skate shoe fell from favor as the hip-hop culture of the 1990s eventually died out. The current trend reflects the punk-rock look of the 1970s. Nike started to experiment with the market by reissuing many of its older Nike trainer models in the late-1990s. Nike realised the potential that the skateboard and skate shoe market was showing in the late 1990s and created the Nike SB skate brand.
In 2007, after failing four times to enter the skateboard market, Nike SB had emerged as a successful skateboarding company by manipulating demand and keeping numbers down along with signing many well-known skateboarders. SB really hit the nail on the head by improving on classic styles with additions like the Zoom Air insole, a small airbag situated with in the heel of the insole.
By re-releasing a more skateboard orientated version of the classic Nike Dunk style shoe, which incorporated a more padded tongue, Zoom Air insole and premium leather/nubuck/suede uppers in limited colourways (often with themes behind the colour inspirations) Nike SB became a highly sought after collectable for sneaker-heads who would go to great lengths to obtain small number runs of particular styles often nicknamed to add a narrative to the colour or slant of the shoe. Nike executive Sandy Bodecker admitted that 80 percent of the shoes were initially bought by this demographic. Due to the high prices caused by the scarcity of the shoes, it is highly unlikely that a person would actually use the shoes for skateboarding, as such an activity would wear the shoes out rather quickly diminishing their collectible value, as such it has spawned a thriving Ebay market for the more particular releases.
With this in mind Nike SB needed to engage with its target market and so released a number of styles of shoes aimed solely at skateboarders. Enter the Zoom Tre trainer, which was technically the most advanced skate shoe on the market at the time. It featured a number of ground-breaking design ideas to increase performance including a moulded rubber toecap which mimicked suede for control, lightweight construction and full sole air unit with a shank to minimise ankle roll. Building on this solid start they have gone on to produce future classics such as the Nike Dunk trainer range in Low, Mid and Hi and have also produced a full range of apparel including hoods, tee-shirts, caps and jackets released in line with the SB shoes on a monthly basis. This range of clothing adopted the same technical focus as the trainers and combined it with fashionable and unique designs to create a range of SB apparel that looks great on street, at the club or on the skate park.
Nike SB Janoski and Koston 1 have quickly become the current key styles in the SB range. The Koston 1 pro shoe from Eric Koston incorporates a vulcanized cup sole and TPU reinforced suede upper but the truly unique aspect is the Nike Lunarlon insert, a full length cushioning foam insole. Other shoes within the range are the Blazer and Blazer Low, the Harbor, the Zoom Bruin, the Zoom Paul Rodriguez and the Rodriguez 2.5, the Paul Rodriguez 4 Hi and the Vulcrod, the Zoom Classic and the Janoski Mid. Nike SB have introduced a Quick-strike range which is a limited run of a key style in a specific colourway per season which is only available in skate stores which stock Nike SB.
2007 also saw Nike SB release a full-length team video entitled ‘Nothing But The Truth’. The current team line-up is Eric Koston, Brian Anderson, Chet Childress, Paul Rodriguez Jr, Cory Kennedy, Danny Supa, Daryl Angel, Gino Iannucci, Grant Taylor, Justin Brock, Matt Beach, Peter Hewitt, Shane O’Neill, Theotis Beasley, Wieger Van Wageningen, Stefan Janoski, Omar Salazar, Lewis Marnell and Daniel Shimizu. In 2007 legendary vert and bowl skater Lance Mountain made the transition from Adidas skateboarding to Nike SB.