Sole Stories: Q&A with Skechers Senior Director of Product Development and Merchandising

by Keith Shelton, Senior Director of Product Development and Merchandising on Jul 26, 2023

Sole Stories: Q&A with Skechers Senior Director of Product Development and Merchandising

Pickleball seems to be taking over the world and the people over at Skechers have certainly taken notice. They have quickly used their years of shoe knowledge and connections to some of the best players in the game to create pickleball-specific shoes that look great and perform even better. 

We were lucky enough to sit down with Keith Shelton, the Senior Director of Product Development and Merchandising at Skechers to talk about how they are approaching the game and how their shoes can help you on the court. 

Why did Skechers get into pickleball? 

Pickleball has a multi-generational appeal that fits the Skechers consumer very well. It’s an accessible sport that’s fun to play at various skill levels allowing both new and experienced players the opportunity to experience Skechers’ signature comfort and performance technologies they are looking for on the court. By supporting professional pickleball athletes like Tyson McGuffin and Catherine Parenteau, as well as forming partnerships with organizations including USA Pickleball, the Carvana PPA TourAPP Tour, MLP, and others, we’ve been able to broaden our reach in connecting with all various segments of the market. Moreover, as we look to the future and continue to forge relationships with key players in the pickleball community, we’re helping to advance the sport both domestically and in international markets. Even without a heritage in court sports, Skechers has been able to take on a unique approach to producing pickleball footwear with distinctive looks and innovative technologies for consumers to enjoy.

Can you talk about the difference between Viper Court and Viper Court Pro? 

While both styles feature Goodyear® Rubber outsoles, the biggest difference between the Viper Court and Viper Court Pro are the types of compounds. For example, the Viper Court is designed with a Goodyear® compound called, Weather-Adapt, which is based off a snow tire formulation. A stickier compound in comparison to others, Weather-Adapt provides more sure footing for beginners and mature players. Alternatively, the Viper Court Pro utilizes Goodyear® Gold, which is a unique compound that allows pickleball players to make more controlled slides on the court as it provides increased abrasion resistance. Both compounds are non-marking and work great for both indoor and outdoor surfaces. Another key differentiation between the two is the amount of upper abrasion resistance. The Viper Court Pro offers more toe and medial upper protection for players that tend to drag their back foot when reaching for a shot. The Viper Court also has a more supportive and stable platform while the Pro creates a faster and lighter weight on-court experience.

What player style matches up to each model of Skechers pickleball shoes?

The objective behind the creation of the Viper Court was to offer a shoe for beginner/novice and mature players looking for a style that looks good on the court and feels great on their feet. This demographic is generally looking for a supportive and stable shoe with very good traction. Spending most of their time on the bottom of their soles, ensuring sure footing is extremely important when changing direction on the court and for frequent starts and stops. These types of players also often require less upper abrasion resistance.
The Viper Court Pro was designed with a more aggressive mover in mind. Perfect for the energetic player that find themselves sliding into shots, changing direction with a lot of force and energy, and track down balls at all four corners of the court, the Viper Court Pro (as the name implies) was created for high-performing players, but can be enjoyed at all skill levels. As the lightest and fastest shoe in the Skechers Pickleball lineup, the Viper Court Pro also offers increased outsole durability and a modern design that is setting the tone for future designs.

What technologies set Skechers apart from other pickleball shoes? 

There are three key innovations that set our footwear apart. The first is the use of Goodyear® rubber on the outsole offering enhanced traction and durability, is non-marking, and performs great on both indoor and outdoor courts. To accommodate different style objectives, we utilize several compounds of Goodyear® Rubber including the use of our Goodyear® Gold compound, which allows an aggressive mover to perform more controlled slides on the court. The Skechers removable ArchFit® insole system is featured across all our pickleball shoes. Designed using over 20 years of data, these footbeds offer podiatrist-certified arch support giving the perfect combination of comfort, stability, and cushioning. The uppers of Skechers pickleball shoes are also built around a Relaxed Fit® last giving more space and wiggle room in the toe box area all while still providing the necessary lockdown in the midfoot and heel areas of the shoe.

You worked with Pro Players Catherine and Tyson for the Viper Court Pro models. How involved were they and what influence did they have? 

Our athletes play a big role in testing product for us. The Skechers Viper Court Pro shoe did not exist before we started working with Catherine Parenteau and Tyson McGuffin. It’s a product of that relationship where we developed an understanding of what they needed in a pickleball shoe to discover if we could offer solutions to the footwear they were previously wearing.

From the start, both have tested several versions of the Viper Court Pro shoe providing feedback and revisions until we landed on the version that is currently available at retail. Their distinctive style, high energy, and bold personalities on the court are what helped to inspire some of the unique color combinations available in the Viper Court Pro shoe – both of which continue to be top-sellers. Further, their insights and experience as professional athletes have been instrumental in providing feedback on future concepts and will continue to be of value to us as we strive to create superior product that strikes a balance between high performance and comfort on the pickleball court.

What else are you looking to do in the pickleball category in the future? 

Skechers will continue to lead, expand, and innovate in the pickleball category. From seeking to grow our presence both domestically and abroad, to always striving to offer the best performing and most comfortable pickleball shoes in the market, we are dedicated and determined to keep supporting the expansion of pickleball around the world. If you haven’t tried out a pair of Skechers pickleball shoes yet, now is the time!

If you have any questions on which shoe is best for your game, call or email our customer service.

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