Roger FedererTennis Shoes

The Roger Pro: On Running’s First Tennis Shoe

Will the Swiss firm release the Roger Pro Tennis Shoe to the general public?

When Roger Federer made his long-awaited comeback at the Qatar Open in March, he stepped on the court wearing a pair of never seen before tennis shoes.

The shoes were made by On Running; a firm Federer holds an equity stake in and with whom he has collaborated to produce several pairs of lifestyle trainers.

Tennis, however, was uncharted territory for the Swiss-based company who specialise primarily in running shoes, so what did they come up with, and will it go on general sale?

Meet The Roger Pro Tennis Shoe

on roger pro on court

The Roger Pro is the first-ever On tennis shoe and, for now, is a one-off model designed solely for Federer’s own foot shape.

The design started with 3D images of Federer's foot, and the shoe was created from the ground up with Roger's input alongside On's Science Lead, Kévin Dellion and the On design team.

The result is a sleek looking tennis shoe that carries some similar traits from Federer's Nike Vapor shoe that served him for well over a decade and On's own touches such as the speed board and midfoot cage for stability.

Notably missing, however, is On's synonymous CloudTec soles that feature on every shoe they've made to date. The reason for that omissions is that the sole's open style doesn't lend itself well to lateral movement and sharp pivots.

on the roger pro

My Take on the Roger Pro

on research

The first thing to note is that I think the shoe aesthetics are top-notch, and I really like the design elements.

The blue and white works great; the mesh is well designed and transitions nicely into the less-meshy midfoot and more solid heel area. 

If someone showed me a standalone picture of this shoe, I wouldn't know it was a tennis shoe; they look like a general training shoe and, from some angles, even pass as an everyday lifestyle shoe.

So while I think they absolutely nailed the design angle, will it be a good tennis shoe? More on that below.

Will On Sell The Roger Pro?

on roger pro closeup

You'd think, given the in-depth webpage, high-quality product photography and a dedicated on-court photoshoot, then selling this shoe was clearly part of the plan.

However, On's current stance on whether this will go on general sale is the following:

Right now, this one-of-a-kind model is made to work for Roger’s feet and game so is not available for purchase. But we never say never. On Running on whether the Roger Pro will go on general sale

So maybe all the marketing materials produced were designed to create brand awareness and drive traffic to their well-established products rather than to sell tennis shoes.

However, I personally think that they might sell the Roger Pro as a one-off limited edition item like their first collaboration, ‘The Roger'.

This had a limited run of 1000. Well, it was a kind of limited edition, it's since been tweaked slightly and released en masse without having a number on it 😁 , but I can see the same being done here with Fed fan's snapping them up as memorabilia rather than to play in.

But as a mass-market tennis shoe? I'm not sure it will work.

If you look at the Roger Pro design, there's no way it will stand up to the rigours that most tennis players put their shoes through with all the sliding and toe dragging involved.

My experience of trying all manner of tennis shoes tells me that they'll be extremely comfy and lightweight but won't last long enough.

There is no real toe guard, a lack of rubber, and they do not have much bulk compared to most of the best sellers out there, like the Gel Resolution 8.

You also have brands like Asics and Mizuno offering six-month outsole guarantees, and looking at this lightweight, thin blue sole, I don't think they can offer that.

Considering that most players' biggest criticism of Federer's Nike Vapors was their lack of durability and that they look even more minimalist, I don't think that's a recipe for customer satisfaction.

While that's not a problem for Federer as he can replace them whenever he wishes, given On's typical high price tag, you're going to quickly build a long list of disgruntled customers who won't want to shell out
~$200 every two months to replace them.

What's the Alternative?

on running tennis

The alternative for On, should they want to try to capture some of the tennis shoe market will be to design a bulkier, more durable version of the Roger Pro that is more suitable for recreational and club level play. Or even for aspiring pros on the Futures circuit not lucky enough to have a shoe deal.

Will they do it? Maybe but I'm not sure it's really worth it for them. They've nailed the running/mixed training side of things and are making headway in the lifestyle market, so do they need tennis shoes to dilute the range?

Given that Federer's on-court visibility is declining of late and unfortunately will soon draw to a permanent close, will they be able to shift that many tennis shoes anyway? The Wilson RF97 Autograph isn't the top seller it was a couple of years ago for that very reason. 

Perhaps if they can start kitting out some young Swiss players like Dominic Stricker in their gear, it will be a viable market for them, but who knows if that's a consideration on their roadmap.

Anyway, if they do go on general sale, I'll be picking up a pair to test on the court to see how they handle and will post it here 🙂

What do you guys think? Would you buy a pair of the Roger Pro tennis shoes to play in? Or would they be more a collector's piece? Let me know in the comments.

Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or writing about tennis I play regularly myself and have a keen interest in tactics, equipment and technicalties of the sport.

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28 Comments

  1. I will be interested to try them if, as you say, they go on general sale.

    Meantime I get on very well with Asics….

  2. Good write up Jonathan. As little as I play, the durability would not be a big factor. It is a good looking shoe.

  3. Maybe the Fed-only custom shoe pair i´t’s maybe worth more for them in term of PR of the brand than selling shoes, which are not prepared for mass clients and could be eventually disappointed.
    Could change, if Fed wins Wimbledon or Olympics with it Maybe they add, together with Uniqlo, a special Roger-court in Tokyo? 😉 Specially made just for Federer’s game and current state of knees 🙂

  4. I’d surely buy them. As a matter of fact, the minute I saw them, I went on ON website and when I didn’t see them on website, I called them and they said pretty much what you said in your write up above. To me, majority of us don’t play and run like pros do, not even close. So while durability is a concern, I think shoes should last at least 6 months to a year. While not as durable as other brands, you are paying to be RF’s fan. It is no different than buying Nike, Adidas et al products compared to no name brand. As for price, I have paid close to $200 for Nike which I customized with my choice of colors and my name as a logo and this was based on Air Vapor Zoom or something similar. So yes, I’d certainly try them. And I am sure there are many others out there may feel the same way.

  5. I am a big fan of Roger, I follow him in every match and, with regard to shoes, if they really have a limited duration, I think that any purchase is based not on use but on the collection

    1. Yeah, I think many would buy them to collect. I am not sure how many big RF fans actually play tennis, I think it is quite low.

      I will always buy shoes to wear/use for their intended purpose though. Why buy a Lambo if you’re not going to drive it? 😀

      1. Oh, that is an equally valid question. How many Lambos are bought to be shown off in the garage? The thought of buying a tennis shoe and not play has not crossed my mind until I read it somewhere today.

  6. Don’t know enough about tennis shoes but my experience is that hardcourt wears them down from the outside and clay from the inside. At least for clay, it should be possible to find durable materials for those specific spots on the shoe while keeping the shoe light. But maybe the shoes I am playing in are already considered to be glorified bricks so that experience is not relevant in this context. When I still played hardcourt only, it was 2 pairs a year and I played them until my toes were showing from the outside. I don’t see any light solution for this considering HC is essentially sand mixed with hard rubber.

    1. I haven’t played on clay enough to know what wear and tear on shoes are like from that surface. I’ve played a lot on outdoor artificial grass which is similar though and shoes will last me for ages on there.

  7. Very handsome shoe. I would buy it based on that alone and maybe just wear for non-sport activities if they made a woman’s version.

  8. Such a great looking shoe! Yeah, I would probably buy a pair out of sheer vanity for leisure wear. If I was to buy a pair for court use my game would have to improve somewhat!

  9. As a USTA High performance coach in Houston Texas I think it’s a very stylish good looking shoe I don’t know how I will perform under the demands of daily practice and play though first on has to sell it to the public and then I will look more into it but as a huge fan fan I would definitely give them a try

  10. Definitely, The On running are comfortable, I believe the technology will be in the tennis shoes too.
    Can’t wait for it to happen.

  11. ON has had such a success with their running shoes I really hope they do produce a tennis shoe for men and women. As a fitness trainer, active and on my feet long hours, ON’s shoe is the first one my feet stay comfortable in all day long, no need to be changing shoes for relief and comfort.

  12. It seems that On will be releasing a first batch of shoes tomorrow sometime.

    I’ve enrolled to purchase them, so hopefully if I am lucky I will be able to share thoughts in here after I get them and play a couple of times.

    What I am really after though is the carbon plate speed board. Judging from my running shoes with carbon plate (Nike and On shoes) this will be a game changer in tennis and especially for those that jump while hitting the ball as well as during serve. Let’s see 🙂

  13. On-Running has proven all doubters wrong by releasing these shoes. Currently only for Hard-Court – I’m more interested in a clay version – but anyway a great move in my opinion.

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