Our verdict

A mix of bouncy cushioning and planted stability becomes possible in Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1. The shoe's amazing energy return kept us in awe the entire session. Even though it is a heavy boy, it doesn't feel as such thanks to its incredible responsiveness. The shoe also made us forget about ankle rolls altogether with its exceptionally supportive build. We do think that for £160, Nike could have improved a few things here and there but overall, we can recommend it as a solid contender in its price range.

Pros

  • Excellent lateral support and stability
  • Highly responsive and bouncy cushioning
  • Great impact protection
  • Stiff shank adds lots of propulsiveness
  • Rockered heel makes heel-to-toes smoother
  • Very durable and thick outsole
  • Cosy step-in feel

Cons

  • Heavier than average
  • Not enough protection for toe drags
  • A bit fiddly tongue

Audience verdict

76
Good!

Who should buy

Having thoroughly tested the Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1, we believe that it will accommodate the following folks:

  • seasoned players looking for a stable tennis shoe to dominate the baseline
  • fans of Nike's bouncy Zoom Air units (there are two of them here!)
  • athletes who prefer very stiff and propulsive tennis shoes

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 review

Who should NOT buy

If you are someone who burns through tennis shoes with constant scrapes, slashes, and quick-drag movements, you may need a more reinforced option. We highly recommend the ASICS Gel Resolution 9 and the ASICS Court FF 3 for their unparalleled upper durability.

And if you want a lighter Nike shoe that would be more grounded and speed-oriented, the Vapour 11 is your best bet.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 lab test

Breathability

The GP Challenge 1 features a plush and well-padded upper. It feels very cosy against the foot but, unfortunately, detracts from the shoe's ventilation capacity.

Towards the end of our playtest, we could feel some of the heat and moisture being trapped inside the shoe. Thus, we cannot recommend it for playing in extra-warm climates.

To stack the Challenge 1 up against other tennis shoes, we used a smoke-pumping machine to assess its breathability. As you can see, most of the smoke passes through the tongue area while the toebox mesh lets the air out very reluctantly.

But the good news is that the mesh material on this shoe still allows for better airflow than many other tennis shoes.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 microscope

Using a microscope, we discovered that Nike uses a higher-quality mesh for the Challenge 1. It has a mix of thick and thin threads which work together to create a strong but porous coverage.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 microscope upper

Even though it's not the most breathable tennis shoe we've tested (that would be ASICS Solution Speed FF 3), it provides decent ventilation like most tennis shoes on the market. On a 1-5 scale, where 5 is the most breathable, we rated it with a moderate 3.

Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 3
Average 3.1
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

The GP Challenge 1 has a moderate heel-to-toe drop of 7.5 mm. This is a little lower than average but most likely won't make a difference for the majority of players.

It is a perfect balance between heel support and feeling stable on top of the shoe. We experienced no toe jamming at all.

Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 3
Average 4.1
Compared to 23 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

The interior lining of the GP Challenge 1 features a rather delicate mesh as well.

After only 4 seconds of applying our Dremel to the inner side of the shoe's heel collar, the tear was rather obvious.

This is surprising given that the cheaper version of this shoe (the Challenge Pro) did much better on the same test.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Heel padding durability test
Nike GP Challenge 1
Nike GP Challenge Pro Heel padding durability test
Nike GP Challenge Pro

Not sure why Nike didn't use the same type of tear-resistant fabric on the more expensive version. We lowered the heel padding durability score for the Challenge 1 to only 3 out of 5.

Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 3
Average 3.3
Compared to 23 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

Looks like Nike uses the same type of hard rubber for the Challenge 1 as it did in its other tennis shoes.

Pressing our durometer against it returned 87.3 HC which is the same result as we got in the Nike Vapour shoes. And this is good news considering how happy we were with the outsole durability of those shoes.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Outsole hardness
Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 87.3 HC
Average 85.8 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
73.4 HC
Outsole hardness
92.0 HC

Outsole durability

To put the shoe's outsole through its paces, we turned up the speed on our Dremel to the relentless 10K RPM. We also held its tip against the rubber for a longer period of 22 seconds.

We are happy to report that the rubber has met our expectations as the tool merely scuffed the surface of the outsole.

According to our tread gauge measurement, the dent is only 0.7 mm deep which is the category average.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Outsole durability test
Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 0.7 mm
Average 0.7 mm
Compared to 23 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

Even though there is no durability warranty for the outsole of this Nike shoe, we are not at all concerned with its longevity.

With an outsole thickness of 4.5 mm, the Challenge 1 has more than enough rubber to last longer than most tennis shoes.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Outsole thickness
Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 4.5 mm
Average 4.1 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
3.0 mm
Outsole thickness
5.1 mm

Weight

Here is one major drawback of the GP Challenge 1 - it is one of the heaviest tennis shoes we've ever tested! A whale on the scale, based on the industry standards.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Weight

Weighing the shoe in a men's US size 9, we got 14.7 oz (417g). This is even heavier than such highly stable and cushioned shoes like:

  • ASICS Court FF 3 (14.3 oz/406g)
  • ASICS Gel Resolution 9 (13.8 oz/392g)
  • Adidas Barricade 13 (13.4 oz/378g)

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 medial side

But on the bright size, it doesn't feel as heavy on the foot thanks to its bouncy cushioning and propelling shank.

Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 14.71 oz (417g)
Average 12.84 oz (364g)
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
10.30 oz (292g)
Weight
14.71 oz (417g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

The Nike GP Challenge 1 offers plenty of cushioning to rely on. Measuring its stack height in the heel, our calliper showed 30.0 mm.

This is on par with other cushioning-oriented tennis shoes that we've tested.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Heel stack
Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 30.0 mm
Average 29.3 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
25.3 mm
Heel stack
33.0 mm

Forefoot stack

The shoe's forefoot stack also happens to be thicker than average at 22.5 mm. There is very little court feel in this Nike shoe. It is more about bounce and impact protection.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Forefoot stack
Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 22.5 mm
Average 19.7 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
17.0 mm
Forefoot stack
23.4 mm

Drop

The GP Challenge 1 has a moderate heel-to-toe drop of 7.5 mm. This is a little lower than average but most likely won't make a difference for the majority of players.

It is a perfect balance between heel support and feeling stable on top of the shoe. We experienced no toe jamming at all.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Drop
Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 7.5 mm
Average 9.7 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
6.3 mm
Drop
12.4 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

The shoe's primary cushioning is made of a full-length Phylon foam. We are surprised with this choice, to be honest, as this foam is normally used in the brand's cheaper shoes given its rather basic feel.

It is also a firmer type of foam which is confirmed by our durometer measurement. The tool returned 30.2 HA which is harder than 50% of tennis shoes in our catalogue.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Midsole softness

But we are not going to file a complaint just yet as the Nike GP Challenge 1 also features two large Zoom Air units - one in the heel and another one in the forefoot. This is what makes it different from the cheaper GP Challenge Pro, by the way. That shoe only has one Zoom unit in the heel.

Thanks to these Zoom units, the GP Challenge 1 feels exceptionally bouncy and fun to play in. We got a great amount of energy return from them which made us feel rather quick on our feet. Split steps and hard dashes to the net all felt wonderfully supported.

Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 30.2 HA
Average 29.2 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
21.5 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
34.0 HA

Insole thickness

The shoe's insole is sufficiently padded at 4.5 mm in the heel. It is slightly thinner than average but provides a good buffer from the stiff TPU shank which is placed right under the midfoot.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Insole thickness
Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 4.5 mm
Average 5.3 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
3.9 mm
Insole thickness
8.5 mm

Stability

Lateral stability test

With its wide platform, rigid shank, and extra supportive overlays, the Nike GP Challenge 1 makes for a highly stable tennis shoe.

Its thick and steady platform also makes the shoe more of a baseline-ready option as opposed to a speedy all-court shoe.

Torsional rigidity

These days, tennis shoes rely on stiff TPU shanks to create a rigid and stable base.

The GP Challenge 1 features a rather wide and unforgiving shank in the midfoot which makes it practically impossible to twist the shoe. In our manual test, we rated its torsional rigidity with the highest possible score of 5 out of 5.

In addition to the shank, this Nike shoe also features TPU overlays to provide targeted support on the lateral side. Even the Swoosh is made of TPU in its model!

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 tpu overlays

During our playtests, we never once felt as though the shoe would let our feet or ankles roll over the edge. Even when a lot of lateral pressure was applied on side-to-side movements.

Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 5
Average 4.2
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

A stiff heel counter is another important component of a supportive tennis shoe.

Giving it a good push-an-squeeze, we rated the shoe's heel counter stiffness with a high score of 4. Add to that the incredible amount of collar padding and you get a nice and secure lockdown in the rearfoot.

No heel slippage or ankle shifting to be reported on our end. 

Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 4
Average 3.9
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

Even though the outriggers are not as aggressively protruded on the Challenge 1 as they are on the Challenge Pro, the shoe's platform is still rather wide and steady.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 outsole outriggers
Nike GP Challenge 1
Nike Zoom GP Challenge Pro outsole outriggers
Nike GP Challenge Pro

Measuring the widest part of the midsole on the Challenge 1, our calliper showed 112.0 mm which is exactly the same as the average. For comparison, the Challenge Pro measures at 115.8 mm.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 112.2 mm
Average 111.7 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
105.3 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
117.4 mm

Midsole width in the heel

In the widest part of the heel, both shoes have a similar width of 92.9 mm.

We have only good things to say about the platform width of the Challenge 1. No matter how aggressive our side shifts were or what angle our foot landed at, the shoe was always there to make us feel planted.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 92.9 mm
Average 89.7 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
82.4 mm
Midsole width in the heel
99.7 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

Even after hours of breaking in, this Nike shoe remains a stiff one. With its wide shank, it's not that easy to bend your foot naturally in the GP Challenge 1.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 flexibility

To put a number of it, we measured how much force it would take to bend this Nike shoe to a 90-degree angle. Based on our force gauge measurement, it took 43.2N which is 30% more than it takes an average tennis shoe.

What's the benefit of it? You get an amazingly propulsive ride that feels like you're jumping off a springboard at the swimming pool!

Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 43.2N
Average 30.1N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
20.6N
Stiffness
44.9N

Grip / Traction

The Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 features a herringbone pattern that gets wider and shallower on the medial side but is narrower and toothier on the lateral side.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 traction

We found that this combination works wonders on the court. It bit the ground hard when we needed to stop on a sixpence but also allowed us to slide when coming out of a shot.

It should be noted, however, that the shoe's grip is initially very strong and you get a better give after breaking the shoe in for a few sessions.

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

According to Nike, the GP Challenge 1 is built on a new last which is by far the widest in the brand's tennis shoe lineup.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 fit

But as folks with medium-width feet, we cannot say that this Nike shoe is roomier than average. It's more like Nike finally got the medium width right.

Measuring the widest part of the shoe's toebox, our calliper showed 101.5 mm which is exactly the same as the average of tennis shoes. Not a particularly roomy fit.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 101.5 mm
Average 101.2 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
98.2 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
105.0 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

We also measured the toebox width around the big toe and found it to be 75.2 mm. Again, this is just the same as the average.

But the good news is that Nike tennis shoes are no longer aggressively tapered!

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 75.2 mm
Average 76.8 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
74.8 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
79.8 mm

Tongue: gusset type

We wish the GP Challenge 1 went for the same tongue design as in the Challenge Pro (which is gusseted).

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Tongue: gusset type

This tongue is a bit more fiddly as there are no attachments on the sides and it shifts around when lacing up the shoe.

It's not horrible but we think that Nike could do better.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 laces

Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 None

Comfort

Tongue padding

There is also not as much tongue padding in the Challenge 1 as we saw in the Challenge Pro. But at 7.9 mm, it is just the same as the average. And it buffered the lace pressure pretty well.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Tongue padding
Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 7.9 mm
Average 7.8 mm
Compared to 25 all court tennis shoes
Number of shoes
2.5 mm
Tongue padding
13.1 mm

Heel tab

The Challenge 1 has no pull tabs or loops to hold onto when putting the shoe on. However, it comes with a very convenient U shape of the collar which makes it very easy to slide right into the shoe.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Heel tab
Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 None

Removable insole

If you need to level up the comfort of your tennis shoes with a pair of custom orthotics, you can easily remove the shoe's stock insole.

Nike Zoom GP Challenge 1 Removable insole
Test results
Zoom GP Challenge 1 Yes