SB, or not SB? That is the question

FOR many of the aged sneaker enthusiast, distinguishing between two iterations of a single silhouette is not as difficult as you would expect; comparatively no different to spotting the difference between a small mountain goat and a Ford Fiesta, per se. In the grand scheme of things, how do we differentiate between Nike’s Dunk, and Dunk SB?

In theory, these are two completely different models deriving from the same family — similar in the sense that an Air Max 90 is mistakable for an Air Max 1 to those with lesser knowledge. Amongst a plethora of features and details that both share, we can pull an evenly weighted number of notable changes that were made as the OG basketball Dunk transitioned into a skater-friendly, hard-wearing SB.

First and foremost, the Dunk SB displays SB upon a tongue patch which is further positioned upon a stuffed tongue segment — otherwise known as a puffy tongue. Nike’s standard Dunk presents a thin tongue stitched and separated into sections designed to move with the foot’s natural flex. On either side of both tongues is another difference; I ask, have you ever noticed someone wear their SB Dunks with incredibly loose laces that defy the laws of nature? Well, that would be due to two thick, elasticated strips on either side of the infamous puffy tongue — meaning the tongue is forced onto the wearers foot. Using an everyday example, this works on the same principle as the recent Adidas Superstar ‘Slip-On’ tribute to Run DMC– whereas there is no sign of elastic within non-SB pairs.

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Nike Dunk SB ‘Rust’ — note the puffy-tongue and patch-branding.

Next-up, the choice of laces-cross-ankle padding combo — a duo of factors significantly more obvious than the prior. Hidden in plain-view, the subtle lace change makes a momentous difference to a trainer’s wearability. The Dunk’s skating iteration usually presents a set of thick, or round laces; typically these are far more durable than your standard flat found in a regular Dunk. Though the aforementioned is an immensely subtle change, the introduction of lightly padded laces is paired with enhanced ankle support in the form of a thickened sock liner. Both of the differences noted above form the line between board-impact injuries (to an extent…) and ride comfort for the wearer.

Lastly, I give you ZOOM Technology — a system designed by Nike to disperse impact to the wearer’s footbed and improve overall agility, but, how does it work? The answer; through an arrangement of pressurised air pockets (remove your Dunk SB insole and take a look at the underside. Zoom!) containing tightly stretched fibres integrated within the sneaker’s insole OR sole-unit, all in the name of protecting the delicate bits that make your legs work. Pretty considerate if you ask me! Interestingly, Zoom Air was actually first introduced by Nike in 1995, in light of their Air Go LWP basketball shoe and originally known as “Tensile Air” amongst designers. But anyway, back to Dunks.

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This diagram replicated the form of Zoom Air found within the Dunk SB. Picture Credit: Sole Collector.

Hopefully, this drawn-out and somewhat over-complicated article breaking down the differences between Dunk SB and Dunk has provided all the answers you have been looking for. In short, SBs say SB on the tongue-patch and normal Dunks do not; that’ll remove the possibility of any confusion in most cases. However, in the uncommon case whereby a custom tongue-patch is present, pay attention to the tongue padding and Zoom content.

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