Elena Delle Donne On Getting Her Own Shoe

What's it like to design your own shoe for Nike? WNBA star Elena Delle Donne is the latest athlete to receive the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Publish date:

On the top of the heel of Elena Delle Donne’s first Nike player-edition shoe are the words, “Path Less Traveled.” The saying is a mantra that Delle Donne has lived by her entire life.

Delle Donne has been through a lot on her road to becoming one of the best players in the WNBA. EDD has always chosen her own path. As one of the top prospects in the 2008 high school basketball recruiting class, Delle Donne initially committed to GenoAuriemma and UConn before having a change of heart and returning home to the University of Delaware. The reason? She wanted to stay close to her family, particularly her older sister Lizzie, who is blind and has special needs. Burned out by basketball, Delle Donne decided to take a year off and played volleyball for UD. She returned to basketball a season later where she received Player of the Year honors in the Colonial Athletic Association. She has also battled Lyme disease since 2008 and became the first national ambassador for the Lyme Research Alliance.

Due to her inspiring story and dominant game, Nike honored EDD on Monday with her own Nike Hyperdunk 2016 PE that pays homage to her unique journey. There are about 15 symbols on the silhouette of the heel and tongue that represent the highs and lows of her life. One of the features: An “I Love You” symbol in sign language that appears on the tongue to show appreciation to her older sister.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with the former MVP about her new Nike PE and what it means to join the the lineage of WNBA greats that received their own shoe.

JH: What was your reaction when you learned you were getting your own Nike PE?

EDD: "I was super excited. I think I called everyone I knew. It was really one of those kind of moments where you don’t know what to say. I am just humbled and so excited that I am going to be able to have a shoe that tells your story that you can share with others and hopefully inspire people. So it was a huge moment for me.


JH: How much input did you give on the design of the shoe?

EDD: I had a ton of input with the design and the sneaker. A couple Nike design people came by my house and spent most of the day with me and we kind of just talked about the style of shoes that I like, colors and they even went into my shoe room to see more. And obviously I told them about my whole basketball journey and my life in general off the court and it was crazy what they were able to come up with. My entire journey is within this shoe and it is pretty amazing to me.

JH: How was it working with Nike on this silhouette?

EDD: It was awesome, because you always hear how players have a lot impact on their shoe designs but I had no idea they had that much impact. They kind of just let me lead and tell them what I like. They gave me ideas because obviously I am not a shoe designer but the ideas they were throwing out were so cool and I was able to just pick and choose what I wanted to see and it was an awesome experience.

JH: There are a lot of symbols that can be found on your sneaker. Is there one symbol that stands out more than the others?

EDD: The biggest thing that I love is some of the of the details are raised because my sister is blind. So all of our communication is through touch. So a part of the shoe is about her. There is my tattoo of her name, there is an "I Love You" symbol. Even her perseverance, I have been able to watch her and learn that from her, but unfortunately I was thinking there is no way she will be able to see this shoe. And the awesome shoe gurus came up with this idea with materials like braille so she could feel it.


JH: What makes the HyperDunk the sneaker of your choice?

EDD: I think they fit my game really well. I have played in highs and lows and I had a bit of ankle injuries in the past so these give me great support in the ankles and they are super light and I love how tight they can get around my foot because I have sort of a narrow foot as well. So it has been a great shoe for me and I ask other people how they feel after they wear them and they have been obsessed with them as well. So it is a great shoe.

JH: Where does your sneaker rank among the sneakers that is in your closet right now?

EDD: (Laughs) Number 1. I put them front and center

JH: You hear these players keep their sneakers in all of these crazy places like vaults and glass cases.  Are you going to keep them in a special place?

EDD: Definitely. Luckily I have a connect at Nike so they send me a bunch of these but there is a pair that will never be worn and in a case that will be on display.

JH: How does it to feel to join a strong lineage of WNBA players such as Sheryl Swoopes, Cynthia Cooper, Lisa Leslie, Dawn Staley and others to receive your own Nike signature shoe?

EDD: It is so humbling. I remember the moment when Swoopes’s shoe came out and I was an obnoxious little kid begging my parents to take me to the store to go get them and the second I got them, I never took them off. I was outside playing and pretending I was her. So I think this is a huge moment where I could inspire some of the youth by rocking these shoes; because I know that moment for me was huge.