Nike Dunk vs SB Dunk - What's the difference?

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Image of a yellow and navy Nike Dunk low next to a suede red SB Dunk Low featuring a gum sole unit.

As a sneaker fan, you've probably wondered at some stage what exactly the differences are between the Nike Dunk vs SB Dunk sneakers.

Well, we've got you covered as we've compared some of the similarities and differences in price and design between these two iconic and best sneaker models from Nike, before giving our overall opinion on which we think is best to help pick between them.

We've also delved into some of the history behind the Dunk and its beginnings in life as one of the best basketball shoes around before the SB line broke off and took the world of skateboarding by storm.

In fact, that's where we're kicking things off. Let's dive into how the Dunk and SB Dunks came into existence and how they went on to spawn some of the best Nike Dunks still being released to this day...

Nike Dunk vs SB Dunk - History

In 1985, Nike debuted a new sneaker line known as the Dunk which was designed by Peter Moore who, at the time, was also credited with creating the original and arguably the best Jordan 1 colourway of all time - the "Bred" 1.

As a result, there are plenty of similarities between the two models. However, while the Jordans were designed for one of the top stars in the NBA, the original 12 Dunks were inspired by America’s leading schools for basketball and, therefore, the collegiate athletes.

Nike Dunk vs SB Dunk - Nike Dunk poster of 8 college-themed high-top sneakers.
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Credit: Nike

Despite being introduced during a "golden era" of basketball that featured legendary players such as Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan himself, competing against the popular Air Jordan 1 was challenging, especially as 1s featured Air bubbles in the midsole.

The Dunk was in no way a failure though and, following a few design tweaks like a new nylon tongue, eventually started to garner the attention of the skateboarding scene in the '90s.

Nike took notice and, by 1999, released the Dunk Low Pro B and Dunk Low CO.JP, marking a shift from the high-performance basketball shoe in the 1980s to a shoe for a more casual audience as well as skaters.

Nike Dunk vs SB Dunk - Nike Dunk Low Pro B "Smurf" from 1999 dressed in dark blue suede with a light blue midsole and gum outsole.
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Credit: GOAT

Following that, a new Pro B sample was created and presented to skate shop owners, thus becoming the origins of the SB Dunk line. By 2002, Nike officially launched the SB division, with the Dunk acting as the flagship model with a new title, the Dunk Low Pro SB, one of the best skate shoes on the market.

Fast forward to today and both the Dunk and SB Dunks are still being made, with Nike releasing new designs plus retro remakes year after year, ultimately making the shoes a success.

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Nike Dunk vs SB Dunk - Design

When it came to adapting the Dunk into skate shoes, Nike went beneath the surface to make sure the shoe was ready for the trials of the skate park.

For instance, the Dunk Low Pro B debuted a new sock liner alongside Poron foam in the footbed. The shoes also introduced Nike's Zoom Air technology in the heel for added comfort and protection from impact.

Nike Dunk vs SB Dunk - Nike Air technology drawings and images of the air bubbles in action.
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Credit: Nike

SB low-tops also featured, and still feature to this day, padded tongues, with elastic strips underneath providing extra cushioning. The straps also allowed skaters to keep their laces loose for a more laid-back style.

One of the biggest additions for skateboarding though was the switch to the concentric curved tread pattern across the outsole to provide extra traction with grip tape on a skateboard both at the time, and to this day.

Foam was also added to the soles to give more cushioning to help the Dunk withstand the wear and tear skating has on shoes.

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Nike Dunk vs SB Dunk - Price

With the history and design of the Dunk and SB line covered, you may now be considering picking up a pair of the sneakers yourself. If so, you're probably wondering which of the two models is cheaper.

In general, the pricing for Dunk Lows and SB Dunk Lows is similar, as well as for comparable high-top models. For example, the "White Gum" SB Dunks and the "Team Gold" Lows have the same retail price, while the "Gold Canvas" Dunk Highs are slightly more expensive but still fall within the same price range as SB Highs.

Nike Dunk vs SB Dunk - Nike Dunk High "Gold Canvas" product image of a Team Gold and Wheat Gold pair of high-tops with orange outsoles.
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Credit: Nike

As a result, you shouldn't have to necessarily worry too much about the price of Dunk and SB Dunks if you're trying to decide which of the two to buy. This leads us nicely to our final question...

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Nike Dunk vs SB Dunk - Which is best?

It's a tough decision to choose between Nike Dunks and SBs since both have served their respective purposes well in basketball and skateboarding. While Dunks are mainly designed for the court, SBs are built for skate parks, so their performance cannot be compared.


Regarding comfort, SB Dunks have additional Zoom Air technology in the heels, making them more suitable for everyday wear. However, Nike Dunks have a longer lineage and offer a variety of great designs to suit different personal styles.

As we're torn between the two, we suggest going to a nearby sneaker store and trying on both models to determine which one feels the most comfortable on your feet as well as the one that most suits your style. Ultimately, it's up to personal preference to decide which one is the best fit.