TGRR Blog: Performance Review Primer
Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)
Before I launch into the full Nike Hyperdunk 2012 Low review tomorrow, I think it’s important to briefly explain the areas of performance that I’ll be examining in my reviews. I also want to detail my background in performance hoop shoes and the standards that those shoes have set for me as a player.
The first and most important performance aspect of a shoe, to me, is the fit. I’m a guard and have a narrow foot, so I need a shoe that hugs my foot and doesn’t leave a lot of excess room in the toebox and midfoot area. Heel lockdown is also extremely important. It should help anchor your foot to the footbed, aid in lateral stability and is key in preventing ankle injuries. I rely on quickness and change direction (thus I have been dubbed the “Ground Squirrel” by Finch) and I need my shoe to be an extension of my foot, so the fit is absolutely imperative.
When I review a shoe for its fit, I’ll pay close attention to the toebox, midfoot fit, the lacing system, upper flexibility and heel lockdown. For me, the best fitting shoe I’ve ever owned is the Nike Kobe VI. The fit from the sockliner and collar foam inside the shoe were incredible and the external heel counter provided perfect heel lockdown. I played in a black/dark grey pair until the outsole started to separate on the lateral side, then went out and bought the purple gradient colorway from a Nike Factory Store until the outsole peeled off under the midfoot. Every shoe I review will get compared to the Kobe VI in terms of fit.
Because my game is predicated on quickness and playing low to the ground, heel-toe transition is very important. When I step on a court, I want each step to be smooth. I run with a heel-toe strike most of the time, occasionally toes only, but when I run I do not want a slappy feel as I transition through my heel-toe strike. At the same time, I can’t have a midsole that is too flexible and has too little torsional rigidity. For example, I loved the soft feel of the transition of the Jordan Q Flight but its lack of a midfoot plate and softer rubber outsole didn’t give me enough support.
While I loved the Kobe VI’s transition and have no complaints, the adidas TS Supernatural Creator is the standard for me. Its flexibility was perfect and the transition was perfectly tuned thanks to the Formotion outsole setup. From the absolute first wearing, the shoe was nearly perfect from a transition standpoint.
I’m a Zoom Air guy first and foremost. The responsiveness of Zoom is simply unmatched by any foam I’ve ever played in and I’m an unabashed lover of a full-length Zoom bag. I was a fan of the cushioning setup in the Supernatural Creator and the Kobe heel/met bag setup is excellent too. I played in the Zoom KD III and wasn’t as big a fan of the forefoot only Zoom, though it was certainly solid.
The Nike Zoom BB II featured a gorgeous, responsive full-length Zoom bag that kept its excellent cushioning over the course of a year’s worth of play – including offseason workouts at Taylor University – and is easily the best-cushioned shoe I’ve ever owned. The fit and materials, thanks to a full inner bootie and quality leather, was also very good. It is unfortunately extremely tough to find in my size nowadays, or else I’d have purchased more than one pair.
It’s herringbone or nothing for me when it comes to traction. The only drawback of the Kobe VI for me was the fact that its scale-inspired traction pattern was a little lacking, especially for the first few wearings when it had a noticeable, slippery sheen.
The Zoom BB II once again had the best traction I’ve ever experienced on a basketball shoe. It featured basically full-length herringbone, and the rubber herringbone strips were slightly wider and larger than typical herringbone. This gave it unrivaled grip and helped flexibility as well. Try as I might, I couldn’t wear out the traction even after a year of use and the inside of the shoe actually became warped and stretched, causing blisters and poor fit, before the traction gave out.
Most performance shoes are going to feature some type of synthetic upper with varying use and placement of each brand’s textile setup. Personally, I was never a huge fan of early-generation Flywire, though the Skinwire in the Kobe V and VI and Dynamic Flywire set up gave me more tangible benefits. I like the durability of Fuse, though it’s a bit stiff and can crease in odd ways. I have liked adidas’ material choices on the Supernatural creator, though I thought the White/Red Rose 2 was stiff and uncomfortable.
The Kobe VI is the standard for me when it comes to materials, as the Skinwire and scale pattern overlay allowed for maximum flexibility and support. It wasn’t too thick, it harnessed the foot perfectly and contributed to the unmatched fit. It was also exceptionally durable (I played in each pair daily for more than six months) and if you’re huge on aesthetic appeal, creases were barely noticeable.