Prose: Finch (@Sir_Stymie)
As a forerunner to my in-depth performance review – which will be launched in the upcoming days – I wanted to share the key aspects of performance shoes that I find important. These topics are the areas that my review will be centered around. Also, I want to share with you some of my favorite past performance sneakers so you can see examples of the shoes I have worn and draw parallels to you own experiences. If you have read the review primer from my colleague Jake Sittler you will see that we share many of the same points. Even though our playing styles differ, some aspects of performance shoes transcend any stylistic differences.
I like to think of myself as a point/forward, switching between wing and post throughout the game a la Royce White (when he played for Iowa State) so the overall fit of a shoe is very important to me. I need a shoe that keeps me locked into the midsole while banging in the post with bigs, but also allows me to keep my footing when making a crossover, making cuts and playing defense. Jake made a statement in his primer that I thought echoes true for me as well: “A performance shoe should be an extension of the foot.” This should ring true whether you play basketball or table tennis – fit matters.
When I try on a shoe for the first time the first thing that I pay close attention to is the fit overall. Do I have room in the toebox? How does the shoes lock my foot in when its laced and tied? The overall cushion on the inside of the tongue and inner bootie also plays a major factor on how I determine the quality of fit. If you knew me, you would know that I am a sucker for shoes that come equipped with straps. Straps for me put the icing on the cake. I feel more secure and locked in to the shoe, making the shoe more a part of me.
The best shoe in terms of fit for me would have to be the Adidas TS Commander LT. The inner bootie was completely memory foam and the shoe ran a bit small at first so it felt like you were wearing a shoe that was custom made for your foot. You were completely locked in and even though it was a shoe made popular by a power forward (Tim Duncan) I didn’t feel as if you were restricted in movement nor did I feel like I was wearing a lumbering space boot i.e. the Total Foamposite Max. The TS Commander offered amazing near customized fit while also offering a clean, streamlined silhouette.
Heel – toe transition
Due to the fact the I am a multiple-position player, heel to toe transition is an aspect of a shoe that I like to pay attention to. The key is to get a natural gait so I can run smooth without hitches or hangups. I’m a big fan of the new Nike Hyperdistuptor (in-depth review coming soon) but I found the shoe to be a bit too flexible for my liking.
The shoe that has given me what I look for in heel to toe transition would have to be the Nike Force Max (yes another shoe worn by a big.) The shoe has a sole that is slightly curved in the front directly under the toe box and this exaggerated angle allows the foot to move naturally, making the wearer’s gait smooth and almost effortless. This actually differs from many of the other shoes from the Nike Force collection, and it’s a good example why this shoe was worn by players that play many different positions.
Cushion is one of those things that can go under the radar or be taken for granted but in todays sneaker world, especially in long-term performance, cushion is huge. It the difference between playing in a Converse Chuck Taylor or a Lebron X (ok maybe not that dramatic but you get the point.) As I look back on the types of shoes that I have worn, I have realized that I am an Air Max guy in my casual shoes – for example the Jordan IV or Air Max 1. But when it comes to hoops, in a perfect world I would prefer to play in a Zoom Air forefoot, Max Air heel combination. The best example for me is the Nike Kevin Garnett III (ok maybe I did that one on purpose). To me, a Nike Zoom forefoot unit and Air Max heel are two products that hold hands in sweet, sweet union. If you want an example of this cushioning system in today’s market, the KD V is a shining example – a three-time scoring champion can’t be wrong, right?
I am a big supporter of herringbone. To me it just works and it’s a classic, though I must admit the shoe that I am currently using for ball contradicts my affinity herringbone. I am currently hooping in the Jordan 2012, which showcases a very peculiar multi-directional, almost square like patterns on the bottoms. Although I am not completely sold on this type of traction, it has been more than pleasantly surprising. Since the shoes are still fairly new, I’ll ride with ’em but I still think I would rather prefer herringbone.
In the modern era of performance, many of the new basketball shoes are being produced using synthetic materials in order to make the shoes lighter and more flexible. On the other hand, using synthetic materials in my opinion has had an impact on the overall quality of the shoes of today. I am big fan of leather and/or suede upper in my shoes, there is something to be said about using high-grain leather on a performance shoe – they break in so nicely and wear so gracefully. With that said, my flagship for durability would have the be the Nike Air Max Sweep Thru (Amare Stoudemire’s quasi-signature shoe.) My colorway has a grey suede upper and a bright orange strap, and this shoe and I have gone thru the ringer. From everyday hoop wear at the rec center to outdoor and indoor tournaments – that we came out on top of for the most part – it’s just been a solid shoe that wears and weathers beautifully over time.
The shoe that has to be my favorite performance model of all-time has to be the Nike Zoom Huarache 2k4. I hooped in that shoe as a child and as an adult in both the mids (that came with a wonderful strap) and the low-cut version. Its just a shoe that fits what I want to do on the court. Although its not a perfect shoe – it has its shortcomings in cushion and fit – the 2K4 is that rare shoe that can be called jack of all trades but a master of none…and that’s kind of like me.