Performance Review Throwback: Nike Zoom Kobe VI

Prose: Jake Sittler (@thegymratreview)

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If you’ve followed the site for some time, you may know that the Zoom Kobe VI is my all time favorite performance shoe. For me, it’s the shoe that all others are measured against. The Crazyquick 1, Rose 6, Rose 4.5, TS Supernatural Creator, and Zoom BB II are also worthy of mention, but the VI tops them all. It’s a subjective thing of course, but it’s fun to dig into why they’re the best performance hoops shoe for ME.

Thanks to one of my consistent readers, I was lucky enough to stumble across a deadstock pair of ZKVIs in the red team bank colorway. These would be my third pair – the other two long destroyed on the court – and I had to pull the trigger. I also figured they’d be a great backup shoe to play in if the shoes I was testing were not cutting it (lo and behold, I’m on a run of two subpar performers with the Curry 2 Low and Ultra.Fly).

As a #tbt, I decided to put these through the testing process and compile my thoughts.

Fit
I’ve always gone with my standard 11.5 in the Kobe VI, as its narrow toe box allows me to go true to size rather than down a half to get a good fit all around. Back when the shoe first released, I was a little skeptical of the upper. I had owned the Kobe V as well, and the Skinwire kept tearing along the lateral side of my foot. The VI continued the progression of a second-skin upper, with Flywire embedded in a Kurim-enhanced urethane upper.

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This upper though, was thicker and more durable than the Skinwire on the previous version. The scale pattern not only looked sweet, but also provided some scuff and abrasion resistance. The upper still flexes naturally and it really provides a supportive shell. No containment issues to be found.

As far as lockdown goes, I always thought it was perfect for a low. They laced up tight and the eyelets went up just high enough to help lock the heel in. Speaking of heel lockdown, Eric Avar and Nike nailed it for a low. The interior of the collar feels like memory foam, and it really molds to the foot after several wearings. It’s thick and padded at the top, which helps hold the ball of the heel in place once it’s laced up tight.

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A partial neoprene innersleeve is snug from the start, and it’s extremely well padded and breathable with a rubbery, circular webbing sandwiched in between the neoprene base and a mesh top layer. It makes lacing the ZKIV very comfortable and is one of the best tongue designs I’ve seen. It extends well into the toebox, so it’s comfortable the whole way.

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Besides that, the TPU heel counter was perfectly shaped and strong enough to provide real support as an outer shell. I’ve heard plenty of people complain about heel slip in the VI, but I honestly never had any that concerned me. I’d say it takes 2-3 runs to get the heel to mold properly, but once it does I found it locked me in exactly how I like.

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I always felt like the Kobe VI achieved that extension-of-the-foot type fit that I long for in any shoe. The fact that it was in a low, providing the most freedom of movement, made it even better.

Heel-Toe Transition
The midsole setup is damn near perfect, and it makes for a smooth transition right out of the box. Forefoot flex grooves, a carbon fiber plate to bridge the heel-forefoot gap, softer rubber outsole, and the right type of injected Phylon give it a completely natural motion from heel strike to toe off.

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Cushioning
Injected Phylon, a heel and a forefoot Zoom unit, a carbon fiber plate, plus (gasp) an anatomically shaped midsole and insole…that’s just about heaven for me. The shape of the midsole happens to fit my foot perfectly, providing support through my arch and a consistent feel overall. The Zoom units, while only a met bag up front, are perfectly placed and give me the type of responsiveness I love.

The insole is fairly thick and it wraps up around the heel a bit, aiding in the heel lockdown. The insole is basically an afterthought in most performance shoes today, but not in the ZKVI.

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The shoe is highly responsive, thanks to the balance of flexibility and support in the midsole plus the right application of Zoom. Stability is excellent too – you feel low to the floor and a pronounced forefoot outrigger helps the lateral stability.

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It really begins and ends with the shape of the last though – for some reason it’s mapped almost perfectly for my foot. A lot of midsoles today feel overly flat, without the shape or structure needed to support the foot. The Zoom units are deployed well, and the Phylon compound plus carbon fiber plate provide great support down to the floor.

Traction
This is probably the only area I have somewhat of a gripe with the ZKVI: they overdid the Mamba theme with the snakeskin patterned outsole. They drove it home just fine with the scaly urethane upper, and the outsole would have been just perfect with some kind of a herringbone pattern.

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The blades on the pattern they used are very thin – they don’t collect dust but they also don’t grip really well, especially on the first few wearings. It’s a soft rubber compound too, but after a week or so you can really feel it start to grip properly. I can still get a squeak on a quick stop and pop, but the longevity of the outsole is an issue too. It’s prone to wearing down before the rest of the shoe (although my first two pairs each lasted me 8 months to a year).

Materials
As covered before, I think the application of materials was perfect. The updated upper with embedded Flywire and a urethane shell was both supportive and naturally flexible. The Zoom units were placed well and plenty thick, while a real carbon fiber plate helped with both support and transition. The Phylon was injected and sculpted well to contour to the foot, and they even put a legitimate insole in it.

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I need to pause and get my wind after all this breathless praise.

Sometimes it feels like a shoe is just made for you. After playing in probably 75+ pairs in my lifetime, I’ve decided that these were simply made me for me. Everything about them is – subjectively – perfect outside of the traction pattern. For me, that was pretty much a non-factor as I thought that once broken in, the traction worked really well.

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I’ve had the all-black colorway, the purple gradient (from a Nike Factory store, no less) and now the scarlet TB colorway. I only wish I’d have bought about 5 pairs to have stocked for the rest of my playing days (if you have a deadstock 11.5, email me at thegymratreview@gmail.com and we’ll talk).

Comment below and let me know your favorite performance shoes of all time – I love to discuss this stuff.

zoom kobe vi review guide

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25 responses to “Performance Review Throwback: Nike Zoom Kobe VI

  1. Thank you for a wonderful read. Your praises actually made me decided to find a pair and luckily was able to grab one in the bhm Colorway. You and scwhollo are my go to when it comes to performance basketball shoes. Been following you for a long time and this is my first time to comment. Keep it up. Btw, I also have the zoom bb 2 and of course also inspired by you.

    • Thanks man, awesome to hear – also an excellent colorway! I definitely appreciate hearing form people that follow, makes the reviews worth it when I get feedback and/or questions. The BB2 is a heck of a shoe. I search for them weekly on eBay and will probably pull the trigger at some point again if I can find a good pair. The traction and Zoom on those were incredible.

      Schwollo is a good dude and he really knows his stuff, and he and I have similar styles of play so we agree on a lot of shoes out there. I trust his opinions as much as anyone out there.

  2. You’re half a size too big Jake. Nice review and accurate. I’m One of the guys with the heel slip issue but it isn’t bad at all anymore. Traction takes time to break in for sure but could be better. Great shoes are so fun aren’t they?

    • So much more fun when it’s a shoe you like haha never gets old hooping in these. Traction is just good enough that it doesn’t bother me but like you said, it could definitely be better

      • One of the guys I follow on IG posted em and I was able to pick em up from him. Tough to find deadstock pairs though, I try eBay weekly and prices are just outrageous

      • Enjoyed reading this review as I’d also put the VI up there with my favorite performers. Initially had some heel slip, but the heel lock/racer’s loop trick took care of that, and I was good to go. Like you, I loved pretty much every other aspect of the VI—don’t remember having any problems with the traction, but yeah, its durability left something to be desired… once the outsole wore bald at the forefoot, I still rocked ’em on those tennis-court-like outdoor surfaces until the heel Zoom eventually gave out.
        As for other favorites, I’d put the CFD with the VI in the lean and mean but still well-cushioned category, the LeBron II with the D Rose 6 in the all around plush yet snug category (with the LeBron IIs being slightly clunky), and the Kobe 1 as somewhere right in the middle. Honorable mention to the Ultraflights in the fun category (despite the plastic rubbing the bottom of my left lateral ankle bone bloody)—I recently read that they were unstable for a lot of people’s tastes but I don’t remember having that concern and, damn, I loved that cushioning.
        Thanks for your really good reviews, Jake. Haven’t commented before but I’ve been checking your site for a while now.

      • Thanks for checking the site out man. I agree for sure on the CFD and Rose 6 – really good cushioning in both. I wish I had picked up the CFD in a low though. I also played in the Kobe 1 back in the day, thought the heel fit with that soft collar was little weird and it’s the only shoe I’ve ever rolled an ankle in – but man were they comfy. The Ultraflight is one of my all-time favorites from a design standpoint but I’ve never played an actual game in them. My one pair I have is in good shape to rock off court and I’d hate to tear em up at this point. Some of the best Zoom ever in those.

  3. Hey Jake,
    The Kobe VI are also my favorites, because of how it fits my feet (which are more narrow than average). Are there any of the more recent shoes you would recommend (e.g. Curry 2- low)?

    • I have a narrow foot as well and the Kobes do fit perfect for those of us like that. The Curry 2 low has a thin toebox from top to bottom but width is normal overall. I can’t recommend them because of the bad heel fit though.

      First two that come to mind are the Kyrie 2 and Kobe 11. Both are narrow and the lockdown is good. The Kobe is a better value only if you can get it on sale – $200 is steep. I didn’t love the Kobe midsole but you may not need as much support as me, so if you’re looking for narrow and flexible the Kobes are an option.

  4. Nice read!!i never could fit my foot at kobe 6,and at the time i was trying size 12(half size bigger than my usual 11.5),and they still feel very cramped(my feet is quite wide and thick)
    Also the shoe that simply fit the contourbof my feet is aj 13,if i had the money,i might stock ten of them and i”ll be good for few years

    • Haha yep – that’s why favorite shoes are always subjective. I had some Playoff 13s (the retros) for awhile and I loved em but definitely could never hoop in em.

  5. (Hey Jake, it’s not letting me reply directly up above, but here goes.) My pleasure to check out your site—thank YOU for sharing your insights and knowledge! Funny you should mention CFD lows—for a while I’ve been pondering on the next pair of sneaks I wanna get to hoop in (think my Rose 6’s Boost is a little harder under my forefoot than I remember it feeling early on, so I might’ve worn ’em out a little bit, though otherwise they’re still goin’ really strong), and after posting above about about my all-time favorites, I was thinking I might oughtta check for a pair of CFD lows. Because even though the Lillard 2s sound pretty good, I’ve been thinking I’d probably prefer the cushioning of another pair of Rose 6s. Problem there is I’m just not quite as excited about about getting another pair of the same shoe. It’s pretty silly, really, because I know they’d be familiar and great, it’s just that I’m usually keen to try the latest and greatest (those HyperDunk 2016s look crazy in a potentially good way, though I’m a little skeptical of the “trampoline” cutouts in the mid-/outsole). The Hyperrevs sound pretty good.
    I was wary of the Kobe 1’s soft Achilles thing, but some dude said they were good to go, so I got a pair, and they treated me great. Sucks about your ankle with them, though.
    Yeah, the Zoom in the Ultraflights is bananas. I distinctly remember Prof K’s saying in his Kicksology review that his favorite cushioning setup was well-implemented Nike Zoom, “and the Ultraflight has it in spades.” Haha!

    • Prof K was the man haha that site plus Kicksguide is what got me into shoes in the first place. The Jet Flight is a grail to me thanks to Prof K’s review. Such a shame that neither Kicksology or Kicksguide exists any more!

      • Yup! I wasn’t up on Kicksguide, but KO was dope. But you and the guys at WearTesters and apparently Schwollow (just found out about him thanks to your mention above—thanks for that) are carrying the torch, so I’m not upset. Plus I dug around online once and found where someone had archived all the old KO reviews, which was exciting.
        I got the black/gray Jet Flights on the strength of Prof. K’s review (and I guess a lot of other people’s agreement that they were awesome), but to be honest, and I know this could cause an uproar, I don’t recall loving ’em all that much. Think I found the cushioning to be a bit firm for my tastes. Jet Flights had the nice flexible upper at the forefoot, but I’d choose to play in the Kobe VI over them most any day. And it didn’t help matters that the plastic top lace hole cage broke on me. Oh well. But yeah, his review of them was great, though!

  6. Hey ,
    Did you play in or did you hear some reputable opinions about the Adidas Crazyquick 3s ? On paper the shoe seems fine, but I would like some reassurance and I can not find any reviews of the shoe (other than the one from solebrothers but their reviews can be tricky sometimes:-) )

    • I didn’t play in them unfortunately. I had em on a couple different times in store but ended up getting different pairs each time. From my limited knowledge, they felt light with pretty firm cushioning. Lockdown felt good from a lacing standpoint. Just never got them on court or anything, although I wish I would have.

      • Yo, just to let you know I picked up the crazyquicks 3s and GOD DAMNIT !! These are hands down the best performing shoes that I have ever hooped in. They literally have no weak spots, great traction, cushion is just right, the fit is just fricking insane I mean literally perfect, lockdown great, containment great, lightweight, flexible, feel so natural on foot, stable as shit, breathable I just can not recommend them enough, people have slept on them big time. I have hooped in Kobe 9s and crazylight boost 2 2015s just prior to them and kobes aint got shit on crazyquicks literally like day and night even crazylights arent comperable. Im so excited just found a perfect hoop shoe and they look dope as well

  7. I liked these and only regret that they came along before the variety of heights came to the Kobe line. A mid and/or high version of these would have been great. The Zoom Icon is sort of that but not really, without the upper they are just an average cushion, below average traction shoe that is a little low to the ground for my tastes.

  8. Have anyone tried playing in the Zoom Icons to compare if Nike kept the cushioning the same or cheapened it? I see them sitting at the outlets for ~$60 and tempted.

  9. Glad I found this blog! Sounds like we have similarly shaped feet. Loved my Kobe 6’s and have been searching for my next loyal Bball shoe ever since, lol.

  10. Great article. I’ve been talking about the Kobe VI since 2011. I loved them so much, I bought 10-12 pairs. I’m down to my last pair. (All black color way) The Kobe 11 seemed to be a good fit and I made it through two pairs. However, the forefoot cushioning just doesn’t cut it. Any recommendations on a current shoe that will fit/feel like the Vi? I just ordered the 2017 Hyperdunk Low. We shall see… my search continues!

    • Thanks man – haven’t been reviewing a ton n lately but still hoop a lot, and I’m in the same boat as you. On my third pair and they’re getting worn out pretty good. Currently mixing in the HD 2016 Flyknits and I do really like them, although not the same feel as the VI. I’ve played in some lows that were alright – Brandblack JC 2 Lows for example – but I can’t find anything that fits like the VI, is super responsive but also has that support from the carbon fiber shank. I’m very intrigued by a Nike volleyball shoe called the HyperAttack – it’s built on the same midsole and outsole as the VI but a different upper. Can’t find em anywhere other than eBay though and they’re pretty expensive

      • It’s interesting stuff. The 2017 Hyperdunk low is just ok. Seems heavy compared to what I’m used to and the “react” technology feels a bit different in the forefoot cushioning. I’m curious what you think of the Jordan 31 lows? They appear to be promising…

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