Performance Review: Nike KD7

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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The Nike Basketball division has had an interesting year to say the least. From a performance standpoint, it’s been awhile since I have reviewed a Nike product that I truly loved playing in. The shoes I’ve recently tested from the brand have all had a pretty significant flaw in my eyes. In the Kobe IX for example, there’s a total lack of midfoot support/cushioning and for me, it made the shoe unwearable after a few games. The LeBron XI never quite fit or flexed naturally for me. Neither of the KD models fit me well and the Elite version had a serious fit/stability issue. Even from other brands, I struggled to really find a shoe I liked playing in outside of adidas’ Rose 4.5.

With all these reviews in the rearview mirror, I was anticipating a fresh start in the KD7. There is plenty of tech to be found, including a 180° Zoom bag, Hyperposite heel/collar, midfoot strap, and Dynamic Flywire support. Thankfully, the shoe delivers and is one of the top performers I’ve hooped in this year.

Fit
The KD7 features a hybrid construction, with a mesh forefoot forefoot and midfoot construction combined with a Hyperposite heel. I had some initial doubts before as to how well the two very different materials would blend, but I found the fit to be very good. I hope this mesh construction is something Nike uses more of going forward, because it plays so much more naturally than Fuse does. The flexibility it allows is awesome, and using mesh allows lets the Flywire cables – which are actually utilized – to cinch the foot down. Whereas a thicker, stiffer Fuse setup limits the amount of support you get from Flywire, this mesh build helps the cables pull as tight as possible.

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There’s ample room in the toebox, and even though an 11 is typically a little short for me, there’s just enough volume in the toebox that it fits perfectly without constricting the toes. The mesh build helps here again, giving you plenty of flexibility in a key area. Forefoot lockdown is very good – you can lace the KD7 up extremely tight – and the midfoot strap is actually useful for midfoot lockdown. You might notice some pressure on the top of your foot due to the strap and the stitching of Hyperposite piece, but that’s mostly alleviated after the first few wearings.

I noticed very slight slippage in the heel fit upon the first few wearings, but I’d chalk that up to the Hyperposite getting broken in. It’s a stiffer material, but it holds its shape and will mold to your foot somewhat after you get them broken in. Overall, the fit was excellent in the KD7, particularly in the forefoot area. It’s the first and most important box to check, and the Swoosh nailed it with this one.

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Heel-Toe Transition
The KD7 is very smooth from heel strike to toe off, with a full length Zoom unit, stable midsole and flexible outsole. I almost felt like the shoe promoted more of a midfoot strike – not to the extent of the KD III, which felt like it had a bulge under your arch that rolled you forward – but I noticed myself not landing quite as squarely on my heel. A midfoot strike is a very neutral and natural gait (it’s what many competitive runners strive for), so this is a good thing.

Cushioning
As mentioned before, the shoe features a 180° Zoom bag, visible at the heel. The Zoom bag is housed in a solid midsole that provides plenty of support while still remaining flexible. The midfoot support from the KD7 is the best I’ve had since the Anatomix last year. While I may sound old harping on support, if you play enough ball you WILL need it eventually.

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You’ll notice five TPU bars on the bottom of the shoe that run through the midfoot, mimicking the bones of your foot. This aids support while promoting natural flexibility, and is a fantastic addition to the cushioning setup. The UA Anatomix Spawn featured a TPU support structure with a similar idea in mind, and it was great in that shoe too. Hopefully, the extreme lightweight/flexible movement will get phased out of basketball models and we’ll get more attention to detail when it comes to midfoot support.

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Responsiveness is excellent with a firm but bouncy Zoom setup. Stability is also very good, thanks to the supportive midsole and overall fit of the upper. The lateral stability is miles ahead of the KD VI Elite. As far as step in comfort, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better hoops shoe. The Jordan CP3.VII and XX8 SE both were extremely comfortable underfoot, and the KD7 is right there in terms of sheer comfort.

Overall, this may be my favorite cushioning setup of the year across all categories along with the XX8 SE. I loved the support and responsiveness especially, and it simply plays well in every aspect.

Traction
Featuring a pressure mapped outsole with a herringbone-esque pattern (more wavy, reminded me a little of the Jordan XX3 models), the traction is excellent. Flexibility is good and the channels are deep, which is a recipe for reliable traction underfoot. I’ve only used it indoors, a few times on very good floors and once on a dustier one, but traction was great no matter what.

Materials/Durability
No issues so far here. The Hyperposite heel will scuff some on the medial side, but that’s to be expected. I anticipate the mesh holding up well in the forefoot, given that it’s backed by another layer of fabric. There’s also a medial toecap for durability in the toebox. I was concerned at first about the Hyperposite being stitched directly to the mesh but its well constructed and after playing in it I don’t have any concerns there.

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The KD7 proved to be one of the best shoes I’ve tested this year. It instantly becomes a go-to shoe for me thanks to the lockdown, support and responsiveness, along with great transition and traction. It’s simply a very good shoe overall, built to be a performance beast rather than just a unique silhouette like the KD 6. I was beginning to doubt Nike after being disappointed in the last few models I’d tested, but they got this one right.

As a final note, I think this is a great shoe for any position. There’s enough support for bigger guys, but the shoe plays very light and nimble thanks to the secure fit and good responsiveness. If you’re looking for a team shoe or something to last all season, definitely make it a priority to try on the KD7.

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Performance Review: Nike Zoom I Get Buckets

Prose: Finch (@sir_stymie)

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With the weather getting warmer and warmer I get the urge to participate in one of my favorite activities of my youth: outdoor basketball. Some of my fondest memories in hoops have come in church parking lots, elementary school playgrounds and the driveways of friends’ houses. I consider the outdoor game to be one of the foundations of my toughness and grit as a player.

Jake can also attest to this. We have shared the field of battle many times, and we often discuss a certain 3 on 3 tournament back in 2012 in 100 degree heat that I still believe to this day we have not fully recovered from. (Jake’s note: This is true – we actually won a game because some kid on the other team had a heat stroke and had to sit out. Any injury/soreness from that point on is blamed on that godforsaken tournament.)

I can remember how sore I was and how I wished I had made a better footwear choice. I was playing in a pair of low top Nike Air Total Package and while this shoe was one of my favorites ever to hoop in, they were beaters at that point and not the proper shoe for the constant pounding and grinding that goes with an all day affair in a parking lot.

So when I rediscovered Nike’s Outdoor Tech products, I was excited to see what they had to offer. Each year Nike makes a couple of shoes for this little-used division – one shoe is a variation of the previously reviewed Zoom Crusader, which we have seen on the feet of several young up and comers in the NBA like Paul George and James Harden.

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The other is a new model that pays tribute to another young up and comer: Kyrie Irving and his alter ego Uncle Drew’s catchphrase “I Get Buckets.” Though its shares similarities from other designs of the day – namely the Hyperfuse 2014 – this shoes is very unique and has elements that make it one of the best outdoor shoes I’ve played in.

But what about on the hardwood? Well that’s where it gets tricky.

Fit
It is well documented that I prefer to go a half-size to a full size down in my performance shoes so that I get a snug, glove-like fit. Since size 12.5 seems to be one he rarest size in human existence, size 12 is the way I usually go.

The upper of the I Get Buckets is made of some of the thickest Fuse material that I have ever encountered. Though it is a stiff material, I was pleasantly surprised with the flexibility because of how the upper is constructed with many ventilation slits near the eyelets. This serves a dual purpose as both ventilation on hot summer days and to help with flexibility.

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Under this thick layer Fuse is a thin layer of mesh that is build upon a neoprene bootie. The makes for a very snug (in hindsight I could have gone with a 13 and been OK) and sock like fit without lacing them very tight – something that you look for in any performance shoe and in a shoe made for the rigors of the outdoor game.

The plush interior makes for a very conformable fit, but the downside of  this shoe comes when you get on the hardwood. Due to the thickness of the material in the upper you feel most if not all the flex points when you take a step. It’s uncomfortable and strangely enough wasn’t as much of a problem outside on the concrete.

 

Heel-Toe Transition
To be completely honest, smoothness in the transition is not a strength of the shoe . The silhouette has decent looking shape, seems to be conducive to a good transition and doesn’t feel necessarily square or clunky. The biggest problem is in the structure – and I’ve seen it in a lot of Nike’s latest models – and the absence of any type of midfoot plate.

Maybe its just my personal preference, but I wish this shoe had a plate in the midsole. You can do a plate or chassis wrong like the KD V Elite, but it can also really aid support and transition if used correctly.

This shoe and shoes like the Zoom Crusader that I reviewed have softer midsoles and hard outsoles, making the shoe flexible but also a little bit of a mixed bag. While this flexibility is good, sometimes you get too much range of motion or you need something more firm underfoot. A sturdy upper with an overly flexible sole can make for a clunky feel.

So while though the transition is adequate, I feel that an upgrade of a midfoot plate would be optimal. It would not only give the shoe a better structure but would also enhance stability.

Cushioning
Now this is where it gets funky. It is well documented that we here at TGRR love Zoom cushioning. Though we subscribe to this system and its benefits, not all Zoom bags are created equal.

If you remember my review of the Hyperquickness, I described how the softness of the midsole made the cushioning somewhat ineffective. The Zoom bag needs to hit your foot at the right point of the footstrike, and that’s a problem in the I Get Buckets too.

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Another aspect that seems to hurt this cushioning system is the size of the units themselves. The I Get Buckets is equipped with a forefoot Zoom unit and Phylon midsole. The fact that the Zoom bag is a small met bag under the ball of the foot, combined with the softness of the midsole, almost renders the Zoom cushioning useless. You don’t feel the responsiveness and springiness that you are used to. The HyperRev proved you can have a soft, flexible midsole with Zoom embedded but you better have a full-length bag like it did.

An example of Zoom cushioning done correctly, in my opinion, would be in the Jordan Brand performance line – most notably the XX8, M10 and (one of my new favorites) the Super.Fly II. Not only are the Zoom bags massive in terms of volume but the way they they are installed in a Flight Plate-loaded design makes for peak performance. The plate helps your foot hit the bag properly, and that bag itself is extremely responsive. Obviously, these types of advancements can’t be seen in a shoe with the price point of $115 but at least a bigger Zoom bag would have been better for outdoor use if cushioning was a primary focus.

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In terms of balance and court feel on the hardwood this shoe gets a decent score. Never did I feel like I was unstable or that I couldn’t get my feet under me in order to shoot or move my feet to get in a defensive position. I felt comfortable landing for rebounds, etc. This shoe does run a bit narrow, so that is something to keep in mind if you have wider feet.

 

Traction
I am happy to report that this shoe features herringbone traction. While herringbone can wear a bit faster than some if made with soft rubber, I feel that its the best overall pattern based on my personal balling experience. The outsole in this case is a HAGR (High Abraision Green Rubber) compound, designed for heavy outdoor use so that stops it from wearing too quickly.

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We have seen exaggerations of herringbone in iconic outdoor silhouettes as the Reebok Blacktop and, my personal favorite, the Nike Air Raid. It works for those, and it works for this model.

 

Materials
As I have alluded to in previous sections of this post, the shoe is built with thick Hyperfuse, a layer of breathable sandwich mesh and a partial inner bootie. The toe and heel areas are also reinforced. While this seems like a bit of overkill for an ordinary court shoe, these features excel if the is shoe is used outdoors.

Outdoors, these materials work hand in hand to protect your foot from the constant pounding and twisting and turning that playing outdoors entails. This shoe is built like a tank, and I can feel that this shoe – at least in the upper – is going to last me a while.

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In closing, if you are looking for great shoe for outdoor ball in the summer months, this is the one. Though it has its shortcomings as a high-performance shoe on the hardwood, in its natural element on the blacktop you will get the most use and the best performance from this model.

Make sure you comment if you’ve hooped in the Get Buckets – we love to hear your feedback and talk shoes.

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Performance Review: Under Armour Micro G Charge Volt Low

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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There are plenty of reasons why you probably haven’t hooped in the Under Armour Charge Volt Low before. The first is, well, they’re not in stores anywhere. Under Armour didn’t get these to major retailers (at least not that I’ve seen) thus keeping the shoe largely out of the public eye. Besides that, any promotional material UA did on a major scale revolved around the Anatomix Spawn – and even that shoe barely registered with consumers.

But, I was curious about the Charge Volt Low for a couple of reasons. I was primarily interested in the construction of the shoe, built with a HeatGear one-piece, bootie-like upper with a synthetic overlay wrapping roughly 3/4 of your foot. (The mid top version, by the way, is even more unique with a tall lace-up sleeve in sort of a slimmed down version of last year’s Charge BB disaster.) I also wanted to see how the shoe played underfoot with a familiar Micro G midsole, wider base, and large TPU shank – very similar tooling to the Charge BB.

With promotion absent and almost no on-court presence, the Charge Volt Low went under the radar. Our job at TGRR is to review as many shoes as we can regardless of how popular they may be, so I’m excited to present a shoe you may not have seen or played in.

Fit
I mentioned before that the shoe has a fairly wide base, so it’s a solid option for those of you that need more room in the midfoot/toebox area. Despite my narrow foot, I still felt comfortable with the fit of the upper because of the HeatGear bootie that adapts to most foot sizes. If you’ve tried on or bought any of the Charge running shoes, it’s going to feel a lot like that. In fact, the construction of the upper is pretty similar to the original Charge runner.

The bootie is well-padded across the top of the foot and around the collar/heel area, making for a comfortable initial fit. The shoe feels a lot like a trainer when you put on for the first time. When laced up, the synthetic piece that wraps most of the upper provides decent lockdown but I still found some slippage. It was especially noticeable in the heel area, where you won’t find a sturdy heel counter like the Spawn had. The midsole does wrap up around the heel nicely, mitigating the slippage on the interior to a certain extent.

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On hard cuts or moving laterally on the defensive end, there’s some movement all over the shoe. Part of that can be attributed to the wider base and my foot shape, but it’s just difficult to get a completely secure fit with the way the Charge Volt is constructed.

The eyelet closest to the toe and then the 3rd eyelet up are stitched directly to the inner bootie. This feels like a snug fit because you can feel it pull the material tighter, but the bootie is so stretchy that it loses its support on any kind of movement made at moderate speed. The synthetic overlay makes for a comfortable and unique construction, but simply doesn’t provide enough support.

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Overall the fit is decent (this will become a common theme) but it’s nowhere near as secure as other lows I’ve tested.

Heel-Toe Transition
The transition through the footstrike might be the most disappointing area of the Charge Volt Low. When you wear a shoe on court, it should feel like one smooth motion from heel to toe when you take a step. With the Charge Volt Low, there is a distinct heel strike and then toe strike – a two-piece movement that you can both hear and feel. In my opinion, this is due to the large TPU shank that gives you fantastic support, but makes for a firm and clunky heel-toe transition. It also simply felt heavier on court overall due to the poor transition.

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Cushioning
Micro G might be the best on-court foam compound on the market today (we’ll see how adidas’ Boost challenges this later this year) and it’s the one constant that makes the Charge Volt Low a viable option. Court feel is excellent and stability is pretty great too. If you value court feel and stability, you’ll love the wide base and low to the ground midsole. This is especially important in a low top, because there’s less shoe to give you support in the event of an ankle rollover. Ankle support comes from the heel fit and stability (the heel fit is a little sloppy) but the Charge Volt Low inspires confidence because of the low and wide midsole.

Responsiveness is another issue. Normally, Micro G is a very responsive cushioning system – I threw on my Anatomix to hoop in outside and was amazed at how bouncy they felt even on concrete. I played in the Anatomix pretty consistently for several months in between other reviews, and they still felt great.

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Because of the large TPU shank and two-piece footstrike, I think some of Micro G’s responsiveness is sapped. Rather than rolling smoothly from heel to toe and pushing off the foam with each step, the foam spends a lot more time absorbing the harsher impact of the toe strike rather than helping propel you forward. Obviously no cushioning setup is going to really “propel” you, but the best technologies make it more effortless to move in.

Traction
The Charge Volt Low features a few small herringbone pods, but is primarily a dimpled, harder rubber outsole. The traction is below average on a court with any kind of dust because there’s too much surface area touching the floor on the dimpled portions. The grooves aren’t especially deep, and neither area the pseudo flex grooves. On good floors, the traction markedly improves but is nothing special. The lesson, as always: more herringbone.

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Materials/Durability
I feel like some players will be concerned especially with the toebox area, constructed entirely of the HeatGear bootie with some toe overlays fused on. After repeated use, I could see how a heavier player or an explosive type of slasher getting a blowout on the side of the foot simply from the lack of support/containment. I’m always a little leery of the bootie construction in areas where you need a lot of lateral support.

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Micro G will hold up well underfoot and the general construction isn’t bad. The synthetic piece is stitched on fairly heavily and the padding on the interior of the shoe is awesome. In my personal opinion, the shiny synthetic looks a little plastic-y on the colorway I have – though I can’t speak for all over the models.

This turned into a pretty intensive review because a lot of pieces of this shoe required some explanation. There was good and bad with every aspect, and it led to a fairly mediocre on-court shoe overall. If you value support and have a wider foot, definitely add these to your list of options. I think for a guard/wing and a wide-footer, you’d like the way the shoe fits.

Unfortunately, the sloppy fit of the upper, below average traction and clunky transition really drags the shoe down. It’s not a bad shoe, and once it hits the outlets or the deep clearance rack go ahead and try them out. Just don’t make them your first option unless you need a wide shoe. In addition, the fact that it’s nearly impossible to try these on in store is enough to make me not recommend them.

Let us know what you think in the comments, especially if you’ve seen these in store anywhere.

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