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.

Heel-Toe Transition
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.

TGRR Blog: The Nike Zoom Revis and the Return of the Performance Trainer

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

Even though the Nike Zoom Revis not strictly a basketball performance shoe, hoopers still need to train right?

During a trip to my nearest Nike Factory Store last weekend (side note: for the uninitiated, factory stores are awesome for finding performance shoes for a bunch of different sports), I was surprised to find a pair of Zoom Revis’ in the Fir/White colorway sitting on the clearance rack in my size and $30 cheaper than retail. The reason for their presence at the store is still beyond me – normally shoes don’t hit the outlets until months after their release date – but I’m guessing they’d been bought and returned at a retail store. (The shoe is probably going to be slept-on given Revis’ injury and the timing of the release, and will hit the outlets en masse within a couple months – but that’s a great thing for those of us on a budget.)  Regardless this pair showed no signs of wear and after deliberating with Finch, I went ahead and copped.

The purchase excited me for a couple of reasons. First, I appreciated the design from an aesthetic and functional standpoint. The midsole is equipped with real, full-length Zoom Air, something I had dearly missed in my shoes since I was hooping in Zoom BB IIs a few years ago. The shoe is the first in my collection featuring Dynamic Flywire and while I’m on the fence about the usefulness of Flywire in general, this iteration seems to harness the foot better given that it’s directly attached to the eyelets and is used over a pliable mesh upper. The midfoot strap – I like straps, FYI – is the boldest design element in the package, and it’s passable in terms of holding the foot over the footbed though the bootie/innersleeve and lacing system do a good job of locking the foot in place. From a practical standpoint, I usually prefer a solid rubber outsole, but the clear bottom is a nice look, exposes the Zoom bag and makes the traction on demand pods really pop. For what it’s worth, the traction on demand idea seems best suited for training on grass or another soft surface and I haven’t noticed any real difference when just wearing the Zoom Revis in the gym.

Secondly, I felt that the Zoom Revis was a welcome return for Nike signature trainers. I still own a White/Black/Red pair of the Zoom Vick I (purchased the summer before my freshman year of high school; I’m 23 now) and I used them for everything from open gym runs in the summer to weightlifting and plyometrics. The Zoom Vick I is one of the most versatile, durable and comfortable shoes I own and I have hopes that the Zoom Revis is a sign that Nike is getting back to packing their training shoes with technology and durable materials. Nike Free trainers aren’t for everybody, and I found the Air Max trainer series to be solid but slightly too lifestyle-driven for me. The Vick and Revis shoes are similar in that both feature low-profile, responsive Zoom bags, a prominent strap, an inner bootie that provides a great fit, and materials built to withstand some punishment. I haven’t decided if I’ll try the Revis on court yet, but it’s already my go-to for the weight room, the heavy bag and jump rope. Here’s to the swoosh cranking out some more solid performers – perhaps Calvin Johnson or Adrian Peterson are next in line for a signature shoe.