A Slithering Review of some Scaly Sneakers
Obviously I was nervous about putting on the Nike Zoom Kobe 7 System Elite (NZK7SE…for short), as low-tops generally make me nervous. The longevity of my ankles is probably the second most important factor for my career, aside from my knees, and low-tops have a dark-history of leaving ankles prone to injury. It’s very seldom that I will ever put on a new shoe without scrutinizing it to the ten-billionth degree. Most people can feel great about lacing up something shiny, and the first time they take to the court they feel invincible. I am the complete opposite. I feel terrible anytime I switch shoes, especially switching to shoes that have drastic structural differences, like low-tops. With that said, let’s see how my feet and psyche took to these shiny new, black and blue Kobe’s.
The shoe comes in below average on initial comfort. When I first stick my foot in, it is instantly apparent how thinly padded the sides and tongue are. As oppose to the snug fit your torso would get from a thick down-jacket, the shoes feels more like a thin wind-breaker jacket. Of course, there is a high element of comfort that comes with not feeling weighed down, and that is also instantly apparent, but we’ll get to that later. The thin tongue makes possible that sharp feeling that you get when your laces are tied real tight. Personally, I’m not big on that feeling, and if you like your laces super tight when you’re playing, then you probably don’t like it either. I had to loosen them up right away once I realized this, which is a negative for me as I like playing with tight laces. The shape of the forefront of the shoe is not a hindrance in any way (as can be the case with a lot of low-top, cutting edge designs that try to make the toe area super sharp and thin). I mentioned that the sides are stuffed pretty thin, which I didn’t like. However, the siding towards the back of the shoe (closer to the heel) is significantly more padded, and is actually quite comfortable. Would I want to walk around in this shoe? Probably not.
But would I want to play in them?
Yes, I would, and I did, for the better part of 4 weeks. Why do they make a better candidate for playing than they do for walking? Because the shoe is incredibly light, yet surprisingly supportive. Some low tops can leave you with the feeling that you’re standing on a skinny balance beam, but the NZK7SE have an accentuated, wide forefront, that makes you almost feel like you couldn’t fall over. When you do the standing roll test (maintaining a relaxed, straight legged stance, and see how easily you can roll your foot inwards), it is actually difficult to get the ankle to turn inwards because of that wide-angled forefront. This is good news for ankle paranoid players such as myself. With that said, the shoe is still a low-top, so it still probably leaves you more vulnerable than your average high-top. Moving around the court in a low-top is so refreshing, especially when it comes to running endline to endline. Imagine taking to the track in your standard heavy pair of basketball sneakers. Seems ridiculous hu? Well, endline to endline running is not dissimilar from track workouts, so switching out mainstream b-ball sneakers for light-weight low-tops just feels so right during those full-court sprints. The flip-side to this, is that cutting in the shoe comes with the same issues that plague most low-tops; it’s more difficult. I certainly feel like I can pick my feet up and set ’em down faster, but when I really need to grind and plant them hard in the ground, I don’t feel like they are up for the task. It feels like they are going to slide right off my feet. I could strap up the laces tighter, but like it said, it’s irritatingly cuts into the top of your foot. So, there’s positives and negatives. If you want to feel free to run and move top speed, then the shoe is a prime candidate, so long as you’re willing to sacrifice confidence and comfort on your sharp cuts.
Very impressive results on the lateral stability test (this is where you place the shoe on a flat surface, and use one finger to put pressure on the very tip of the heel support so that the toe of the shoe comes a few inches off the ground…then let go so the toe flops back to the floor. This will produce a slight side to side rocking motion. The less rocking motion, the better). This is to be expected, since if you turn the shoe over, you’ll see just how wide of a base it possesses. Overall, this bodes well for supporting the feet and ankles and preventing the wear and tear of unstable ground strikes. Similar positive marks came from the rigid test (grabbing the shoe by its toe and it’s heal and attempting to fold it half). It seems the wide center of the arch support is also pretty dense and tough. The shoe is more rigid than even your average high-top, which again, is great for supporting the foot and preventing injury.
Insole buffs out there will be shocked when they try to swap the NZK7SE insole out. It is attached to the tongue. Not that it won’t come out (it will), but it’s taking the tongue of the shoe with it. This is a drawback for people with thick custom orthotics because it’s cumbersome to lay those directly over the factory installed insole, and sometimes even impossible. But if you have average or thin inserts, you shouldn’t have a problem laying them over the NZK7SE factory insole. This is usually a concern with low tops, as a factory insole + personal insoles raises your foot up, further exposing the ankle. But this low-top Kobe proved to be versatile and supportive enough that I was able to put my insole directly over top of the factory one and I didn’t feel like my ankle was over-exposed.
Structure and Arch Support
Low-tops generally come up short in this department, but the NZK7SE was up to par. At first glance, the inside of the arch support appears to dip in drastically, but when you flip the shoe over, it’s obvious just how wide the center of the shoe and arch support really are. This is good news for players who are prone to plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. In the past, low-tops just weren’t an option for those players because they came with very skinny mid-sole’s, but that isn’t an issue with the NZK7SE. More good news is that the heel of the shoe is extremely sturdy and well supported by a thick ridge of plastic that extends higher than normal shoes (which is ironic, because this is a low top). So, even though the side of the shoe is ultimately cut lower than your normal basketball sneaker, the back of it doesn’t feel all too different
Nothing on the shoe was overtly out of place or destroyed after 4 weeks of consistently working out in them. Each player is going to have their own set of standards for how long a shoe should last (depending on how much they play in it, and how much the player weighs and sweats). In my experience, if a shoe lasts a month without starting to feel sloppy, then it is well put together. A pet-peeve of mine is when the sides of a shoe begin to feel stretched, making it so you have to lace them tighter and tighter with each passing day. NZK7SE managed to not get on my bad side, the siding remained firm, despite the fact that I was lacing ’em up pretty tight.
Buy or Pass?
Buy. If you’ve never taken low-tops for a spin, then it’s a definite buy. If you want a shoe who’s name abbreviates into a set of nuclear launch codes, buy the NZK7SE for sure. You’ll get all the upsides of light-weight freedom without the typical drawbacks you see in most low-tops.