// : The Summer Go-To’s : //

With fall steadily approaching and summer about to come to a close, here are some of my go-to footwear options that I had in heavy rotation this Summer 2017.

For me, my footwear rotation has always depended on mood, weather, and the environment that I am. With starting a full time job this past October for a company that is very relaxed and sneaker obsessed, I’ve been able to mix up my style choices as well as footwear choices. That also comes with exploring new styles and trends.

First up is the Air Jordan 1 Retro OG in a simple Black/White color way. I love these so much that I even bought a second pair when they were on sale to break out once these ones are done. These are so easy for me to wear and they go with absolutely everything. I have gotten some heavy wear out of them and they seem to look better each and every time. Living in Portland and dealing with the rain here makes these a perfect everyday option.

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Next up is the Converse Cons One Star Pro Low Top in Sequoia Green and White. These have just enough flavor to mix it up color wise with the dark green suede upper and pop of the white laces. As I have grown and gotten older, I have noticed that my style has evolved and become more simplistic – less loud when it comes to my footwear choices. These are a perfect example. Nice and simple and easy to wear, whether with pin-rolled pants, cropped pants, or shorts. You can’t go wrong with the One Star.  These are showing some signs of wear as well. Side note – PLEASE WEAR YOUR SHOES!! I am looking forward to getting some great wear out of these come this fall. unnamed-5.jpgunnamed-7.jpgunnamed-8.jpg

Last up are the Nike Zoom All Court “CK”  in Black/White for SB Team member Cory Kennedy. These also show some great signs of wear and tear, as I’ve done everything form skating, to shooting hoops, to wearing them for five days straight causally. Much like the Black/White AJ1, these also look good beat up and are very simple to wear. If you pay attention to footwear & style the slightest bit, you will notice that ‘simple’ or ‘basic’ shoes have been killing the game lately. The Vans Old School in Black/White has made a huge comeback in the past year and a half and for all of the right reasons, it’s a classic shoe. This is my version of the Vans Old School, just a basic Black/White vulc shoe that looks good all time time.

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// : The Return of the OG : //

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The Air Jordan 1 Black/Varsity Red – an all time classic, timeless, powerful shoe. Banned from the league, yet still stands decades of time today on the streets. Old heads, new heads, fan boys – it doesn’t matter. People will always love and adore this shoe and specifically this color way for what it is will always be – a classic.

Jordan Brand recently brought back the AJ 1 High OG with premium materials in the OG Black/Varsity Red colorway earlier this month in September. Jordan 1s, specifically original colors, are so engrained in the sneaker and streetwear culture that people from all walks of life could wear this shoe and make it look good. This go around, pairs were limited and many sneaker heads across the world we’re left disappointed in not being able to score a pair.

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However, I on the other hand was lucky enough to get a pair. These were a must have for me. Even if it meant standing in line at 4:30 in the morning to get a pair, something I hadn’t done since the SpaceJam 11’s released in 2009.

The Jordan 1 High OG is my version of the Chuck Taylor (and probably for a lot of other people, as well). They are so easy to wear, and look even better the more you wear them. Going into my senior year of high school in 2009, I remember buying the DMP (Defining Moments Pack) Jordan 1 pack that came with two different colorways of the Jodan 1 High OG. The Black/Varsity Red like you see above, and a White/Black/Green pair to commemorate the 63 points that Michael Jordan dropped on the Boston Celtics in Boston his rookie year. I loved the shoes so much that when it snowed, I would wear a separate pair of shoes to school so I didn’t have to get slush, snow, and salt on my brand new Jordan 1s. Since then, these shoes have been with me to a lot of places. The more  I wore them, the better they looked. Rain, snow, summer, fall – they always look good.

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Although my 2009 pair of the Black/Varsity Red 1s look great with all of the wear and tear I’ve put on them, they are on their last legs and have lost a lot of the ‘comfort’ aspects of them over time. That’s why I needed to score myself another pair.

I’m not really sure when I’m going to break these ones out – I do have a date in mind, but I’ll just have to wait and see and decide then. Until then, these are staying in my closet waiting for their day to hit the concrete!

// : Behind the scenes look at how Van’s are made : //

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Not too many times do major footwear or apparel companies let the public get a glimpse at how they manufacture their products from start to finish. A lot of times, brands will give viewers a chance to see stories from the designers perspective about the inspiration behind the product or how they went about their creative process to design the product. People enjoy seeing how stuff is made, but going into a factory and recording a video on it is very taboo within the footwear industry. It’s often times confidential information that only employees can see or it’s too controversial to show on video mainly due to the countries in which the products are made and factoty workers that make the products. However, for the 50th anniversary of Van’s, they given their fans a small glimpse of how they make their popular shoes in their respective factories. From the waffle iron soles, to the stitched uppers with the famous Van’s logo, take a look below into the past and present ways Van’s makes their footwear.

Video: How to make Vans Footwear

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// : Shoe Deconstruction : //

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Have you ever wondered what the inside of a shoe looks like, or for example, wondered what types of technologies are below your feet in your latest Kyrie’s of Kobe’s? A lot of thought, trial & error, and problem solving goes into making sure a shoe is developed correctly and manufactured the correct way. I for one, always like to know what types of footwear technologies are in my shoes and specifically inside of my basketball shoes.

Zoom Air in the forefoot? Lunarlon foam in the feel? What does that even mean? Where is it? I can’t see anything under here…What is Zoom Air and why can’t I feel anything? These are all common questions your average consumer who is not a “sneaker head” or “footwear nerd” may wonder or not completely understand. And to be completely fair, there really aren’t many resources for them to find out what exactly Zoom Air or Lunar Foam looks like in real life or to hold and feel a physical component of it unless you cut open an old pair of shoes you have to find out or do some extensive Google searching.

Thankfully, there are people on the internet who do that for us and actually cut open brand new pairs of shoes to see what exactly is inside of them. Curiosity is key and I for one love cutting open old pairs of shoes to see how they were built and trying to figure out the what and why things are inside of them.

Lets take a look below at some images provided by Long7 for examples of what some of your favorite footwear models look like cut open and deconstructed. Below are photos of the popular Nike Kyrie 1 from Nike Basketball which launched in the fall of 2014. From getting a brief description of the shoe online, we know that it features as Huperfuse Mesh Upper, a Zoom Air unit in the forefoot, a Phylon midsole, an external TPU heel counter for support, and a herringbone traction pattern on the outsole. Now, what does all of that mean? What if I wanted to know how big or small the Zoom unit in the forefoot is? Is the Zoom bottom loaded or directly under the foot for responsiveness? These are all tough questions to find answers to unless you cut open the shoe to find out.

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As you can see, there are a lot of components and parts of a shoe.Every shoe is different and each has different components to it. As a Footwear Developer, one of their many responsibilities it is to make sure the smallest details are accurate on the shoe and that the shoe is built correctly within the respected factories. The picture above is just one example of what a shoes inner parts can look like. Through different manufacturing processes, some of the most simplistic shoes from a visual standpoint may be some of the hardest shoes to construct and build just because of how many parts are in the shoe.

Below are some photos of one of Nike Basketball’s most famous shoes from the early 2000’s, the Zoom Huarache 2k4 which released in 2004 cut open and dissected (photos courtesy of CounterKicks). The Huarache 2k4 was so well liked among the basketball community that you could see anyone from a seven foot center wearing them or a 5’5” point guard. It really was a well rounded shoe, made for the best. Kobe Bryant was the man leading the pack for the shoe, which then filtered out to other NBA players adopting the shoe, as well as college and high school teams. The 2k4 featured a simplistic upper with heel and forefoot Zoom Air units, a carbon fiber midfoot shank plate, an ankle cooler strap, a neoprene tongue, and a TPU external heel counter for lockdown and support.

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As you can see, there are a lot of parts and components that went into the Huarache 2k4, making it one of the best performing basketball shoes of the last decade. Each little part and material on the shoe is a specific cost and ultimately determine how much the shoe costs to make and how much it will retail for. Design, Product Marketing, and Developers have to all work together as a team to figure out how to get it done. Not a bad gig, huh?

// : LEVI’S FOOTWEAR PRODUCT BRIEF : //

For this particular project, I was focusing on the Levi’s brand and their Commuter clothing line. The Commuter clothing line focuses on comfortable yet stylish clothes that one can wear to bike to work in. The Commuter line is created with the Levi’s brand heritage ethos in mind, as well as creating product with comfort, coverage, and durability in classic & iconic Levi’s styles. It’s built for the on the go person, whether they ride during the day or night, or rain or shine. While doing some market research for this project in Portland, Oregon, number 3 on most bike friendly cities in the U.S., I was able to get a idea of what the ‘Commuter’ consumer wears on a daily basis, what kind of footwear options they currently wear, and what kind of footwear options they need or may be looking for.

Some of the key elements that I discovered were that they want something that is easy to wear to and from work, stylish, functional, and durable in all weather conditions. A lot of consumers that I observed currently wear sneaker brands like Van’s, Converse, adidas, and some Nike. The other majority of consumers I saw were wearing high-end biking specific footwear, which they would then change into something more comfortable once they got to work. Why not make one shoe that they can wear to and from work, that will be stylish and cover all of their needs at an affordable price?

Levi’s currently only makes one Commuter shoe, called the Levi’s Commuter Sneaker which retails for $65 here. With the Commuter line continuing to grow and the amount of consumers who are already a fan of line, Levi’s could really capitalize on a new sneaker in the Commuter line and evolve. For the particular shoe that I briefed below, it would retail anywhere from $85-90 and would feature a retro running inspired look, a water resistant material on the upper, and feature some 3M reflectivity on the shoe.

After doing some research on the top bike friendly cities in America, I decided that there would be four special releases of the shoe in select cities – Minneapolis, San Francisco, Portland, and Denver (the top 4 bike friendly cities in the U.S.) (forbes.com, 2015). Following the initial special release of the shoe, it would then release at select retailers globally.

Please take a look below. Thank you.

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Levi’s Commuter Footwear Brief 1:16

// : Recent Pickups : // December 2015

Nike Kobe 10 "Liberty Bell"

Nike Kobe 10 “Liberty Bell”

Back in mid December, I was fortunate enough to get two pairs of Nike Basketball’s most recent ‘high performance’ basketball shoes for an offer I couldn’t pass up. I must say, I was not a fan of either of the Kobe 10’s or the KD 8’s that released this past year. Both designs weren’t connecting with me, the colors and stories were awful, and the prices were WAY too expensive. Both the Kobe 10 EM and KD 8 retailed at $180, respectively – still very steep for the ‘target’ consumer of 17-18 years old.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by the way both performed on court. I’ll be completely honest, when the Kobe 10 first came out early last year, I hated on the shoe so hard. I felt that it lacked the Kobe design look we had seen in the past with some of Kobe’s best signatures over the years, (KB 4, KB 5, KB 6, KB 8). It looked like a glorified Air Max to me, hence me passing on every color way that released up until I recently got the Liberty Bell Kobe 10 on the low. After playing in the kicks for about a month now, it has become my go-to hoop shoe, even over my Kobe 10 Elite low’s that I made on Nike iD and featured in my last post on here. The Engineered Mesh version just feels better on my foot than the Elites to and it flexes a lot better compared to the Elite Flyknit version as well. One thing that I noticed that’s different between the two is the tongue. The tongue on the Elite lows is a lot fatter and shorter than on the EM version. The tongue on the Engineered Mesh really locks your foot in place, to go a long with a GREAT internal heel counter as well. It sits right about your foot and when you lace the shoe tightly before playing, it locks you in and hugs the top of your foot really well.

Take a look on any NBA court this year and you’ll see just about 4 to 5 pairs on average of Engineered Mesh Kobe 10’s in Team Bank color ways on the feet of NBA guards across the league. Nike BB could have released some more simple color ways like the Team Bank colors that NBA ballers are wearing, but that’s a whole other story about releasing the ‘right’ color ways…

The selection from Nike Basketball this past year was pretty lack-luster as far as for performance basketball footwear goes. There were only a few options within the $100-$130 ball park range, the sweet-spot for most consumers. Some of the big hits included the Nike Kyrie 1, Nike Hyperchase, and the Kobe Mentality & Kobe Venomenon series. Then Kevin Durant’s KD8 came into play…After the initial release this past summer of the all red V8 color way, inspired by KD’s candy paint red Chevy V8 and the 4th of July color way, the shoe didn’t start out so hot as Nike Basketball had expected. Consumers thought it looked like a running shoe – a Nike Air Max 360 – and in a way, it kind of did to an extent. The price had gone up $30 dollars compared to last years KD7 and the design just wasn’t seeming to click with the basketball consumer as it did with say, the KD4, KD5, or KD6…

Nike KD 8 "Easy Euro"

Nike KD 8 “Easy Euro”

But damn, is the KD8 a comfortable shoe to hoop in! Forget about the colors that released or the horrendous saber tooth inspiration that was added on the heel of the shoe right before production began on the shoe, the shoe can flat out perform on the court. Color & design are a huge deciding factor in a shoe for consumers, hence the reason the shoe hasn’t been seeing as well, but the technology in the shoe sets it a part from any other basketball shoe on the market right now of all brands. The full length articulated Zoom Air bag is such a smooth and responsive ride, coupled together with the one-to-one fit of the Flyweave upper of the shoe is what makes it a great shoe in my book for any 1-3 guard. The Zoom Air bag is so responsive in the forefoot that I honestly believe that I gives more bounce in my jumpshot when wearing the shoes. The KD8 does sit a little bit higher off the court than I usually like, but the court feel is still there enough for your foot to feel the court. I give an edge to the Kobe 10 for being a bit lower to the ground and over all court feel compared to the KD8, making it my go-to hoop shoe over the past month.

Like any other hoop shoe that releases brand by brand, it all depends on your style of play, what types of shoes you have worn in the past, and what you’re looking for in a hoop shoe. For me personally, I love being lower to the ground and to feel the court, yet I still like to have some sort of responsive cushioning underfoot like a Zoom Air. I also love playing in the low tops for the free range of mobility compared to a mid or high. With the way trends are starting to go, it looks like low tops should still be into play with kids and high still relevant in the market place. All parents across the country who are buying these shoes for their kids still need to see some sort of mid to high tops on the walls of the sporting goods stores. They just can’t get over the low tops. But if Kobe can do it, so can you.

// : Andy’s Desk : // Nike Zoom Kobe 10 Elite Low iD

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For this edition of Andy’s desk, I will be showcasing the Nike Zoom Kobe 10 Elite Low, which I customized on Nike iD. Much like the Kobe 9 Elite Low that debuted last year, the Kobe 10 Elite Low first followed the release of the Elite High, then releasing the low this past summer in four general release colors with each having inspirations around Kobe somehow. I wasn’t really a fan of any of the colorways that Nike put out unfortunately, so I went the Nike iD route and created something on my own with colors that I wanted. Of the four colorways that Nike put out this year for the Elite Low, each featured very bright colors and were more complex colors. I wanted to create something more simple and clean with my design and ended up going with an all grey upper, white swoosh, black inner-liner, grey bottom and white laces, all very similar to the Kobe 9 Elite Low ‘Beethoven’ colorway that released in August of 2014.

Kobe 9 Elite Low Beethoven

Kobe 9 Elite Low ‘Beethoven’

 

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This years Kobe 10 Elite Low shares some similarities to last years Kobe 9 Elite Low, but there are still some big differences between the two. Much like last year, Nike carried over the very popular Flyknit upper from the 9 to the 10, making the Flyknit on the 10 a bit more flexible, lighter weight, and with less layers compared to the 9 Flyknit upper. The Kobe 9 Flyknit upper was more stiff in areas because it was backed by a thin layer of Hyperfuse under the the Flyknit, leaving some people in disappointment because the feel wasn’t similar to a ‘true’ Flyknit feel. However, the Kobe 10 Flyknit upper the years feels really good on foot – the fit is pretty snug in the toe box and it definitely needs 3 to 4 wears to fully break in. IMG_4272

The Flyknit found around the swoosh of each shoe and Flywire cables, the lateral and medial sides of the shoes is where you’ll find that ‘true’ Flyknit feel, as it’s a thinner, more flexible, and more breathable. As you move more towards the toe box, the Knit is more confined and definitely stronger in this area to keep the foot contained. This part of the shoe is a bit snug and I would say requires the most break in time. However, once broken in, the Knit conforms to your foot and feels really nice.

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Stronger Flyknit threads found in the toe box of the Kobe 10 Elite Low.

Stronger Flyknit threads found in the toe box of the Kobe 10 Elite Low.

The shoe offers great lockdown for being a true low top and when fully laced tightly, the foot feels very secure and locked in. Around the heel of the shoe is an internal Heel Counter that keeps the foot on the footbed on the shoe and to help prevent from any slippage inside the shoe. The top part of the tongue on the shoe also helps out with the lockdown and all around fit of the shoe because it is so padded and thick. The bottom half of the tongue is a mesh material that forms to the foot and the upper is a  suede padded tongue featuring the Kobe logo. Most tongues found on Kobe’s in the past have been thin or ones that just lay over top of the foot, but the tongue on the 10 Elite is super thick to keep the top of your foot locked down when laced tightly.

Internal Heel Counter found in the heel of the Kobe 10 Elite Low.

Internal Heel Counter found in the heel of the Kobe 10 Elite Low.

One technology that you’re guaranteed to find in Kobe’s product is some form of a Carbon Fiber plate or shank. In the past (Kobe’s 1-8) Nike featured a Carbon Fiber mid-foot shank, which basically offers premium support for the foot when the shoe is flexed. For the Kobe 10, the Nike designer Eric Avar switched it up and put a small carbon fiber plate near the forefoot outrigger to keep the foot stable when making hard cuts and planting from side to side. In some of the general release colorways that have a translucent outsole, you can see the plate on the outsole, but since my outsole is grey, it’s hard to actually see it. Pictured below is a picture of my pair showing the plate on the forefoot outrigger and below that is another picture showing the plate on the outsole of a translucent outsole color way.

The small black piece shown above is the Carbon Fiber shank that is on the side of the shoe and goes below the outsole as well.

The small black piece shown above is the Carbon Fiber shank that is on the side of the shoe and goes below the outsole as well.

Carbon Fiber plate goes from the outrigger of the shoe to below the forefoot for extra support when cutting or jabbing side to side.

Carbon Fiber plate goes from the outrigger of the shoe to below the forefoot for extra support when cutting or jabbing side to side.

As for cushioning in the Kobe 10 Elite Low, everything stayed the same across the board from the original mesh releases of the Kobe 10 and the Kobe 10 Elite versions. Encapsulated all in a clear TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) cage, you’re getting a large volume Zoom Air unit in the heel for ultra responsiveness and a full length layer of Lunarlon with Nike Free sipings in it for flexibility which starts at the midfoot of the shoe. Kobe’s three favorite Nike technologies that he wanted from Nike in this shoe were: Zoom Air, Lunarlon, and Nike Free. All prominent technologies that have been used in Kobe’s signature line in some form or way over the years.

Clear TPU casing with houses the Zoom Air and Lunarlon in the forefoot.

Clear TPU casing with houses the Zoom Air and Lunarlon in the forefoot.

Clear TPU casing with houses the Zoom Air and Lunarlon in the forefoot.

Clear TPU casing with houses the Zoom Air and Lunarlon in the forefoot.

The heel Zoom Air isn’t as soft as I thought it was going to be, but it gets the job done. It isn’t there to be super responsive under foot like Zoom Air was in the Zoom Kobe 4-7, but more so to serve for impact protection. Nothing about the cushioning screams that is ‘super’ comfortable, it’s kind f just there and gets the job done. The Lunarlon in the forefoot is only a thin layer with Nike Free sipings in it, which is the only part of the shoe that worries me. In the past when Nike has incorporated Lunarlon in the forefoot of shoes such as the OG Hyperdunk or Zoom Kobe 4, the material is very nice and soft at first, but with time it becomes less responsive and beings to break down. As you can see from the picture below, someone decided to dissect their Kobe 10 to see what was inside, and it is here that you can really see how thin the Lunarlon foam actually is.

Kobe 10 'Vino' colorway dissected, showing the upper, TPU cage midsole incasing the Zoom Air in the heel and the Lunarlon foam in the forefoot with the Carbon Fiber plate.

Kobe 10 ‘Vino’ colorway dissected, showing the upper, TPU cage midsole incasing the Zoom Air in the heel and the Lunarlon foam in the forefoot with the Carbon Fiber plate.

The traction on this years Kobe 10 has been something that seems to have been loved and hated by many. I personally have heard people praise the traction, but have also heard some people say that it wears down too quickly. The shoe features a pattern of little ‘stubs’ across the outsole of the shoe which are very small, but they are a very soft rubber so their playable to clean courts and grip the court really well. I haven’t had any issues with traction whatsoever from playing in my Elite Low’s.

Kobe 10 traction pattern.

Kobe 10 traction pattern.

Kobe 10 traction pattern.

Kobe 10 forefoot traction pattern, also showcasing the forefoot outrigger.

Kobe 10 traction pattern.

Kobe 10 traction pattern.

The Kobe 10 Elite Low is a great shoe and definitely lives up to the hype. Is it a true Flyknit for basketball yet? Not quite, but Nike is making strides. The shoe feels nice on foot and definitely requires some break in time. I would highly recommend trying there on as well if you are thinking of piking up a pair. Had Nike released some better colorways of the Elite Low, I feel like more people would be chattering about them. But since they didn’t and went the story telling route, a lot of pairs are still sitting on shelves. With the year almost being over, the Kobe 11 should be releasing come February, so be on the lookout of for those!

// : Retro Time? Will We Be Seeing LeBron Retros Soon? : //

LeBron showing off the Zoom LeBron XIII at the press release in Akron, Ohio late September 2015.

LeBron showing off the Zoom LeBron XIII at the press release in Akron, Ohio late September 2015.

It has been thirteen years since LeBron James first signed with Nike, straight out of high school in 2003 and over ten years since his first signature shoe with Nike debuted. With the release of the latest LeBron signature, the Zoom LeBron XIII (pictured above), a lot of collectors and sneaker heads are starting to wonder, “when will we see a retro of some of the earlier LeBron product?”.

First hinting of a possible retro back in August 2013 after posting a photo to Twitter and Instagram wearing the Air Zoom Generation, the conversation among sneaker heads and on social media really picked up. Would you pick up a pair? With todays current consumer, sneaker market, and footwear trends be enough to attract people to the Air Zoom Generation or Zoom LeBron II? That is the question for Nike.

LeBron’s first signature shoe, the Air Zoom Generation was designed by a trio of homerun-hitter designers from Nike – Aaron Cooper, Eric Avar, and Tinker Hatfield. Together they would make arguably one of the best first signature shoes since the Air Jordan 1. LeBron would go on to wear the shoe during the 2003-2004 season and soon progress more into the future of the LeBron signature line. After a rumor floated around that the Zoom Generation was going to be retroed back in 2006 in a camo color way that never made it to market, it left some OG collectors in disappointment. But would that have been too soon for a retro? It would have only been three years since the release of the Zoom Generation…

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Air Zoom Generation designers, Aaron Cooper, Tinker Hatfield, Eric Avar.

Air Zoom Generation designers, Aaron Cooper, Tinker Hatfield, Eric Avar.

In the early years of LeBron’s partnership with Nike, we would typically only see a few colorways for each shoe – a home colorway, an away colorway, and All-Star color way.  As his shoes evolved over the years, we began to see more and more colorways and different releases. Around the time the LeBron 8’s and 9’s were releasing is when more colorways and different stories and inspirations began to show up on LeBrons. Starting with the LeBron X, Nike created a LeBron ‘EXT’ or Extension line where they would take the signature on court shoe and remix it with more off-court friendly and upscale materials and colors. Nike did really well with this concept by creating just enough hype for each shoe while still maintaining to release them at limited quantities. In doing so, the demand was there and consumers really loved the shoes. Pictured below are four version of the LeBron X ‘EXT’. Each shoe used a different material on the upper while keeping the same full-length Zoom Air midsole from the goncourt version.

Lebron X 'EXT'

Lebron X ‘EXT’

If Nike were to bring back the Zoom Generaton, LeBron II, or even the LeBron III and release them in their original colors and in small quantities, the hype around each shoe would be there. In today’s current market, the demand for LeBron’s shoes just isn’t there like it used to be. Nike, in a way, has over saturated the market with all the different colorways and different stories starting with the LeBron 9. Athletes today get the misconception that LeBron’s shoes are ‘bulky’ or ‘to heavy to play in’, (which could be true, depending on what type of player you are or what position you play), and have often been the reasoning behind the diminishing value of his current shoes. Look at the LeBron XII for example. Only a few colorways of that shoe sold through last season, with most just ending up at outlets. Too many colors and too many stories makes for a confused basketball consumer.

The thing that is special about LeBron’s early shoes and designs is that they’re simple enough to play in and perform, the colors aren’t overwhelming, and they’re stylish enough to wear off court with a pair of jeans or sweats. You look at the Zoom Generation and how sleek looking it is – that shoe still looks good till this day. Same goes for the LeBron II as well, a simple design done by Ken Link with just enough details, call outs, and colors on the shoe to make it pop.

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DENVER - FEBRUARY 20: A detail view of Nike Sneakers worn by LeBron James #23 of the Eastern Conference All-Stars are seen in the 54th All-Star Game, part of 2005 NBA All-Star Weekend at Pepsi Center on February 20, 2005 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2005 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

In 2013, Nike brought back Kobe Bryant’s shoes in what was called the “Prelude Pack”, which featured the Nike Zoom Kobe 1 through the Kobe 8 each launching different weeks in late December of 2013 and leading up to the launch of the Nike Kobe 9 in early 2014. Although the the Prelude Pack didn’t feature any original Kobe colorways, each color way was unique in its own way because each pair had a specific story or meaning to Kobe’s life. Although the shoes are completely different than LeBron and his brand, but would a similar concept be good for LeBron? The idea has definitely been tossed around at Nike HQ before. Would LeBron’s 1 through III do the same if each shoe had its own story relating to pinnacle moments in LeBron’s career?

The Kobe Prelude Pack, created by Nike in 2013. The Pack featured Kobe 1 through the Kobe 8, leading up to the launch of the Kobe 9.

The Kobe Prelude Pack, created by Nike in 2013. The Pack featured Kobe 1 through the Kobe 8, leading up to the launch of the Kobe 9.

Sneakerheads across the college basketball ranks and NBA ranks have even brought back some of LeBron’s early Nike footwear to the court, such as Nick Young, Norris Cole, and various college players. It’s truly amazing that the shoes can still perform on the court, being over a decade old and also a testament to the classic designs of LeBron’s early sneakers with Nike.

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Nike may not be quite ready to start retroing LeBron product just yet, but people are definitely beginning to wonder. His first few shoes were classics, then leading up to some even more popular shoes such as the LeBron 7 and LeBron 8 down the line. Whenever Nike does decide to bring back retro LeBron’s, the timing will have to be perfect. Right now just doesn’t seem like the best time to do so. How would you feel about a LeBron retro? Would you like to see some retro LeBron shoes on the market?

// : The Return on the Signature ‘Team’ Shoe : // Nike Basketball

Over the last few years, we’ve seen quite a resurgence in both Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant’s signature ‘team’ shoe lines. From improvements with Lebron’s Soldier line, Kobe’s Venemomenon series and Mentality series, and KD’s Trey-Five line, Nike has been giving the consumer some really good options at more affordable prices.

What started back in 1997 when Jordan separated from the Nike umbrella and became their own brand, Jordan Brand, we saw the first rendition of what what a ‘team’ Jordan shoe looked like and what it meant for MJ himself and his brand. That first Team Jordan was the Air Jumpman Pro. The full grain leather mid top was very similar to the Jordan 12, taking some design cues from the 12 and implementing them at a more affordable price. The shoe featured a sticky-rubber outsole which offered great traction, a full length Zoom Air unit for responsive cushioning, and a very durable leather upper with a lower cut and lower weight. The shoe was perceived very well among consumers at the time and graced the feet of many Team Jordan NBA players such as Mike Bibby, Kevin Garnett, Eddie Jones, and Ray Allen. The Jumpmn Pro was such as homerun hit for Jordan Brand back in 1997 that they continued their Team Line from there on, launching more team shoes such as the Jordan Team1, Jordan Pro Strong, Jumpman Pro Quick, and the Jumpman Quick 6. The Jordan Team shoes did so well because they offered a lot of the same performance benefits as the signature Jordan flagship product at the time, all while offering similar design elements just at a $25-40 cheaper price point.

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Jordan Jumpman Pro, which released in 1997.

Fast forward almost 20 years, and we now have similar Team concepts from Lebron, Kobe, and KD. Back in 2007 just after the Nike LeBron 4 had dropped, Nike Basketball equipped LeBron with a more light weight, locked down option in the Nike LeBron Soldier just in time for the NBA playoffs. The Lebron Soldier was a completely different shoe than what LeBron had been wearing all season, the LeBron 4. Unlike the Lebron 4, the Soldier featured two straps – one in the midfoot and one in the heel for premium lockdown and protection all while shedding some ounces off offering a lighter shoe. Coupled with a heel and forefoot Zoom Air combination for cushioning, the Zoom Soldier led LeBron to his first ever NBA Finals appearance. Little did we know that the Soldier Line would soon become Lebron’s signature team line, much like Jordan Brand did in the late 90’s and grace the feet of athletes from a very broad spectrum to high school courts, college courts, and the NBA.

Nike LeBron Soldier (nikelebron.net)

Now on the 9th rendition of the Lebron Soldier, the Soldier 9, the shoe features a lot of the same design elements that we’ve seen from the Soldier line – straps for lockdown and Zoom Air for premium cushioning and responsiveness. Nike Basketball dove back into their early roots from the Soldier line and cooked up an amazing product in the Soldier 9 that will soon grace the NBA and college courts this upcoming season. Priced at $130, it makes a great option for young athletes and players of all ages to be able to afford a LeBron product. The Soldier 9 has in a way become what the Nike Hyperdunk once was. Granted, a lot of players across the world still wear and like the Hyperdunk series, the Soldier line has just become a top-notch option to go long side the Hyperdunk series. With last seasons LeBron 12 being priced at $200 and the upcoming LeBron 13 expected to be retailing for $220, the Soldier 9 is a perfect example of an affordable option for those for want to buy LeBron product but just aren’t willing to offer up $220. The Soldier 9 has already gotten great praise for being a great performer on court, and you’re getting all of that without giving up performance benefits.

Nike Zoom Soldier 6 and 7 progression. Soldier 6 being the top picture and Soldier 7 below. Nike Basketball updated the Hyperfine upper form the 6 to 7 and utilized straps in the midst area. Both shoes were a big hit among college players and NBA players.

Nike Zoom Soldier 6 and 7 progression. Soldier 6 being the top picture and Soldier 7 below. Nike Basketball updated the Hyperfuse upper from the 6 to 7 and utilized straps in the midfoot area. Both shoes were a big hit among college players and NBA players.

Soldier 8 in the top photograph with the newly released Soldier 9 in the bottom photo. Expect to see a lot of the Soldier 9 this upcoming season, which is priced at $130.

Last season’s Soldier 8 is in the top photograph with the newly released Soldier 9 in the bottom photo. Expect to see a lot of the Soldier 9 this upcoming season, which is priced at $130.

Much like the Zoom Soldier line for LeBron, the designers at Nike Basketball have recently been promoting Kobe Bryant and his new line of team shoes, the Venomenon series and the KB Mentality series. What was first only Asia exclusives (Kobe Venemonenon 1-3) the Zoom Kobe Venomenon 4 was the first of the series to release state side. Since Kobe has such a huge popluarity among Asia, Nike decided to make him a take down series which featured a lot of the elements found in Kobe signature product, just priced cheaper and made for the outdoor game in Asia. Much like Team Jordan, the Nike designers take some design elements from the previous season Kobe signature model and pack those elements into a more affordable option. If you notice, most of the Venomenon shoes look and perform a lot like previous flagship Kobe signature shoes. Priced at $20-40 cheaper than Kobe flagship footwear, they make great options for those who want Kobe product just at a more affordable price. The most recent release from the Zoom Venomenon series, the Zoom Venomenon 5, takes design elements from previous Kobe signature shoes as well as recent Nike Basketball releases such as the Nike Hyperchase and Hyperrev 2015.

Kobe Bryant with all of his Asia inspired Nike Basketball shoes, including the most recently being the Zoom Kobe Mentality 5. (Nike)

Kobe Bryant with all of his Asia inspired Nike Basketball shoes, including the most recently being the Zoom Kobe Mentality 5. (photo // Nike)

Nike Zoom Kobe Venomenon 5.

Nike Zoom Kobe Venomenon 5 (photo // Nike)

Priced at $120, you’re getting a Hyperfuse mesh upper, Pylon midsole with heel and forefoot bottom loaded Zoom Air units, and an external molded heel counter for lockdown. The shoe also comes with Extra Durable Rubber (XDR) for outdoor surfaces. With the bottom loaded Zoom Air, the shoe is a great performer on court for guards and offered at an amazing price point for being Kobe product. With the Kobe 10 being priced at $180 and the Kobe 10 Elite priced at $200, the Venomenon 5 saves the consumer $60-80 dollars without giving up any performance benefits. The updates from the Venomenon 4 to the Venomenon 5 have made the 5 a much better overall performance shoe. Although the Venomenon hasn’t gotten much shine on NBA courts, it does do well among high school players and for the casual basketball player. The Zoom Kobe Venomenon 5 is out now at most retailers, with more color ways on the way for Holiday 2015 and Spring 2016.

Kobe’s other team shoe from Nike Basketball family, the KB Mentality, is another option for the consumer who’s looking for more of affordable option from the Kobe line. Priced at $100, the shoe is great option for guards who love the low-to-the-ground feel that has come from the Kobe line over the years. The KB Mentality is a pretty simple shoe on paper, only featuring a Hyperfuse upper with a drop in Lunarlon insole for cushioning, but performs like a beast on court. The shoe is eerily similar to the Kobe 8 which also featured a Hyperfuse upper and a drop in Lunarlon insole. Kobe specifically told his design team for the KB Mentality that he wanted the shoe to look and perform just like the Kobe 8 because he knew just how much the consumer loved that shoe. The design team had to take away a few things that were in the Kobe 8 to make the KB mentality an affordable option, but they did a great job in doing so. The shoe performs exactly like the Kobe 8 and features an amazing outsole design for outstanding court grip and feel.

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With the recent price increases from all signature product for Nike Basketball over the last few years (LeBron, Kobe, KD), Nike has still managed to make a good product for the secondary market at a more affordable rate for their consumer without giving up any performance benefits. Yes, some of the technology may be behind a year or two, but making a good performance basketball footwear option today isn’t as easy and cheap as it may sound. Most consumers know what type of shoes they like and a lot of the time already know the technology inside of the shoes. Today’s consumer for basketball footwear is the most educated consumer we’ve ever seen. With the sneaker culture growing rapidly over the last five years, people like to know what they’re paying for.

While footwear technology continues to advance and prices increase, it’s good to know that Nike and other brands are looking out for the consumers who can’t afford signature product from their favorite athletes. Just this past year, Nike Basketball added Kyrie Irving to the Nike Basketball family and priced his first signature shoe at $110, something we hadn’t seen since the early days of Kevin Durant’s signature shoes. Making more affordable options without giving up performance benefits is going to be key for Nike Basketball moving forward. It will be interesting and exciting what they have in store for the years to come.

 

// : The Battle for the Best High-Intensity Training Shoe : //

With the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games, a strength competition for arguably the most fittest athletes on the world and the biggest stage for Reebok, in the rear view mirror now, the fight for the best cross training shoe is on. Ever since the CrossFit boom began around eight years ago and Reebok obtained the rights to the term ‘CrossFit’, they have been the go-to brand for high intensity, cross training workout gear. Reebok has many athletes under endorsements for their products and have created some amazing products from footwear and apparel. They really have owned the CrossFit market for a couple of years now, with New Balance and a few other footwear companies trying to make a push into the CrossFit market over the past few years. Reebok has pumped out some really good signature CrossFit shoes mainly from the Reebok Nano line which is on its 5th model, which has done really well among the CrossFit community. Reebok was the first big company to really recognize the consumer needs of a CrossFit athlete and has remained holding the torch ever since. It wasn’t until January of 2015 that sportswear giant and rival footwear company, Nike, decided to join the fun and create a “high intensity” training shoe of their own to compete with Reebok. From there on, the Nike Metcon 1 was born. The Nike MetCon 1 is a new training shoe designed to withstand the demands of cross training allowing you work out in full speed with ease and to not be worried about blowing out your footwear. Created with versatility and performance, the Metcon 1 caters the the modern athlete with a dual-density two rubber midsole, flex grooves and tough abrasion-resistant mesh. The shoe also features a drop in Phylon insole, giving the athlete soft cushioning for the high impact workouts.

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Since Reebok is the official sponsor of the CrossFit games and anything that uses the name “CrossFit”, all athletes in the games must wear the brand no matter if they have a shoe contract to competitor brands or not. This is how this years battle between Reebok and Nike began. In the past few weeks leading up the the CrossFit games, both brands have been throwing small punches at each other via social media. Nike new that the Metcon 1 would be banned from the games, so they made a black and red color way similar to that of the Nike Air Jordan 1 black/red that was banned from the NBA and promoted it with the catch line, “DON’T BAN OUR SHOE, BEAT OUR SHOE”. It was a cool story color way that relates to a whole other shoe, but definitely let Reebok know that Nike is not going to let down just because athletes can’t wear their shoes in the CrossFit games.

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Then Reebok fired back on Instagram with this post: Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 5.29.23 PM

The competition for the best cross trainer between the two brands is definitely there, but does the consumer ultimately care? CrossFit seems to be a sport where consumers will wear whatever is the best at the time to make them perform better. There is no brand loyalty, nor do they seem to really care about the battle between Nike vs. Reebok. Sure, the everyday sneaker head is interested in this news, but to someone that does CrossFit and just wants a shoe that performs really well, not so much. From my experience working with the Nike Metcon 1, CrossFitters will switch brands and shoes a lot until they find the right one and are openly willing to trying the next new ‘hot’ product on the market, enter the Nike Metcon 1. Nike hasn’t been this focused on their training category in some time, so it is really cool to see them refocusing in products for training, more so making the market for cross training more competitive by directly going at the competitor, Reebok.

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Nike billboard outside of the 2015 CrossFit games promoting the Nike Metcon. photo courtesy of Sole Collector

Nike knew what they were getting themselves into, entering a market that is owned my one company. Nike after all was the company that made the first true cross-trainer in the Nike Air Trainer 1, so this wasn’t unfamiliar territory for them. When the Nike Metcon initially released back in January, the hype for the shoe was definitely there and many consumers who do CrossFit were truly excited to try out the new product. The show sold out just about everywhere within a week, including stores and online, making the demand for the shoe among the CrossFit community very strong. Whenever I have had the chance to speak with consumers that said they do CrossFit workouts, I always ask them first what shoes they’ve worn in the past, what they are wearing now, and what brand, whether it be Nike, Reebok, New Balance or adidas. When I ask them what they are looking for, they generally say, “a shoe that is comfortable, low to the ground, and tough and  durable”. Durability and comfort are key for CrossFitters. They can’t be doing olympic lifts and nonsense shoes with materials that won’t last, especially for a $120 shoe in the Nike Metcon 1 and $130 for the Reebok Nano 5.0. From what I have gathered from having face to face interactions with consumers who have purchased the Nike Metcon 1 and reading reviews online, the battle seems to be almost neck to neck. Reebok recently unveiled their new Nano 5.o earlier this spring and debuted it at the 2015 CrossFit games. The Reebok Nano line is now on its 5th rendition of the shoe, and has seen some changes over the years. The biggest thing for the developers and designers from both companies is to make a shoe that is really durable, yet still comfortable for multi-purpose, multi-directional activities, such as CrossFit workouts.

Reebok Nano 5.0

Reebok Nano 5.0

Nike Metcon 1

Nike Metcon 1

With Nike now full swing into their own cross-training shoes with the introduction of the Nike Metcon 1, expect to see them continue to go full speed ahead at Reebok. It will be interesting to see what the future hols for both companies in this CrossFit market. The market definitely isn’t going anywhere, even though it may be a small market. Reebok still owns the rights to the term CrossFit for a few years down the road (2020), so Nike will really have to battle if they want to get any direct shine in the CrossFit games. However, they really don’t need to even be in the games, though. They already made an awesome shoe without even promoting it that much, and it has done well among the CrossFit community. A Nike Metcon 2 will soon be on the way, but only time will tell how the shoe will do. In the meantime, Nike Training and Reebok CrossFit will continue to go head to head.