// : 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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// : 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.

// : Nike’s Next New Footwear Technology : // Nike Flyweave

By now, anyone that is remotely into sneakers has heard the term Nike Flyknit or knows about the footwear technology. Since debuting on the feet of athletes at the 2012 London Olympic Games, the knitted footwear technology has made its way from originating in running, to going to baseball, basketball, soccer, and training. It is truly one of Nike’s best innovations in years. The technology is made up of yarns that are knitted together to form the upper of a shoe to form to your foot. Flyknit has come a long way since 2012 and has been proven to be a great advancement for footwear, but Nike may have come up with something that could top Flyknit or even be a great substitute for it across a more broad spectrum of categories.

Nike Flyweave, pictured on a sample round of the Nike KD8

Nike Flyweave, pictured on a sample round of the Nike KD8

First debuted on the Jordan XX9 in 2014, Nike Flyweave is a technology that is an upper material of a shoe that is engineered to provide targeted support in areas that need it for specific movements. Depending on your sport, there are different types of Flyweave sneakers that can serve the athlete in different ways that Flyknit may not be able to. Flywave is comprised of an intricate weave of warp and weft threads that can come together as one to make a textile that is extremely durable and flexible, yet still very supportive. The technology was designed by Nike designer Thomas Bell, who was worked on textiles for Nike in the innovation kitchen for over a decade. Four years ago, Bell was inspired by long-lasting textiles used in the aerospace industry which gave him the idea for Flyweave. Pictured below is how Flyweave is created.

Flyweave

Flyweave

“Flyweave is one of the most exciting innovations I’ve seen at Nike – inspired from traditional weaving methods, but with the strength and reliability of aerospace materials,” said Bell. The limitations for Flyweave are endless, especially with the uppers and different colors/designs that the designers can come up with to incorporate into the shoes.

Flyweave, featured on the Jordan XX9

Flyweave, featured on the Jordan XX9

Fellow Nike footwear designer and Nike Basketball design director Leo Chang is also very excited about the future for Flyweave. “Flyweave offers us an amazing technical advantage in basketball to create incredible strength with a precise, comfortable fit. We have some exciting news on the way and the response from athletes has even exceeded our expectations,” Chang said. Chang, who was brought on by Nike in the mid-to-late 2000’s, has been the designer for all of Kevin Durant’s shoes so far all the way up to the KD8, which recently just released. Chang incorporated the use of Flyweave for Durant’s latest shoe, a first for the Nike Basketball category following the incorporation of Nike Flyknit in basketball in 2013.

Flyweave upper featured on the Nike KD8

Flyweave upper featured on the Nike KD8

Flyleaf featured on the Nike Tiger Woods '15

Flyleaf featured on the Nike Tiger Woods ’15

Flyweave featured on the Nike Calvin Johnson Elite and Calvin Johnson Trainer 3

Flyweave featured on the Nike Calvin Johnson Elite and Calvin Johnson Trainer 3

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Nike Calvin Johnson 3 Flyweave trainer

So far, Flyweave has been featured on four Nike shoes over the past year: the Air Jordan XX9 (basketball), Nike KD8 (basketball), Nike Tiger Woods ’15 (golf), Nike CJ Elite TD Cleat (football) and Nike CJ3 Flyweave Trainer (training) all pictured above. Flyweave truly is a incredible footwear innovation from Nike. It offers the ultimate fit, support, and durability for any shoe across the board. Nike can really utilize this technology to their advantage. Since Calvin Johnson is a big guy and plays a high impact sport such as football, Nike designers were able to develop an upper weave that took two years to develop that’s durable enough for his needs on the field for his game cleat and in the gym for his training shoe. The design team can make the weave stronger in certain areas where he may need it and making it a unique fit to his foot. The same is to say about the KD8, made for Kevin Durant. The Flyweave on the upper of the KD8 is the tightest Flyweave to date, all while featuring Dynamic Flawier cables integrated into the weave. The KD8 upper really hugs your foot well, yet offers you the support and flexibility you wouldn’t expect. There is no break in period and the shoe feels great right out of the box. The Flyweave really moves with your foot and feels like an extension of your foot. I honestly couldn’t believe the feeling of the Flyweave on the KD8’s when I tried them on. I believe Flyweave will be better for the sport of basketball rather than Nike Flyknit. From what we’ve seen from Flyknit on basketball, it can be tough to break in and not as uniquely fitting as to the Flyknit used on Nike running shoes. On the Kobe 9 Elite which featured Flyknit, there was a layer of fuse right below the top layer of Flyknit, creating a double layered material that some people didn’t like. with Flyweave, the upper of the shoe moves with you foot so freely, it almost makes more sense to feature it rather than Flyknit. When the KD8 is fully laced, you can actually also feel the extension of the Dynamic Flywire cables as well. Nike has had some issues with the over use of Dyamic Flywire in the past, using the cables on certain shoes that don’t necessarily need it. Hear me out, I do believe that Dynamic Flywire does work on certain shoes and definitely serves a purpose, but sometimes it is layered on top of a mesh on the upper of a shoe can kind of dangles, or on the internal side of the upper  of the shoe and isn’t fully activated. Not the case in the KD8 or even the Calvin Johnson Trainer 3. The fit is so unique that you can actually feel the Flawier cables serving a purpose.

Flyweave featured on the Nike KD8

Flyweave featured on the Nike KD8

With the introduction of Nike Flyweave a litter over a year old and starting to hit retail across different categories from Nike, expect to see the (new)er technology used on Nike footwear from here on out. The 2016 Summer Olympics are just one year away, so you know that Nike has some tricks up their sleeves and have been working on some technologies to debut at the Nike product that features Nike Flyweave, such as the products I mentioned in this post. The most accessible footwear to feature the technology will probably be the KD8, which will be at select retailers across the country now. Try the product on, see how it feels and maybe give it a try. Flyweave is here to stay and will most likely continued to be rolled out on more products from Nike.

Nike KD8

Nike KD8

 

 

 

// : Andy’s Desk : // Nike Lunar Tempo

Nike Lunar Tempo

Nike Lunar Tempo

For this edition of Andy’s Desk, I take a look at Nike Running’s Nike Lunar Tempo. The Lunar Tempo is a lightweight neutral training running shoe designed with a extremely cushioned ride in mind. This shoe was designed to help you train for races and for long distance runs, then when race day comes along, you should be running in the LunarRacer+ 3.

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The Lunar Tempo is extremely lightweight shoe, almost unbelievably light to the touch of the hands when you pick it up. The shoe is so light because it features a seamless Flymesh upper, similar to that of Nike Flyknit. The shoe features Dynamic Flywire cables down both the lateral and medial side of the shoe to really give the runner that locked in feel and extra support when running. Nike made the the upper of the shoe very breathable with a mesh material and certain venerated zones and also included dual Flywire cables for each lace loop to really offer the runner the ultimate lock down when fully laced tight. The inner sleeve of the shoe really hugs your foot when fully laced and works well to move with the foot when running. The toe box area near the forefoot is a little bit tight, most likely because of the use of dual Flywire cables on the upper, so I have advised runners and casual walkers to go up 1/2 a size or even a full size for a proper, comfortable fit.

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The sole of the Lunar Tempo is basically entirely foam, besides a few patches of rubber on the waffle-tred outsole for traction. The Lunar Foam really offers the runner a premium, well cushioned ride, ultimately meaning for longer runs. The foam itself is really soft on the bottom of the foot and from what Nike says is “30% lighter” than traditional Phylon foam used in most running and basketball sneakers. You can instantly feel the use of the Lunar foam when trying on the shoes and after taking a few steps walking in the shoe. With a 8mm midsole offset, Lunar Tempo keeps runner closer to the ground while still offering foot and ankle protection.

Nike Lunar Tempo outsole

Nike Lunar Tempo outsole

The sides of the soles offer flex grooves along the whole Lunar foam unit which not only look cool, but also allow the sole to compress during high impact areas during running such as heel striking for forefoot striking. The shoe also features of hits of 3M in the heel area (dots shown below) and on the Flywire cables to offer the runner a bit of visibility during those late night runs or early morning runs when there isn’t much light out.

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Nike Lunar Tempo with hits of 3M for visibility during dark hour runs.

Nike Lunar Tempo with hits of 3M for visibility during dark hour runs.

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Personally, I think the entire Lunar Racer/Lunar Tempo line is a fantastic blur of form and function. Both shoes serve their purpose for being a light weight running shoe with awesome cushioning for hardcore runners and they completely excel in that category. The design of each shoe is also sleek enough and understated for everyday wear and can be worn casually. Don’t sleep on either model. Nike Running has released some very eye-catching color ways of both shoes for that serious runner and for the consumer that likes to causally wear runners with their jogger pants. Get yours today at Nike.com before they’re gone!

: // Stephen Curry Wins Big for Under Armour : //

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Just this past week it was announced that Warriors guard Stpehen Curry had been named the NBA 2014-2015 MVP. Curry, who has overcome a tremendous amount of doubt since coming into the league in 2010, has really developed himself into a star over the past two seasons. After coming up  with a big win in the Western Conference Semi Finals last night against the Memphis Grizzlies, Curry and Co. tied the series at 2-2 a piece and proved he could bounce back from a bad game on a big stage like the Playoffs. (Images: Under Armour Instagram).

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After wearing Nike in college and for his first three seasons in the NBA, Curry left the brand and signed an endorsement deal with Under Armour in the Fall of 2013 that made him the face of the basketball brand. He then established himself as an elite point guard in the NBA, captured a gold medal once again this past summer at the FIBA Would Cup, started in the last two All-Star games, and on last Monday was named NBA’s Most Valuable Player of the whole league. What seemed like an odd choice to leave Nike, the world’s largest sportswear and apparel brand, for a smaller, yet to be proven footwear company like Under Armour seemed crazy. However, Curry believed in UA and UA believed in Curry. So much, that they designed his own shoe for him and let him be the face of basketball, which hasn’t turned out all that bad.

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With Curry winning the MVP award, Under Armour created a special Curry 1 for him celebrating his award. The shoe, pictured below, features a black-to-white-gold fade on the upper, reminiscent of the color of the MVP trophy. The shoe features gold accents as well as black and gold laces. As for the shoe it self, the Curry 1 is the most advanced basketball shoe Under Armous has created to date. The shoe features an Anaform upper, Charged cushioning set up, and a herringbone outsole for premium court grip. UA is a company known for meshes and foams, so it only made sense for them to include their best meshes and foams for the Curry 1. The Anaform upper really forms to your foot and gives it that locked in feel and hugging your foot for just the right fit. Below the first layer of the Anaform upper is a mesh (see holes on upper for veneration) which gives the shoe breathability and areas to cool the foot down when playing. As for the cushioning, the Charged cushioning system offers a plush soft feel for the foot, offering comfort from tip-off to the final buzzer. The shoe also features an external heel counter in the rear of the shoe to lock in the heel and ankle of the foot for support.

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Although UA Basketball is a growing brand, they do have a small number of athletes in the NBA. Currently, UA Basketball endorses Kent Bazemore of the Atlanata Hawks, Greivis Vasquez of the Toronto Raptors, Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets, Corey Brewer of the Houston Rockets, and Brandon Jennings of the Detroit Pistons, as well as a few more players in the league. With more shoes for Curry to come, that only means that the UA brand will rise, attracting more talent to the brand. UA is also sponsoring more college athletic teams as well. This past spring in the NCAA tournament, Under Armour saw a rise in on-air visibility due to the teams that the brand sponsored in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Currently of the major Division 1 programs they sponsored in the NCAA tournament included the University of Utah, Notre Dame, University of Maryland, and Stephen F. Austin. The brand also reelect acquired the University of Cincinnati from an ending adidas contract.

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As for Curry, he has really elevated himself and the whole company of Under Armour as a brand. He has put UA Basketball on the map. From not having a basketball footwear category a few years ago, to having the NBA MVP on your roster is a big jump, which has made me impressed with UA as a company. With everything that Curry has done and his already perfect image in the league and community, he has attracted so many new consumers to the brand. Teenagers all over the world now know who Stephen Curry is. He is their favorite player, favorite shooter to watch, favorite guy off the court. Teens idolize him and want to be like him. That is all good for UA as a brand and will only help UA continue to grow and to get kids in UA footwear or the Steph Curry 2, Curry 3…

The Baltimore, Maryland based company has made some tremendous strides in the footwear industry and is letting everyone know that they are here to compete now. Most recently, the brand purchased a large office space in Portland, Oregon to go along to compete with some of the best athletic sportswear companies in the U.S, such as Nike, adidas America, Keen, and Columbia Sportswear. Although UA already has a small office space in Portland, the brand is looking to expand on their design and development in Portland, by bringing in fresh, young, hungry, and new faces from the design hot bed that Portland is. Don’t be surprised to see or hear about UA snatching up designers from adidas, Nike, Keen or any other big footwear companies. It’s what a lot of brands in Portland already do, so it’s very common. Under Armous is a very hungry and humble company, yet ready to compete and win. With an athlete like Stephen Curry on their roster, their already growing category for women’s footwear and apparel, and new endorsees on the way, UA is here for good. Be on the lookout!

 

: // Can Nike Attract a New Consumer to the Golf Course? // :

Just about a month ago, Nike debuted a new line for their Golf category, entitled the Nike Golf Club Collection. The brands first roll-out of the collection features 12 different items, from graphic printed bucket hats, casual hoodies, footwear options, and … Continue reading