Monday, January 10, 2011

A Kicks Odyssey; from Newbie to Sneakerhead

It occurred to me that I hadn't posted in a while, mainly because I've been distracted by my distinct lack of a playing shoe I'm pleased with at the moment, and after the holidays and my birthday I have a bit of cash to splurge. New kicks sound like a good idea, so I figure I'd give you an insight into my rules for buying basketball shoes, and the brief history of buying sneakers which led to their formation. Every shoe I bought taught me something about the art of sneaker selection. Now, I don't profess to be an expert, but I no longer consider myself a rookie and might be able to steer some newcomers in the right direction. If I'm lucky I'll prevent someone buying the wrong pair of kicks, and keep the readers entertained at the same time.

Let's start with my first pair of shoes in recent history;

#1: Adidas TS Creator Low (Gilbert Arenas)
I was in the market for a low-top shoe, because hightops weren't really my thing, and I saw these in the back of a magazine. Kobe IVs weren't around then, and these were the only low-top shoes I could find. I was young and impressionable, so with no regard for checking whether it ran true to size, and only a vague impression of what size I was in basketball shoes as a whole I ordered from When they arrived I was ecstatic; my very own basketball shoes! Just one problem though, they didn't fit. They were just a touch too short, which lead to sever discomfort in my first wearing and didn't improve after they were worn in. That said, they were very comfortable, and relatively lightweight given the degree of cushioning in the sole. I later found out I had bought the off-court version, with a more traditionally constructed on-court version released shortly thereafter. However, I wasn't keen on buying another set of the same shoe, so I gave up on adidas for the time being. So what did I learn from this purchase? Be wary of ordering online if you're a rookie sneakerhead, know your size for basketball shoes and find out whether the shoe is true-size, narrow, or wide.

#2: Nike Zoom Kobe IV
As I said above, I was in the market for a low-top, and I was fortunate that I read about these kicks in SLAM just after my run-in with the Arenas shoe. Deciding against ordering online, I went down to my local Footlocker and was able to get the right size this time (half a size up for extra width). Now, I wore these shoes longer than any other shoe I've worn before or since, and as many of you know, these shoes revolutionised the role of low-tops in today's sneaker scene. One thing I did learn though was to read a review of the shoe before you buy them; in understanding the design philosophy I had a better grasp of what the shoe would offer and whether it suited my needs.

#3: Air Jordan XI "Space Jams"
These were special. For the first time in my life as a sneakerhead I lined up for three hours outside my local Footlocker, swapped stories with the other people in line, and nabbed a pair. I was looking at trying out Jordan Brand shoes and having read a bad review (I was already learning haha) of the AJ XXIVs I decided to go with a proven performer in the AJ XIs. I'll admit, I was a little curious to see how the shoes Jordan won 72 in performed in comparison to the new age Kobe IVs. Now, the big mistake I made with these was to be careless while wearing them. At the time, I wasn't interested in them as a collector's item, just as a pair of basketball shoes I wanted to wear. So the lesson here is that when you're buying rare shoes be very careful when balling in them; mine now have a nasty tear near the sole from when I kicked off my shoes, having been in the habit for years of using one foot to remove the over. Please, respect your shoes or you'll regret it.

#4: Air Jordan 2010
Like I said, I was keen to try out Jordan Brand shoes, and if the old school wasn't cutting it, I was drooling at the fresh, cutting edge 25th anniversary Jordan shoes. Their look was amazing, and I had immense respect for the brand, and of course, His Airness. My philosophy was "if it's good enough for him it's good enough for me". I actually read a decent review of the shoes saying they were top of the line, but I didn't consider my specific needs. They were comfortable in the store, but I found them to be a bit heavier than I anticipated when I was actually on the court. Now, I'm only 5'9" so my game is built on speed not power. A note about Jordan Brand shoes, for the most part they are based on a heavier guard who needs a fair bit of support, so anyone under six feet should probably avoid them. A design flaw I noticed was the tongue of the shoe always coming loose, the asymmetrical ankle support compromised the lock-down of the shoe, which bugged me as time wore on. The AJ 2010s are still a great shoe, but they didn't fit my specific needs, which is an important lesson to learn; don't buy a shoe because of who wears them, buy them because they suit you personally.

#5: Nike Zoom Hyperdunk 2010
I was drooling about these shoes, I'll admit. The 2008 Hyperdunks were my dream shoe, but by the time I got into the sneaker game all the pairs in my size were sold out which was a major bummer. When the line resumed I was sold and despite the rave reviews I'd heard about the Hyperfuse, better heel support in the Hyperdunk swayed me as I had recently recovered from an injury which made heel support a priority. Now, these shoes ticked all the boxes, they were second in the line of shoes (third if you count the Hyperize) and thus corrected for the deficiencies of its predecessor(s). They fit my needs as incredibly light with great traction for sharp cuts and defense. However, they were ultimately doomed by the odd placement of shoe sizing. You see, my uncle had connections with the Nike warehouse in Melbourne and said he'd get them for 50% off when he went on a trip there. I asked him for a size 9.5, or a 9 in a pinch. He managed to find a pair of 9.5s in a good colourway, but said he'd have a look around for some more of his stuff before taking them to the counter. When he returned to get them they had "disappeared", and the closest size he had was a 8.5. It was such good value that I told him to get them regardless, figuring I could always onsell them. As it turns out, they gave me blisters so bad when I wore them that I don't dare wear them again. I later found out the 9.5s were there all along, but he was looking at a number 7 written on the inserts where he thought the sizing would be. Alas, a waste of a good pair of shoes, but another lesson learnt; don't leave the fate of your shoes in the hands of well-meaning or well-connected acquaintances, they will likely screw it up.

#6: Reebok Zigtech Slash
I'll admit, this was an unmitigated disaster. I broke all the rules with this purchase, but after the disappointment with the Hyperdunks I decided to break away from the grip of Nike, and having just read a review damning the cushioning of the adiZero Rose, I decided to try out the Zigtech for something a bit different on an impulse. Big mistake. However, another lesson learned, along with another few re-learned. The new lesson was, be wary of new technology; if it was new, it was probably unpredictable, it may sound good in theory, but it's best to be patient and give the designers time to work out the kinks before jumping on the bandwagon. I re-learned not to buy into the hype, not to buy a shoe based on who wore it, and to make sure I read a review. After a few wearings I wasn't convinced, they were great in the open court, I was running faster than I ever had due to the Zigtech feature, but they weren't great in other aspects, I was having doubts. Sure enough, a week later a review came out damning the shoe as a failed attempt to adapt a running shoe to basketball which had been rushed. I was inclined to agree.

So here I stand, I've been wearing the AJ 2010s in the interim, but I'm keen to move on to some new shoes. I'm considering a number of shoes at the moment. The Kobe VIs are first on my list; the Kobe line was improved with each shoe, but the replacement of Flywire with that weird skin stuff makes me wary (new technology), I'm going to wait for a review before I commit. Next are the AJ 2011s; I know, I said the Jordan's weren't great for players my size, but these are designed for Wade, and he has a slashing game like myself, plus they look pretty awesome from what I've seen, will have to wait for a review, the long wait might put me off. Going to old reliable with the Hyperdunks is another option, they are super light, have great lockdown and despite the bad fit still played pretty darn well. I'm also keen to try out some adidas and the Rose 1.5 looks promising.

Alas, as with many other aspects of life, patience is a virtue when buying basketball shoes also. So for now I'll rotate through the Kobe IVs, AJ 2010s, and Reebok Zigtech Slash. I hope my sad tale has helped some of you, or at the very least drawn a few laughs with my tales of almost comical ineptitude. Let's hope writing this means I won't forget these lessons so soon after the Reebok disaster, and make wiser purchases in the future.

Cheers, Mark.

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