Let’s talk all about Nike basketball shoe technology. A confusing topic for some, familiar for others, and even completely redundant for a good portion as they’re simply shopping for a good sneaker and not exactly interested in the nooks n’ crannies of shoe technology.
Take it easy – I’ve got something for all.
I always wanted to allocate a good portion of time and put together a guide like this simply because there’s barely anything similar out there online that’s practical, well-constructed, and regularly updated.
That’s right, even Nikey doesn’t really keep a hold of something like that for the masses. It’s been a while since I’ve been thinking about it and we’re finally here!
Let’s set it straight from a practical, easy-to-understand way that could potentially help you out when you venture out and buy your next pair of hoop shoes with a Swoosh on them.
Why start with Nikey? Pretty obvious.
It’s single-handedly the biggest sneaker brand in the world right now and 95% (I made that number up but it’s probably not far from reality) of everyday consumers lean towards what’s most popular and more respected.
HOWEVER, be on the lookout for similar breakdowns across many other sneaker brands – those are coming soon!
Sneaker connoisseurs – this will be a good one.
I. WHY YOU SHOULD KNOW YOUR TECH
Don’t let the brands sell you their shiny objects – know what MATTERS
During my years of playing sports (mainly basketball but also running, boxing & training to stay in shape), I see a plethora of different ways Nikey, adidas, Under Armour, and the rest are constantly trying to market their used technology to help their sales and also appeal to mass audiences that might not know a lot about shoe design.
And a good portion of this audience isn’t even interested in learning that stuff, to begin with.
I have to be honest, I still don’t think our favorite brands don’t do a good & honest enough job to present the tools that literally propelled them to the top numbers and authority-wise.
But why’s that even important, you ask?
Becoming an informed consumer that knows what he’s getting is far better than your regular buyer that gets hyped over a fancy new name that our friends at the Swoosh facility put out and markets as the “new THING”.
In result, that person then falls for the claims and spends more $$$ than he/she probably should’ve.
While alternatively, that buyer could’ve done just a little bit of research of what “Zoom Air” or “a hexagon Zoom unit in the forefoot” actually is, and found out that the shoe might not have even met one’s original desires beforehand.
What happens now is he/she is essentially buying a re-skin of the same shoe that launched a year ago but this one’s just marketed better. This happens all the time.
EXAMPLE: THE SELF-LACING PROPAGANDA
Let’s give an example that happened not long ago. The Nike Adapt BB 2.0.
Launched in 2020, Nikey claimed it’s the next best thing and the foundation of advanced basketball shoe technology to come. The main selling point is the laceless design which makes use of the FitAdapt technology that locks down your foot with a push of a button.
No hand interference needed and you can even customize the fit via a smartphone app.
Sounds really damn cool, doesn’t it?
Well, I happened to play in the shoe for a few months and I wrote a full review on it. I wasn’t a big fan of the automatic “lacing” system, the fit felt off at times, and the shoe is definitely hefty-feeling since a motor needs to be in place to control the fit.
Not to mention the app you customize your fit through is severely limited and only lets you choose between a handful of presets, while these kicks will run you a whopping $350 at retail.
I don’t think I need to tell you there are far better-performing basketball shoes on the market for literally a third of this price tag. Just without the fancy motors and “next-gen” tech.
And where are we now with the whole “next generation of basketball shoes”? Same where we were a few years ago. Just two Adapt shoes from Nikey that are both subpar. That’s it.
WATCH OUT FOR FANCY DESCRIPTIONS
Now, of course, a lot of people are careful, and will likely do some research/digging online to see what others think of a new product and the reliability behind the technology.
But a lot of them simply won’t.
All Nikey needs to do is put the word “explosive” or “springy” cushioning onto their shoe description and a good portion of folks will fall for it. We have to know the tech, at least on a basic level, to have a grasp of what’s being thrown at us.
A thin drop-in of Lunarlon can never be explosive. It just can’t. A 6 mm hexagon Zoom unit in the forefoot will never feel “bouncy”. If you know those things – good for you.
If you don’t – you’ll likely get excited more than you should and end up purchasing something that won’t meet your expectations.
Once you get a grasp of today’s shoe technology, you will:
- know the key differences between Nike’s used tech
- be able to better tailor a setup that you personally prefer
- future purchases will become more seamless & won’t require as much research
- end up saving a lot of $$$ since you’ll know what you’re getting (for the most part)
However, there’s one more CRITICAL factor you should know before getting deep into the tech.
II. IMPLEMENTATION. IT MATTERS.
It’s not all about the names and numbers
You might know all the tech names and have an idea of how they differ – that’s not all you should be aware of.
Implementation is key. Every single time.
Shoe A can feel very different from shoe B, while both have the “same” tech specs, based on what the manufacturers’ descriptions tell us.
But they’re not essentially the same, at least most of the time. I’m no shoe engineer/designer by any means, so getting deep into the specifics of crafting a shoe from zero is probably not the best idea both for you and me.
HOWEVER, hear me out.
FACTORS THAT GO INTO ALTERING YOUR EXPERIENCE
Speaking from personal experience and a bit of knowledge, there are a lot of other components inside the shoe that alter the way the presented technology feels and plays.
Nike’s Zoom Air cushion pods, for example, are never identical for each shoe, despite each of the shoes’ spec sheets indicates it’s just Zoom Air.
Nikey uses these Zoom Air units in various diameters, both length-wise, and height-wise, and that can greatly alter how springy the unit feels underfoot.
In addition, the actual build of the shoe always varies, so the same Zoom Air can never feel the same between the two shoes, as they’re utilizing different stiffness carriers, different sculpting for the midsole, etc.
Take the adidas Ultraboost, a runner sneaker, and the Crazylight Boost 2016, a basketball sneaker. The two clearly use adidas’s Boost foam for cushioning, but I’d be lying if I said the ride of the midsole feels identical for both.
These kinds of instances are everywhere in the sneaker world. No foam is the same density across the shoes. A material might have the same marketing name across many sneakers, but it’s really not the exact same mixture every time.
Then there are the human hand factors and errors that happen because of it, and so on.
But most of the time, brands never really tell us these subtle details that can be very useful for picky & informed consumers. All we know from the surface are the tech names, and sometimes the basic anatomy of such technology that’s implemented.
SHOULD YOU ALWAYS DIVE DEEP INTO THE DETAILS?
Now, figuring out such intricate details yourself would either require you to take apart a shoe completely or get access to the engineers’ behind the scenes.
My guess is, none of the two options likely work for you, so you’re gonna have to trust us, the shoe fanatics to put together as much information as possible.
But even we have no real ways to find this stuff out most of the time, so actually putting the kicks to the test in their respective sports environments is the only way to properly gauge the performance offered & get a feel for the differences between similar shoes.
So before you run off thinking you’ve got it all figured out and quickly jump to conclusions when it comes to buying sneakers – get your smart hat on and take all the information with a grain of salt.
adidas’s Boost foam or Nike’s Flyknit material WILL feel and perform similarly across many shoes, yes. You’ll have a good sense of what works for you and what doesn’t, but that also means you won’t exactly get it right 100% of the time.
There are just too many variables involved, and stuff won’t feel identical even though it’s got the same name attached. So spend some time researching the shoes, read full & honest shoe reviews from people that invested a good portion of their time testing ’em.
Make sure to check out multiple takes on the same shoe from different people. It’s the only multi-varied bit of research you can mostly do if you don’t have the shoe yourself.
You can even find some sneaker deconstruction videos on YouTube for some of the kicks. If you’re into that sorta thing.
And once you’re comfortable with the data you collected, it’s time to wing it and hpe for the best. Remember, game time is still the best time to find out what you like and what you’ll likely stay away from.
To sum it up, these are the main points to remember:
- implementation matters – the same tech almost never feels the same across different shoes
- us, the consumers, usually have no ways of finding out the details brands don’t tell us about, so you’re not always going to get it right
- have some general knowledge about shoe tech, read/watch full sneaker reviews to make a better purchase decision and then just go for it – there’s not a lot more you can do about it
- actually wearing & testing the shoes is still the best way to find out what you like – the more stuff you try, the easier it’ll be to choose later
III. NIKE BASKETBALL SHOE TECHNOLOGY
Last updated: March 15th, 2022
Note: I also included technologies utilized and patented by Jordan Brand alongside Nike because, as we know, the Swoosh owns the Jordan label and both trademarks share a lot of their design & tech names.
It only makes sense that you get familiar with both trademarks’ shoe catalogs.
Also, only the currently active and used technology throughout Nike’s hoop shoe catalog is included since it’s no longer relevant to mention outdated terms Nike has previously used and discontinued.
Expect changes to the list fairly quickly since Nike is notorious for changing up their patented names for marketing purposes even though the actual changes to components used in the shoe are often extremely minimal.
What is it: a mixture of compounds (usually foam) utilized in the shoe’s midsole to protect the wearer from impact upon landings, jumps, take-offs, and other athletic movements that put your joints, bones, and tendons under excessive stress.
It’s also commonly used to provide the wearer with sufficient step comfort for long periods of playing a sport and offer a sensation of “spring back” upon movements that often causes the athlete to feel more confident and explosive.
The OG of them all. Air has debuted in 1979 and has remained a staple in Nike’s cushioning technology ever since.
The premise of Air is simple: pressurized nitrogen inside of a flexible bag. Upon a movement, all the air inside the membrane compresses and then quickly pops back into its original state, thus causing an explosive sensation underfoot.
It’s not perfect. Air is not the fastest, nor the lightest solution among Nike’s current cushioning technology library but it’s still successfully used in a few of today’s basketball sneakers.
Air cushion comes in different variants depending on the shoe. It can be featured regionally (like in the heel or forefoot portion) but nowadays, you’ll mostly see it in a full-length fashion on a hoop shoe.
It’s definitely not the #1 choice when you’re going all-out explosiveness and bounce underfoot. It will give you some of that but Air is mostly there to quietly absorb impact upon high-force movements and also to provide some comfort while you hoop.
A pretty versatile choice that won’t exactly turn anyone’s heads but there’s a good chance you won’t be particularly disappointed when trying it for the first time, regardless of your position or style.
Notable properties: good impact protection while keeping a low profile when needed; leans more towards a mushier ride rather than a springback feel; fairly versatile; moderatly durable
Notable shoes: Jordan Zion 1 (full-length Air Strobel); Nike PG 5 (full-length Air Strobel stitched directly to the upper)
The second iteration of original Air and what created the cult-classic Air Max shoe line.
Max Air (but you’ll often see it named Air Max among lifestyle shoes) is fine-tuned Air technology, so it’s the same pressurized air inside of a bag that decompresses and springs back into its original shape.
However, this time, there are two twists.
Firstly, Max Air was crafted to achieve maximum impact absorption over anything else. This means that the bags used are usually larger. This results in awesome comfort, soft landings, and your knees not aching after a 2-hour session. Usually.
Secondly, Max Air is also about being flashy. It’s designed to be visible in the shoe’s midsole, so in a way, wearers can almost look inside the technology and feel good about it.
So, you’d be correct in saying that this solely exists because of Nikey’s marketing purposes.
Max Air is not the most durable cushion compound there is.
Larger bags contain more air and more room to compress. This results in athletes popping their bags due to overuse or the bags simply bottoming out over time and losing their effectiveness, sometimes almost entirely.
This cushion usually comes in the form of regional units – particularly the heel or the forefoot areas and you’ll definitely see them when they’re there. I don’t think I’ve seen a recent basketball shoe that features full-length Max Air.
Notable properties: comfortable ride w. excellent impact protection; elevated ride height; not the best durability
Notable shoes: Nike LeBron 19 (360º forefoot Max Air unit); Nike Air Max Impact 2 (heel Max Air unit)
Debuted in 1995 as a direct upgrade from original Air, the now massively widely-used cushion technology consists of a pressurized air unit in a form of a capsule/pod, and inside it are very tightly knit tensile fibers.
Those fibers compress inside the unit when you put pressure and they quickly spring back to their original state, creating a spring back or “bouncy” feel that propels your movements.
Zoom Air is undeniably the most widely used cushion technology, all brands included. Its implementation can be dynamic, as it’s utilized in shoes that span across different sports: running, basketball, cross-training, volleyball, soccer, and more.
Zoom has a tendency of staying fairly low to the ground, so athletes can feel low profile while receiving impact protection & energy return upon movements.
It’s also very durable (something Air lacks), as most shoes last a very long time before the Zoom capsules start to bottom out and lose their effectiveness.
This technology is the definition of implementation matters.
Setups vary from the firmest & quickest to the absolute bounciest as it comes in forms of regional units (most commonly in the forefoot & heel areas), larger slabs that cover more territory under the foot, or even full-length strobels that go from heel to toe.
The regional units are usually either circular or smaller, hexagonal shaped. Hexagonal units usually tend to be firmer, lower to the ground.
The bigger the unit is, the more impact protection & energy return it usually offers and the softer the overall ride feels.
Notable properties: very dynamic for various sports; keeps a low profile while providing good cushioning properties; amount of energy return can vary greatly; fairly durable
Notable shoes: Nike Zoom Freak 3 (2 forefoot Zoom Air units), Nike Cosmic Unity (full-length Zoom Air strobel)
Air Zoom Turbo
Introduced with the Kyrie 5, The same good ol’ Zoom Air, just slightly more tailored to a fast, shifty guard’s style of play.
My guess is, the fibers inside the capsule (what’s used on regular Zoom) are even more tightly knit to provide a quicker response upon a movement.
The overall compound used is usually firmer too, so expect a ride that’s lower to the ground, quicker, and a bit less plush than original Zoom Air.
And that’s how Nikey gets you. It’s pretty much the same Zoom Air but they decided to give this slight modification a new name to attract customers who are looking for that “perfect guard’s shoe”.
The thing is, we’ve already seen thousands of different Zoom Air versions and iterations on many different shoes that all feature the same Zoom Air, according to Nike.
This is no different but the likely reason why there’s a new name is that the Swoosh need to promote the new Kyrie shoes somehow. It’s misleading, I know.
Expect Air Zoom Turbo to be just as reliable as Zoom Air. And of course, the ride height will depend on how large the used units are.
You won’t see this particular name on many shoes, especially hoop shoes. Expect Air Zoom Turbo to be featured mainly on Kyrie’s signature lineup.
Notable properties: firmer, more compact than Zoom Air; very quick spring back properties; moderate impact protection; excellent durability
Notable shoes: Nike Kyrie 7 (forefoot hexagonal Air Zoom Turbo unit); Nike Kyrie 6 (forefoot hexagonal Air Zoom Turbo unit)
Lunarlon is Nike’s attempt to mobilize, quicken, and lighten a player’s ride without taking away what’s awesome about cushion: bounce and a buttery-smooth stride.
This cushion compound is a mixture of EVA foam and air, so a result similar to Zoom Air is achieved, just in a different form. According to Nike, Lunarlon is 30% lighter than their entry-level Phylon foam.
Lunarlon has always consisted of 2 components: a softer core that takes care of impact protection & comfort, and a more resilient carrier that goes around it to provide stability and protect the foam from breaking down too quickly.
This results in a few differences from Nike’s more popular Zoom Air & Max Air solutions.
Lunarlon is lighter, can be more compact, and barely elevates your ride height while still offering good cushion. Some of such Lunarlon midsoles look absurdly thin and it’s hard to think they even offer such a level of compression.
However, foam is foam and it does have its downsides.
The perceived sensation of spring back or energy return can never be as quick and explosive as what Zoom Air achieves. Lunarlon is also probably the most unreliable compound among Nikey’s whole catalog.
In the past, lots of hoopers would report Lunarlon bottoming out in as few as a couple of months or even WEEKS.
Kobe’s shoe lines were notorious for utilizing and perfecting Lunarlon. It produced some of the better guard’s shoes to date that are also capable of providing a subtle, yet balanced solution for just about anyone who’s looking to stay effective in their game but not lose any quickness.
Notable properties: lightweight but well-balanced for comfort & mobility; fairly fast & low-profile ride; poor durability
Notable shoes: Nike Kobe A.D. NXT 360 (React & Lunarlon drop-in midsole); Nike Kobe A.D. (Zoom Air & Lunarlon midsole)
React was Nikey’s supposed breakthrough foam compound that was meant to take over and improve over the already excellent Lunarlon cushioning.
The brand claims that React yields 13% more energy return upon every movement when compared to Lunarlon.
I personally really like React, however, I only like it when they use it graciously. This compound is extremely light, it’s got super fast energy return properties while keeping a low profile and it will last you a very long time before you start feeling less effective.
However, React is commonly used in a very dense and subtle manner among hoop shoes. That’s why you wouldn’t always experience what Nikey advertises when getting a React sneaker: unrivaled energy return but also a plush ride.
So, I’d still say React is best for those in need of a fast, precise setup that won’t cost you extra miliseconds upon a take-off.
However, use a gracious slab of React and you’ll soon see the potential. That’s when React quickly becomes my favorite solution for a balanced experience. Although such cases are fairly rare among hoop shoes today.
Notable properties: extremely lightweight & quick foam; good impact protection while staying low to the ground; can be very comfortable if a lot is utilized; great durability
Notable shoes: Nike LeBron 18 Low (full-length React midsole); Nike Air Zoom G.T. Run (full-length React midsole)
Here’s to confusion. Nikey really did punch us in the face with the sudden marketing of this supposedly new compound – Renew.
However, the truth is, Renew is just rebranded Lunarlon, just perhaps with some slight modifications which made it generally a bit softer and more pleasant to wear.
Even the base description of this technology rings just about the same as Lunarlon’s: “Nike Renew technology combines a soft inner core of foam surrounded by a firmer foam for springy and resilient cushioning.”
For a newcomer into the basketball sneaker world, both of the mentioned compounds won’t feel much different to you.
Renew is still the same solid but unreliable stuff that’s now been rebranded into a “budget” cushion setup that you’ll find on cheaper hoop shoes.
Will we ever see actual Lunarlon being marketed on a basketball shoe again? That’s yet to be known but expect more stuff with Renew among takedown basketball shoe lines.
Notable properties: well-balanced for comfort & mobility; can be a fast ride or a softer/mushier one; subpar durability
Notable shoes: Nike KD Trey 5 IX (full-length Renew midsole w. Zoom Air); Nike Renew Elevate 2 (full-length Renew foam w. a firmer compound)
Think of Phylon as a supplemental solution to a main cushioning system that Nike already uses in their shoes. Phylon is a basic EVA foam compound.
These are the most common uses of Phylon among today’s sneakers: it’s either used on a cheap shoe by itself to save costs or accompanied by a flagship setup (like Zoom Air) as a combination. The more common scenario is the latter.
Phylon is a dense foam compound and that means two things: it’s extremely durable but it’s far from your softest & springiest midsoles.
Now, of course, Phylon isn’t always the same as designers can always tweak the density and properties of the compound, which is why a shoe like the Zoom Rize 2 featuring Phylon feels so amazing.
But usually, expect Phylon to be quite firm, stable, reliable, and not-so-special in the cushioning realms of Nikey.
Notable properties: very dynamic – can be firmer or softer; versatile foam to accompany any cushion setup; excellent durability
Notable shoes: Nike Precision 5 (Phylon midsole); Nike PG 5 (Phylon midsole w. Air Sole setup)
Another supplemental foam compound that’s also there to accompany a cushioning system in a form of a midsole. Cushlon is also a standard EVA foam, however, it’s a one-up version of Phylon, so it’s much softer, comfier, and pleasant to hoop in.
I don’t know does it exactly compare to Phylon reliability-wise but I do know that Cushlon-featured shoes will cost you more.
Although it’s worth it – it can feel night and day vs. your cheaper setups and Cushlon comes in a less dense, more forgiving compound. More compression – more fun.
Notable properties: very comfortable & soft ride but fairly well-balanced; versatile foam to accompany any cushion setup; good durability
Notable shoes: Nike KD 14 (Cushlon midsole w. Zoom Air setup); Nike LeBron 19 (Cushlon midsole w. Zoom Air & Max Air setup)
What is it:brands constantly innovate to make lighter, more durable, and more efficient materials that make up the build of a shoe.
New mixtures of compounds and their design intricacies encouraged brands to name their patented material choices as new technologies.
That is both a good thing (since it helps the consumer recognize and differentiate what the manufacturer is using throughout various products) and a bad thing since it can often be misleading as most of such material technology names are just made-up terms that give the shoe extra marketing value.
Flyknit came a pretty long way after being introduced to the public in 2012.
It’s a digitally engineered knit material that’s strategically knitted to mimic one’s foot shape, so a lot of Flyknit shoes kind of feel like a thick sock or an extension of your foot. It’s awesome.
The main advantages of such builds are how light they feel on-foot, excellent formfitting properties, breathability, and an overall sense that this stuff just feels one-to-one with your foot.
Now, of course, knit-based materials are not going to be as durable as something like leather or more structured synthetics, so reliability could be considered a downside.
It’s unknown if Flyknit at its pure form will return on a new basketball shoe but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Notable properties: extremely lightweight & mobile; fantastic molding properties to one’s foot shape; moderate ventilation; not the worst durability for a fabric material
Notable shoes: Nike Kobe A.D. NXT 360 (360º full-on Flyknit build); Nike React Hyperdunk 2017 Flyknit (Flyknit upper w. strategic nylon yarn reinforcements)
Remember what I said about Flyknit’s lack of longevity since it’s just a knit? Well, LeBron’s main signature shoe line introduced modified versions of the already awesome Flyknit.
One of those is Battleknit. Debuted on the LeBron 15, Battleknit is an attempt to keep all the amazing properties of Flyknit (comfort, lightweight, mobility) and improve upon durability & structure to better contain the foot during movements.
This is achieved by stitching the knit with a sleeve of nylon as a reinforcement. It strategically stretches and provides comfort but stays tight upon lateral movements. It’s absolutely one of my favorite iterations of such a build, especially for outdoor play.
While it still might not be as durable as genuine leather or suede, it’s pretty close. Remember, it’s a damn knit we’re talking about here.
Notable properties: lightweight & mobile yet durable due to infused reinforcements; good molding properties to one’s foot shape; minimal ventilation
Notable shoes: Nike LeBron IX (Battleknit upper); Nike LeBron XVI (Battleknit 2.0 upper)
Don’t get too confused with all this fancy marketing from Nike – KnitPosite is yet another version of their modified Flyknit setup.
This one debuted on the LeBron XVII and it’s a little bit different from Battleknit. This time, knit has been TPU infused with yarns for more structure and durability. It’s strategically infused in areas where you need better structure.
It’s probably the more durable option than Battleknit but I doubt the differences are large. I’ve tried both for long periods of time and both seem to hold just fine, minus a few cosmetic wear & tear signs.
Since the reinforcements used are glue-based, you won’t get as much ventilation as you would on a Battleknit version, not to say on a pure Flyknit option.
However, names are just names – are three iterations of such builds are awesome. They’re comfy, durable, and have awesome formfitting capabilities in a short period of time.
Notable properties: solid balance between mobility and comfort; moderately fast molding properties; poor ventilation; excellent durability for a knit
Notable shoes: Nike LeBron XVII (KnitPosite upper); Nike LeBron XVIII (KnitPosite 2.0 upper)
Nikey’s name Leno-Weave means a leno jacquard weave material. It has debuted on the Air Jordan 36 and is currently the only shoe that utilizes it in terms of basketball options.
It’s some of the thinnest & lightest stuff you can find and yet it’s pretty damn durable since this type of weave provides minimal stretch and its used yarn are very strong.
I don’t yet have much experience with this one but what I can say is it’s surprisingly well-structured though doesn’t feel like a burden while playing.
It form fits my foot just how much it needs to and then you’re left with a light, comfortable package that doesn’t get in the way.
Breathability is also excellent with Leno-Weave since it’s an open weave design. If you don’t want a tough leather build nor a flimsy knit, a jacquard-based option like this might just give you the best of both worlds.
Notable properties: extremely lightweight but very durable; minimal stretching/molding properties; good ventilation
Notable shoes: Air Jordan XXXVI (Leno-Weave upper)
What is it: additional details, components, or design choices that add value to the existing build of the shoe in one way or another.
This is Nikey’s effort to make shoes “easier for everyone” according to them. It’s a system that allows wearers to put on and take off a shoe with one or no hands, and also do it very quickly.
Several existing models of hoop shoes have their FlyEase versions which modify the build for easier entry, better formfitting properties to accommodate any foot shape, and stay equally as secure as you would on a regular shoe.
This is usually done via the help of modular upper solutions, straps zip-up lockdown systems, and wider upper collars for easier entry.
Notable properties: a system that makes a shoe more modular, easier to put on and operate
Notable shoes: Nike LeBron Soldier 13 FlyEase; Nike Zoom UNVRS FlyEase
What is it: features implemented that help strengthen the shoe’s security properties such as lateral stability, foot containment, or the wearer’s overall level of confidence support-wise when playing.
Nikey is notorious for naming its shank/torsional component to market it as something special.
Previously FlightPlate, then Speed Plate, and now Eclipse Plate, it’s simply a TPU (hard plastic) plate that sits in the midfoot portion and handles most of the load for providing torsional support.
It also allows for smooth and supportive heel-to-toe strides and doesn’t allow the wearer to overpronate.
Certain releases of shoes feature carbon fiber plates which are heavier but are generally stronger and more durable. TPU is not a bad option either though, as it likely will never break down on you anyway.
Notable properties: fairly lightweight but provides good torsional support; can take a bit to break in; not as strong as carbon fiber plates
Notable shoes: Air Jordan XXXIV (Eclipse Plate); Air Jordan XXXV (Ecplise Plate 2.0)
What is it: any other technologies from Nike that don’t belong to any particular category but still add value/effectiveness to the shoe in various ways.
The supposed next generation of basketball shoes arrived with the introduction of FitAdapt. Or did it?
FitAdapt is Nike’s attempt to take a wearer’s putting on and off process of a shoe to a new level. Yes, it’s a motor-powered basketball shoe that locks you down with a push of a button, no laces required.
The shoe is paired with the Nike Adapt app which lets you remotely control the shoe’s fit via a smartphone.
All of this sounds really cool and innovative, sure. I don’t think I have to tell you there are a few nuances about this one.
First off, this whole system with the motor situation is heaaaavy. I don’t usually complain about a shoe’s weight when I’m playing but I could really feel it this time.
Also, as of right now, the system is fairly limited in terms of how precisely you’d like to tailor your fit, so you’re mostly stuck with a few options Nike gives you.
I know it’s currently just the second iteration of such a system in the basketball sphere but who knows if there will be more?
If you’re keen on spending a pretty penny just to try what Nikey has cooked up – by all means, do it.
For those who are looking to spend their dollar to get the best possible performer for the job – maybe hold on for now or check out some of the actually awesome hoop shoes for the $$$.
Notable properties: self-lacing technology via the buttons or a phone app; powered by a motor inside the shoe; limited fit customization options; heavy
Notable shoes: Nike Adapt BB (FitAdapt technology); Nike Adapt BB 2.0 (FitAdapt technology)
IV. HOOPING IS STILL THE #1 ANSWER
Knowledge is nothing without experience
This concludes the current tech list & all you need to know about Nike basketball shoe technology to get you started.
HOWEVER, this is FAR from where your hoop shoe journey should end. I’m no expert at sneaker design but it doesn’t take one to understand that knowledge without practice is just that. Knowledge.
You can think you’ve made an incredibly informed purchase decision based on the countless shoe reviews you’ve read/watched, 100’s of user feedback comments you’ve seen, and a number of informative guides you’ve soaked in.
And while in theory, that would be the best you can do before you buy a shoe, it’s no secret that actually hooping and putting those hours on the court while trying a bunch of different stuff while you find something that sticks is what truly turns knowledge into expertise.
Or if you don’t want to go that far, let’s just say you’ll be familiar with what you like and don’t like on your feet while pulling crossovers, feeding passes, and cooking jump shots with your guys.
Seems pretty obvious, sure, but what I’m saying is don’t be afraid to try something new even if it seems like that particular model/component doesn’t allocate with your preferences on paper.
FORGET ABOUT CATEGORIZATIONS IN THE NEW ERA
I personally was a strict adidas-only guy when it came to basketball sneakers for a good 3-4 years. I felt like most of what adidas has to offer simply fit me and my style better than what Nikey ever had to offer at that time.
To me, it seemed like adidas simply made better guard shoes that are still properly balanced and gave you plentiful comfort without taking away speed & mobility.
Then in 2015, the Three Stripes introduced Boost and I absolutely fell in love with it.
However, in the meantime, the guys at Nikey never stopped innovating either and I happened to try a pair of Nikey’s that a friend got and praised that they’re the most amazing thing he’s worn on-court.
And then things changed.
Truth is, they always made good shoes for just about any position but it doesn’t always mean that all guards should only aim for shoes that are marketed as “guard’s shoes”. The lines are blurred today more than ever since everyone’s skillset is getting broader by the minute.
I never thought I’d end up loving a pair of Hyperdunks (back when their tech and design were still being mostly credited as the “big guy’s choice”) despite my 170 lbs build and 6’0 height at that time.
So, get that low-profile Kyrie 8 even if you’re used to a mushy, bouncy LeBron 18. Maybe you didn’t even know that you’d fall in love with a fast guard’s sneaker?
Get that pair of Kobe low-tops even if you’ve been playing in mids your whole life. Perhaps you have no idea how comfy and free you’d feel without an ankle collar?
Try that new Under Armour shoe despite being used to Nikey’s or Jordan’s stuff even if you think UA doesn’t make what you think you need at the moment.
You get the idea.