Friday, May 21st, 2010 at 3:13 pm  |  30 responses

The Lowcut Revolution

Have Kobe and Nash changed the shoe game?

by Chris O’Leary/@olearychris

Long after they’ve retired, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash will both have left their own unique footprints on the game.

What’s making those footprints is having an impact right now, says the Wall Street Journal’s David Biderman.

On Wednesday, Biderman looked at how Nash’s and Kobe’s lowcut sneakers are at the forefront of the demise of the hightop.

The evidence has been lurking around the league for the last two seasons. Check the league-wide popularity of the Zoom Kobe IV and the even lower cut Zoom Kobe V and consider that Nash has preferred to wear lowcut sneaks for years.

More than a comfort preference, the article suggests that NBA’ers are going with lower shoes as a method of injury prevention.

Kobe Nash Shoes NBA players missed 64% more games last season because of foot-related injuries than they did twenty years ago, according to NBA statistician Harvey Pollack.

Foot-related injuries are the most common in the league, he says, and the increase in foot injuries is nearly 50% steeper than the jump in games missed because of the next-most-common maladies—back issues and the flu. If this is true, then the average cost per NBA team in missed games because of foot-related injuries last season was about $455,000. “It’s a big issue,” says Greg Campbell, the Memphis Grizzlies’ president of business operations. “As a team, you have to do whatever you can to keep your players on the court.”

The story makes an interesting point when it brings up the notion raised by Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman, that runners may be better suited to not wear sports sneakers at all. The continual impact and cutting that basketball brings about makes going barefoot impossible, in my mind (not to mention the thought of a heel landing on my toes — yikes) but this theory and the premise of the article makes you wonder. Maybe less really is more.

What do you guys think? Is the future of basketball footwear in a lowcut sneaker?

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  • http://www.mauricegarland.com Maurice Garland

    i was at the gym last night…those Kobe’s look like pain to play in.

  • http://www.stuffwhitepeoplelike.com Tarzan Cooper

    I dont know. I like mids. And uh kobe and nash? No. Remember the gilzeros? Those were sick

  • Richard Bauer

    Start this article over and tell ALL that Gilbert Arenas did the lowtop thing before Kobe and Nash made it a “Good look”. Stats and studies arent the end all be all. Injuries just happen and shoes arent going to prevent or decrease most of them drastically. This is the same league where everyone sported Converse Chuck Taylors, and those are horrendously painful for me to play in. But, those same shoes kinda worked out okay for the Leagues stars in the 60′s and 70′s. Same goes with Dr. J, Magic and Bird in the 80′s. Some guys get injured and some don’t. Roll of the dice I believe.

  • Tom

    I started wearing lowtops a couple years back mainly because they were the cheaper option in the e-bay outlet :) Now im hooked.
    After having rolled ankle problems in the past I’ve had no issue with the Lows. Im not saying they stop problems but I truly believe the hightop protection is a myth.
    Kobe rightly pointed out a while ago that Christiano Ronaldo et al all have lo’s when they play soccer with out issue, why should basketball be any different?

  • http://slamonline.com Chris O’Leary

    It’s easy to skip over players when they’re wrapped up in other stuff, right? Gil rocked the lows, true, and there have always been players that have preferred them, but lows didn’t really start making their way around the League until last year with the ZKIV. Personally, I’d group Nash in with Gil as players who have worn lows for a long time but haven’t really influenced other players to wear them. Most of the shift in the last two years, I think, is because of Kobe. Nash (and I suppose Gil) adds merit to the argument though.

  • barry melrose

    I had major foot problems (achilles, heel) playing basketball the last few years. I tried a number of different shoes, not knowing what the problem was. I still don’t know why, but after I started playing in the Kobe IV, my foot problems virtually went away. The Kobe Vs have even been better.

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  • http://nba.com Reflex

    dude, that’s a sales pitch if ever I saw one

  • http://freewebs.com/galacreativa Gus

    Great post Chris, i hope that really soon a shoe company would release a true basketball shoe, with no gimmicks or fancy bs technology that only is there to justify the price (even worse, badly glued and stitched leather and rubber with a mercedes like logo that sells like the elite of performance shoes)…the kobe shoe is almost there and goes in what it seems a parallel line to the whole barefoot running principles.

    Like so many things in our modern day lives we take for granted without putting some reasoning into it all the very well tought marketing strategies…companies exist to make profit, and that is above anything else.

  • barnabusb

    When Pistons’ strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander says high tops are the safer option, that’s what I go by. Not by what Kobe and Nash are wearing.

  • dave

    Remember the Tmac 2′s, there was a low version, they were and still are awesome.

  • Niio

    I use to wear hi or mids to play ball in all through highschool and until the zoom Kobe IV came out I never dreamed about wearing lows to play in. But man do I feel the difference in comfort and responsiveness with the lows. I find that they allow your feet to move in a more natural state that a restrictive high top.

  • http://www.nba.com/suns Dacre

    i wear lows all day on the pine…they ae the only choice for decent footwear….

  • James aka…

    I used to play barefoot whenever possible, especially on outdoor courts. Just a better feel.

  • PlanetAsia14

    I believe so. Kobe’s shoes have revolutionized the game more than ever.

  • ripslam

    It depends on your game, if you’re not a slasher, then you don’t really need to worry about what shoes you wear. IMO this article is kind of going overkill, lowcut shoes aren’t revolutionizing the game, basically Kobe’s entire team wears his shoes, same with LeBron.

  • Russ M

    Can’t disregard the fact that these NBA’ers are rockin’ these low-tops with a professional tape job every time they step on the court. Practice included. Most of us ain’t gettin’ taped before we head to the local park.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/san-dova-speak-easy/ San Dova

    Kobe’s shoes are both significant and much ado about nothing. He’s the best (or second-best) player on the planet, so his signature shoes get the big press for being “unconventionally low”; with that said, they’re really more unconventional in the technologies that enable them to perform well, DESPITE their low cut.

    Someone just said that Gilbert Arenas and Steve Nash have BEEN wearing lows, and that’s true–as has Mike Bibby for years (in the low-cut PE versions of the signature line Air Jordans). Honestly, though, it’s about the support underfoot, over the foot bridge and heel fit. Those elements enable a dynamic shoe to be like the Zoom Kobe…although the Air Huarache were the first to push that concept of minimum coverage/maximum results.

  • RedRum

    before kids go buy low-tops, you also need to remember that NBA players get professional taping of their ankles before every practice and game. No weekend warrior does that… hence if you play with lows and you roll your ankle, you are officially screwed…

  • Russ M

    Kareem played an entire carreer wearing low-tops, and no tape.

  • zenit

    if you roll your ankle, you’re screwed anyway. no shoe is going to prevent that. lowtops are the better shoes though. lighter, more responsive.

  • BRich

    Hell, even before Gil-0, there was Mike Bibby. Who has been wearing Jordan lows for years. Obviously he didn’t have the same impact, but he’s been on that.

  • RedRum

    I cannot believe this… I just sprained my uncle.. landed on someones foot…

    Say whatever you want, but I know for a fact that if I was not wearing high tops ( Nike Jordan Alpha) and really expensive high-tech braces, I would have had at least a grade 3 sprain. It happened before.

    I just walked it off now..

  • RedRum

    i mean my ankle… not uncle..

  • http://slamonline.com Chris O’Leary

    Glad your ankle and uncle (I’m assuming) are OK. I think a lot of people overlook the importance of ankle braces and taping, which has been mentioned in the comments already. I’ve done some nasty things to my ankles in high tops in the past and I think the shoes I had on my feet at the time did little to help, for better or worse. I’ve been lucky *knocking on wood* to keep my ankles/uncles out of trouble the last few years.

  • David

    Jordan sported low cuts way ahead of time!
    rememeber the AJ 2 lows, AJ XI low IE, AJ XVII low? Aside, the IIIs n the VIs were mids but they just little higher then the lows~

  • David

    Jordan sported low cuts way ahead of time!
    rememeber the AJ 2 lows, AJ XI low IE, AJ XVII low? Aside, the IIIs n the VIs were mids but they just little higher cut then the lows~

  • DC

    No more lows pleasssee.

  • Sammy G

    What is seldom, if ever mentioned is the fact that these players have their ankles taped by a trainer. This can, in many cases eliminate the need for a hi-top or even a low-cut shoe.Flexibilty is key in the ankle as a way of helping to prevent (often more serious) knee injuries. Think of down-hill skiers and those inflexible plastic boots. they wreck their knees all the time in part b/c of having no give/flex in the ankle joint…

  • Luke

    I read somewhere that the increase in the height of the bottom of the shoe, such as the midsole and outersole, could be the cause of increased ankle sprains. Shoes have developed to be taller in height because we want the extra cushioning and support. Also it doesn’t hurt to add another inch to your height in basketball lol.

    Since the height of the bottom of the shoe is taller, it makes it easier to roll your ankle. For instance, try standing barefoot and turning your ankle; it’s a lot harder to do than in shoes.