Reebok Thermal Vibe

The Reebok Thermal Vibe

Introduction

The climb back among the elite in the basketball shoe landscape has become much more of a task as the market has evolved.  New Chinese companies, such as Li-Ning and Peak, as well as established athletic companies (Under Armour to be specific) have brought their contenders in competition with industry giants Nike and Adidas.  Once at the top, Reebok made their well publicized return with the signing of John Wall and the subsequent introduction of the Zig Slash last season.  The strategy of using bold aesthetic and technological features as their marketing focal point has been observed through the years (evidence with the Reebok Pump in 1990’s), which leads into a new performer for the season.  Based around the VibeTech design, the Reebok Thermal Vibe joins the line of ZigTech performers in the new era of Reebok Basketball.

Following the path of the Zig Technology, the Reebok Thermal Vibe takes a unique midsole design as the platform in a basketball context.  The features include the following:

  • Leather and synthetic upper
  • Wavy VibeTech foam midsole
  • Reebok 3D Ultralite cushioning system
  • Midfoot TPU shank plate
  • Rubber outsole with herringbone traction pattern

Aesthetics and Styling

A common theme of eccentric midsole designs characterizes the marquee models in the Reebok basketball catalog.  In the Thermal Vibe, the wave patterned midsole brings continuity with the Zig Technology, albeit in a more subdued form.  Aesthetically, without the thick and imposing sole, the shoe would sit quietly among a wall full of brightly colored, sleek shaped, and stylish basketball shoes on the market today.  Describing the design and style as straightforward and tame would be very accurate.  Nonetheless, it is often times the most tame designs that offer surprisingly amazing and consistent performance.

Reebok Thermal Vibe

Marked with ridges and valleys, the outsole design is as unique as the VibeTech midsole

Stamped on the sides, the large Reebok check logo stands above a wavy VibeTech midsole on the mid cut design.  Full grain leather combines with synthetic leather to bring a solid look and feel.  As seen with the ZigTech outsole, the Thermal Vibe underside presents an overload of peaks and valleys.  With a contoured shape, the rubber outsole is cut into one main white portion.  At the forefoot area, four deep horizontal flex grooves, along with a thick vertical groove, create the flat segments.  These segments are marked with a herringbone pattern to provide traction.  Through the horizontal grooves, the blue foam midsole creeps through.  Moving to the midfoot, a large divot is created, which extends to the heel.  Again the blue midsole foam appears in a roller like fashion, with cut outs revealing the TPU midfoot plate and “ENERGYFOAM” cushioning at the heel.  This midfoot divot is outlined by the outsole rubber which follows the wave pattern.  Finally, the heel area, like to forefoot, contains a small section with a herringbone pattern and “Reebok” logo molded in.  The foundation and main aesthetic feature of the Thermal Vibe comes in the form of the wavy midsole.  A four wave stack flares out from top to bottom, extending the length of the shoe.  The midsole is joined by the large stiff shank plate, which extends from midfoot to midfoot, encompassing the heel.

On the upper, the full grain leather acts as a protective base layer over thinner synthetic leather on the sides and heel.  A large stitched section of the former makes up the toe box, encompassing the entire forefoot area on each side.  Two rows of five ventilation holes are added on the toe box which are placed closed to the throat line.  For the lateral, the full grain leather extends from the eyestay to the heel forming half of the Reebok check logo, which is made of a plastic material.  Underneath this layer is the smooth grey synthetic leather portion marked with a white outline design.  This layer also has the the other half of the Reebok logo, this time made from patent leather, stitched on.  The medial side is laid out in the same pattern, with the plastic check logo replaced by ventilation holes.

The simple design continues at the heel where the synthetic leather counter sits in between the VibeTech midsole and leather collar.  Branding comes in two forms – a printed “Reebok” logo and a “VIBETECH” tab which is part of the midfoot shank plate.  Moving upwards, the full grain leather collar has large trapezoid shaped cut outs, made of the grey synthetic leather.  The collar is generously padded with soft foam and lined with a smooth, but textured, material.

Lacing for the Thermal Vibe begins with two lace hoops at the throat line, continuing with the six eyelets – on the leather eyestay – which house the thin oval laces.  The tongue is simply made of mesh, with a leather section at the top.  A single lace holder and a Reebok logo put the finishing touches on the tongue which has excellent padding.  Rounding out the Thermal Vibe is a very soft insole.  This insole insole contrasts the rather hard footbed and is simply marked with the final “Reebok” logo on the heel.

Comfort and Fit

Relaxed and comfortable, the Reebok Thermal Vibe fits true to size.  Cushioning through the collar, tongue, and insole provide excellent comfort all around the foot, as the leather upper provides a covering without too much pressure.  A slightly bulky feel is felt as the cushioning from the tongue runs straight down the top of the foot.  Up front, the toe box is perfectly shaped, holding the toes again with comfort and enough room for those who need extra width.  The ankles are well supported and protected with the collar and tongue combination, while at the same time providing heel lock down.  For cushioning, the plush insole gives continuity to the comfort of the collar and tongue.  The foot dips a bit forward, as the heel area contains added cushioning, and the contrast between the soft insole and hard foot bed is prominent.  In the end, the Thermal Vibe can simply be described as comfortable and relaxed.

Reebok Thermal Vibe

A relaxed and comfortable characterizes the Thermal Vibe

Performance

The first notable aspect of the Thermal Vibe is that it sits close to the court surface.  Although the midsole is on the thick side, the foot pushes through the soft insole for a close to the ground feel.  The ridges and grooves on the outsole can be felt, and although the shoe is not light & has the ankles amply covered, there is a comfortable sense of overall freedom of movement with the shoe.  That established, running and forward transitions all around are extremely fluid.  The shoe has amazing court feel and is felt with every step.  Guards playing in a one on one situation can blow past their opponent and quickly stop for a pull all in stride, as the foot pushes through the insole on to the responsive underside.  Normally, a large contrast between a soft insole and hard footbed would not mix, but in this context, the performance is enhanced.  Even when landing from jumps, the contrast is there, but surprisingly there is very little discomfort.  Another great attribute is the balance of the shoe, which allows for fluid play.  And with the great court feel and balance, post up players can take full advantage of the shoe.  With extra support at the heel, backing down an opponent or simply attempting to hold ground against one, the shoe is nibble enough to allow the player to make those subtle quick movements, all with comfort.  Drawbacks for the Thermal Vibe are observed with lateral transitions, especially on defense.  The thickness of the midsole, although it is not too heavy, does lower the response time when shifting side to side.  For performance, the Thermal Vibe is excels in may aspects, with court feel standing out.

Stability can be broken down in two aspects.  As the shoe provides excellent performance balance, it does so also in terms of stability.  To begin, the cushioned inside works well with the leather upper to provide hold without overt pressure.  The leather upper allows for bigger players to push the shoe hard, while for smaller players, giving the flexibility need for quick cuts and abrupt stops.  Again, all of the movements are performed with comfort, with stability never compromised while in action.  Next, the lower half construction is holds up for the demands of long court sessions.  While the outsole provides a balanced base, the VibeTech midsole is stable and responsive.  Mentioned early, the stability observed for lateral transitions is perfect for offense, and most importantly gives a sense of freedom on the court for the player.

Traction for the Thermal Vibe is based on court feel.  Because the rubber outsole touches the court surface in sections, the shoe does not stick to the ground.  Focusing on the court feel, traction, like the performance, is comfortable and fluid, allowing the player to transition around the court on both offense and defense.  For ventilation, the shoe is average.  Heat does build up during long sessions mainly due to the padding around the collar and tongue, with the ventilation holes doing very little to vent heat.  However, sweat build is not an issue.

Conclusion

This season, the Reebok Basketball line up is made up of three standouts, the John Wall signature Zig Encore, Zig Pro Future, and the subject of this performance review – the Thermal Vibe.  With possibly the least expectations of the three, the Thermal Vibe comes with little fanfare.  Again, Reebok has installed an eccentric midsole, this time the VibeTech, into a basketball performer with some success.  On the court, the Thermal Vibe has great court feel and is versatile enough for a wide range of players.  Like the Reebok Step Back, the Thermal Vibe is not expected to be one of the more popular models on the market, sitting in obscurity in the Reebok basketball catalog.  Nonetheless the Reebok Thermal Vibe was released last month and is available now at the Official Reebok Online Store.

This shoe is comparable to:

Adidas Pro Madness
Adidas adiZero™ Rose 1.5
Adidas adiZero™ Infiltrate
Adidas TS Heat Check