The Nike Kobe 8 System – Black Lotus Performance Reviews
When Kobe Bryant teamed up with Nike, the pairing looked to make waves in the basketball sneaker industry. It took a couple of years, but the Kobe line has ascended as the premiere low top basketball sneaker on the market. Starting with the IV, refinements have been made to make the shoe light and more efficient, but with a distinct style that no other basketball shoe on the market can compare with. In other words, the shoe is always designed with aesthetics meeting form & function. The Kobe VII introduced a System of interchangeable midsoles, borrowed directly from the Air Jordan line. Although the results did not yield the best in performance for the Kobe series, it did show an active push to advance the line further. As the refinements continue Nike comes with their latest system for 2013. For our first Performance Review of 2013, the Nike Kobe 8 System darts onto the hardwood.
One of the most anticipated shoes of the season, the Kobe 8 System is the lightest Nike Basketball shoe ever released. The features include the following:
- Mesh upper for light weight performance, great flexibility, and breathability
- Cushioning provided by full-length Lunarlon midsole insert
- Minimal rubber outsole with herringbone traction pattern
- Stiff 3D heel counter and sculpted mid foot plate for stability
- No sew synthetic overlays at the toe and quarter panel
Aesthetics and Styling
Last season, the Kobe VII System introduced a bootie midsole to offer some ankle support for the low cut shoe. It would seem the line was moving away from the low cut look to provide a higher cut to increase stability. A look at the 8 destroyed this notion. At around/under 10 oz (depending on size), the Kobe 8 System is the lightest Nike basketball shoe ever released. The Flywire/Hyperfused based upper has been shelved in favor of a mesh material for that light weight performance. Keeping the “System” intact is a thick Lunarlon insert, for both comfort and responsiveness. Aesthetically, the designers have outdone themselves with the mamba theme. The Kobe VI introduced scales, while the VII focused on the predators theme. This Kobe not only has the shape of a snake, but diamond heads on the outsole, stripes on the heel, and a geometric patterned upper to fully embrace the snake in every aspect of the shoe. If the other versions of the Kobe wanted to be a snake, the 8 is a snake. Released early December, the first color scheme of the Kobe 8 System comes ready for Lakers Away games – black with two shades of yellow.
Sleek and minimal, the side profile of the Kobe 8 System leans more towards a runner/trainer than a high performance basketball shoe. The low cut design has a high Achilles and stiff counter for back end support and a slight collar. A geometric patterned upper holds multiple colors like a snake skin, while the outsole/midsole side wall is done with sharp, pointy, and swooping lines. We begin with the outsole which screams traction performance. Contoured and minimal, the flat rubber sole is marked with a herringbone and diamond shaped pattern. Rounding the front is the toe cap, molded with a diamond textured pattern. The lateral side flares wide with a small outrigger piece. A Kobe logo is molded on the side. Similarly, the medial side is marked with four symbols on the side wall, with some of the herringbone traction pattern creeping up by the mid foot. At the forefoot, the bottom of the sole has a slight curve upwards to aided heel to toe transitions. The lateral side is marked with a diamond pattern that slithers all the way to the heel. Medial side traction is dominated by a large herringbone section with a small pivot circle. The reticle style pivot circle includes a dotted code which is seen throughout the shoe. Moving to the mid foot, the a stiff stability plate is shiny and sculpted. The outsole is finished off at the heel with a circle, bearing the Kobe logo, splitting the herringbone and diamond traction patterns diagonally. Because the cushioning set up is provided by the Lunarlon insert, what would be the midsole is simply a sidewall shell. The shell starts on the medial mid foot, ending at a sharp point on the lateral forefoot. Dot text is molded around the back end of the heel.
A seamless mesh upper makes up the lightest Nike basketball shoe ever made. The upper is very thin, light weight, and minimal, with no openings. To give the shoe body, there is a reinforcement layer rounding the base, moving along the toe cap. A support cage lies beneath the mesh upper. For style and aesthetics, the mamba theme is played out through geometric shapes on the upper. The camouflage/snake effect is created by multiple colors used – in this case, black with two shades of yellow. Finishing off the upper is a reflective silver Nike swoosh logo on the lateral side.
The heel of the Kobe 8 shows off more of the sleekness of the shoe. Two reflective stripes run down the center, under the stiff heel cage. The cage is done with a split matte/gloss finish, ending on the sides to solidify heel lockdown. A mock Kobe signature is found on the lateral side. For the collar, protection comes in the form of a matte finished synthetic which covers the heel and the medial portion of the collar. Another small metallic Nike swoosh covers this side of the collar. On the inside, padding is tight and dense, with the bulk of it around the collar. The padding does continue, albeit very light, down the Achilles. Lining is a soft, smooth synthetic.
Seven eyelets house light weight, thin and sturdy flat laces. The eyelets are reinforced with plastic material, which will keep the mesh form splitting from lace pressure over time. Under the laces lies the perforated and padded tongue, lined as the collar and Achilles are. Just like the upper, the tongue is thin. However, the material used keeps it stiff, and to keep it in place, it is stitched on at the forefoot creating a semi-bootie. With perforations throughout the tongue, padding is targeted down the middle. Two lace holders add more security for the tongue and on the top of the tongue is the Kobe logo outlined by a snake. The final aspect of the Kobe 8 is the Lunarlon insert, creating the “System.” On the bottom of the thick insert is a diamond scale pattern, just like a snake. A triangle symbol is molded into the foam in the center. On the sidewall of the insert, “KOBE” is found on the lateral heel, while the “LUNARLON” text sits on the medial forefoot. Finishing off the midsole is the top, where the diamond shards texture the forefoot down to the lateral heel. A final Kobe logo protrudes on the heel.
Comfort and Fit
With the Lunarlon midsole inserted, the Kobe 8 has a static feel. There is literally no shifting and moving of the parts of the shoe, so once the laces are loosened the foot fits right in. A tightening of the laces brings a very close and precise true to size fit as the upper drapes the foot. The mesh material has a comfortable, non-invasive feel, almost like a reinforced sock. Most of the lace pressure is felt right where the laces are tied, as the tongue is pressed up against the top of the foot. Up front, the toe box is nicely designed for both comfort and fit. There is some room width wise because the lateral forefoot does not have a dramatic slope. Wiggling the toes up against the mesh, the mesh is comfortable and soft, but not flimsy. As a low cut shoe, the ankles are left exposed, with support coming under from the collar and heel counter. What helps with supporting the ankles is the tongue. Instead of a full bootie, the tongue is design as a half bootie (connected at the forefoot) to keep it in place. The top of the tongue is stiff, and can not be pulled too high. What this does is places pressure on the top, limiting the movement of the tongue to keep give the ankles some hold. This design is one of the shining aspects of the shoe. The heel counter exhibits great lock down, and the Achilles rises high enough from comfortable support. Moving on, what makes the shoe a “System” is the inclusion of interchangeable midsoles. The Lunarlon that comes standard with this release is thick, dense, and comfortable. A soft, plush feel is felt with the forefoot and heel areas having a recessed feel. Since the insole is not lined with any synthetic material, the foam feel has more of a grippy feel to the foot. Arch support is great, provided by the cut of both the insole and sculpted mid foot plate. For comfort and fit, the Kobe 8 System brings a light weight and tight feel, met with comfortable & dense Lunarlon cushioning.
Stepping on the court in the Kobe 8 System – you know you are in for a ride. The upper grips tight and pushes the foot right on the thick Lunarlon insert, which is very comfortable. Court feel is excellent as the shoe does play low to the court. Getting up to a sprint is very fast and light weight. It does not feel like anything is on the foot except for a sock, as each step is fast and cushioned. Heel to toe transitions have a tight feel with the herringbone gripping the court. Flexibility is good, although there may be a short break in time to get used to the mesh bending. This is because the upper is form fitting, so the player will need to find the flex points and get comfortable with them. One of the major issues that has plagued past shoes with interchangeable midsoles (Jordan 2011/2012, Zoom Kobe VII) is the jaggedness of how the midsole feels. Fortunately, the Kobe 8 System does not have that problem. The Lunarlon insert feels as though it is one with the shoe. A dragging feeling is not felt, and because of the way it id designed, it does not feel like it needs to be bended constantly to fit in well. In other words, it just feels right out of the box. Performance for the 8 is simple – fast and aggressive. Playing off the forefoot is where the shoe shines. Any movement involving quickness feels right. The density of the Lunalron not only provides good comfort, but good responsiveness. Those hard jabs and lateral cuts that a player may perform are done fast and fluid. The weight of the shoe just lets the player flow quickly. Getting around the court is swift, so those who like to run up and down the court are well served. There are literally no hinderances to movement which shows the agility of the shoe. Moving laterally, front to back, or back peddling has that natural, running type feel. At times, the shoe does feel more like a tight running shoe than an all out basketball performer – which is not bad to say. Jumps are performed in stride and explosive. Again, the Lunarlon is one of the best Nike cushioning systems in terms of density, responsiveness, and comfort. The rubber outsole is thin, so landings are felt right on the court, but the thickness of the Lunarlon provides enough cushioning. Fast, aggressive, and swift on the court, the Kobe 8 System is an outstanding performer.
Evaluation of stability revolves around feel, fit, and the Lunarlon insert. For a low cut shoe, ankle support and protection are sacrificed. A shoe that is 10 oz is not expected to have this kind of protection, so those who value great ankle support would have to resort to tape or a brace. That established, stability lies with the tight fit. First, heel lockdown is excellent. The counter does a great job of limiting movement on the back end, and the Achilles support rises high enough to give the feel of support. For heel strikes and the occasional post up, the heels feel secure. Comfort is provided by the Lunarlon for impact and pushing off, but when performing an action such as a spin move, the security in the heels in excellent. Next the fit of the upper and design of the insert limit any slipping and sliding. First, the upper is thin, but soft, fitting the form of the foot. This allows for it not only to hold the foot in place, but also to press it up snugly against the plush Lunarlon insert. Second, the design of the insert in terms of being a pure foam piece is what solidifies stability. The footbed is all foam with no synthetic material, added cushioning bags, or uncomfortable sidewalls, marked only with the diamond shard pattern. What this does is creates a surface for the foot that eliminates any un-needed material which can create some friction or limit bending. The result is a more natural, integrated feel, and most importantly, the reduction of the foot sliding. So for those aggressive and abrupt movements on the court, the foot always stays in place. The upper grips tight all around, the Lunarlon bends with the foot, and the stability plate keeps the shoe true. All in all, the stability of the shoe is about fit and feel.
A shoe made with quickness in mind better have excellent traction, and that is what the Kobe 8 System provides on the court. Just walking on the hardwood, the player can feel the herringbone based outsole gripping the court. The low profile feel works well with the thin rubber in providing sticky grip. Stoping in a heartbeat is what the shoe does, and with the added traction pattern on the medial side wall, those lateral bends and slides give the player the confidence to try every any and every move while moving fast. Quick and aggressive players that are constantly moving, cutting, and swiveling around the court will feel at home with the shoe. There really is not much to be said about traction other than the fact that it does deliver what is promised, and most importantly, performs at a very high level. Another aspect where the shoe delivers is with ventilation. In this case, there are no openings on the upper that give the free flow of air, but the mesh material does a great job of keeping the foot comfortable. By nature, the mesh material is not cumbersome, so even with the tight fit, ventilation is totally not cut off. In the end, ventilation performance is just another area where this Kobe performer does well.
After an overhaul to the line, the Kobe series has become the quintessential low top basketball shoe on the market. Kobe always prides himself on working very closely with his designers in creating a shoe that takes aesthetics, technology, performance, and style into account. The Kobe 8 System is pinnacle of refinement from the V to VII. A shoe that does what is advertised – light weight, quick, fast, responsive, with great cushioning and traction – the designers have really outdone themselves with this signature shoe. Fans of Kobe and low cut basketball shoes will find exceptional performance in these. There really is not much to say but the shoe is just exceptional on the court. After subpar offerings, in terms of performance, with the VI and VII, the 8 hopefully signals a look of what is to come in the future as the career of Bryant comes to a close in these next couple of seasons. It seems as though the Kobe line will finish off very strong. Released this past December, the Kobe 8 System is available now at the Official Nike Online Store.
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