The highly acclaimed Nike Air Huarache has undergone a makeover with the recent introduction of the Nike Huarache Free Bball 2012. This is yet another ‘basketball’ sneaker that has come with a Sportswear box so I hope I don’t end up with another Nike Zoom Rookie experience.
Traction – From the get-go I’m skeptical… I didn’t realize this until I got home but the entire midsole and outsole is comprised of Phylon… not exactly an ideal source of traction. Even with a partial herringbone pattern, I don’t feel as if Phylon will grip to the court as well as rubber would.
The only area covered with rubber is located on the pivot point… this is the strangest traction surface I think I’ve ever come across.
Cushion – As stated above, the entire midsole is Phylon. There is a heel Air unit so heel impact will be taken care of. The forefoot is just foam, which I don’t mind as it is soft. Since the Nike Free system is in place you will have greater court feel being so close to the ground, my only concern is being too close to the ground without protection… if they were able to fit a Max Air unit in the heel I’m curious to know why a thinner Zoom Air unit couldn’t have been put in place in the forefoot. I guess that’s what you get with a sneaker that retails at $115… but then again, the KD IV retails at $95 & has Fuse and Zoom…
Materials – Most of the materials are fairly nice. You have synthetic leather throughout along with rubber, nubuck and a neoprene inner boot. The side panels feature a much softer leather than what is found on the toe box which I don’t like… would have rather had the softer leather on the toe for flexibility and the firmer leather on the side panels for support.
Fit – They fit true to size and feel great. The neoprene boot that extends down to the toe area does help with the stiffness of the leather since that is where the flex point is located so that’s a plus.
One feature that is really nice to have… an additional lacing setup. They come standard with the laces looped through the initial eyelets but you can re-lace them using the secondary eyelets for a better midfoot fit. When I had them laced up I did not notice a need for this but I will most likely use the secondary setup because I prefer to have my shoes on as tight as possible.
Heel lockdown is interesting… you have your ‘high top’ look but that doesn’t mean you have support, although you may already know that I believe ankle support is a myth in footwear as you cannot truly support the ankle at all, only restrict it’s movement. There are a dual set of ‘wings’ at the top of the shoe. The first being the one that draws your ankle and heel into place and the second being the one that makes your brain think you’re in a high top shoe. I’d suggest using high cut socks as the outer wings will chafe against your leg.
Ventilation – There are some minor perforations on the toe but most of the ventilation will come from the inner boot. There is very little material to the upper itself so ventilation shouldn’t be too bad at all.
Support – There isn’t a shank plate in place… I couldn’t feel one embedded into the midsole either so I doubt there is one in there, especially because the midsole & outsole is tooled just like a Nike Free running shoe to promote a barefoot type of feeling. The heel features rubber which wraps around both the medial and lateral side but they are loose so I didn’t feel any support coming from them at all after trying them on.
Overall, this is one heck of a low top basketball shoe… there is a lot of material missing from the upper, so much so that I wouldn’t even consider these a low top at all… they ‘re in a class all on their own. Obviously I’m concerned about traction and partially concerned with support but so long as they fit properly they should allow the foot to work naturally without any restrictions. The shoe itself is unlike anything I’ve ever played in so I will be sure to post updates on their performance with teasers as I usually do.