The Kyrie line is now 5 models deep, but it wasn’t until this past year that we were blessed with a low cut version of his signature model. Usually a brand would use all their tricks for the signature line and skimp out on the low cut or team-based models. However, it wasn’t until the Kyrie Low that Nike decided to give us both forefoot and heel Zoom cushioning. The low was released right in between the successful Kyrie 4 model and the much anticipated Kyrie 5, and in my opinion did not receive the love that it deserved. Consider the Kyrie Low the “Middle Child” with a chip on it’s shoulder.
1st Quarter: Fit and Comfort
The first thing I noticed as soon as I slipped on the Kyrie Low was the snugness of the shoe. I could tell right away with its sleek build and narrow toe box that the shoe was built for speed. There are six lace holes in addition to a velcro strap that comes across the midfoot. After I was laced up and strapped in, I took a few steps and immediately noticed the curvature of the shoe. When I say “curves” I’m referring to the shoe’s sculpt and build, particularly around midsole and outsole. The Kyrie low’s sculpt follows the natural curvature of the human foot which gives the wearer a more natural feel and enhances it’s fit.
Think about the difference between a glove and a mitten. Both are used for the same purpose, but the mitten doesn’t give you the kind of flexibility and dynamic fit that the glove has. The Kyrie Low is the “glove” whereas something in the Lebron line would be a “mitten” (Albeit a really durable, ultra cushioned, and powerful mitten). The medial side of the shoe was sculpted to include a natural arch. The toe box is a bit narrow compared to that of the Kyrie 4 and 5. During my first few wears, I did experience some discomfort due to initial tightness, but the mesh upper does break in just enough where the fit became comfortable while still maintaining that secure fit. There were no areas within the shoe that had any exposed sewing or overlapping material that could cause discomfort. The initial stiffness of the upper material will eventually go away, but in my opinion, the foot is so well secured because of the strength and durability of the upper material (“lightweight mesh” according to Nike). There is no movement within the forefoot area of the shoe during sharp cuts and abrupt stops.
The midfoot strap originates from the forefoot of the shoe on the lateral side, comes across the top of the foot on a diagonal, and ends on the medial side just below the ankle. Much like the strap used in the Kyrie 2, the utilization and placement of the strap on the low worked effectively to enhance the fit. My foot was completely contained.
Towards the rear of the shoe you will notice that the shape of the shoe slopes downward therefore exposing the ankle area in order to give the wearer more range of motion. However, as the shoe moves back toward the Achilles, the shoe slopes back up essentially creating a collar that cradles the Achilles giving it support and creating stability. The exaggerated collar adds some style to the silhouette, but in my opinion, it enhances the fit. There is also a heel counter that wraps around the rear of the shoe to create more lockdown. This area is highlighted by the diamond shaped pattern protruding from the heel portion of the shoe much like it did on the Kyrie 1s. I have not experienced any heel slippage at all. The upper material starts out stiff but it isn’t uncomfortable by any means. This material is strong and provides more containment and protection.
2nd Quarter: Cushioning
As I had mentioned before, the Kyrie Low is the first shoe in the signature line to incorporate both forefoot and heel zoom. In all honesty, the Kyrie line has never been known for it’s cushioning. It’s main focus has always been its traction. So when I heard about the tech specs on these, it was almost an instant purchase. After several months of playing in the Kyrie Low I can’t say that the zoom bags used are the most responsive. In fact, if it weren’t for Fastpass breaking the shoe down into all of its’ components, I probably would never have assumed that there was any zoom in either the forefoot or heel. Granted the zoom used in the Kyrie Low were small rectangular bags. They didn’t have the kind of bounce that I’d expect form a shoe with 2 zoom bags. There are many reasons why I think the cushioning in this model isn’t as responsive. For starters, I think that the fact that this line focuses more on traction and court feel hinders any implementation of zoom. The way the traction pattern wraps up into the midsole affects the way the midsole flexes. This creates stiffness in the forefoot (which Kyrie may have wanted due to his history of having foot injuries). If you can’t flex and if the midsole is stiff, then in theory it would be difficult to engage the zoom bag. I also feel like the material used for the outsole is stronger and thicker. If so, I’m assuming it’s because Nike doesn’t want the traction to wear down quickly so it can maintain that ‘bite’ that the Kyrie line has been known for. A thicker and stronger outsole would theoretically make it difficult for the tensile fibers to compress. Lastly, I just don’t think that Nike wants to give us a ‘bouncy’ zoom in a Kyrie model with a curved outsole. That could potentially cause some serious problems. If the zoom bag in the forefoot was bigger or more responsive, that could create an even more unstable base which could potentially lead to injuries. Overall, neither my feet nor my knees hurt after playing in the Lows. There is enough impact protection for all types of players and styles of play.
3rd Quarter: Aesthetics
Aesthetically, the Kyrie Low appeals to me. In essence, without all the bells and whistles, it’s really a simple shoe. Durable mesh upper, multi directional traction pattern, low cut ankle design. But this is a shoe built for Kyrie Irving and this is Nike we’re talking about. So they’ve added a Velcro strap for added lock down. The Velcro strap is where the shoe begins to take a life of its own. On this particular colorway, the outside of the strap has an abstract design in black and white. However, underneath lies a vibrant multi color design. At the end of the strap is a textured Nike Swoosh. Throughout the strap is a raised diamond shaped pattern that resembles pyramids or scales on an animal. And while were talking about the midfoot strap, take a look at the way the first lace holes are set up. You will see that they are aligned diagonally, parallel to the strap. Most shoes have these first 2 lace holes aligned horizontally. But just like Kyrie Irving, this line is just built different.
There is some fuse that runs along the lateral side of the toebox and on the medial side you will find some additional material backing most likely placed to prevent abrasions and to increase durability. As this area moves towards the medial side of the shoe, the design starts to become jagged. It’s a minor detail, but I appreciate small design cues. The last eyelet on the lateral side is contained within a triangle with the All Seeing Eye inside of it. And if you look closely at the plastic Swoosh on the lateral side of the shoe, you will see that within the Nike symbol are textured triangles.
Another unique design aspect of the Kyrie low can be found towards the back of the shoe as diamond shaped pattern found on the midfoot strap is also found here as well. This design cue is a great example of how form and function work together, not only to enhance performance, but to give the shoe a unique look. The look is reminiscent to that of the Kyrie 1’s heel counter. The Kyrie 1 and the Kyrie low are the only shoes in the line with this type of heel design. The only difference is that the diamonds on the Kyrie 1 are arranged vertically where as the diamonds on the Kyrie low are arranged horizontally. This area served its purpose well as the heel counter kept my foot locked in the entire time I was playing. Not once did I have any issues with heel slippage.
4th Quarter: Traction
Before I talk about how the traction performed, I have to talk about the shape of the outsole. Overall, it is very similar to the shape of the Kyrie 2 and it utilizes the ‘curved outsole’ that was designed to “enhance intense banking and cutting” (https://news.nike.com/news/kyrie-2). Does this curved outsole really work? Well, I have never had an ankle sprain or foot injury while playing in either the Kyrie 2 or the Kyrie low. However, when I played in the Kyrie 2, I was always a little hesitant because of how unstable the shoe felt at times, especially when moving laterally. There were times in the Kyrie 2 where my ankle would roll slightly but not to the point where it would cause injury. Even to this day I still have some hesitation playing in the Kyrie 2s because of its susceptibility to rolling laterally on either side. The Kyrie low was much more stable in my opinion. The Kyrie 2s outsole really promoted lateral movement due to the curvature of it’s outsole. The Kyrie low is still based off of the same idea, but in my opinion, the curvature promotes more of a ‘front to back’ movement. When standing in the shoe, the only points of contact that your foot has with the floor are your heels and balls of your feet. The outsole then curves upwards at the forefoot. It is much more pronounced compared to most shoes. You can rock back-and-forth while standing in place without any effort. It’s almost like a rocking chair sensation. Note that the heel curves upwards as well. Initially, it was an awkward feeling, but it didn’t take that long for me to get used to. The Kyrie 2 was opposite in that it promoted movement laterally. So if I were standing in place, all I would have to do is shift my weight laterally and my foot would begin to supinate (the sole begins to turn upwards slightly). The Kyrie lows have a more natural feel when running as it promotes forward movement, almost propelling you towards the next step. The points of contact that your foot has with the floor when standing stationary are your heels and balls of your feet.
The outsole uses a non traditional pattern of multi directional lines much like the Kyrie 2. However, the major difference is that the 2’s traction pattern has longer lines with more space in between the lines. The Lows have shorter line segments with smaller spaces in between. The grooves are deep and I have not noticed any fraying of the outsole and I have been using this shoe since it was first released this past summer. As I stated before, the rubber used on the Lows seem to be stronger and more durable than the material used on the 2s. That’s not to say that the traction of the Kyrie 2 is inferior to that of the Lows. The consensus is that the 2 had some of the best traction of all time. So it’s only right that the Kyrie Low follows suit. The circular pattern used in the middle of the outsole underneath the ball of the foot is also a common theme used in both models. This area serves as the focal point of the traction’s performance capabilities as basketball players are constantly on the balls of their feet. The design and implementation of this traction pattern was executed perfectly in the Kyrie Low. I rarely ever had to wipe the outsole off mid game. I wear multiple pairs of shoes throughout the year when I’m playing in leagues. But this past summer, throughout the playoffs and during the championship game, there was only one shoe I knew I could depend on. One that that would give me zero problems when it came to traction and that was the Kyrie Low.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing in the Kyrie Low. It has been a ‘Got To’ shoe in my sneaker aresenal. Whenever I’m playing on less than favorable court conditions or if I am playing in a game that counts, this is the shoe that I find myself going back to time and time again. If there was one thing that I could change about the Kyrie Low it would be the cushioning. I would have preferred a top loaded setup or even just a large volume Zoom bag in the heel and Cushlon in the forefoot. React would’ve been welcomed, but that probably would have increased the price. For $110, you are already getting a bargain for 2 zoom units and excellent traction. There are many different colorways covering a wide range of personal tastes. And if you’d like, you can even personalize your own Kyrie Low on NIkeID. I’ve seen these on sale at Nike retailers already and if you combine that with discount codes floating around, it would be very hard to pass up on these (or even double up). This was a decisive W for the Kyrie Low. And even though I enjoyed the cushioning, comfort and feel of the Kyrie 4 and 5 more, the Kyrie low has better traction and just performs better overall.
On to the next one.