When I was preparing for this review, the Kobe VII was taking up plenty of mental real estate; not just because it was the previous model, but due to the less than positive experience I had during my testing of that shoe (you can get my complete thoughts here). So it was a mixed bag of expectations with which I approached the Kobe VIII.
Upon putting the Kobe VIII on I was treated to a wonderfully constructed inner that is very comfortable and did not cause me any issues whatsoever. The inner plays a role in the fit of a shoe ; it is one of those areas that don’t get a second thought, unless something is not right about it. The fit of the Kobe VIII is like that of a very comfortable sock. The Kobe VIII’s upper is constructed of what Nike calls Engineered Mesh, which is a tightly woven textile that is 90% mesh. My initial impression and expectation of the material upon initial inspection out of the box was that it was very cool looking and lightweight, but I thought once it broke in, the lateral support would dramatically degrade. I was pleasantly surprised to find out this was not the case. The Engineered Mesh upper provided flexible, lightweight and breathable support that was on point right out of the box.
Speaking of flexibility, the Kobe VIII flexes very well, actually extremely well is more accurate. This is one of the areas where the Engineered Mesh really shines. The shoe’s upper was on total unison with the movement of my foot; I didn’t notice the upper while playing in this shoe and that is a very good thing.
The fit of this shoe was very good. Once I lace this you up there was absolutely no movement of my foot in any direction whatsoever. The shoe just locks you in while simultaneously not being restrictive. There is also no heel slip. The padding within the inner doesn’t excellent job of helping to keep your heel lock into place.
The Kobe 8’s outsole features mostly herringbone with two sections that feature a scale-like pattern on the lateral side and extends down to make up about half the heel. The rubber is soft and and sticky which allows it to grip the floor very well. When making hard cuts on offense or sliding on defense, the Kobe VIII kept me where I needed to be. I was pleased to find that though dust does stick to the translucent outsole, the level of traction remains very high.
The cushioning is provided via a removable, full-length lunarlon midsole. The removable midsole concept is a carryover from the Kobe VII, which featured removable midsoles, one,the Attack Fast, featured full-length cushion,and the other,the Attack Strong, was phylon with forefoot and heel Zoom Air units.
Though Lunarlon has improved greatly since its introduction, I was not sold on it as a stand alone cushioning load bearer because in previous implementations it has bottomed out and that creates a dead feeling underfoot. It seems the cooks in the Innovation Kitchen have improved on the Lunarlon recipe, because my time of testing, the Lunarlon in the Kobe VIII was very good. On my initial step into the shoe the Lunarlon felt very cushy. I will say there was some intial break in time that lasted several games,but once that was over I experienced cushioning that seemed to improve the more I wore it. I honestly kept waiting for the cushioning to fail and bottom out, but it never did; it would compress but never give out. It stood up to everything I could throw at it. The VIII’s combination of good impact protection combined with springy cushioning feel was a homerun. It seems the chefs in the Innovation Kitchen have tweaked the recipe for Lunarlon because this was the best implementation of the material I’ve experienced thus far. Unless you are a large player, this is a setup that will accommodate you very well.
The Kobe VIII really bounces back from the lackluster performance of its predecessor. It addressed every area of that shoot that was a weakness and made it into a strength. It combines fit cushioning traction stability and support into a very light weight package. It’s a great shoe for those players who stay in attack mode. If you are big fella, someone who needs a firmer ride, or or just have to have a shoe that is at least mid-collared, you may want to look elsewhere.