Nike Zoom Freak 1 Performance Review


A basketball shoe fit for an MVP? The Nike Zoom Freak 1 Performance Review is here.


Available Now for $120


Traction

It’s not the worst traction, but it’s also not the best. When I play in shoes like this the best term I can use to describe it is inconsistent.

Sometimes the traction was good. Like, very good. Other times I’d be spending more time wiping my outsoles than playing the game. What made them inconsistent is that these situations would happen on every court I played on. They’d work well on some dirty floors, then poorly on other dirty floors. Great on some clean floors, then poorly on other clean floors. It was a guessing game each night as to what type of coverage I would receive out of the shoe and for that I just feel the shoe could’ve, and should’ve done better.

In an age when we have performance reviews on 20 year old basketball shoes that out-perform modern day basketball shoes it leaves one scratching their head as to how they could have gotten things so right before and so… inconsistent — as time moves on.

Obviously, I’d recommend going with a pair of the Zoom Freak 1s that offer solid rubber throughout. Unfortunately, most of the cool colorways will be using the translucent/solid rubber combination.

Cushion

The cushion setup is strange for a larger player as the Zoom Freak 1 setup offers no cushion in the forefoot while the heel is double-stacked Zoom Air — the rectangle style Zoom Air.

It would have made more sense to have placed one Zoom unit in the forefoot and one in the heel rather than stacking the two in the rear, but that is from a consumer perspective and not the player’s perspective. Giannis wears Kobe’s and seems to favor court feel over cushion. His signature Zoom Freak 1 is setup just like that. Court feel in front and a bit of cushion in the back.

They feel more like a guard shoe rather than a big man shoe, and that seems to prove my theory that there are no shoes made for positions (anymore). It’s mostly about player preference. Each player is different and their preferences might differ as well. A big man that moves like Shaq may want more cushion than court feel, while a big man like Giannis may be a bit thinner in terms of build thus prefers court feel.

Whatever the player’s reason is for having his/her own preferences on the court aren’t important. Its more about knowing what your preferences are that matters. You’re likely here because you want to know if this shoe will meet your needs on the court and not Giannis’ needs.

If you need/prefer court feel then this is a shoe that will give you that. If you want something that is a bit more balanced from heel to toe in terms of cushion and court feel then there are some better options out there that will provide that for you.

Despite someone’s preferences, I feel the price should really reflect what is in the shoe rather than who’s name is attached to the shoe. Giannis is a great player, and current NBA MVP, but $120 for this setup is just too much. $80-110 would have been a bit more reasonable for what you’re getting.

Materials

We’ve been seeing this same textile material used across multiple Nike Basketball models. From the Nike Kyrie Low 2 to the Nike LeBron 16 Low.

It’s been durable with each shoe it’s been used on and requires little-to-no break-in time. While it’s not premium in any way, it works well and gets the job done. It does so while being very lightweight, so if weight reduction in your footwear is important to you then you may want to look at the models I’ve mentioned that offer the material.

Fit

The Nike Zoom Freak 1 fits true to size, but very snug both length wise and width wise. I’d highly recommend trying these on in-store just to make sure they offer the wiggle room you prefer.

Personally, I like my shoes pretty tight as it is and these give me just that. They’re a bit tighter than I’d like to start but once they’re broken in they fit like a glove. In the video review I compared them a bit to the Nike Zoom Kobe 6. The more I wore those the better they ended up feeling, and that’s how I felt here. Although, I do feel the heel portion on the Zoom Freak 1 is a bit better overall in terms of containment and lockdown.

Support

Support for the Zoom Freak 1 is solid. Not outstanding, but it is solid.

The midsole sculpt keeps your foot on the footbed — which is exactly where you want it. The fit aids in that as well and with them being as snug/secure as they are I had no issued at all. The base is nice and flat while they offer a small outrigger. This area didn’t promote quite as much stability as something like the adidas D.O.N. Issue 1 or Dame 5, but each of those have an much more exaggerated base, and some may find those models to be a bit on the clunky/chunky side in terms of stability. The Zoom Freak 1 was more like the KD12 where the shoe is shaped more like a foot, but has just enough width to add some stability into the mix.

There is a bit of drama regarding the lack of a shank plate, but setups like this that have a solid flat platform from heel to toe don’t always require one. We’ve seen setups like this many times from Nike, and other brands, and it rarely causes any issues. The one time where there was an issue was with the Air Jordan XX8 as the decoupled midsole setup had some heavier players arches begin to fall at the midfoot. That is where the tendril on the Air Jordan XX9 came into play as it prevented the arch from falling while still offering the wearer the mobility that a decoupled setup brings. When you have a shoe with flat tooling like this the weight of the wearer cannot collapse the midfoot since it already rests on the floor. This specific tooling setup also has a lot of rubber wrapping around the medial and lateral side preventing the foot from over-twisting — similar to the KD12.

The issue of the Zoom Freak 1 lacking a shank plate is really a non-issue. If the midfoot was sculpted in a way where there was an arch in the shoe then yes, they’d need a shank to prevent the midfoot from collapsing. In this case, however, most players should be fine.

Overall

The Nike Zoom Freak 1 is a good shoe, but I don’t find them to be a great shoe. One-to-one fit and court feel are its best attributes and if those are the two most important aspects of a basketball shoe for you then you may end up loving these.

Personally, I don’t mind the court feel and I loved the fit. But good traction is something I really want in a shoe. I feel great traction gives you a bit more confidence in your movements.

Nike has put themselves in a tight spot. They have so many models at varying prices. Some offering more for less. Consumers will begin, and have been, comparing each model, its tech specs and their prices to one another. Then they’ll get confused as to why Russell Westbrook’s Why Not Zer0.1 retailed at $120 and offered full-length Zoom Air while the Freak 1 barely has any cushion at all.

At this point it should come down to preference. Make sure you know what you want in a basketball shoe. Then apply the information provided within reviews to sift through the dozens of options available each year to ensure you’re choosing the right shoe for you. Or you can just try everything and see what you like.

I hope our Nike Zoom Freak 1 performance review helped you out and if you end up with a pair I’d love to know your thoughts based on your experiences in the comment section below.


Available Now for $120


Nike Zoom Freak 1 Scorecard


11 Comments

  1. These have been a flop since the first photo leaked like a year ago. Nike did Giannis dirty with these.

  2. Typical 1st effort for a sig shoe. As Nike and Giannis get more in tune with wants and needs, future sigs will become more refined.

  3. This was a huge disappointment. As a big, no zoom in the forefoot and spotty traction made these a slog to test. Even the Kyrie 2 felt more cushy in the front. My knees say “no thanks”.

  4. I never really understood the importance of court feel in a basketball shoe. Can someone please explain to me?

    1. Faster reaction times when cutting and making moves since there’s not much cushion between your foot and the ground. So then when you push off you’re immediately going there whereas if there was cushioning like zoom air or boost, there would be a bit of lag time. It’s small like less than half a second but for some players that’s too long.

      1. Oh examples of players in the nba that prefer court feel over a ton of cushion are guys like Stephen Curry, Giannis, Paul George, Kyrie. Generally you’ll push off with your forefoot so these shoes like this one and the Kyrie only have heel cushion if they ever land there or opposite like PG which have forefoot zoom but not usually both.

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