Nike Zoom Kobe 1 Protro Performance Review | Duke4005

“Make the old new again” — that’s the mantra of retro product, right? Well, Nike and Kobe Bryant decided to take those words to the next level with the Zoom Kobe 1 Protro, which debuted for All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles. The original Kobe 1 was an absolute killer on court, so does the “new and improved” build match up? Here we go…

Nike Zoom Kobe 1 Protro Performance Review Duke4005 traction

If there was a ranking higher than Hall of Fame, the Kobe 1 Protro would get it. Using the exact same pattern as the original Kobe was a great thing because it sticks like glue to any floor. Plus, it’s thick and hard enough to hoop in outdoors. The herringbone is multi-directional and spaced wide enough that dust is no issue. During one wear at 24 Hour Fitness — a four-game session of full court — I made a point to count how many times I wiped…

Two times, that’s all. That is amazing. Since the first Kobe came out over 13 years ago, this traction has been one of my favorites, and it still is. Keep your storytelling — give me herringbone.

Nike Zoom Kobe 1 Protro Performance Review Duke4005 cushion

Full-length Zoom is rarely a bad thing, right? Right, especially when it is responsive and protects from impact. The Kobe 1 Protro is both.

The Zoom unit can be felt as soon as you step down on that first wear and it only gets better as the midsole foam begins breaking in. It isn’t a LeBron 15 Max Zoom feeling — this is fast and agile, because that’s what Zoom was meant to be before it became an impact-absorbing monster.

Don’t get me wrong – impact protection was there, as I never felt anything jarring while playing or excessive aching afterwards (well, no more than my age would allow). It’s just that when Zoom appeared, it was the low, fast, speedy, responsive cushioning while Air Max was the impact protection. Now it seems Zoom is marketed as impact protection. No difference here because the Kobe 1 Protro keeps doing it and doing it and doing it well.

One minor addition to the shoe that was found in the original but not in many other shoes is the Poron inserts on the bottom of the insole. Poron in a highly resilient, highly responsive urethane (usually blue) that can be placed in thin layers on the undersides of insoles — usually in the heel and forefoot — that adds a little initial impact protection without adding a ton of weight or height. The original had these as well, and for step-in comfort it can’t be beat.

Nike Zoom Kobe 1 Protro Performance Review Duke4005 materials

This is it: leather, suede, and leather, and more suede. I won’t say this is premium leather, because it isn’t — if it was we would be paying $400 for these. This is the leather for leather-lovers that play ball, at least. It is thick and takes a couple of hard wears to break in and crease, but when it does, it forms to the foot and feels great. Durability is also a plus as the Kobe 1 Protro is built like a tank (yet hard to hit). I am still playing in my original Kobe 1 and the Kobe 1 Protro feels like it will still be playable in 13 years as well.

The medial side is made up of a nubuck that, again, feels like the best you can get at this price point for basketball. It is smooth and soft and should take a couple of wears to crease and feel right, but when it does…yeah. Carbon fiber — what appears to be real carbon fiber — comes back for the heel cup and midfoot shank, and it is so nice (more on that in Support).

The only real change on the Kobe 1 Protro as far as materials is the Pro Combat in the ankle collar and the missing leather circles that covered the ankle bones. Not a big change and neither one makes a difference in performance, so no harm, no foul.

Nike Zoom Kobe 1 Protro Performance Review Duke4005 fit

The one area on the Kobe 1 Protro that takes some work is fit, and it all goes back to the previous category, the materials. As anyone who has played in a ton of leather shoes from the ’90s and early ’00s will tell you, most leather shoes take a couple of wears to crease and “learn” the foot. All those wrinkles mean the shoe is learning to flex and shape to your foot and activity.

The Kobe 1 Protro is no different. The leather upper is backed internally by a layer of foam that gives the shoe a bulky, disconnected feeling, at first. You can pull the laces as tight as you want but there is still a feeling of dead space in the forefoot. No worries! Just let the shoe break in and fit improves dramatically after the second or third day of playing.

Length-wise, stay true to size. Again, it may feel like you should have went a half-size down, but let the shoe break in before panicking. Heel slip is non-existent as long as you lace tight. The hole in the collar was seen as gimmicky when first released but does allow for ankle mobility while also locking the heel in and stopping movement. One note: lace behind the Shozoku logo on the tongue. It will make locking the laces down tight easier.

Nike Zoom Kobe 1 Protro Performance Review Duke4005 support

The Kobe 1 Protro offers serious support with tools in just about every category. Starting at the bottom, the base is wide and features a large outrigger on the lateral forefoot. Above that outrigger, we get foam teeth rising from the midsole over the side of the foot; they keep any lateral movements locked and caged so your foot doesn’t slide off the footbed on your Kobe-copying-Dirk one legged fadeaways.

In the midfoot, we get a carbon fiber shank that keeps the arch and midfoot rigid and supported. That shank ties into a carbon piece that circles around the heel cup, tying the midfoot to the back of the shoe. Let’s face it — even if your foot asks for permission, nicely, it ain’t getting out.

Moving up, the leather and nubuck upper may eventually stretch out and become a bit sloppy, but the lacing system allows the upper to be pulled tight in all directions, so even if the Kobe 1 Protro does lose a little shape over the years, just yank harder and you’re good to go.

Nike Zoom Kobe 1 Protro Performance Review Duke4005 overall

It is only March, but the Kobe 1 Protro has the potential to be my Performer of the Year. It may be an opinion clouded in sentiment, as the Kobe I is my second favorite Kobe shoe ever (behind the VI), but there is no denying it: the Protro is a great, great, great performer.

If you can put up with a little extra weight (supposedly lighter materials were used, but these were within an ounce of the original Kobe I in my size 10.5) and a short break-in time, you will be blessed with a serious shoe. If you want light, thin, minimal, non-supportive uppers you may want to keep looking.

The Kobe 1 Protro should suit any player at any position, period, and if you wore the Kobe 1 the first time around and liked it, look no further. With more colorways soon to come, don’t miss the chance to wear the latest, greatest Nike performer — that first appeared 13 years ago.

Nike Zoom Kobe 1 Protro Performance Review Duke4005 score

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21 Comments

  1. Great review man! I really hope to get a pair if there’s more colorways on the way, because I also had and loved the OG in the white/grey-yellow colorway. One of my fav hoops sneakers of all time and (just like yours) tied with my fav Kobe with the VI and the original adidas The Kobe (crazy one retro just doesn’t perform and feel like the original, no adiprene+, cheaper materials and not the same kind of herringbone. This (the Kobe 1 protro) is how retros should be made, including Jordan retros, specially with so many high pricetag on those that can’t stand with newer, cheaper and way better performers these days.

    1. Still have my white/grey Shark fins and they store still playable. That’s what I used for the comparisons in here. Wait – there definitely more coming, just not sure about numbers.

  2. Great in depth review! With these being a limited initial release, is there anywhere to get the yellow/black colorway except on eBay? What about other colors?

  3. Never played in the Kobe 1. Really hoping for more colorways that are not limited. I love zoom as it is still my favorite set up, so I would love to run in these. Great review as always.

  4. I wanted to get a pair for on-court as soon as I found out they were releasing. One of the least talked about Kobe performers compared to the IV, V, VI, VIII, IX and XI.

    $175 is laughable though. With what is available at even $100-120, I won’t even sniff at these if or until they drop significantly.

  5. The whole Protro thing really seemed to be…legit. I’ve heard the cushion involves a carrier, and I personally feel a noticeable forward/back transition. I thought it was pretty exceptional.

    Maybe the only thing that didn’t age well for me is the size of the shoe. It’s not heavy, and fits me TTS, but it does feel big on the outside. There is some merit with stability, but in the face of later Kobe’s, it is an outdated approach to achieve such performance. But don’t get me wrong, it is very much still a performance shoe by today’s standards.

  6. NOOOOOOOOO I didn’t want these to be a must cop. I still love my ZKI, and I only paid $40 for them so I am having a hard time wanting to pay the $175 once more GRs go up.

  7. Scored these upon release at my local foot locker.

    Gave them a good, hard 5 sessions of indoor ball and must say I was extremely disappointed with the performance and feel/fit of the shoe at the $175+ tax price point.

    To me, the shoe felt stiff, sloppy, clunky and clumsy and I’m a healthy 200+lbs post player. Felt and played like a retro rather than an “upgrade”. Back to my Bron XVs.

    Good build quality and great looking shoe but I would never play in these again.

    I ended up returning them.

    YMMV.

  8. Hey Duke, did your pair ever slightly cut into your achilles area? That yellow foam collar is a bit uncomfortable if I tie it my normal level of “tightness”. Unfortunately, I have to loosen up the collar a little, but luckily it doesn’t affect the lockdown too much.

    1. I got a little chafing in my right foot but not my left. However, my right ankle is permanently about 15% larger than my left due to ankle injuries over the years so I left that out.

  9. Even with the price being too high, I would cop these since the Kobe 1 was one of my all-time favorites. If only they were actually avaliable.

  10. Man I’ve been sitting on these since I got them All-Staruary. They have been on my mind and I just stumbled on this review to really wake me up. My rotation is so damn high, but you know how it is when you buy so many shoes because you love them. I will see about these badges this week!

  11. I just ended my final season, but I NEED these. Kobe is my favorite player, and I’ve played in all the previous models, so these might be a must!

    1. Fit and containment on the Westbrooks is better, cushioning feels about the same, traction on kobe 1 is better.

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