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Phoenix Effect – Reebok ZPump Rise Performance Review

Once upon a time, before most of you were born, there was a day when Nike was not the number one performance sneaker and apparel brand. I know, I know, you’re mind just EXPLODED. However, what you heard, the stories, it’s true — all of it.

In the mid-80’s, Reebok was King Kong. With a performance basketball line, aerobics shoes (I know), cross-trainers, runners, and tennis shoes, Reebok had a supremely strong foothold in the arena. Then came the early to mid-90’s and the next wave took over: first with the Pump system in ’89 (they did it best) and then Reignman, Big Dog, and the Answer around 1995-1996.

Since then? All downhill, culminating in the brand giving up the Vector branding and saying that besides for retro, basketball was dead to them. Oh, wait, I get it — they come back and resurrect the Pump system for ball, after we already saw it in the running line. Still relevant? Hmmmm…


zpump hink 3

MATERIALS – Wait, tell me if you have heard this before — mesh fabric upper with fuse overlay. You have? Guess what — you’ll hear it again. Not that it’s a bad thing, especially when you get a mesh like this.

Reebok took a micromesh material and overlayed with fuse layers in the high-stress areas around the laces and toebox (you toe-dragging dogs). Not the most supportive system but comfy from the first Pump. The inner sleeve is a nice open-cell mesh for comfort from the Pump bladder. Speaking of Pump bladder — it’s there too, but Fit is coming.

The ankle lining and collar has some of that super-rough/smooth cat’s tongue lining like the Rose 6 but not in the same level of coverage — just enough to grab and hold. Outsole is solid rubber, thick and ‘boned, and the midsole cushioning is WAY better than their last DMX Foam effort. Let’s roll…

zpump hink 2

FIT – Good and bad. Good: the ankle collar/Pump fit works. It took me about 50-65 pumps to finally get the heel slip eliminated, but once I got past the calloused thumbs I was good. The Pump bladder only goes around the ankle and a little over the front, so don’t expect the full foot to be wrapped. I did have the right shoe only losing some air from the bladder but after a few pumps it was right back in shape.

The forefoot fit is a little different. IF you can get your foot in the shoe — the Lebron XIII is cake compared to the Rise — you’ll get a normal width forefoot and midfoot. The forefoot looks narrow, and when pulled tight it looks EXTREMELY narrow, but that is because of the lacing system going as far down as it does. The front of the laceholes almost overlap but I didn’t get any hotspots, just an ugly wrinkle. My foot stayed on top of the midsole on cuts and drives and the Fuse overlays held tight on lateral movements.

Wide-footers could also get away with the forefoot fit but I’m not sure you will get in the collar. If you do, golden.

zpump hink 4

TRACTION – Look at that herringbone pattern; it’s all over the forefoot, completely across, deep, pliable, tough. BUT, and here is the great big but, I fell. Hard. Three times. All hard. Really hard. Front to back, it was beast. Running down the floor and stopping was monster. Crossing over or changing directions at full speed was a disaster of Phantom Menace proportion. Picture this: right handed dribble at the top, to left crossover, plant to go into jump motion, and BAM! As my right foot planted to jump, down goes Duke. At first I thought it was the move. Second time I thought it was the floor. Third time, I thought shoes. So off they came and on came the Curry 2. No more falls.

Next night I tried the Rise again and same thing, slipping on plants for jumpers doing drills on the same floor. Switch to the Jordan XX9, no more falls. I honestly have no idea why they slip, look at the traction; that $h!+ should be glue. Maybe the lack of a flex point or grooves, or maybe the flex point is too far back in the upper. Whatever it was, fix it.

zpump (580x363)

CUSHION – This is why the traction is so disappointing because the cushion feels nice — WAY better than anything Reebok has put out since the Iverson line. I read it was DMX foam but there are no  markings on the shoe, and if it is, whoever fixed the foam needs to fix the traction.

Immediately, I felt a slight response in the forefoot, a little bounce to it — like it feels the beat but ain’t sure of the groove. It rides low to the ground and with a wide stance it feels pretty quick and able. I won’t say it was DMX I-Pak, for those of you who know, but it felt close. But that traction though…

Heel cushion was solid. No jarring or feedback up the knees and lower back, but it wasn’t soft and springy either. Just a solid foam midsole for stable plants and landings.

zpump hink 5

STABILITY – Surprisingly, for a lower-cut shoe, containment and stability were on point. The heel counter is external, as you can see, and ties into the heel cup and midsole forming a support wonderland. Not really, but it’s Christmas time, so I’m feeling generous. It does a good job of holding your foot and making it safe without being helicopter parents. It is not a hard piece — that would have sliced my heels up through the mesh upper. Instead, it is more rubber than plastic and allows the freedom to move anywhere except sideways.

There is either a really hard section of rubber under the arch or an unadvertised internal shank that won’t let the shoe bend. Also, the way the midsole is arched under the arch means it takes some real compression to push the shoe down that far.

OVERALL – So close. SO FREAKING CLOSE. Cushion = good. Fit = good, not great. Stability = good. Materials = meh, but on par with what we get from (almost) every other company. Traction =          . Again, I have no idea why. Like Bigfoot and Batman, another one of life’s greatest mysteries.

It makes me happy to see Reebok back and for more than Shaq and Dee Brown appearances. Regardless of my thoughts on these, I am really excited about the direction Reebok is headed and look forward to what’s next. The technology is there, design is good, and we all need some variety in our closets.

reebok pump rise (435x580)


  1. To what other brand foam cushioning is the midsole foam comparable to? I have not experienced any reebok foams to make a judgement on their past cushioning setups.

    1. DMX air transfer systems are unbelievable. DMX foam is a homie and complete crap. About 9 years ago they had another great midsole system in the hex ride but they screwed that up. The dno system on the iverson takes a minute to get used to because the air pods balance your body weight but while they are the high pressure point the traction under them have flat areas it would have been insane to have herring bone pads at those contact points

  2. The sizing on bocks are like adidas with the lasts they use are all over the place and you realy need to try reeboks and adidas on while Nike and under armour you can go TTS

  3. Good performance review from Duke. Sucks to hear about the traction but, a thumbs up for the cushioning. I guess eventually Reebok will get it right.

  4. Sorry for the double, but my guess for the traction issues, is the oldest factor in the book, flex-grooves, the window-wiper/herringbone is too compact without proper flex-grooves, if the sole had flex-grooves the rubber would ‘open-up’ to the floor contact more.

  5. i think you slipped because of the outline of the outsole. the traction was going inward but the side walls i think were thicker so once you plant laterally and you overpronate if i am not mistaken, only the side wall will stick to the floor thus you might roll over your ankle or slip.

    1. I think Nene hit it and it is what I thought – the forefoot is too stiff with no flex. It has to be able to keep the foot on the floor while moving.

  6. Is it so hard to hire someone that actually hoops and is familiar with performance shoes at that damn company?
    Honestly with the embarrassing way they have handled their ufc contract, I really expected nothing better.
    Just no attention to detail.
    From swizz beats to rampage Jackson it’s just been a trash pile

    1. I wouldn’t say they are completely bad. For a post player or a non-dynamic player they would be good. Just if you rely on quickness beware.

      1. I have these shoes and they are awesome. Good traction Good fit Good cushioning good flexibility good materials idk what you are reviewing. This is coming from a dynamic player too ….

        1. I reviewed the reebok zpump rise – it said it right in the title, or maybe you missed that. Anyway, this was a shoe that was not as bad as I expected but not as good as it could have been. Not a bad shoe, just had some issues. If you liked it, cool, I really hope reebok comes back as a strong brand.

  7. Thank you for risking your life reviewing recent “performance” Reebok shoes. Kind of sad how far they’ve fallen. At one time they were right there neck and neck with Nike. If it isn’t an Iverson or Kamikaze Retro I pass. And even then it needs to be the right colorway for the right price.

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