The PUMA MB.02 is LaMelo Ball’s second signature sneaker, and it includes plenty of upgrades (including cushioning) from the PUMA MB.01.
Colorway: Fiery Coral-Ultra Orange
Release Date: October 21, 2022
The Puma MB.01 was one of the best basketball shoes of 2021. For LaMelo Ball’s second signature shoe, the PUMA MB.02, Puma has kept the overall design language similar, and some key changes have been implemented to distinguish the shoe from its predecessor. But is it an upgrade?
The PUMA MB.02 also appears in our Best Puma Basketball Shoes and Best for Ankle Support lists.
The MB.02 utilizes a traction pattern that looks like feathers (inspired by one of LaMelo’s tattoos, of course) and it’s a multidirectional setup that works well indoors. The pattern is on the tighter side, so on dustier courts, you’ll have to wipe the outsoles pretty frequently. It’s not a top-tier setup, but it gets the job done. The outsole is rounded, and the traction pattern wraps up the medial side of the forefoot, which keeps you covered on shiftier side-to-side movements.
My pair has a translucent rubber outsole, and the compound is ultra-sticky and grippy, just like it was on the MB.01. I haven’t played in a colorway with a solid rubber outsole, but with the lackluster performance of solid rubber outsoles on the MB.01, there *could* be a disparity in performance on the MB.02 as well. If you get a colorway with translucent rubber, you’ll be good to go.
Don’t expect these to last too long if you’re planning on playing in them outdoors. The rubber grooves are thin, and the compound is soft, so you’ll wear through the outsole quickly.
The MB.01’s biggest drawback was its cushion – it wasn’t necessarily bad, but it didn’t offer much impact protection, and provided good-not-great court feel.
Like the MB.01, the Puma MB.02 utilizes Nitro foam, but this time, it’s in the heel and forefoot. The problem is that the rest of the midsole consists of a thick, dense slab of compression-molded EVA. Using foam that dense as a carrier means I didn’t feel the softer Nitro foam as much as I would have liked. Even after significant break-in time, the midsole just feels too dense and thick – especially for a shoe made for a point guard. The positive of using compression-molded foam is its longevity, but if Puma’s going to use foam this dense, I would have preferred a lower-profile setup – not just for court feel, but also for a little more flexibility and weight reduction.
On a positive note, using a thicker dual-density foam setup means the MB.02’s impact protection is solid. Overall though, the combination of a narrow, rounded outsole with a thick cushion setup made for a less-than-desirable underfoot ride for me. If you’re not too concerned with court feel, or if you tend to compress and bottom out other foam cushions too quickly, this could be a good setup for you.
Engineered mesh and fuse – we’ve seen it many times before, but this isn’t my favorite implementation of it.
The mesh is thin and feels more like plastic than mesh, which makes the upper feel more fuse-y than I’d like. There are some positives with a setup like this: the materials are durable and offer some breathability, and they’re strong enough to keep my foot from shifting over the footbed.
The upper does become more flexible after some breaking in, but it feels like a downgrade from the MB.01, which used soft textiles and a thin fuse to create a flexible, strong, and comfortable upper.
I got my true size, and that’s what I’d recommend for most people. The MB.02 fits slightly more narrow than the MB.01, and about the same lengthwise.
I had no containment issues with the MB.02 – I felt locked in from heel to toe. The mid-top build gives you a couple more eyelets to work with than you would get on a low, and the traditional lacing system means you can adjust the fit to your specific needs. When I laced these all the way up to the top eyelet, the collar felt a bit too restrictive, so I laced up to the second-to-last eyelet and had a good experience.
While these do run a little narrow, they’re not snug to the point where wide footers would feel left out. There’s some extra room above the toe, which created a gnarly fuse bubble once I laced these up and started playing. While I’d much rather have an upper that fits closely over the top of my toes, this ends up being a non-issue since it doesn’t negatively impact forefoot containment.
If the materials were a little softer and more flexible, I think the shoe would feel much better on foot, like the MB.01 did, but as it is, the upper does its job of containing the foot and providing the basis for the MB.02’s support.
If you get a proper fit, you’ll find the MB.02’s support to be solid. The shoe doesn’t have an outrigger, or even a particularly wide base, but the dense midsole brings some stability underfoot. There’s also a midfoot shank plate, which combines with the thick midsole to make the MB.02 a little stiffer than I’d prefer. However, it also means the shoe isn’t going to bend in the wrong direction, either.
As I mentioned before, the MB.02 does a good job of keeping the foot contained, and I felt locked in from heel to toe. The support would have been aided by lowering the stack height of the midsole and widening the base a bit, but that isn’t a dealbreaker when it comes to support. Get your correct size, and you’ll be good to go.
PUMA MB.02 Overall
Playing in the PUMA MB.02 was a mixed bag for me – the traction and fit were up to par, but I wasn’t a fan of the stiff cushion setup and materials. For a guard shoe, I would expect more flexibility and court feel, especially when you utilize features like a rounded outsole and denser foam. If you don’t mind sitting a little higher off the ground than on a typical guard shoe, the PUMA MB.02 might be worth trying out.
It’s not a bad shoe by any means, but for $130, there are definitely better options around the MB.02’s price point. If you’re wanting to try something from Puma this season, I’m partial to the Rise Nitro, which you can find for even less than its already-good $125 retail price.
Interview with the Designer
What’s in the video?
We all know Tinker Hatfield. Tinker is responsible for the majority of our favorite Air Jordans. His name is almost synonymous with sneaker design. But a lot of the best designers today aren’t known to the general public, and here at WearTesters, we feel that needs to change.
In the video above, we talk with the Head of Design, PUMA Basketball, Jeremy Sallee. He talks about the design process of the PUMA MB.02, what it’s like to work with LaMelo Ball, and why they made specific changes to the PUMA MB.02 from the MB.01.
To give you a taste of the insights he shares, Chris asked him how the Rick and Morty collab of the PUMA MB.01 came about. Jeremy told us all that it started with PUMA asking LaMelo Ball what his favorite things were. He named Rick and Morty as a favorite show and the partnership evolved from there.
Toward the end, he answers a few questions from our awesome Discord community members including how Puma’s grip is so sticky, whether a Vince Carter retro is coming in the near future, and if MB.02’s with high-end materials like leather and suede are ever coming our way. Overall, it’s a real treat to hear how much love and effort is put into the design and creation of a single sneaker.
Other PUMA MB.02 Colorways
PUMA MB.02 Slime
PUMA MB.02 Spanish Review
PUMA MB.02 Initial Impressions
The PUMA MB.02 is a much-anticipated release in large part thanks to the success of the PUMA MB.01. That shoe was one of the best basketball shoes in recent memory. In 2022, we get the second signature shoe of LaMelo Ball, and it looks like PUMA has made it even better. We hope you enjoy the video as Chris takes you on a tour of the shoe and gives insight into how the shoe was created on location at the PUMA North America headquarters.
What’s in the video?
In the video, Chris provides detailed information from all the usual categories, providing the in-depth information you need. He supplies expert-level opinions on the materials, cushioning, traction, support, and fit. Here’s some of what he discusses:
- Window-style box
- More production units
- Incredible traction pattern
- 3D-printed resin tooling
- Compression-molded EVA midsole
- Heel and forefoot nitrogen-infused foam
- Maker’s Lab and lasts
- Micro-molded mesh upper with fuse overlays
- Tattoo-inspired design
- Slightly rounded, wide base
- Midfoot torsion bar
- Internal and external heel counters
A couple of additional points: FIT — the same last was used on the MB.01 and the MB.02. So, whichever size you wore in the first model is what you should wear with the second. If you have not worn a pair of the MB.01, then true to size is best — wide footers will want to go up half a size.
The last used for the MB series is LaMelo’s actual foot shape. What Melo wears is exactly what the retail pairs are. We will go over that more in-depth next week when we sit down with the designer of the PUMA MB.02.
Let us know your opinion on the MB.02 in the comment section below or on YouTube or Twitter.
How to Buy the PUMA MB.02
The PUMA MB.02 is now available for $130 at Puma and for $135 at Foot Locker. More colorways are on the way in the near future.
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