Kobe Bryant, the most decorated basketball player still playing in the NBA, has a new pair of shoes, the Kobe VIII, that's so ridiculously light you can hardly tell you're wearing them. Weighing at only 9.6 ounces, the secret in its lightness is in Nike's new engineered mesh technology. It feels like sweatpants.
Kobe has always been on the cutting edge of basketball shoe technology. When most players were wearing high tops to protect their ankles, Kobe went with a low cut shoe years ago. When most players opt for something bulky, Kobe wants a shoe that weighs nearly half the typical basketball shoe (for comparison, LeBron James wears a shoe that's nearly 17 oz). This isn't your typical basketball shoe, it combines the best features from other athletic shoes (think soccer or running) and incorporates it into something you can wear on the hardwood.
So how did it get so light? It's because the upper of the shoe is all "engineered mesh", something never used in a basketball shoe before. Think Nike's Flyknit technology with more support. It's different from the stiff uppers typically found in basketball shoes because it kind of, sort of molds to the wearer's foot. Like a tailored fit. There's a feeling of give in the "engineered mesh" material that's almost unfamiliar. Kobe himself said that there's a learning curve to wearing the Kobe VIIIs because basketball players aren't used to having that flexible fitting upper. They're used to the upper of shoe being a brick wall, not the elastic sweatpants you wear after Thanksgiving dinner.
The benefit of "engineered mesh" is that it theoretically speeds up your movement. Instead of feeling your foot move inside the typical shoe when you cut, the shoe snugly hugs the foot and molds it into one. The midsole is Nike's LunarLon and the heel has a "3D anatomical heel counter". Basically, everything in the shoe is focused on making it as light as possible. It's nearly the lightest basketball shoe in the world (the Adidas adiZero Crazy Light 2's are 9.5oz) and it certainly feels it.
As for the look of the shoe, which is, um, different? Nike designers wanted to make the exterior look like a snake's vision of heat, like thermal mapping. The patterns were created using Adobe Illustrator and Actionscript (!) and hides some of the more structural zones needed for all the cuts a basketball player makes. The design certainly sounds really cool in theory but can get a little splotchy in execution. Some will love it, some will hate it. Kind of like Kobe.