Nike Shox VC 1
I knew that Nike would continue to refine and improve upon the original hoops implementation of their Shox technology as found in last year's Shox BB4, but I had no idea that they'd be able to get so far so quickly. With the new Shox VC Nike has carried over all of the highlights of the original shoe, but has managed to make everything just a bit better (for more background on Nike's Shox technology see our review of the Nike Shox BB4). The biggest change in the Nike Shox VC is the addition of Shox columns at the forefoot to complement those at the heel. While the Shox VC isn't the first shoe from Nike to feature Shox technology at the forefoot as well as the heel (that distinction goes to the Nike Shox XT, see figure 5a), it is the first hoops shoe to employ Shox at the forefoot. Also, unlike the Shox XT, which features one wide column that runs the width of the forefoot, the Shox VC actually has lots of small Shox columns at the forefoot. There are, to be exact, fifteen Shox columns at the forefoot and four at the heel for a total of nineteen. That's a lot of columns, but if you're a big player or a high flyer or both, you'll be glad that they're all there. Given my initial experience with the first few colorways of the Shox BB4 I was a bit concerned that the Shox columns would start out too hard, resulting in some initial discomfort. But my fears were unfounded as the Nike Shox VC felt great right out of the box at both the forefoot and heel. In just one generation Nike seems to have managed to get the tuning of the Shox columns down pat. The columns begin to deform under lower weight loads and, particularly at the forefoot, are fairly easy to "squish" using hand pressure. I actually thought that the columns at the forefoot might be too soft because they were so easy to deform individually, but when working in concert the Shox columns at the forefoot provide cushioning that perfectly balances impact protection and stability. Same goes for the Shox columns at the heel. The Shox VC doesn’t provide the responsive cushioning feel of the Nike Air Flightposite III, but it still feels very good and should be more than adequate in the cushioning department for even the heaviest of players. Speaking of stability, the Shox cushioning system is probably the best thing out there today in this area, but there's more to the stability of the Nike Shox VC than the cushioning system alone. The most obvious stability enhancing feature is the large heel counter that cups the foot from the heel to the midfoot. In addition to playing its standard role as a heel support and stabilization device, the heel counter on the Shox VC serves two important functions. First, it distributes the impact forces from the four large Shox columns at the heel of the shoe across the entire surface of the heel of the foot. This is important because, otherwise, impact forces would be concentrated at the parts of the heel directly above the Shox columns -- a condition that would lead to foot pain and injury. Second, the heel counter, by extending all the way through the midfoot area, minimizes torsional rotation. This keeps the forefoot and heel of the foot working together and provides a more stable, predictable base for hard cuts, takeoffs and landings. This is all very effective, but wait, there's more! Like the Shox BB4, the Shox VC incorporates a monkey paw structure at the medial side of the ankle to prevent ankle inversion (see figure 2). For more on the monkey paw you can see our review of the Nike Air Zoom GP III, but in short, it's a series of stiff finger-like structures that extend up from the base of the shoe to near the top of the ankle. The stiffness of the structure makes it very difficult to roll your ankle inwards. If you were to land awkwardly on someone else's foot it's still possible that you could roll your ankle, but it's very unlikely that you would do so during the course of normal play in the Nike Shox VC. To go along with all of this stability the Shox VC also provides the foot with lots of support, which is important for comfort through long periods of wear. Unlike the Shox BB4 in which the heel counter was bonded directly to the upper of the shoe, the Shox VC has a Phylon buffer that sits between the heel counter and the upper (it's the black strip that borders the heel counter). The Phylon buffer is sculpted to provide additional support in the areas where it's needed most. But, again, there's more to this story. In addition to the Phylon buffer support for the foot is provided by the upper and inner of the shoe. Much like the Air Jordan XVII the Shox VC does not have a traditional tongue. Instead, the tongue is fully integrated into the lining of the inner forming a full-length bootie that wraps the foot in nearly seamless comfort (the few seams in the inner are kept well away from areas where they may cause chafing). When the elastic outer is zipped up over this inner bootie the Shox VC feels almost as though it becomes an extension of the foot. Just like a very comfortable sock, the shoe provides support to the entirety of the foot. The only thing to be aware of is that the Shox VC seems to be cut a bit on the small side. This may have been done on purpose to maximize fit, but if you're just on the borderline between two sizes you may have to go to the larger size. For me, however, my standard size fit perfectly. The only caveat is that since, as in almost all Nike shoes, the sockliner is glued in and the inner is so snug it may be impossible for people who use custom orthotics to fit both the orthotics and their feet into the shoe. One thing I left out in the above description of the inner is the lacing system. The inner of the Nike Shox VC is quite a thing to behold and far too complicated to properly explain in words. It's actually almost like a mobius strip in that it appears to be two-sided, but is actually (almost) a one-sided structure. I say this because the outer seems to become the inner of the shoe. I know that I'm just confusing you now so I'll stop, you really just have to see it. In any case, sandwiched between the outer and the inner bootie is a layer of material that holds the laces as well as rows of thermoplastic urethane strips that run vertically along both sides of the shoe. It's these rib-like strips that give the Shox VC the look of a lean, mean animal. Some may think that this looks weird, but it's one of my favorite things about the design of the shoe. According to Nike the ribs are meant to provide an additional measure of support, but they really seem to be more of a design element. When I first saw the shoe I thought that it would feel very stiff because of the ribs, but they are actually very flexible and the shoe does not have a stiff feeling to it at all. In fact, thanks to the innovative design of the upper, the Shox VC felt much more comfortable to me right out of the box and up through my last test wearing than the Shox BB4. When testing the Shox BB4 I experienced some pain at the midfoot on my first wearing, but felt no such discomfort in the Shox VC. One important thing to note, however, is that the Nike Shox VC must be worn with socks that run higher than the cut of the shoe. Due to the high cut of the shoe across the back of the ankle it will rub against the skin along your achilles tendon if it is not covered by a sock. It's generally a good idea to wear ankle-high socks with any mid-cut shoe, but it's particularly important with the Nike Shox VC. To sum up, the Nike Shox VC is an excellent all-around hoops shoe that is particularly well-suited to players who spend a lot of time in the air, but also to any players who put a pounding into their shoes. Mid-sized to heavy players will probably benefit the most from the firm cushioning provided by the Shox columns at the forefoot and heel, but even fast, active guards will appreciate the excellent support, stability and traction that the Shox VC provides. The only downside I could identify from a performance perspective is the weight of the shoe, which is on the heavy side, but the numerous pluses, in my opinion, more than outweigh (no pun intended) this one negative. The biggest impediment to purchase for many will likely be the shoe's steep $160 price tag and, while that's certainly a lot of cash, the Nike Shox VC does deliver a tremendous amount of innovation and performance in a shoe that should prove very durable so long as it's used indoors-only. The Force is great in movies, but if you're a true skywalker on the court you need a shoe that can minimize the impact forces transmitted to your body. The Nike Shox VC might just be the best shoe available today in that department. And if you like to juke and weave on the court you need maximum stability. Again, the Nike Shox VC is about as good as it gets on this front. Awesome impact protection and awesome levels stability, that's a compelling combo. Throw in excellent comfort, excellent fit, and excellent traction and you have a force to be reckoned with. I loved the Nike Shox VC after my first five test wearings and subsequent wearings of additional colorways have only made my heart grow fonder. After my initial tests I read multiple reports on various message boards stating that the upper of the Nike Shox VC ripped very easily. But in my testing of all of the colorways of the shoe I have experienced no such problem, even after having the shoes stepped on and scuffed repeatedly during some tough full court games. So I can only report that, in my own experience, the Nike Shox VC has proved to be a highly durable shoe. In terms of performance I found that all of the new colorways shown here perform identically to the varsity red/black/metallic silver colorway that I originally reviewed. The shoe may start out feeling a bit tight, but once the light foam padding within the inner breaks in, it should fit perfectly. If you're trying the Shox VC on for size I would recommend walking around and jumping for a little while to allow the inner of the shoe to break in a bit before trying on a size larger than you would normally wear. If you go too big in size you will lose much of the Shox VC's superior comfort & fit benefits. (Review Done By Kicksology.net Professor K.)
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