When most people think of basketball shoes, oversized and overweight high tops are usually the image. Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant have opted for low cut signature shoes the past few years and many more will surely follow as the trending opinion raises concerns that bulky high top basketball shoes reduce the mobility of the ankle (which is a BIG issue in a sport that moves as quickly as basketball), which in turn leads to a joint used for stability (namely the knee) to have to behave in a more mobile manner. If you don't know what that can possibly lead to, ask Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert, David West, Ricky Rubio, Nerlens Noel, Danilo Gallinari or any of the other dozens of NBA players who have suffered ACL injuries over the past few years. It is a gruesome injury with a long recovery period and is afflicting more players each year.
Most studies done on knee motion when the ankle mobility is restricted show no direct correlation between that and an increased incidence of ACL injury. Studies like this one. And this one. So which is it? Why are so many basketball players all of a sudden been dropping like flies with ACL problems? Have you ever seen Tyson Chandler's legs?
There might lay the answer. Without turning this discussion away from the shoes (too late), when you have a sport that is rapidly increasing in the speed and quickness of the game, you have to proportionately increase the strength of the players lower extremities to compensate for the extra forces exerted onto the joints and ligaments during each jump, landing, turn, juke, Euro-step or crossover. When that sport features nightly lineups full of freakishly tall humans, who often have difficulty with traditional lower body exercises like squats and deadlifts, an increase in knee ligament injuries shouldn't be a big surprise.
So as the game gets faster and quicker, players are likely going to look to adapt in ways in addition to their strength and conditioning programs to reduce the probability (you can never really prevent) of an ACL tear happening to them. Is a switch back to a low cut shoe the answer? Likely not. And then if not, is using different technologies to increase stability while decreasing weight, as well as thinner material over the ankle going to help? Maybe. Better strength and conditioning programs to emphasize lower body strength and stability? Probably. Regardless, this is a perfect example of how the fashion industry is not only focusing on athletic inspired gear with a fashionable slant, but pushing the boundaries of performance while doing so. With the new Kobe 9 Elite, a whole new silhouette is created, and in addition it has Flyknit, Lunarlon and Flywire integration. It's sorta cool, yet sorta hideous from a fashion standpoint but with maybe just enough cool to stick. And if they weigh anything near what the Kobe 8's weigh (9.6 oz vs 8.4 oz for the Flyknit Trainer. The LeBron 11 is 14.5 oz. That's a damn light shoe.) they'll be in a class of their own.
They also are releasing a lo cut, which will be the main version I assume, but if the Elite takes off and players like the feel and consumers like the look, there will surely not only be plenty of colorways to follow but plenty of similar options popping up from the competition. Surely, with ACL injury prevention being heralded at the forefront...rightly so or not.