words and images_Zac Dubasik
Thanks to the Zoom Kobe IV’s highly successful reintroduction of the low-top to today’s ballers, the cuts on hoops shoes have been trending downward at a rapid pace. After a few years of ankle injuries not increasing, even some skeptics are starting to doubt the importance of a high-top for maximum protection. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t still a place for high-tops in today’s marketplace. Whether or not it actually means added protection, many people still like the more secure feeling of a high-top. What it does mean though is that in order to compete with the lighter weights and lower cuts that are so prevalent today, high-tops need to be that much better than ever before.
I’m someone that doesn’t have hang-ups with low-tops. I like the increased range of motion, and inherent weight reduction, that comes from chopping height off a shoe’s collar. When I first saw the Melo M7 in person, my initial thoughts were, “Wow, these are much higher than I was expecting.” Also, the shoe didn’t feel overly heavy in my hand, but it definitely wasn’t light either. Considering that heavy, high-cut hoops shoes aren’t that high on my list of what I like playing in, I was a little skeptical about this shoe. But then I played in them.
Just because a shoe has a high cut, it doesn’t have to feel restrictive. And just because a shoe is not the lightest ever doesn’t mean it has to play heavy. In fact, when a shoe can play lighter and lower than it actually is, you can achieve some of the benefits that a more substantial shoe can offer (such as increased support and durability), while still reaping the benefits of its increased playability. But this is not an easy balance to achieve. I give a ton of credit to the shoe’s designer, Justin Taylor, for pulling it off.
Taylor achieved this high-level playability, despite the shoe’s high cut, through excellent design. There are many small, but thoughtful areas where he was able to tweak the design to get the most performance possible out of the shoe. Starting with the upper, the mesh underlays provide targeted relief points, and keep the shoe from being too stiff. While I would have liked to see them add more breathability, they work great as far as helping to keep the upper flexible, but still very supportive. You may not have noticed, but the shoe also has a slight asymmetrical collar. It’s nowhere near as drastic as a shoe like the Air Jordan 2010, but it’s still a useful amount of relief in terms of collar restriction. One of the most impressive features of the entire shoe is one most people will never see. The shape of the tongue is basically perfect. High, wrapping tongues are popular, but can get in way of a secure fit. When there is that much material competing with you, it can be detrimental to collar security. The way the pattern of the tongue, along with its thickness, and the thickness of the collar, work together, is flat out impressive. If you’ve ever struggled with a tongue and collar getting in each other’s ways, you’ll love how well this was done. Add in the molded heel notch, along with the external counter, and upper fit is as secure as you could want.
Moving to the shoe’s tooling, the Melo M7 has employed the forefoot Zoom, heel Air cushioning setup. The Melo line has utilized a wide range of cushioning setups, but it’s clear that Melo himself is a fan of forefoot Zoom Air, because that has been the most frequently used element in each setup. Like I always say, heel Air with forefoot Zoom is my favorite setup, and it functions here exactly as I’ve come to expect. From a profile shot of the shoe, it may appear that there are Free-like flex-groves that segment the outsole. These grooves actually don’t span the midsole, but they still offer some relief points for the shoe to flex well through the forefoot. The transition was very smooth, and helped create a solid court feel. Thanks to that great transition, along with its flexible upper, it allowed the shoe to play and feel much lighter than it actually was. Sticky traction rounded out the shoe’s tooling and gave me the confidence to cut and slash at will without any worries.
Looks are always subjective. You may or may not like the M7’s style. There’s so much more to a shoe’s design than how it looks though. From a functionality perspective, the M7 is as impressively designed of a shoe as it gets. I feel that Taylor’s achievement, at least in part, is a direct result from being a player himself. In wearing the same size 15 as Melo, the 6’6” Taylor is able to weartest the shoe all throughout the earliest stages of the design process — a major benefit to the improvements made along the way and a rare design influence in the industry. The shoe is a major achievement in the balance between the proprioception of a high-top, with very minimal sacrifice in mobility. I was highly impressed with the M7’s ability to not get in its own way, despite the additional height. In contrast to the high-cut LeBron 8, the M7 achieves the feel of a shoe built with speed in mind, rather than a focus more on impact protection. Priced at $130, the M7 isn’t cheap, and will be up against an elite level of sneaker competition, but from a performance standpoint, you’ll have a hard time finding a better value.
Available now: Jordan Melo M7