Outsole Exploration--Why only in the Hoops Division?

Hey all-

I was looking at my stepdad’s running shoes the other day (I’m just beginning to make a concentrated effort at creating a running regimen) and noticed the outsole patters looked nearly identical on his Asics Gel Kayano 10’s, Asics Gel Nimbus 8’s, and Asics Gel Nimbus 10’s.

I got to thinking-Are the running divisions of these companies keeping everything the same because the outsole patterns simply work that well? Certainly, shoe companies tend to incorporate alike patterns on their yearly team incarnations, (see the '08 and '07 Nike Elite line) yet why is there so much deviation from year to year in the basketball realm? I’d consider traction to be substantially more important in a basketball game than when running around an indoor track or running on the sidewalks, so why aren’t hoops companies sticking with what works? The outsole tread on the Zoom Kobe 1, And1 Edge, and Reebok ATR Vertical III just work. Why don’t companies stick with the same outsole patterns? Does design play that large a role in how the outsole is formed? Is it price point related restrictions that force companies to retract some ideas regarding traction?

Thanks to anyone who can give input.


Jeremy Ripley

Well, without commenting on whether or not those asics indeed HAVE the same tread- I would say the differences are rather night and day (although the process for each are similar).

Runners, generally speaking, are not really big changers. Core runners might even find a pair of shoes then go back to stock up on years worth out of fear that they will need a new pair and not get what they want/ know. While not resistant to technology, and thus change, core runners usually need good reason for this to happen.

Most hoopers, generally, ask for change after every pair, and are very willing to try technology that might otherwise fail. This might be ill conceived straps, mechanical devices that engineering failed (tmacs/ puma), too much or too little use of velcro. But for the most part, this consumer wants new all the time- and is more willing to pay for it in dollars and product failure.

This of course doesn’t include the needs of companies to hit target prices- but you already mentioned that.

Just my 2c… any thoughts or contradictions?

One other factor…

Basketball + Fashion.

And both are fast paced.

Having played for several years, it’s hard not to notice guys coming onto the court with their brand new matching Brand X, Y, Z gear. Easily spending a hundred, or two hundred on court gear (for each daily ‘outfit’). Some guys who I’d play with upwards to 5 or 6 days a week would constantly show up with different stuff everyday. Even shoes. Matching shoes to shorts to wristbands and headbands. I’ve even heard someone making fun of someone else’s “last years Jordan, Nike, Reebok, etc”. These are full grown athlete males. Insane. I would just show up in my tshirt and shorts, covered in paint, straight from my house painting job, hence the quick to be given court name “the painter”. Funny stuff.

Thanks guys for the great responses!

I think everything presented was extremely valid. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve tried a basketball shoe just because of a new technological implementation. Obviously, some new advacements have worked (Zoom Kobe 2–though not perfectly) and some have failed miserably (Reebok Pump Arrival).

I think a lot of this rapid change we see is thanks to the hip-hop fashion revolution of the late '80-early '90’s. Having the newest, freshest, cleanest shoe was the best way to express your individuality. Of course, I don’t think this solely dictated the vast growth we’ve seen technologically in the past two decades, but I think it’s played a large role.