It's not often you get utterly coldcocked by a sneaker, but there's only one reaction when you peep the Reebok Zigtechs. Gimme a W, gimme a T, gimme an F! What's that spell? WTF! Yes, tis true, they are as nutty as a fruitcake and they are most 150% definitely not everyone's cup of peppermint tea, especially in this day and age of twee fashionability – but that's exactly what makes this new-tech project from Reebok so admirable! Bravo to their design team for investing in such a dynamic and eye-catching package. Who knows, with a little luck, Zigtech could become a true future classic!
If form follows function as Louis Sullivan prescribed, then I guess you would still wonder what the hell Zigtech has been designed to do. Is it a cross trainer for tai-bo? How about Zumba? Is it an outdoor hiker for space patrols in the year 2067? Close, but no cigar Buck Rogers! Reebok are presenting Zigtech firmly as a running shoe, and they are rather serious about the tech credentials. As a product of their Advanced Innovation Department, you'd expect Pump Designer Paul Litchfield's fingerprints all over this concept and that's as good a pedigree as any. The humble slinky is the analogy that Reebok use to explain the concept, and as an attention grabber, it makes some sort of sense to the average joe. Everybody loves slinkys! If you wanna get into the jargon, there's a ‘Flexible Dispersion Plate' to provide stability and minimize micro-vibrations. The plate mirrors the ground, sandwiching the zig-zag midsole which allows forces to bounce up and down and propel you forward.How does it feel? Well, first off, it is light. No doubt about that. At 300-ish grams, it's not a feather but it still qualifies as a bantamweight. Reebok claim they have a ‘unique geometry' that enables ‘energy transfer' back to the running stride, which frankly, is something we couldn't verify even when you wear them out and about. Nor is the claim that muscles are reduced in stress by up to 20% by the Zig-motion. That would be a vague science depending on a ton of variables but with a claimed 17,500 miles of wear tests logged already, I'll take their word for it. There must be something going on under that wiggly worm of foam!
Speaking of which, I did enquire as to the exact nature of that stupendous sole unit. Apparently it's technically known as ‘MJ14 3D Ultralite foam compound' which is a ‘proprietary injected blend of ethyl vinyl acetetate foam and high grade rubber'.
At a time in the game when innovation largely means a choice between grey suede and grey canvas, there is something uncannily brilliant about Zigtech. Like visible Air, or even 1989's use of a tiny basketball to Pump up our kicks, Zigtech is a literal visual representation - admittedly it's of some new kind of contraption that we've never seen before!
Without resorting to Sneakernerd101, history is littered with examples of heretical footwear designs that were initially rejected by the masses. Over time, the legend is slowly revealed and they mature into ‘classics and fan favourites'. A few designs come to mind in this category such as the PUMA Mostro which found huge fame despite being utterly bonkers. Consider also a slew of Jordans, most notably the Elevens, Air Rifts, Shox... even the Don of New York style, the Air Force 1 was largely shunned on release before being resurrected to become one of the greatest sellers of all time.
Initial reaction seems to suggest that Zigtech has found a niche in the US market. Whether that translates outside of the world's biggest basketball market, where big shoes are part of the deal, is another matter. Signing John Wall certainly helps, because he'll be playing in the new Zigtech Slash, the basketball version.
So in summary, they're big and chunky and in-your-face and they'll freak the hell out of your grandmother. But think of it this way.... It has to look like a bunch of bananas otherwise what's the point of making another boring shoe? God bless the Zigtech!
TEXT : STEVE AUSTIN