Performance Review: Reebok Q96

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Crossover success is rare in the realm of revamped retro basketball shoes. Upgrading iconic models for modern performance wear is a novel concept attempted by many that rarely results in acclaim from consumers or even endorsers. Not afraid to play with the past, Reebok called upon the two most iconic models in all of the brand’s hoop history: the Reebok Question and the Pump Omni Lite. Rather than start from scratch with new archetypes or athletes, the storied silos became the foundation of what would be the brand’s next step in performance basketball category with the introduction of the Reebok Q96 and Pumpspective Omni. Both offerings see fresh takes on old favorites, with the likes of Nerlens Noel, Jason Terry and Isaiah Thomas carrying the torch for Reebok, Dee Brown and, of course, Allen Iverson.

Just as putting on a pendant of faith or family can evoke strength in an athlete the same way wearing one’s team jersey or country colors can create pride, lacing up a pair of Iverson’s sneakers calls up courage and charisma. Simply put, Allen Iverson was the most fearless player to ever hit the hardwood, and if you ever watched him play during his prime you know that. He led the league in scoring at under six feet tall and gave every ounce of effort he had while on the floor. His attitude was unmatched, and anything with his name attached represented just that. Back in the day, hooping in a pair of AI kicks stirred up the psyche to not only get yours but to get your opponent, too. Was such the case for the revamped, retirement-era Reebok Q96? Check out this performance review to find out.

Lockdown: Lockdown performes well on the Reebok Q96, but that score should also come with a major asterisk. Generally speaking, I wear a size 11 for all of my casual footwear and go down to a 10.5 for hoops so that my shoe fits like a second skin. I had to size all the way down to a 10 for the Q96, wear a reasonably thick sock and lace them up extra tight. Once all that was done? Good to go. Never felt like the shoe was slipping and the synthetics used on the upper play surprisingly lighter and less pinchy than most modern competitors. Once sized down, these fit right from the inside out. The Q96 broke in nicely and fit well all around the foot, making it a great shoe for guards.

Traction: Traction was an area that really impressed with the Q96. I was very pleased with the traction on both sides of the ball, but it really showed out on defense. There were numerous times while playing where I bit on a pump fake or jumped too soon and was still able to recover. On the other side of the ball, the grip is great for jab steps or any grandeur crossovers. You can easily play on the balls of your feet and not feel like you’re going anywhere. I liked the traction on these a lot indoors but really loved it outdoors. Granted, the icy outsole has been done before and the traction pattern isn’t anything too unique. Nevertheless, it works.

Cushioning: The new age DMX Foam doesn’t wow like that of tech debuted back in the 9-7, but it feels like a throwback to older guard shoes. The DMX Foam on the Q96 is low profile and far from firm. It’s not really springy, just cushy. While the original DMX technology used on the Answer 1 was pod driven, noticeable, and borderline unstable by today’s standards, DMX Foam plays light, soft, and low to the ground – a stark but welcome contrast to the Hexalite cushioning used on the OG Questions. From a performance standpoint, this is probably what makes the Q96 such a modern improvement from the original.

Responsiveness: It’s hard to give responsiveness a super high score because none of the technology really has a bounce back or boomerang effect. The DMX Foam absorbs more than it refracts and the upper pretty much just stays there. Nonetheless, lack of response was never an issue while issue playing, with the traction and court feel almost adding a surprise supplement in this category.

Support: I never really had any issues with support when playing in these. Despite their lightweight and low-profile feel, I felt stable on both sides of the ball. For the everyday player, these score well in support on the “less is more” basis. They fit snug, they’re light and they’re balanced. A bigger player or one with ankle issues may not feel as strongly about the score in this department due to the lack of height, weight and category driven tech.

Breathability: Not really a standout quality, but not a lackluster area either. The mesh window on the mid-foot is visible and keeps the foot from overheating, but the rest of the upper is composed of synthetics and leather. My feet definitely sweat while playing in these, but not enough to be an issue or cause discomfort. They seem to air out well in between runs which is always appreciated.

Durability: I don’t think these are built for the long, long haul, but I definitely think they would hold up for the better part of a season. I played in these indoors and outdoors and they still look basically new. Aesthetics aside, the cushioning, upper and technology have remained intact from a performance standpoint after numerous runs. While modern materials are used, the Q96 isn’t built from the luxury components seen on some of the newer signature models that score around 4.5 or 5 in this category. Therefore, I think these will work well for a season but won’t last forever.

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