After putting hours into the Freak 1 not long ago, I’ve decided to continue with its direct successor – hence I present you my Nike Zoom Freak 2 review!
So, in search of a mid-tier budget shoe that’s durable, provides a little bit of everything for different players in a secure, lightweight way?
The Zoom Freak 1 is what you’re looking for. Or is it?
Despite looking very similar in terms of looks and tech specs, AND having the same price tag, Giannis’s second installment in the Freak series claims that it’s a direct improvement from the first.
I mean it even has this poster on Nikey’s site which strangely feels like an OG 1990’s ad for a product. Speed, power, and control for every type of player are what the shoe is aiming to deliver.
THE REVIEW: HOW WE’LL DO THIS
Since the first one’s mission was pretty much the same, it’s only right of me to put hours into the Freak 2 and find out if it does all those things better over its younger brother.
I’ll be breaking down the shoe’s:
- Comfort experience & fit
- On court performance
- Overall build quality & value for the price
- Differences from the first shoe
Model: Nike Zoom Freak 2
Weight: 12.5 oz / 354 g. (size 10)
Retail Price: $120
Cushion: Forefoot Zoom Air & foam midsole
Best Offer On: Amazon Finish Line
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I. COMFORT & FIT
From the fit and overall comfort aspects, the Freak 2 was pretty much identical to the Freak 1 for me.
I have very wide feet, emphasis on very. But despite the shoe having a pretty narrow area for your foot to sit inside in the midfoot and forefoot areas, the shoe felt completely solid after I broke them in. It took 3-5 days for me to properly break in the first Freak and it was very similar to the Freak 2.
Granted, it sucked big time during that first week. If these would’ve had some kind of a stiff synthetic leather upper, there’s no way I would’ve been able to pull off a true to size.
So, I’d recommend going true to size for most foot shapes, if like a very snug, tight, and strongly contained fit. For those wanting more room inside the shoe, wide/regular footers will want to go up half a size.
These underwent some upper material and some slight fit changes, so the fit is even tighter than the first Zoom Freak. Not to a point where I should’ve gone up but for people who aren’t used to this extremely contained fit, they should definitely either go up half a size or try them on in a store if possible.
On top of that, I noticed these have more internal padding around a few areas and the tongue on these is CRAZY large, as well as soft, making the experience even more pleasant. I said this a lot but I’ll say it again – a traditionally separated tongue construction is the true boss sh*t.
Sure, there are benefits to a one-piece upper but for a shoe such as the Freak 2, they’re already very secure thanks to the contained fit, thus putting these on is amazingly fast and easy.
So combine the classic separated construction, more padding inside, and an enlarged tongue, this feels similar to the Freak 1 but just a tad bit better in my opinion. I love this approach – if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it. And the Freak 1 was certainly not broke in terms of fit and being comfortable.
They tweaked a few things here and there, the tightness of the fit will come down to personal preference, so if you get the sizing optimal to you – you can forget about the Freak 2, since this is a solid, mobile, secure, and distraction-free experience, making you forget you got a shoe on. And that’s always a good thing.
For traction, we’ve got a completely revamped outsole that looks nothing like the Freak 1’s. So far, the shoe comes in a solid rubber outsole on some colorways, while the regular black colorway priced at $120 comes with a translucent rubber outsole, which is the one I have.
For translucent rubber, it feels surprisingly durable overall. The grooves are very hard and certain areas have very thick rubber that looks like it’s not about to budge any time soon. That’s awesome but what’s not awesome is that the outsole is inconsistent in terms of the durability of the rubber.
As you can see, the outsole consists of two separate pieces and the back portion of the outsole is EXTREMELY durable. It’s got thick rubber, it’s not shallow and despite the weird pattern, it’s actually well spaced out, so wiping this portion of the outsole won’t be something you need to do.
As for the forefoot area – the story is a bit different. I get the design choice, but I still have no idea why brands still go with this super dense pattern made out of a fragile rubber pattern, such as these dots or knobs, whatever you wanna call them, on the lateral side of the shoe.
This is the area where dust and debris will be more of an issue – not the worst I’ve seen but wiping will surely be needed occasionally to keep the traction at 100%. It’s kind of a half-baked deal for me, why they couldn’t have used the same pattern all throughout the outsole or just went with classic herringbone, I don’t know.
As for traction itself, it was fine, I have no complaints. It’s got a very similar bite with lots of squeaking. I had no major slips or slides, I felt fine and supported during any kind of movement. They gripped the floor equally well indoors and outdoors.
What I’m not cool with is the rubber inconsistency throughout the outsole – I want to call these durable and suitable for outdoor play but when one side deteriorates faster than the other one, it’s tough man.
I’ve seen that the pattern looks exactly the same on solid rubber pairs, so even though translucent, in theory, is not as durable as solid rubber, you can expect similar results.
Overall, I don’t see these chipping away any time soon, especially outdoors but I think a simple fix in the outsole could’ve prolonged these even more. So in a nutshell, good traction, good durability, just could’ve been better by sticking to what works and ditching the pattern on the forefoot area.
Despite having different tech specs from the Freak 1 on paper, the shoe feels pretty much the same in terms of cushioning. You’d think these would have tons of cushion for a big, strong individual such as Giannis, but nope – what we have is far from that.
The ride is extremely responsive, it’s quick as there’s almost no real energy return from the foam, you sit low to the ground and the precision of your movements is supplemented as well as just about any other shoe.
The heel area feels almost dead but it will budge and give you some impact protection on harder landings, jumps, or cuts. The forefoot area, you can feel a bit more thanks to a Zoom unit, but it’s still not to a point where I’d prefer. I’m not saying it’s a bad setup – it’s just not really my cup of tea.
For low profile guards that are light, or spot-up shooters, this is a near-perfect setup. But Giannis plays in them, and he’s a very big guy, so it’ll obviously come down to what kind of a ride you prefer. If it’s quick, low to the ground, firm, and precise, the Freak 2 is top-notch for that, and I guess that’s what Giannis goes for as well.
For players who need more cushion and impact protection for one reason or another, you’d want to go with something such as the Nikey Zoom Rize.
The support & security department once again feels extremely similar to the first Zoom Freak.
We’ve got most of the critical support features you’d require from a shoe – a very secure fit, an internal heel counter, larger outriggers than on the Freak 1 for lateral protection, your foot sits inside the midsole for more stability, and a base that’s not as wide as on the Freak 1 but still wide enough to make you feel stable.
The upper still flexes like crazy as you can literally bend these in half, but just as this wasn’t an issue on Freak 1, it’s still not an issue on this one. The lack of a proper midfoot shank made some people scratch their heads in terms of the Freak 1 but if you’ve played any of the two shoes, you probably realized it’s not an issue at all.
The Freak 2 is very light but provides a secure experience for just about any player out there. I wish I could say the same thing about the cushion but hey, it comes with the territory. You take some and you leave some.
Overall, a great job in the support department – very secure, stable but does not sacrifice mobility. That’s versatility on point!
V. BUILD & MATERIALS
The upper is pretty much today’s mid-tier budget standard – a synthetic textile material with some Fuse and TPU overlays in key areas for more structure.
The shoe took a similar chunk of time to break them in, it’s just as light, just as mobile, and likely just as durable. This is one of those uppers that makes you forget you’ve got a shoe on while playing which is every bit of awesome. Ventilation isn’t very good due to the nature of the materials, so your feet will get hot during play.
I think these will be just as durable as the Freak 1. If you can live with the inconsistent outsole, I think the upper will hold up well outdoors. The TPU overlays do a good job holding the shoe together and I don’t see any signs of wear and tear on the upper so far.
Don’t expect a super premium upper but for $120 – this is a solid option. No gimmicks, no fancy tech names, nothing to get into the way of your playtime.
The Nike Zoom Freak 2 definitely feels like a direct sequel to the Freak 1 – pretty much every aspect feels similar with some minor changes here and there.
The shoe is comfortable, it’s distraction-free, it feels every bit of light, it grips the floor well, and provides adequate support for most players. If you prefer fast and responsive cushioning, and if you can live with the inconsistent outsole, I think the shoe is a great addition to your rotation.
Is it a direct improvement over the Freak 1? In some areas, yes, while in others it feels more of a slight step back.
Is it a versatile shoe? Yes, if you prefer firmer cushion.
Could the Freak 2 be even better? Yeah, I think it absolutely could, and all that was needed were a few quick fixes, in my opinion.
Would I choose these over the Freak 1? Yeah. I love that large tongue and more padding around your foot – those two things actually felt like the biggest improvement for me. Comfort is everything and a foundation for a good performer. I’m not a fan of the outsole but it gets the job done, so I give props to that.
Why Amazon or Finish Line? Click to find out!
I’ve been ordering a solid 70%-80% of my hoop shoes from Amazon and can confidently say it’s almost always the most trustworthy and convenient option to buy your shoes.
Yes, it’s great to find the shoe you’re looking for on an original retailer such as Nike or Adidas but the reality is a bit different – a lot of times, especially for shoes older than 1-2 years, it’s a very small chance you’ll find the shoe or better yet find it in your size & color.
You’ll mostly find the latest releases directly from the brand’s store but the period is usually pretty short until they’re out of stock.
This is where Amazon comes in.
Amazon is not strictly one retailer giving you the products, it’s a whole chain of thousands of different sellers, all supplying different products, including basketball shoes. You will mostly find more color and size options on Amazon for your desired shoe than on an original retailer or even a general sporting goods store.
Sure, there will be exceptions where Amazon won’t have a particular shoe but that’s on the rare side.
And the best part is the pricing – you can find older shoes and at times new shoes priced under retail, sometimes at crazy low prices, which is something you’ll never see on Nike.com, adidas.com, and other retailers (except during discounts/sales of course).
To sum things up and give you a generalized idea of why Amazon beats other stores more often than not, I’ve compiled a shortlist of the most notable advantages the massive store chain has over its competitors.
- Usually, higher stock, size & color/edition availability compared to other stores
- Blazing fast shipping times (sometimes delivered the SAME DAY if you’re close to the seller’s stock)
- A good chance to find shoes priced under retail
- Extremely convenient return/refund policies
WHY FINISH LINE?
Finish Line is my usual #3 option to get my basketball shoes from if Amazon currently doesn’t have it and the brand’s retail store (Nike.com, adidas.com, etc.) might be out of stock or doesn’t have my size.
I find them, along with a handful of other sports stores, to bring in new major and also lesser-known releases just as quickly as the main brand retailers, most of the time.
Very similar advantages to manufacturer’s stores here: very quick shipping times (and it’s free), convenient return & refund policies and you’ll never find any shoe priced over retail.
For some reason, Finish Line seems to be good at keeping a healthy stock of products, as there’s always a wide variety of sizing for most mainstream models. Something you can’t say about Nikey, Adidas, AJ, or Under Armour stores.
Of course, there will be exceptions and rare shoes that are hard to find globally won’t magically be available in large quantities here either.
Buying from the store will only be applicable for U.S. residents, so not an option for international users (unless you’re using a third-party service to ship internationally from US stores as I do).
Overall, I consider Finish Line to be the top pick out of the US’s popular sports retailers. Or perhaps I’m a little biased but regardless, I think I’ll be sticking to it for quite some time.
- All shoes priced at retail
- Good stock most of the time
- Fast & free shipping for the U.S
- Convenient refund & return policies
- You can find quite detailed and relevant reviews left by buyers
Still not sure? I’ve made a comprehensive guide and compiled some general tips on where to buy basketball shoes online. Check it HERE!
Alright, that is it for the review! I hope you found it informative!
You can check out the review of the Zoom Freak 1 to see how it compares in more detail.
I’m always up for debate! Do you have any questions? Perhaps you’d like to share your own experience, or just feel like having a chat?
Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as quick as I can!
Nike Zoom Freak 2$120
Fit & Comfort8.5/10
Value for the Price8.0/10
- Wide footer friendly: true to size is recommended for everyone
- Go up 1/2 size if you prefer a looser fit
- Questionable traction pattern: forefoot & heel areas aren't evenly durable
- Solid choice if looking for maximum mobility & responsiveness
- "Below the rim" players
- Lighter players
- Most guards should be fine