The year was 1991, and a starry-eyed 7-year-old was paging through a popular magazine, discovering his first pair of sneakers that made him sit up and pay attention. I recall the very first pair of sneakers I fell in love with that turned me into a sneakerhead. The Reebok Pump Twilight Zone was that sneaker, now an iconic piece of sneaker history. Fast-forward 22 years, and the brand has released the Reebok Pump TZ, paying homage to the original all those years back.
At the time, I couldn’t present a strong enough case to my parents for a seven-year-old to own a pair of Reebok Pumps. As a compromise, I could get a similarly looking high-top sneaker, which also had a basketball on the tongue, albeit without the built-in pump technology. Now, all these years later, I can experience all the nostalgia of the original with the Reebok Pump TZ Solar Yellow.
Design and Build
The first thing that strikes you as you open the large shoebox is its size. Yes, they’re basketball high-tops, but even still, they’re bigger than any pair of high-tops I currently own. However, all that fades away once you slide your feet into it. They look great as you put them on and can also be paired with anything from pants to shorts and everything in between.
Although the Reebok Pump TZ takes on the appearance of a relatively simple and minimalist sneaker, far more detail can be observed at first glance. From the multiple layers, the internals, layout and materials, it has plenty of detailing to discuss and unpack.
First, the upper features a layered approach, a leather and synthetic leather mix. The genuine leather is featured around the outermost portions, where most of the tension would be placed on the basketball sneaker. There are four layers at the midfoot, where each layer meets. Three outer layers feature genuine leather, with a small section of the inner layer synthetic. Each of these layers is held together with the textile lining. The outer layers have double stitching, and the inner layers are finished with a single-stitch approach.
The midfoot is also where the TPU cage is positioned, joining all the leather layers and riding up to the tongue to form part of the eyelets. The top portion, in black, has a more flexible construction, while the bottom, Solar Yellow, has a much more rigid build. The heel counter extends quite far to the midfoot as well. It runs all around the sneaker with the Reebok logo featured on the lateral sides with an embroidered finish.
Its three main colours – White as the primary, with touches of Black and Solar Yellow – look elegant. Its primary colour structure gives it a minimalist aesthetic, even with all the detailing beneath it. The trio of colours are only contrasted by the orange basketball on the tongue, which draws all your attention. And why shouldn’t it?
Reebok Pump TZ Comfort
As mentioned previously, the Reebok Pump TZ sneakers are pretty significant. Additionally, the pair is also on the heavy side. They’re much heavier than I’d expected, even with their hefty frame. But, all that goes out the window once you slide your feet into each sneaker, and you’re met with a blanket of comfort.
Being a professional basketball shoe descendant, the Reebok Pump TZ would always bring high comfort levels. There are three main aspects to the sneaker’s comfort. The first of these is the inner padding around the foot. There’s plenty of cushioning around the foot in that regard.
Next up is the midsole, which is said to feature the Hexalite hexagonal cushioning. However, the technology does not expand across the midsole as it may have in its original build. Instead, it’s only featured on the rear, offering a slither of rebound.
Lastly, there’s the Pump technology. With its wrap-around foot and customisable approach, you’re guaranteed to feel the impact of the technology. But more on the technology later.
Many elements across the construction of the Reebok Pump TZ highlight its quality. With plenty of hidden details, as listed above, it needs to be constructed well enough to work, feel great and last long enough.
As mentioned, the Reebok logo is featured prominently on the heel counter on the lateral sides. It has an embroidered finish. This extra bit of detailing is one of my favourites on the sneaker, showcasing its dedication to quality.
The majority leather upper and TPU cage also add an element of quality to the build. It not only looks great, but it also feels good in hand. Its overall construction is a throwback to its original form, built to survive the strain it would be under on the NBA courts and beyond. It may not be identical to the original Twilight Zone, but it is a pretty close reboot.
An Icon Reborn – That Pump Technology
Two decades later, the Reebok Pump TZ is just as iconic as it was in the 90s. The Pump sneakers have their name for a reason – it’s not just for show. As with the original sneaker ranges all those years back, the rebooted Pump series also features a bladder built into the sneakers. In this case, the bladder is placed within the tongue on the Reebok Pump TZ. In some cases, the bladders were available both in the midsole and tongue, but that’s not the case here.
It may seem a strange request, but if I were allowed one, I’d have liked some type of guideline for the Pump technology on the sneakers. Yes, it’s intuitive enough to know that the basketball on the centre of the tongue is the pump. However, it’s not as easy to use as I’d have liked.
You need to depress the basketball to push air into the bladder to get it to work. It seems simple enough, but it’s quite a technical process, more so than pumping your basketball. When you push the pump, it closes a tiny hole on the inside of the basketball, which, in turn, forces open a few small holes around the valve to draw in air and push it into the bladder. At first, you may not think it’s working, but that’s only because the amount of air from each intake is minimal. I’ve seen a few tests where it’ll pump air into the bladder after 100 pumps. While it will feel noticeable after 15 to 20 pumps, it’ll require around 50 to 60 pumps to make a significant difference.
This provides both additional cushioning as well as makes for a tighter fit. The bladder will deflate on its own after some time, but it’s not immediate. If you want to deflate it on prompt, another ‘button’ off to the right allows air to escape. The bladder is relatively thin, so it won’t put undue pressure on your feet if you over-inflate just a tad.
The hidden detail of the Pump technology may not matter to many, but it’s that action of the pump that created the buzz and status for the brand. Its legendary status kicked off in earnest back in 1991 when NBA basketballer Dee Brown entered the NBA Slam Dunk Contest wearing a pair of Reebok Pump sneakers. Brown would use the pump before every dunk attempt.
The legend was born.
This became a massive phenomenon among youngsters, who would pump their Reebok sneakers whenever they delivered their classroom presentations or performed a trick on the playground. It was all about the status. And that carries through in 2023 with the Reebok Pump TZ, carrying that hype and buzz in every step, just ready to take on your next big move.
Given my history, I am biased towards all of the Reebok Pump sneakers, having fallen for the hype all those years back. The Reebok Pump TZ is more than I’d have imagined and lives up to the buzz it created around the brand. It’s comfortable, it looks great, and its comfort can be customised via the internal bladder system.
The Pump TZ is available online at Reebok.co.za, as well as in selected retailers across the country. It retails for R3,799, which is a touch on the pricey side. However, with the added technology and detailing of a cult classic, it’s definitely worth the look.
Reebok Pump TZ
There's nothing better than a classic sneaker reborn with a sense of nostalgia. With the Reebok Pump TZ, it's both a classic reimagined while still being functional with all its trinkets. It looks great, it feels great, and it works. Added to the quality and premium materials, the Reebok Pump TZ is the perfect nod to a sneaker icon.
- Classic, nostalgic high-top sneaker
- Embedded Pump technology works
- Clean aesthetic
- A mix of premium materials
- Solid build for performance
- Not the complete Hexalite hexagonal cushioning