Performance Review: Air Jordan XX8 SE

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

So it’s been awhile since we’ve last brought you a review (thanks to some budget-tightening and a dislocated finger that kept me away from the game for a couple of weeks) and I apologize in advance for that. We’ll make it up to you by bringing you a couple in quick succession, with my XX8 SE review here and Finch’s Super.Fly 2 review coming sometime in the next few weeks.

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The XX8 SE is basically the guts of the shrouded Jordan XX8. The midsole tooling is unchanged and the upper of the XX8 SE is what was hidden when you zipped up the XX8. I did not purchase the XX8 (I’m making minimum wage, folks) so I was very excited to test out the SE version at $100 less. The shroud itself didn’t really offer the wearer a huge performance benefit, so I consider the SE a true representation of the model’s performance chops. The XX8 line incorporated a couple of new technologies from Jordan Brand – proplate Zoom cushioning and a carbon fiber Flight Plate – and as a sneaker tech geek I was eager to give them a go.

Fit
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The Dynamic Fit upper is basically a bunch of mini-straps that, when you run a lace through them, provide lockdown over a large area of the foot. The fit provided was excellent, as the upper (which is paper-thin in areas where there isn’t a thicker overlay) pulls your foot down into the carbon fiber heel counter and Flight Plate. Those two elements really lock the midfoot and heel into place – no slippage occurs on even your hardest change of direction. (I went a half-size down in order to get the best fit – if you have a narrow foot I suggest you do the same.)

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The Flight Plate chassis provides good lateral fit as well, and you should feel low to the ground and fully locked in once laced up. There’s even a carbon fiber inlay along the forefoot for additional lateral stability. My only minor gripe is that there are only five Dynamic Fit lace loops and I felt that I couldn’t lace up as snug as I wanted on top because of the lack of eyelets. I’ve always felt like more eyelets equals a better, tighter fit – but I suppose that could be a personal preference as well. At any rate the sandwich mesh inner bootie is snug and well-padded, rounding out top-notch lockdown.

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It’s just a shade below the Crazyquick and Anatomix Spawn in this department but it’s marginal. “Security” is probably the first word that comes to mind to associate with the fit of the XX8 SE.

Heel-Toe Transition
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I felt like I sat a little on my heel when trying these on (perhaps due to the new Zoom setup) but I became used to it after one or two wearings. The heel-toe movement at game speed was excellent, thanks to the extreme responsiveness of the Zoom bags (more on these wonderful things later) and the support of the Flight Plate. It’s certainly a different feel than a lot of other shoes and that may throw you off, but give it a couple wearings and you’ll get used to it.

Cushioning
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JordanXX8SE_Court Feel

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The cushioning as a whole is virtually perfect thanks to the setup of the Zoom Air bags, which feel more plush and responsive than any Zoom setup I’ve ever played in. The forefoot bags really feel bouncy, like a good Zoom bag should, while providing plush impact protection (the Zoom BB2 felt very similar). The silhouette of the Zoom bags is visible on the outsole and sticks out from the rest of the sole, but the compression and deflection they deliver (working in conjunction with the Flight Plate) provides excellent responsiveness. It’s unlike any Zoom setup you’ve felt before, and it’s a technology that delivers on its promise of improved explosiveness.

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The XX8 SE strikes a balance between impact protection while keeping a low-profile. I’m extremely sensitive to how low to the ground I feel in a shoe (usually the lower the better) but these allow you to feel low to the ground without giving up all your impact protection. From a cushioning perspective, they’re a joy to play in.

Traction
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The outsole uses a fairly soft rubber compound so the traction is solid from the get-go. You won’t have any issues breaking the outsole in, as it flexes naturally and grips the floor right away. The pattern is a wavy, multi-level and multi-directional one. It doesn’t necessarily give you quite the precise stop-on-a-dime ability with herringbone, but it’s very good.

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Materials/Durability
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Premium materials, including tons of carbon fiber, are used throughout. This cuts weight and improves comfort from sole to collar – the shoe just simply feels good on your foot. The upper is extremely thin so who knows what the long-term outlook will be, but the fact that quality materials are used throughout makes me think they’ll last. The edge of the toebox is reinforced – a nice touch in an area where basketball shoes especially can have durability issues.

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One huge issue arose roughly two weeks in though – the forefoot Zoom bag popped or became deformed, pushing the outsole out even more on the bottom of the shoe. A bulge appeared directly on the vertical flex point, making me wonder if the shoe would have been better off with a horizontal flex point like Finch’s Super.Fly 2s.

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It’s a problem I’ve seen before in the XX8 (had a customer show me the exact thing on a pair he brought back to Dick’s Sporting Goods) and had been an issue in NT forums as well. Not sure exactly how widespread it’s been but it’s definitely something to be aware of.

All in all, the XX8 SE is one of my favorite shoes of the year, and is in contention for the top shoe I’ve tested along with the Crazyquick and Anatomix Spawn. The cushioning is the best you can find, and support and fit are excellent as well. Look for the XX8 SE on-court for Georgetown, Cal, North Carolina and Marquette, and don’t hesitate to try these on if you’re looking for a great on-court option. Just be aware of the Zoom bag issue in the forefoot, but you’ll enjoy playing in the XX8 SE.

Performance Review: Jordan CP3.VII

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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Back when I reviewed the Jordan CP3.VI, I lamented that most of the shoes in Chris Paul’s signature line were pretty good on court, just not great in any one aspect. Something always held the shoes back from being elite performance models – in the case of the CP3.VI it was its inability to provide sufficient lockdown from heel to toe. Unfortunately, even though I really like a lot of aspects of the shoe, the CP3.VII falls victim to a similar problem.

I struggled worse with this review than any other because there was so much that was great about the shoe, but it didn’t exactly work for me. Even though it personally didn’t suit my playing needs I will wholeheartedly recommend the CP3.VII as a performance model.

Fit
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For me, the fit of the shoe is weighed more heavily than any other aspects and that’s the reason I didn’t really enjoy playing in the shoe as much as I have others this year (including the Crazyquick and Anatomix Spawn). Again, I will stress that this is a personal opinion, but the last (shape of the outsole) just didn’t fit my foot right and I wasn’t able to get the type of lockdown I look for. To me, lockdown = confidence when I’m playing. If a shoe fits me right, I won’t even notice that it’s there and I have complete confidence making cuts, changing direction or stopping on a dime.

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In the CP3.VII, I always felt that my foot wasn’t fully secure. My toes were kind of cramped in the toebox (laterally, that is), I felt a bit of an unnatural flex in the toebox as well, and the Achilles notch continued to hamper the heel fit. While the lacing system and Dynamic Flywire integration was adequate, I never felt fully locked in through the midfoot either. This was all probably due to the shape of my foot and for you, the fit may be just fine; it just didn’t suit me.

Other than that, I felt like the shoe was built slightly wider than some others I’d tested (I have a pretty narrow foot) so it might fit a broader variety of players. The upper was comfortable and inner bootie was extremely plush – one of the best interiors I’ve tested. While I probably won’t add the CP3.VII into my hooping rotation, it’s definitely sticking around as an off the court go-to shoe.

Heel-Toe Transition
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Transition was smooth from heel to toe, aided by a multilevel outsole and large midfoot shank. The implementation of Podulite in the midsole gave the shoe a nice, natural ride through the footstrike. No complaints in this department.

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Cushioning
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Jordancp3vii_Court Feel
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The CP3 line has long used a Podulon cushioning setup, which is basically a dual density cushioning system that places responsive foam pillars at strategic points throughout the footstrike. It’s a responsive and bouncy cushioning platform that’s relatively stable, although you won’t feel quite as low to the ground as a Lunarlon or Zoom Air systems. The CP3.VII debuted Podulite, which uses a forefoot Zoom Air unit under the ball of the foot which added even more responsiveness.

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Bottom line, this shoe is ridiculously comfortable. The Podulite is bouncy and plush, and simply feels great on court. A Phylon midsole houses the aforementioned external TPU shank provides plenty of midfoot support. I didn’t give it a 10/10 simply because I personally like a little more court feel, but this cushioning platform is excellent.

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Traction
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Traction is also top notch, as it was on last year’s CP3.VI. Deep herringbone is used throughout and you’ll get that reassuring squeak on quick stops. It is a multilevel outsole with raised portions along the lateral side of the outsole that do an excellent job providing traction laterally.

Materials/Durability
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In the black/red colorway I tested out, synthetics were used throughout the upper. The midfoot portion reminds me a lot of the makeup of the Air Jordan 2010 Outdoor – which was quietly one of the better shoes I’ve ever played in. It’s a relatively tough and durable upper, and should hold up well. TecTuff is used on the toe wrap on the medial side, as CP3 tends to drag his toe when he changes direction – it’s an intelligent addition to the shoe and beefs up the durability on that end. All in all, the CP3.VII feels and plays like one of the more well-made shoes I’ve tested this year.

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Once again, I want to reiterate that I think the CP3.VII is a great performance shoe and it’s certainly one of the most comfortable I’ve played in in a long time. It featured the best balance of court feel and impact protection that I’ve tested in a long time – I loved the cushioning.

It doesn’t suit me on-court because I value fit so much and I simply couldn’t get the right lockdown out of the shoe – but I still recommend it to most players. Definitely try it on in store before you buy if you go the online route, but for a guard/swingman type that likes the feel of a lowtop I think the CP3.VII is one of the best options out there.

Performance Review: adidas Adizero Crazy Light 3

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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Back in 2010, the original Crazy Light was the shoe that drove the adidas brand’s weight-driven performance shoes. It carried over from basketball to football to soccer, as adidas’ sole goal was to provide the lightest weight footwear and performance products in each category. The brand’s designers cut weight everywhere via the use of layered synthetics with support in places where it was only absolutely necessary. This was achieved through the implementation of technologies such as SprintWeb (a weight-shedding composition for the shoe’s upper) and SprintFrame (a rigid, supportive, yet lightweight chassis). I remember first seeing the original CL, from the sketchwork to the first official pictures, and marveling at the low-profile midsole, the sculpted Sprintframe, the barely-there Sprintweb upper and the high-cut but slender silhouette.

But this “adizero” push was a double edged sword. In its quest to provide the lightest footwear products on the hardwood, the Crazy Light has succeeded. The Crazy Light 1 broke the 10-ounce barrier, weighing in at 9.8 ounces in a size 9. The Crazy Light 2 dropped that to 9.5 ounces, and the CL3 clocks in at 9.4 ounces. The reduced weight played great on court because the shoes also packed quite a bit of ankle support into such a lightweight shoe.

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But I personally felt that the cushioning, inherently pretty thin (a requirement to achieve such a light weight), just didn’t give me enough impact protection or midfoot support – especially after a few weeks of hooping. Props to adidas for using premium foam for that midsole and getting as much impact protection out of such a thin profile, but it simply wasn’t enough for me and it took a toll on my knees after a while. I also was never fully satisfied with the fit, which seemed compromised by all the webbing that didn’t quite flex naturally with the foot. As I found out, those same issues cropped up again in the Crazy Light 3.

Fit: 8
As with most aspects of this shoe, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I’ve always been a fan of the SprintFrame tech because of the sculpted fit and solid lockdown it gives you. The CL3 Sprintframe was excellent again, providing quality heel lockdown. A more padded and molded interior collar also gave a nice fit around the ankle. The outsole and midsole also appear to be slightly wider through the midfoot, which is a welcome development given how narrow shoes such as the Crazy Light 2 and Rose 2 had been in the past. I have an extremely narrow foot but some adidas models in the past were so narrow underfoot that I felt like I got no torsional support. The CL3 was certainly better in this department.

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But I felt I was never able to quite achieve a full lockdown through the midfoot because of the synthetic upper and Sprintweb combination. The supporting overlays placed along the midfoot and toebox never quite seemed to flex naturally. I hoped this would improve after several wearings, but even after 8-10 sessions I still wasn’t fully satisfied. It was also difficult to get the shoe to stay laced tightly and I found myself re-tying the shoes more than once during a 2-hour hoop session. I would feel my foot sliding around slightly, and that’s nearly a deal-breaker for me. It wasn’t terrible by any means, but compared to the Anatomix Spawn and Crazyquick that I’d be consistently playing in, it didn’t hold up. At $140, the price point comes into play too and I expect no excuses lockdown from a shoe like that.

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Heel-Toe Transition: 9.5
Transition was smooth as the shoe rides very low to the ground. I’m not sure what the heel-toe drop would be on the Crazy Light, but it figures to be fairly minimal and that lends itself to a pretty fluid heel-toe motion. There’s plenty of flexibility thanks to well-placed flex grooves and wavebone traction setup.

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Cushioning: 8
This is probably always going to be a major point of contention with the Crazy Light and it’s really going to come down to the reviewer and your (the wearer) own preferences. My opinion is this: the low to the ground feel is great. I felt light, quick, uninhibited by the shoe. That’s a credit, again, to the high quality foam adidas uses to pack some cushioning in to such a thin midsole. And the more dense Crazy Comfort insole (pictured below, on the right) does make a big difference initially, giving the footbed more padding and support.

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But wearing the shoe for an extended period of time really revealed the flaws, in my opinion. There simply isn’t enough impact protection in the shoe for my wearing needs. The Crazyquick, with the segmented midsole, also gave me great court feel but the quick zones, adiprene midsole and thicker rubber outsole allowed for just enough impact protection. The shoe moved with your foot so well, making the cushioning more responsive and, I think, helping to dissipate some of the impact from each footstrike.

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The Crazy Light didn’t feel as responsive to me and it felt like my feet consistently took the brunt of the impact. As you can see in the picture above, the only thing between your foot and the TPU Sprintframe is the insole. You can see the white piece underneath the heel and the forefoot, and that at least gives you some direct contact with the midsole. But the dark gray surrounding the white pod is the Sprintframe. An insole is going to get compressed and worn down rather quickly, and I found the impact protection to be rather harsh. The actual foam is fine, and is fairly responsive, but to me it just was too firm because of the frame.

Traction: 9
Wavebone is a version of the industry-standard herringbone pattern and it did an adequate job providing traction. I did find that it picked up dust on courts that were less than perfect, and I didn’t always get that reassuring squeak. But it was certainly very solid and I wasn’t concerned with losing my footing while making cuts or changing direction at high speed (your high speed is probably faster than mine but it’s all relative, right?).

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Materials/Durability: 8.5
I touched on it before, but I didn’t love the upper synthetics because I felt like I couldn’t achieve full lockdown. I understand these are used in order to keep the weight down and thus make it a Crazy Light, but I’d like to see them softened up or at least placed a little differently in order to allow the proper flex.

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Besides that, I didn’t see too many issues crop up. The midsole foam is high quality and the Sprintframe heel counter is solid, while the rubber compound used on the outsole is relatively soft but provides good traction.

Bottom line, the Crazy Light is a shoe that some of you will probably really like. You can’t go any lighter than this and the shoe allows you to play low to the ground and quick on your feet if you’re that type of player. But if you need impact protection at all or want a shoe that really forms and fits your foot well, I think there are better options out there. I liked the CL3 better than either of the first two Crazy Light models but there were too many shortcomings to make it one of my favorites of the year.

Overall: 43/50

Performance Review: Under Armour Micro G Anatomix Spawn

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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The Under Armour Micro G Anatomix Spawn is not built to blend in. Its name is loud, it begs to be stared at and when you put it on your foot, it stands out as one of the best all around shoes of the year.

It’s not a new concept, but Under Armour bills the Spawn as a shoe that becomes part of your foot (Jason Petrie, the legendary Nike designer, said this about the Flightposite I way back when). There’s a certain organic quality to the shoe – I think you can tell it and the Flightposite were similarly inspired yet executed in an entirely different manner. I was initially intrigued by the shoe because I felt it looked like a shoe that someone had sketched out on a piece of paper, then was taken straight to production in that same raw, organic form. Creatively, I felt like I connected with the shoe and it only got better once I put it on.

With Stephen Curry’s recent signing with Under Armour, look for him to raise the profile of the shoe on court this season as well.  His Golden State colorway worn during the preseason may be one of the best yet.

Fit: 9

The first thing that stood out to me when researching the design and technology background of the shoe was that Under Armour says that the upper of the Anatomix Spawn supports the tendons and structure of the foot. This is primarily achieved through a fused, layered upper very similar to Nike’s Hyperfuse technology (though UA calls the process a “hot melt” and it’s “a way of layering synthetic.” There’s a base mesh layer (grey in this colorway), two different levels of overlays that get progressively thicker (the maroon portions around the edge of the mesh) and a final outer layer (orange) that is placed around the foot in varying degrees of thickness in areas where the most support is needed.

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Spawn designer Ross Klein provided some sketchwork in a SoleCollector interview that revealed some of the creative process behind designing those layers in a way that would support the muscles, bones and tendons of the foot.

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All in all, the process worked and I felt like the upper provided great fit. The heel counter is rock solid and when laced up the fit was snug from toe to collar – no weird flex points once it was broken in. Personally, I don’t necessarily love having a shoe laced up so snug and so high on my ankle, but the fit was great in terms of lockdown and security. It was slightly stiff on the first few wearings and at 10.7 ounces it’s not heavily padded on the interior and can feel a little harsh. The tongue had targeted padding, but was pretty skimpy as far as comfort goes. But the lockdown, especially in the heel and through the midfoot (it runs narrow), is excellent.

Heel-Toe Transition: 9

The midsole is highly sculpted and is designed to mimic and fit the foot tightly, and it definitely does. There’s a sizeable gap from forefoot to heel which can lead to a slappy transition, but the outsole and midsole are cored out at various points throughout the shoe. This makes it flexible at exactly the right spots and makes the transition pretty effortless.

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It’s especially cored right around the big toe area on the outsole, making that area independently flexible and allowing the wearer to really plant and push off of the toe. It’s a nice touch and an anatomically beneficial design aspect.

Cushioning: 9.5

Micro G is one of, if not the best foam cushioning platform on the market in my opinion, and the Anatomix Spawn features the technology from heel to toe. Micro G is more responsive than most foam systems and, to me, has a longer shelf life than others such as Lunarlon. The shoe also plays low to the ground and the court feel is excellent – again Micro G with its responsiveness allows for a low-profile midsole yet still provides impact protection. It does sit slightly higher in the heel than the shoes I’d been playing in (adidas Crazyquick, Crazy Light 3) but I think that sensation was just due to the fact that those two models play extremely low to the ground.

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Perhaps my favorite aspect of the shoe though, was the TPU support frame. The solid TPU piece runs along the lateral side of the shoe (providing lateral support) and wraps underneath the foot where it’s cut out in certain areas to provide firm support without extra weight. The orange frame runs from near the ball of the foot all the way through the midfoot to the middle of the heel. This is one of the biggest midfoot frames I’ve ever seen and it provides some of the best torsional support I’ve had in a basketball shoe. It was both engineered and executed very well.

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Traction: 9.5

The Anatomix Spawn uses full length herringbone on each of the pods of the outsole, and it provides tried and true traction. The rubber compound used is firm and the herringbone pattern is tightly placed. If we’re nitpicking, sometimes I like to see a wider-grooved pattern in the herringbone but it’s nothing major. No complaints from me in the traction department.

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Materials/Durability: 8.5

The upper is a full synthetic hot melt, so I don’t foresee any issues with the materials separating or coming apart, but the upper isn’t the most luxurious thing you’ve ever worn. It’s not bad, but like all fused materials it never truly flexes naturally. The toe flex is fine as it’s mesh all the way across the toebox, but the repeated creasing of the mesh creates a point on the inner part of the toebox where I wouldn’t be surprised to see a tear develop eventually. Other than that, the outsole traction has held up well on various floors, cushioning has remained responsive and the upper seems to be holding up well to this point.

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The Anatomix Spawn is a shoe that I frankly loved playing in. The fit was excellent and the support, thanks to that TPU frame, was the best I’ve found in a shoe this year. I can’t stress how nice it is to play in a shoe that’s both light and still supportive through the midsole, and the Spawn strikes a great balance. Traction and cushioning were both very good if not great. With pictures of a low top model, this may not be the last Spawn that I purchase this year.

Overall: 45.5/50

Apparel Spotlight: Nike Tech Fleece Cape

Prose: Kim Nguyen (@317Kim)

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One of the Fall’s most anticipated pieces from the Nike Tech Pack line of apparel is the Tech Fleece Collection. Nike’s objective for this release was to update classic styles with a revolutionary reinvention of fleece. NIke aimed to evolve the fit, feel, and function of some of their own most iconic sportswear silhouettes. This collection definitely represents the next generation of classic sport apparel.

When I first saw the Fall 2013 Lookbook for NIke Women in early August, the Nike Tech Fleece Cape immediately caught my attention. It was a must-cop for the upcoming season and I was stoked because it wasn’t a limited edition Nike Blackdoor piece, so I did not think availability would be a problem for me. I mean, who would buy a $110  Nike sweatshirt in August besides me? That did not worry me too much (even though the release date did not coincide with my pay day.)

Unfortunately for me, the grey cape that I wanted so badly sold out within a few days on Nike’s website. Finch told me it would be like that since professional athletes such as Maria Sharapova were seen wearing it. He also went to Niketown in Chicago in search of this cape for me, but it was too late; they didn’t have my size small available in stock.

But after having the Nike website as my homepage for a week and randomly refreshing the page throughout the day, I discovered a random restock and was finally able to order my grey, size small, Nike Tech Fleece Cape and received it in the mail two days later (Thank you, Nike!).

This fleece is just as beautiful in person as it is online and in the high gloss Tech Pack book.  The cape consists of slightly thinner fleece for an enhanced drape. It has a hood and thumbholes – I love thumbholes in my outerwear.

I also love asymmetry – the cape has an asymmetrical zipper for full functionality.

Needless to say, it’s perfect.

FIT
Because of the thinner fleece, style and cut, the cape fits loosely on the body. I am usually a size small in most of Nike’s sweatshirts, but for the tighter fitting apparel, I opt for mediums. I ordered a small for the cape and it fits true to size. It’s supposed to be looser and drape off the body, and I am pleased with how it fits on me. The lightweight and smooth jersey gives the garment a modern, streamlined look both inside and outside. The inner foam enhances the fleece’s functionality by providing sufficient warmth for colder weather.

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This cape is truly lighter, warmer, and more breathable than its predecessors. The comfort and mobility of the cape is remarkable! I just love that it looks as good as it performs! Very thankful for the cooler weather earlier last week so I could put the cape to the test.

MATERIALS/DURABILITY
The fabric used on the tech cape is lightweight, but offers warmth that responds to the natural motion of the person wearing it. This works by trapping the body heat that is generated. Nike puts foam in between the layers of cotton jersey for a unique tri-layer fabric that is super comfortable without weighing you down.

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VERSATILITY
There is no doubt that I will be rockin’ the cape throughout the fall and winter this year whether it be after a workout, running around town, or for nice occasions. It is definitely one of my favorite pieces of clothing because of how comfortable and functional it is. I have always been a fan of wearing sports apparel for casual attire.  It’s comfy and can be a very refined look if you do it right.

At $110, it may sound pretty pricy, but this jacket is definitely worth it. Ladies, get your Nike Tech Fleece capes. Your friends will be so envious.

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Performance Review: Nike Free Flyknit

Prose: Kim Nguyen (@317Kim)

Ed. note: In case you missed her work before, Kim is back with her second performance review here at TGRR. She’s currently a Wellness Coach at an Indianapolis-area YMCA (and can put Finch and I to shame in the fitness department). You’ll find the bulk of her contributions to TGRR on our Instagram page, where you’ll find shots of her own impressive collection as well as her work with effects on Finch and I’s photos. As you’re about to see, she knows her stuff.

Colorway Tested: Neo Turquoise/Atomic Teal/Chlorine Blue/White
Weight: 5.5 oz
Test Size: 6
Price: $160

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The Nike Free Flyknit was designed to flex with the foot in motion. Through scientific data and athlete insight, Nike branded this approach “Nature Amplified”.

After 6 weeks of running with this product, I have to agree with this Nature Amplified approach. I like to run on different types of terrain to keep my knees in good shape and more importantly, to keep me motivated and interested in my run! Something has got to entertain me on this early morning 5 milers. The Free Flyknit has proven to be a perfect shoe for that.

Fit: 9
While you’re going to get great fit out of a Flyknit-based shoe in general, the Free Flyknit fits more like a second skin than the Lunar Flyknit in my opinion. This is due to the sock liner and collar in the upper, which give it a close-to-the-foot, sock-like fit. I mean, as soon as I tried them on at Finish Line, I knew that these would be a great pair of shoes that I could run, lift, and go to work in from a fit standpoint.

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There is so much elasticity and the shoe is so tightly woven that the shoe actually curls up at both ends when it is not on your feet! The compressive fitting upper is snug, but it helped remedy my overpronation (the inward rolling of the ankles through the footstrike) a bit by keeping my feet secure and locked in during my runs. This was a huge plus since I originally did not think that I would be able to run in these Frees, since they are made primarily for those with immaculate gaits and high/normal arches. Being able to put heavy miles in the Free Flyknits without my feet hurting was a pleasant surprise.

Unfortunately, there is that saying that too much of a good thing can be bad. My runs usually do not exceed a full hour, so I am not bothered by these shoes. When I’m at work, it’s a completely different world. My 4-8 hour shifts become a bit painful. As a Wellness Coach, I am constantly on my feet with clients. After about 4 hours, my feet are aching for my shoes to come off. I found that, when laced tight, the Free Flyknits can begin to cut off circulation in my feet and leave some heavy markings on the back of my ankles towards my achilles. This is why I gave the fit a 9 overall.

The most important part to remember is that this shoe does what it was supposed to – even if that doesn’t universally work for everybody and every activity. It carries me through my runs with ease. It’s just not suitable to be in all day due to the tightness of that second-skin fit and lack of serious support.

Lastly, the great debate: Team Socks or Team No Socks?

Because the shoe is seamless, a lot of people talked about running without socks. I ran the first week without socks and noticed that my feet were feeling clammy without socks because of the heat and sweat that accumulated in the upper. Fortunately for me, I had two pairs of Nike Hyper-Lite Elite Running No-Show socks in my closet that I thought would be a good fit. That was a match made in heaven!

Those are the perfect socks to wear with the Free Flyknits, since they’re thin, lightweight, and still let your feet breathe. My favorite part is that the anti-blister collar on the socks adds some additional color to the sneakers to give it a different look every now and then. I am definitely Team Socks on this one. (As for laces or no laces, I prefer mine with laces since they just look like Kukini Frees without them and I have enough of those.)

Heel-Toe Transition: 9
The Nike Free midsole/outsole is one of the most popular technologies that Nike has ever created. It just works – especially for those desiring a minimalist feel. There are basically three midsole levels within the Free hierarchy, with the 3.0 being the most barefoot, 4.0 being slightly more substantial and the 5.0 providing maximum cushioning and support within the Free line. With that said, 5.0 is still flexible and retains that same “superbendy” sole that makes the shoes a joy to run in.

The articulated 5.0 sole consists of hot-knifed sipes, which are strategically-engineered flex grooves through the arch of the foot which help ensure natural movement in the mid-foot as the runner transitions stride. This is the flexible shoe that we all love with a minimal heel-to-toe drop that helps propel your feet forward to keep moving during your run.

Cushion: 8.5
Due to my overpronation, I require a great amount of responsiveness and support from the cushioning of my running shoes (I’m one of those people that mixes up my shoes as well – the Brooks Adrenaline 13 is another of my go-to’s). Although I prefer the Lunarlon system on my Nike runners, the Free Flyknit did a great job on providing sufficient cushioning on my runs. Due to my specific needs, I wouldn’t necessarily run a half marathon with these babies, but it works great for my 5Ks. It’s important to know your needs as a runner too; just because a shoe may not work for you doesn’t necessarily mean it’s trash.

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After accumulating over 50 miles on the Free Flyknits, the cushioning has not deteriorated and I am pretty confident that these will be in good shape for at least another year.

Traction: 7
The Free Flyknits do not offer a large amount of heavy-duty traction compared to the Lunarglides, Lunar Flyknits, etc. It’s a free bottom with some extra BRS 1000 carbon rubber on high-wear areas. The Frees did well on the track and on the treadmill, but I noticed significant wear on roads, sidewalks, and trails.

(If you’re doing a significant amount of outdoor running, check out these options.)

Materials/Durability: Upper 10/Sole 7
The Nike Flyknit upper features a unique zoned performance mapping patterns based on how pressure is exerted on the top of the foot. Nike Sport Research Lab scientists employed pressure-mapping technology to locate stress areas, and designers used that data to create the new upper. A exercise physiologist like myself finds this amazingly intriguing and I really appreciate the scientific side being demonstrated on the upper.

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I noticed that zones on the top of the foot have more stretch built in it to enable that natural flex, while a tighter weave embodies the rest of the upper to stabilize the forefoot and heel. The awesome elasticized construction on the collar fits securely around the ankle without irritating the skin.

Another reason to love the Nike Free Flyknit is that it utilizes that knitted one-piece upper because it reduces Nike’s typical upper waste by an average of 88%. If you are ever interested in seeing what the designers at Nike use, check out the app called Nike Making – it’s a tool to inspire designers and creators to make better choices in the materials they use.

I have no doubt that the upper will hold up for years to come, and the upper on my old Lunar Flyknits still looks flawless! Underfoot, the actual Nike Free platform might be questionable since I have already done some trail running in them. If I keep alternating runners, then these will last a lot longer, but I am probably just too rough outdoors on those Free bottoms.

Overall, the Nike Free Flyknit is another amazing addition to my Nike Running collection. It performs well and looks fantastic in all of its colorways – I am loving all of the new innovations by the Swoosh. At $160, the price is steep, but just know that you are getting a great quality runner! My decision to cop was a no-brainer since I always have to have the newest creations from Nike.

I’m looking forward to trying out the Nike Hyperfeel Trail this week to spare my other runners from that rough terrain. #werundirty

Performance Review: Nike Zoom Hyperquickness

Prose: Finch (@Sir_Stymie)

What up my people it has been quite some time since I acquired some new basketball kicks and after two league tournaments and countless pick up games, I thought it was time to retire my Nike Hyperdisruptors. Although they weren’t my favorite hoop shoe, I had grown fond of them during our time together and there were some attributes that I really liked about them; I was actually sad to see them go.

On that same token, I was excited about the opportunity to shop for some new kicks. After a couple days of research I had a plan of action to get the Hyperdunk 2013 (which was later reviewed by the main man Jake) so I went done to Finish Line to get the job done. As I was requesting said shoe from the sales associate, another shoe that I had not noticed previously caught my eye – the Nike Zoom Hyperquickness.

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I was intrigued by the shoe’s silhouette and even though it shares some similarities to the Hyperdisruptor, I felt it warranted further investigation. After regaining the sale associates attention I requested that the Hyperquickness also be brought to the bench.

I decided to try on the Hyperdunk first and I had heard mixed reviews from my colleagues and peers about the shoe. Of course being the opinionated man that I am, I wanted to form my own opinion. When I tried the shoe on I had mixed feelings. I mean, it was ok but the midsole was a bit too thin and I didn’t feel like it gave me the support I needed (I liked it but didn’t love it.)

I tried on the Hyperquickness next and I can say that I was overall happy with my initial wear. And after looking at the price of both – the Hyperquickness clocks in at $105 while the Hyperdunk 2013 will run you $140 – I went with the the pair that was the best bang for the buck, the Hyperquickness. Value definitely plays a role when it comes to this shoe.

Fit: 8
As previously stated, I had been playing in the Nike Hyperdisruptor before and although I gave it a mixed review on some aspects, in terms of overall fit I gave high marks. This is also true with the Hyperquickness. The shoe runs a tad narrow, which I have become accustomed to, and the toe box is pretty small. While this was a problem with the Hyperdisruptor, I find it to be to be much better in the Hyperquickness because of a difference in materials (which I will cover later in the review). The shoe has an inner bootie, which makes the fit more comfortable and also keeps the tongue in place.

The also shoe comes with a with an interesting lacing system. Near the ankle you have two pieces extending up from the midsole, made of a tough yet flexible material that forms around the base of the ankle (think the LeBron 9.) It’s an often overlooked feature but enhances the lockdown and the fusion between foot and midsole because of the feature and the overall shape of the shoe.

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I gave the shoe an 8 in terms of fit. I would have given it a 8.5 or even a 9 if not for the lack of padding the upper beside some portions around the ankle where it is needed most. The Hyperfuse material with which the upper is made also doesn’t fully conform to the foot for a glove-like fit.

Heel – Toe Transition: 8.5

The transition was pretty smooth and this was largely due to the shape of the midsole and sole, which kind of reminds me of the Kobe 8. It works in tandem with the heel and forefoot Zoom Air cushioning and allows a for smooth gait very similar to the Huarache 2k4. It’s nothing flashy, simply very middle of the road, but I liked the transition a lot.

Cushioning: 9

Here at TGRR we all have different preferences in terms of cushioning. I, for instance, am a big forefoot Zoom, heel Air guy. It’s a system which is available in the KD V and VI, both of which are amazing in terms of cushioning if you ask me. Though the Hyperquickness has a Zoom/Zoom system, I still feel that it is more than sufficient (especially in a $105 shoe).

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It should be noted that the Hyperdisruptor shares the same system but failed to give me the support and cushion that I desired. How could this be you ask? This is due to one fatal design flaw in the midsole. The Hyperdisruptor’s midsole was very soft and flexible – which was very comfortable – but it had very little stability and felt as if you were walking on the ground at some points and kind of diminished the responsiveness of the Zoom bags.

I brought this to my comrades here at TGRR and they agreed that this could have been rather easily and simply remedied with the inclusion of a carbon fiber plate (or any type of rigid TPU shank).  It would have given the shoe structure and stability while not adding much weight to the design. (We’re guessing it wasn’t included because a carbon fiber plate would have added cost to an already 135 dollar shoe.) In the Hyperquickness, however, they seemed to have fixed or at least improved upon this lackof structural integrity.The good people at Nike used stiffer and more dense foam in the midsole which not only gave the shoe more structure but enhanced the feel of the Zoom bags. Although it wasn’t a plate like we wanted, the new foam compound was a major improvement.

Traction: 9

The traction for the Hyperquickness in identical to the Hyperdisuptor. Deep herringbone patterns in the forefoot and heel where you need it most – it just works people. No need to get all in-depth.

Materials: 8

I used to think that Hyperfuse was Hyperfuse but Nike kind of hit us with a curve ball, probably in an effort to cut costs. They have chosen to ditch the normal, layered synthetic Hyperfuse materials and go for a cloth or soft mesh interior with a reinforced Hyperfuse casing for most of the upper.

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They did, however, use the full Hyperfuse coating on the heel counter and around the toe box for added durability – a slick way to only give you what you need where you need it. I have been playing in these kicks for about a month and I have been impressed with the overall durability. When I had the Hyperdisruptors I had several incidents with separation in the sole and midsole which forced me to return them to the store a few times to exchange them. I have had no such problem with this model and even though I have put some miles on these I feel they have plenty of life in them. You’re not getting premium materials, but it’s still solid.

Like I have stated there are a lot of things to like in this model. Nothing really stands out to make it amazing, but nothing that I can really say bad about it. It’s just a really solid shoe. It’s useful for players of multiple positions because of its structure and build, and with a price point at only $105, I feel that it is steal for a shoe of this caliber.

Performance Review: Nike Hyperdunk 2013

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

First of all, it’s been too long since we’ve put a review up. With Finch and I both now graduated and toiling away for 40+ hours per week (and not getting paid enough) it took a temporary toll on our content production. We’re back though, with three reviews coming your way in the near future (Hyperdunk 2013, Hyperquickness, and Flyknit Free review from Kim) and a possible collaboration with @Tonguetiedco.

Now for the review…

Nike Hyperdunk 2013
Colorway tested: University Red/Wolf Grey/Black
Size Tested: 11.5

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When the original Hyperdunk dropped in 2008, it was a groundbreaker. Featuring Lunar foam, a Flywire-based upper, a truly futuristic silhouette (and a slick marketing campaign thanks to its Olympic debut), the 2008 version set a new performance bar and became a flagship shoe for the brand. It wasn’t perfect yet – the Lunar foam wasn’t as refined as it is currently and some had issues with durability – but the “Hyper” series was launched on the foundation of lightweight performance and innovation.

The next iteration, in 2010, ditched Luanr foam for Zoom cushioning and a Kobe V-like Skinwire upper, but also fell short in the performance (specifically, durability, based on what I heard from other players as I played small-college basketball).

In 2011, Nike struck gold in the performance department with a nice Zoom/midsole combination while employing the Flywire upper in a more breathable and better fitting manner. 2011 also saw an “Elite” version that proved to be a performance monster (and one that I got a few runs myself in).

2012 saw the line return back to Lunarlon cushioning, while introducing us to Dynamic Flywire on a hoops shoe.  It also featured Nike+ options on some models, incorporating an improved data collection system for the court. While I think Dynamic Flywire is a much more useful technology than the prior versions, I wasn’t a fan of the cushioning setup nor the traction. The Nike+ models were priced at $250, which was a little steep for most of us.

The evolution then, to this point, saw the Hyperdunk start as a groundbreaker, then remain at or near the top of Nike hoops hierarchy as it changed technologies and platforms. It’s virtually impossible to create a groundbreaking performance sneaker every year, but it seems as if the Hyperdunk line is falling behind some of Nike’s other offerings (the Kobe/LeBron lines, the durable Hyperfuse) in terms of performance chops.

So where does it leave us with the 2013 then? As I found out, the 2013 deliberately improved on the 2012’s weaknesses and turned out to be a high-level performance option.

Fit
I was coming off hooping in the adidas Crazyquick (and briefly, the KD V Elite) so I was used to playing in shoes the fit like a glove. Frankly, the Hyperdunk 2013 is right up there with the Crazyquick in terms of fit. It’s different – while the Crazyquick was also bootie or sock-like with its Techfit upper, the Hyperdunk utilizes a more flexible Hyperfuse upper and Dynamic Flywire for additional lockdown. The Flywire really gives additional, targeted lockdown, but the upper hugs the foot nicely and the eight eyelets provide the wearer with great fit and flexibility from toe to ankle. When laced up tight, the foot is locked onto the footbed – no slippage here.

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Perhaps the most striking visual detail is the way the midsole wraps up around the heel – rather than having an external counter like previous models. While I’d prefer the external counter just for the rigidity, this setup still gave me no issues. I do wonder how well it will hold up over longer periods of time – whether or not the foam will break down is just a passing concern and I don’t have evidence to back it up yet.

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Heel-Toe Transition
Transition was smooth thanks to the Lunarlon midsole, which molds well to the foot like usual. There’s no slap, which I can’t stand, and the transition allows the wearer to move on his/her toes easily without clunkiness (this is an area where the KD V Elite failed miserably and really made me dislike the shoe). It wasn’t Crazyquick-level, where you just rolled smoothly thanks to all the segmentation, but it still was very good. No complaints.

Cushioning
If you’ve read any prior reviews, you know that I’m not a huge fan of the Lunarlon setup. Yes, it’s comfortable (initially), it forms to the foot nicely, provides good impact protection (initially), and is lightweight. It’s just that the impact protection and comfort don’t last long enough for me. The Hyperdunk 2012 Low that I reviewed was just fine in terms of all aspects of cushioning…until I got a month into it. Then the Lunarlon, to me, begins to break down and become compacted. I noticed it in my knees immediately when it got to that point. In short, the cushioning is more than adequate now, but Lunarlon typically lets me down after I get 3-5 weeks into it.

Another note, I would have loved to see a carbon fiber shank in the midsole. Carbon fiber is simply lighter and stronger than other shanks and provides top of the line support and strength. The TPU shank is fine but in a flagship shoe, give us the carbon fiber!

Traction
This is one area where the 2013 model is leaps and bounds above the 2012 version. Whereas the 2012 went with a multi-directional pattern that highlighted the Nike+ capabilities throughout the midsole, it was pretty average in terms of traction. The 2013 is full-on herringbone, and it’s gorgeous. Simply tried and true, and it can be found from heel to toe on this shoe.

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Materials/Durability
I have no real concerns with the durability unless the midsole wall that wraps around the heel was to weaken or break in, but I doubt that becomes an issue. I’m a fan of this version of the upper textiles (feels a lot like the excellent 2011 version) and I haven’t had any issues with Dynamic Flywire on several different types of shoes.

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To wrap up, I really enjoyed playing in this shoe. As far as a mid or higher cut shoe, it’s extremely flexible and the fit is excellent. Traction is impeccable, and the shoe played quick, smooth and low to the ground. If you like the Lunarlon cushioning system, by all means purchase this shoe. I think it’s a great one for multiple positions and as a team shoe especially.

In my personal opinion, the quick wearing down of Lunarlon (or at least my body’s sensitivity to it) factors into this as well. To me, that limits the long-term wearability of the shoe. That’s simply my opinion though, and this review is about the shoe – not my needs as a player. I wholeheartedly recommend the Hyperdunk 2013 as a reliable, everyday, go-to shoe.

Performance Review: Long-term Updates

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

We’ve got performance reviews for seven different models already in our archives, with yours truly responsible for four of them. The Nike Hyperdunk Low 2012, Jordan CP3.VI, adidas Crazyquick and Nike KD V Elite are the four models I’ve had the pleasure of hooping in. While you can hit any of the links and read the full review, I wanted to give you guys a quick update on how each of the shoes progressed in terms of performance over time.

Nike Hyperdunk Low 2012
Review posted: 1/29/13

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The Hyperdunk Low really impressed me in terms of fit and lockdown, with the Dynamic Flywire doing a better than expected job in both departments. Fit is an important aspect of the performance of any pair of shoes, but is especially crucial in a low-top basketball shoe because so little material is used for lockdown. The Hyperdunk Low did not disappoint and I continued to feel secure and strapped in when it came to the fit, no matter how many games I put it through.

However, after 5-6 weeks of playing in them, I really noticed the Lunarlon cushioning go flat. I felt that the foam used simply compacted and lost a lot of responsiveness. I know plenty in the sneaker community are fans of Lunar foam, and I’ll admit that the cushioning setup does form to your foot – thus improving the fit even more. I simply don’t think it holds up as long as it should, especially given the price of the shoe. It got bad enough on my knees that I eventually switched over to the CP3.VI full-time, as its Podulon cushioning setup was one of my favorites so far.

Jordan CP3.VI
Review posted: 3/15/13

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The CP3.VI was really close to being an elite performance shoe – and it was still really, really good. The Podulon cushioning, as mentioned before, was awesome. The targeted zones were well-placed and allowed for excellent responsiveness and transition through the footstrike. Traction was top-notch too, with a deep herringbone pattern featuring flex grooves at precisely the right points. The traction remains some of the best I’ve had on a performance hoops shoe.

The only complaint I had with the shoe had to do with the fit, especially near the heel. The achilles pad, so often used in the CP3 line, really hindered the lockdown at the heel. It was just impossible to get total lockdown with the pad in the way. It’s great for comfort; not so great for lockdown. I also felt that the Fuse upper – while proving to be extremely durable – didn’t give me a perfect either simply because the material was too thick or stiff to fully conform to my foot.

adidas adipure Crazyquick
Review posted: 5/13/13

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The Crazyquick is easily my favorite shoe of the bunch and one of my all-time favorites in terms of performance (alongside the Kobe VI, Zoom BB2 and Zoom Drive). I’m currently playing in it for all competitive games and have been switching it out with the KD V Elite for workouts. The fit is simply fantastic. It’s snug and locks you into the midsole from heel to toe thanks to the Techfit upper and Sprintframe chassis. There’s been a lengthy debate concerning the cushioning and whether it’s plush enough, but to me it allows the shoe to function perfectly. The Crazyquick plays low to the ground with excellent court feel – thus giving up some impact protection – but the shoe’s responsiveness and lateral stability are unrivaled.

Nike KD V Elite
Review posted: 6/11/13

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While it’s not as “long-term” of an update, here’s a few final thoughts on the most recently tested model, the KD V Elite. The KD V Elite was a shoe that I was eager to test out, but simply didn’t meet the expectations set up by the Elite title, high-end materials and price point. The technology isn’t in question – it’s riddled with high-performance parts. Caged Zoom Air, carbon fiber shank and heel counter, and a Flywire-based upper are more than enough when it comes to tech. It’s just those pieces don’t function as well as they should.

The Zoom cushioning is hampered by poor, slappy transition that saps its responsiveness. The chassis was simply too stiff to allow for smooth heel-toe transition for those of us that are heel-strikers. The fit was extremely snug and lockdown was tight, but there wasn’t a comfort level that I was used to in the CP3.VI or Crazyquick. I loved the low cut and the fit, but the shoe simply felt too stripped down for its high-performance elements.

Performance Review: Nike KD V Elite

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

Colorway Tested: Hyper Blue/Volt/Blackened Blue
Size: 11
Price: $180

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Of all the Elite 2.0 series models, the KD V Elite was the most different from its base model. It dropped the top, swapped heel Air Max for a caged Zoom Air bag, employed a carbon fiber shank and floating heel counter and worked the performance staple Flywire into the upper. I was excited to try the shoe from both an aesthetic and technology standpoint, and once I got the funds in order I went ahead and picked them up.

What I found was a mixed bag, and I was reminded that premium materials don’t necessarily translate to premium performance.

Fit – 8.5
In the Elite series, Nike typically tried to strip away layers of the upper and get the shoe down to its bare minimum with premium materials. The synthetic upper is reinforced with Kevlar-based Flywire and features a carbon fiber heel counter. The fit is snug through the toebox, midfoot and heel – no complaints there. The heel fit, especially, is absolutely perfect. I was locked it from the get-go, though there’s a definite break-in period (3-4 solid wearings) before I really felt it flex with my foot.

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The problem is, it’s just not very comfortable. Stripping down a shoe to its essentials and using high-end textiles is great, but it doesn’t guarantee comfort. I found it feeling sort of harsh and not overly comfortable. The lockdown was great – I felt extremely confident cutting and planting at high speeds – it just wasn’t a comfortable fit, especially when combined with the cushioning (which I’ll get to later).

One other thing that did bother me was the tongue. Nike billed it as an articulated tongue and the padding is adequate but the tongue continually slid off to the lateral side of my foot, which was annoying and made the fit less comfortable overall. The lacing system still worked fine and locked me into place, but the tongue was just bothersome.

Heel-Toe Transition – 8
With the shoe’s high arch, I worried a bit about the transition being clunky and my fears were realized to a certain extent. That caged Zoom bag is sexy and gives the shoe a great silhouette, but it really protrudes from the heel and sits quite a ways off the ground (I don’t know what the heel-toe drop is, but it definitely felt more significant than the Crazyquick or CP3.VI). Because of that, there’s a noticeable slap from the heel strike through the toe-off and that’s just not what I’m looking for in terms of transition.

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It’s not necessarily bad – KD runs on his toes and if you do the same you shouldn’t have issues – but it was not as smooth as I like my transition to be. The carbon fiber midfoot shank and rigid chassis did seem to become more fluid after several wearings, but they both combined to make the transition slightly disjointed. Again, planting and cutting was fine but the heel-toe transition just didn’t suit me.

Cushioning – 7.5
I’ve mentioned it in prior reviews, but Finch made an excellent point about the relationship between the midsole flexibility and the cushioning system. How the midsole is constructed has a huge effect on how well the cushioning system responds. The forefoot and heel Zoom bags normally prove to be my favorite cushioning setup, but I felt that the stiff chassis of the KD V Elite hindered the effectiveness of the Zoom.

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With a harsh slap from heel to toe rather than a smoother roll, the Zoom bags seem to only deaden the impact without giving you the full responsive feel you’re probably used to. I simply didn’t feel the level of responsiveness I normally do out of a Zoom-Zoom setup, and I have to believe that chassis has something to do with it. It’s not terrible, just not what I’d normally expect from that setup. The cushioning itself is pretty minimal too, so it’s something to keep in mind if you have bad knees or hips that require more impact protection. Court feel is great, but I felt like the Crazyquick offered equally good court feel with better impact protection and the CP3.VI certainly was more comfortable (and still low to the ground).

Traction – 9
Yes, I know it’s not herringbone, but the polygonal pattern used on the KD V Elite still performs pretty well. Stopping and starting at full speed gave me no problems (the best test is a full speed pull up jumper – as if I need an excuse to shoot another one), but the outsole will pick up some dust over time. Tons of personal details are worked into the outsole design which is a nice touch, but I’d rather see those used on an area of the shoe that’s not so fundamentally important to its performance.

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Materials/Durability – 10
It’s an Elite shoe, so the materials are top of the line. Carbon fiber everything (midfoot shank and heel counter), caged Zoom air, Kevlar-reinforced Flywire and a high-end durable synthetic upper give the shoe premium materials from top to bottom – even if they’re not used quite as well as I’d like.

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Overall, I liked the KD V Elite but it simply fell short of expectations. With the amount of premium materials and hefty price tag, I expected better – especially in terms of cushioning. The fit was excellent and the caged Zoom, carbon fiber shank and chassis made the shoe very supportive, but I still feel like it just didn’t play well despite the impressive package. Because of the high end materials, I feel like the KD V Elite is slightly better than the sum of its parts, but still doesn’t perform to the level I would expect.

It’s staying in the rotation (along with the CP3.VI and Crazyquick) when I go through weekly shooting workouts, but I’m still hooping in the Crazyquick when I roll with the Terminator X squad.

Total: 43/50