First Impressions: Nike Zoom Soldier VIII

The Zoom Soldier line, LeBron’s team shoe iteration, has more or less performed solidly overall and this generation is no exception. These thoughts are based on a decent one hour workout. Stay tuned here for a full review in about a week or two – I always log at least 15 hours in a shoe before I start writing a review. I usually prefer at 20 to 25 wearings before I fully make up my mind, but here are my initial thoughts.


Wow. This might be my favorite fitting shoe that I’ve had. I ended up going with a 13 instead of my true to size 12.5 due to cost reasons alone. I ended up getting mine for $80 brand new (eBay steal). Although I’d prefer the 12.5, the 13 fits me well. Length is fine, feels a lot similar to the Kobe 8 length wise. The shoe just absolutely molds to your foot while also supporting it. The strap is a nice touch, but I think the shoe fits very well without it.


Very nice. Soft Phylon and I can feel the Zoom. It’s important to try these on, not so much for the length toe wise, but instead to make sure the ball of your foot actually rests on the Zoom unit. If you try these on and can’t feel the Zoom, (if they feel a little small) try on a slightly bigger size. Feeling the Zoom in the proper spot will enhance the responsiveness for sure, but the Phylon feels great alone.


Decent. It didn’t hold me back from throwing a couple down and that’s a good sign.

soldier 8 1 soldier 8 2

First Impressions: Nike KD 7

Prose: Max Smith


The next installment of Kevin Durant’s signature line will debut June 28. It features Engineered Mesh, a Hyperposite heel, and both 180 visible Zoom in the heel and an embedded Zoom unit in the forefoot. Also, Nike brought back the popular midfoot strap from earlier models much to my personal liking. Retail will be $150 USD.

I am extremely excited to hoop in these and am planning to buy these upon release. The traction reminds me of the excellent performing Kobe 9 traction (elite review coming soon) and the shoe overall reminds me of a mixture of the KD 4 and 6 with a splash of the LeBron 11 thrown in (expect a review and the two latter shoes as well).

Take a look at the gallery below and be sure to leave a comment.

*Pictures courtesy of @tbishop8 and @peezy57 on Instagram and also niketalk.







First Impressions: Nike Zoom LeBron Soldier 8

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

Got a surprise email from Max this afternoon with a few snapshots of the upcoming Zoom LeBron Soldier 8. The hallmarks of the popular team line of LeBron’s signature have been a durable upper with some sort of integrated (and typically very useful) strap and a fully cushioned Zoom unit underfoot. For the money, the Soldier models are typically some of the best shoes on the entire market.

The 8 looks to fall right in line with other Soldiers, featuring a strap wrapping from the medial to lateral side, a Hyperfuse/Flywire upper, an aggressive outsole (a little DT 96-ish, no?) wrapping up around the lateral forefoot, and most likely a quality Zoom unit inside.

One interesting design element is a zipper on the medial side of the ankle collar, perhaps to allow ease of access when putting the shoe on. You can also see that the strap is attached basically by two shoestring-like strands. We don’t have current release info for the Soldier 8 yet and there isn’t a ton known about the shoe at the moment, but be on the lookout for a TGRR report when they do drop.

The pair is a sample size 9, but doesn’t have a sample tag so we’re likely looking at the production version. Check out Max’s pics below.




TGRR Blog: Underrated Kicks, Vol. I: Nike Flight Lite II Update

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

10/15/13 Update: Thanks to savvy reader Anastasios Thomaidis, we’ve got a few pics of a used but still gorgeous blue/silver colorway of the Flight Lite II via an auction on German eBay. It’s always awesome to get input from readers, so enjoy the new pics.

We’re testing out a new blog mini-theme here at The Gym Rat Review, called Underrated Kicks. Throughout any sneaker era there have been shoes that, for whatever reason, haven’t gotten the love they deserve. Finch and I will pepper these in whenever we have time to give these unique kicks some props. First up, the Nike Flight Lite II.

The best picture I could find was from, a wonderful website with pictures and descriptions of tons of shoes…except that it’s in a completely different language that I do not speak. (In fact besides the ads, the only thing in English on the site read “f*** nike.” Not very nice.) Leave a comment if you know how I could translate the picture below.

A Google search of “Nike Flight Lite II” yielded about three pictures of the shoe before I got sick of scrolling. Part of this is because the Flight Lite II had the misfortune of sharing a name with a handful of other “Flight Lite” models. The 1991 Flight Lite shoe was, at the time, the lightest shoe in the Nike Basketball lineup despite its bulky appearance. There’s a couple different versions of that shoe, including a Flight Lite Hi, Flight Lite II and Flight Lite Mid. There’s also a boring Flight Lite that came after the Flight Lite II that I was originally talking about.

Regardless, it’s a gorgeous, confidently designed shoe that has long been a hopeless grail in my eyes. It boasts an asymmetrical lacing system (swoon), a full-length, encapsulated Air unit, a Phylite midsole and an awesome exposed monkey paw anti-ankle inversion structure. And of course, the legendary Alpha Project dots are prominently featured on the forefoot midsole and heel. I also love the dimpling of the midsole with various dots. Even the simple sculpting of the midsole near the heel augments the rest of the design and gives it a low-profile, sleek look. The colorblocking, particularly the red toebox piece and red Swoosh against the white midsole, is clean as well.

It’s a shoe that probably doesn’t have a prayer to be retroed but nonetheless deserves respect for the ingenuity and creativity in design while incorporating and exposing elements like the asymmetrical lacing and monkey paw structure.

nikeflightliteII3 nikeflightliteII2 nike_flight_lite_II

Black/Silver images are from here

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.

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.


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.

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.


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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TGRR Blog: First Impressions of the adidas Springblade

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

While we are primarily a hoops-focused performance site, there are times when various training or running shoes pique our interest enough to provide a more detailed examination of these different types of footwear (check out our pieces on the Nike Zoom Revis and Reebok ATV 19+). The adidas Springblade just happened to be one of these shoes that really caught my attention with its tech and performance specs.


Putting the shoes on for the first time and taking a few steps reinforced a couple of things. There are blades. And they are springy.

adidas says the 16 blades are made of a “high-tech polymer” and they slant backwards with durable adiWear pieces on the bottom of the blades to give it a surface to hit flush with the ground – something that doesn’t look possible given the shape of the blades from a side profile point of view.


I was surprised to see the blades in person because it’s such an aggressive design, and one that doesn’t look like it should work, but somehow does. Most cushioning platforms, even ones such as Reebok’s ZigTech, do not allow their sections to function independently. In the case of ZigTech, the columns are still attached to one another underfoot (same with Nike’s Shox, etc). Even with Nike Free and Reebok Realflex, there’s still an element of the individual sections being closely attached to the midsole platform.

The blades of this shoe are still attached to the midsole, obviously, but they’re only attached there and not at the bottom of the individual TPU pieces. This gives the shoe an exceptional amount of independent flex and bounce as each blade contacts the ground through the footstrike. Imagine the Crazyquick’s transition, but on stilts and with more responsiveness. In fact, one can draw a connection between the Crazyquick and Springblade designs in terms of the flow from heel to toe.


The 16 blades do impact the ground independently as you walk, and the response from the blades is noticeable and very bouncy. There’s not a lot of ground feel, and these definitely wouldn’t be suitable for cross training or any kind of lateral movements. But the fact that you can’t feel the ground once you put them on is actually pretty nice if you’re just wearing them around or running.

The Techfit upper is glove-like, and I continue to be impressed with the application of that technology in adidas footwear (loved it in the Crazyquick too). The shoe is relatively heavy though (over 12 ounces in the sample size) and I sort of wish there was a more substantial or strong upper to lock my foot into the heavier chassis underfoot.


The other aspect to the Springblade is its place within the adidas footwear profile. As this excellent Forbes piece explains, adidas is putting a lot of its eggs into the Springblade (and Energy Boost) basket. After trying them on, it made sense that the shoe would be geared towards entry level runners – I don’t think hardcore runners desire this type of cushioning and energy return at the expense of a lack of road feel and technical running aspects.


But it does raise the question then, at $180, who exactly is it geared towards? adidas claims the high school athlete as its target consumer for the Springblade, but the price point is incredibly high for a shoe designed for kids who will be asking their parents for this kind of money. And even then, the highest level high school athletes are getting into incredibly demanding and taxing training programs that probably require more specific training footwear. I understand that it can be used for training runs, but at its weight and build I’m not sure what distance or type of runs it’s best for. I just think that there are more practical options at a better price point.

While that may seem like a depressing paragraph, I have to admit that I did love this shoe on foot. As someone who works retail, slipping those on after being on my feet for 7+ consecutive hours was like a dream. I felt very little impact on my feet or up through my knees and back, so this is a shoe I would love to wear if I’m going to be on my feet all day (but it still wouldn’t be my first choice if I were going on a run). I realize that the technology was years in the making and it carries an expensive marketing campaign with it, but I worry that the $180 price tag is going to be tough to swallow for adidas’ target consumer.


Despite the fact that I struggled to really pinpoint a great purpose for this shoe and the Springblade technology, its a shoe that I look forward to buying simply because it’s so comfortable and because I want to really get a feel for the tech. It’ll be very interesting to see how this shoe performs at retail once it drops on August 1. I wholeheartedly recommend at least trying it on at your local retailer. It won’t feel like anything you’ve ever put on.

TGRR Blog: First Impressions of the Nike Hyperdunk 2013

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)


Since 2008, the Hyperdunk has been a flagship model for the Nike Basketball line. The shoes have debuted the first basketball iterations of Flywire and Lunar foam, and have updated those key technologies through the years. We’ve seen several different applications of Flywire alone in the Hyperdunk line.

The 2012 model showed off Hyperfuse construction, a Dynamic Flywire system and a Lunarlon/Phylon combination midsole, and the Hyperdunk 2013 is set to continue all three of those technologies.



You’ll notice strategically-placed Hyperfuse welding throughout the upper, underneath the Dynamic Flywire system. The 2013 Dynamic Flywire seems to be more customizable than the 2012 setup, with each section of the strands directly tied in to the laces. I believe that Dynamic Flywire is a much more legitimate technology than Flywire embedded in the upper from a performance standpoint, and I was pleased with the lockdown I got out of the Hyperdunk 2012 Low with the less-customizable utilization.


While I’m looking forward to spending more time in the 2013, the fit as I laced them up for the first time was excellent. It was snug and the lockdown over the footbed was ideal, while still allowing the foot to move and flex naturally.

The biggest aesthetic attraction in the 2013 is the large heel counter, which extends up from the midsole to wrap the heel itself. Heel fit seems excellent and even with my narrow foot I felt good heel lockdown. The internal heel counter does extend up beyond the midsole wrap, which also aids in the lockdown.


Herringbone is a welcome addition to the outsole, and is a departure from the 2012’s multidirectional pattern that I met with mixed results.

The transition seemed smooth upon first wearings and I have no qualms with that aspect. I’m not the biggest fan of Lunar foam simply because I feel like the responsiveness disappears quickly and the footbed – though it molds to the wearer’s foot well – becomes too firm. In the Hyperdunk 2013, the forefoot cushioning seemed a little lacking and that’s coming from a guy who’s currently playing in the Crazyquick and last reviewed the overly-firm KD V Elite. I also am not sure that the plastic TPU shank will give enough support at the midfoot and it seemed a little lacking at least for my foot anatomy.


After the first wearing, I anticipate the Hyperdunk 2013 to come out a solid performer (we’ll examine the real value of this shoe in the full review). I really liked the way the shoe plays on foot right out of the box. I enjoyed the fit, transition, traction and general freedom of movement, but it remains to be seen how the midfoot shank and forefoot cushioning perform through further testing.

TGRR Blog: First Impressions of the KD VI

Prose: Finch (@Sir_Stymie)

There are plenty shoes that get released that just naturally fit into my style – but sometimes there is that rare shoe that just gets you, captivates you in a certain way and you just can’t wait to try it on. That shoe for me was the Nike KD VI. Although it’s not a shoe that I would usually get all that excited about (usually I’m into lowkey retro releases), there is something about the minimalistic silhouette that piqued my interest.


Maybe it was the aggressive aesthetics, the bold and somewhat gaudy colorways or the fact that I’m a sucker from the Air Max/Zoom combination – a feature the KD VI provides. Maybe it’s that it has a soccer boot flavor that makes me nostalgic (I was soccer player for the vast majority of my youth until I found basketball). Either way, when I first saw the specs for this shoe, I was in love. I could not wait to get this shoe in to my hands and to experience all it has to offer.


I got the opportunity to see these warlocks a few day before the release at my neighborhood friendly Foot Locker. The first thing that got me was the box which goes beyond the garden variety orange Nike box. Upon further inspection it is a new, custom box complete with KD logo and hexagon pattern throughout. It’s good to see that they are going with a full on brand with the Durant line (Ed. note: Good point, especially with the increase in price).

Opening the box, I noticed right away that these kicks are low and almost Kobe-like, which I hoped for based on the initial pictures. Another aspect of the shoe that you’ll notice is the overall brightness and vibrancy of the colors. (I of course was trying on the “Seat Pleasant” colorway which is my favorite of the colorways I’ve seen.) The Sonic Yellow/Tropical Teal/Midnight Navy flat-out pop together and my mind was racing thinking of gear that would match.


Kim (of whom you know from her in-depth review the Nike Flyknit Lunar 1+) was with me during this endeavor and was also able to try on the kids size. She was not a fan because there was no Zoom bag in the kids model and she found the upper to be stiff and uncomfortable – just a heads up for the youngbloods or the parents of them.

Kim trying on the GS version of the KD VI.
Kim trying on the GS version of the KD VI.

As I slipped the shoes on, I realized right away that the shoe runs long – long enough that I would not feel comfortable playing in them in my usual size 13.

Perhaps because of the combination of the design and overall length in the fit, I didn’t feel great responsiveness from the Zoom bag in the forefoot. I promptly tried on a size 12 and the difference is night and day. Getting the proper size is critical for this shoe – you’ll definitely want to try it on before you buy if you plan to hoop in it.


Although the upper itself has a minimalistic design, the midsole and sole seems to be sophisticated and strategically set up for peak performance. Again, in the size 12 (a full size down from my normal size) the Zoom bag hit me right under the ball of my foot and the unit was as responsive as ever.


I was unable to purchase that day but this shoe is definitely on my must-cop list for this year. Overall, I was very happy with the way the shoe fit initially after I went a size down. Also, I was very happy with the heel to toe transition at least in my initial test – I was aware that there was some concern with slappiness in the KD Elite and it seems that Leo Chang and co. have remedied the problem.


The one concern I do have is the upper – most importantly the tongue – because there really isn’t much to it. It pretty much made of the Hyperfuse material except it has a mesh kind of feel for breathability and is built into the upper of the shoe. In terms of padding though the upper, outside of around ankle collar there isn’t much else. Ultimately, I am a tad bit concerned with the long-term comfort and durability of the shoe, as I am with most shoes of this genre and generations. But I came away happy with my first impression of the “Seat Pleasant” KD VI. When I am able to cop and hoop in these bad boys and put them through the ringer, I’ll make sure I hit you fine folks with an in depth review (possibility a collaborative affair with my homeboy Jake) and maybe an accompanying video? Keep it locked to

TGRR Blog: The Crazyquick Debate

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

(TGRR Performance Review: adidas Crazyquick)

When Sole Collector dropped a few of their most recent reviews online today, it seemed as if many commenters were upset at the relatively low score (84/100, a “B” on the SC scale) given to the adidas adipure Crazyquick by SC mastermind Nick DePaula. DePaula’s main complaint was a lack of forefoot cushioning, which tanked the shoe’s score in his opinion. NDP himself made note of the fact that no two reviewers will see a shoe the exact same way as a disclaimer before he went into his review, but Crazyquick lovers still got fairly upset and the lack of respect given to their shoe. The question became, then, what defines cushioning? What makes a shoe well-cushioned or poorly cushioned? It’s a worthy debate, especially those of us that ball all the time.

A couple of awesome commenters (shouts to garbageman and Nike Air Kwame, whoever you are) mentioned TGRR as an authority in terms of reviews so I thought I’d humbly chip in a few extra thoughts on the Crazyquick, and performance reviews in general.

If you’ve followed the blog at all, you’ll know that I personally loved the Crazyquick. The fit, heel-toe transition, court feel and lateral stability rank as some of the best I’ve ever tested or worn in my opinion – and NDP agreed in his review. However, where he ripped apart the shoe’s “lack” of cushioning, I was a big fan.

In my opinion, NDP looked at the Crazyquick from a traditional plush cushioning standpoint and he’s sort of right to say there isn’t any of that. But the forefoot cushioning on the Crazyquick isn’t designed to make it a soft ride, it’s designed to allow you to play fast, low to the ground and to change directions on a dime. In that sense, the cushioning is perfect. It allows the shoe to become the Crazyquick, to provide guards with a glove-like fit that is responsive no matter what you put it through. It allows the midsole to be flexible in the right areas and makes the traction impeccable.

All of this comes back to how you view cushioning and what type of player/reviewer you are. If you look at cushioning simply from a softness/impact protection point of view, yeah the Crazyquick doesn’t provide much in terms of that. But if you look at a cushioning setup and see what it provides you and not only what it takes away, the Crazyquick is a much, much better shoe. I believe the forefoot cushioning used in the Crazyquick is part of what makes it an elite guard shoe. It plays low to the ground, responsive and light thanks to its entire package, including the midsole/outsole combination.

I’m a former small college basketball player and have had both hips surgically reconstructed by the age of 21, so I’m pretty in-tune with how a shoe makes my body feel. I can firmly say I’ve had no injury concerns or pain whatsoever wearing the Crazyquick and it’s supposed “lack” of forefoot cushioning. In fact I felt the wear and tear on my joints much worse in the Nike Hyperdunk Low, which I gave up wearing after a month because the Lunarlon setup bottomed out and gave me little impact protection for my knees.

Performance reviews are always going to be subjective – at The Gym Rat Review we simply do our best to honestly and thoroughly review a shoe and look at the shoe as a total package, including what the shoe is intending to provide to the wearer. We’re going to have dissenting opinions at times, and it’ll be up to you to decide which shoe is best for your game given this variety of information. NDP and Sole Collector are the folks that we looked up to, so I can’t really argue too much with what he said. In fact the only thing I really disagreed with in the review (besides how the aspect of cushioning is interpreted) was the fact that NDP said the Crazyquick was poor value at $140. Some of that stems from his perceived lack of cushioning, but the Crazyquick completely re-engineered a basketball outsole (giving it four specific zones to increase traction and responsiveness) and introduced Techfit to a basketball shoe for the first time to give it unparalleled fit from heel to toe. I think if you introduce two new technologies and make them work fantastically, the value is definitely there.

Meanwhile, I’ll stay balling in them.

TGRR Blog: Return of the Revolution

Prose: Finch (@Sir_Stymie)


While searching for kicks online – an everyday occurrence – I came across some very interesting and exciting information. A pair of shoes that have been on my to-cop list forever, it seems, is finally making its illustrious return from the depths of the Nike vault: the Nike Air Revolution. The Revolution is special to me in a number of ways. At first glance the shoe is everything that I look for aesthetically: high-top, padded ankle support, visible Air Max bubble, speed laces and of course a strap.


The Revolution was originally released in 1987-1988 and then received retro in 2002, and I am happy to report that the designers at Nike stayed almost completely true to the original design. They did, however, change some minor details including the ankle height, and if history repeats itself Nike will undoubtedly have reduced the amount of padding around the ankle. I expected this and I feel that its doesn’t make a huge difference – it could be worse. I have seen Nike bastardize some of my favorite silhouettes in the past, i.e. this monstrosity, and I am happy they did the right thing (in my humble opinion) and kept it as true as possible.

Nike Air Revolution 6

It has been well-documented that I have a love for shoes with history and boy does this shoe have some history. It’s a history that will appeal to a wide variety of people as well. As previously stated, the Revolution was originally released in 1988, but what a lot of people don’t know is that the the original silhouette was designed to be the Jordan III. During this time Jordan was going through a contract dispute and almost left Nike (which would have been an utterly catastrophic and changed the very landscape of the sneaker world as we currently know it) because he wanted a creative influence on his shoes’ design. In came Tinker Hatfield, the godfather of innovative sneaker design (including the Air Max 1, Air Jordan III through Air Jordan XV, Nike Huarache and most recently the XX8) This was the first shoe design that was a collaborative project by athlete and designer, and it changed how signature shoes were designed forever.


Because of the design changes by Tinker and influence of His Airness, the Nike Air Revolution and AJ III look vastly different but they do share an identical sole/midsole equipped with a visible Air bubble . The Revolution could have drifted into the abyss, never to be seen by or released, but Nike released both shoes in the same year and both did quite well. The Air Jordan III went on be one of Jordan’s most well known signatures, and the OG design that came equipped with the Nike Air logo on the back retroed this year in limited quantities and sold out in minutes even with a $200 price tag.

The Revolution, however, has more of a cult following; it’s a grail to some collectors. During its release in the late 1980s the Revolution was worn by Dennis Rodman during the Detroit Pistons title runs of 1989 and 1990 where, ironically enough, they met Jordan’s Bulls in the Conference Finals. The series saw infamous “Jordan Rules” enacted and cemented Isaiah Thomas as an all-time great competitor.


As you can see you can see I am more than excited about this release. Jake has pronounced it to be my shoe so with that vote of confidence I will embark on the journey to add this historic shoe to my collection. There is no release date yet but there have been rumors of a release later on this summer. Pictures of two colorways have been released: the OG royal blue/white/black and red/white/black. Hopefully, we will also see a release of the OG white/black/silver colorway. Once I can get my hands on these Bad Boys, I’ll hit you guys with another article.