TGRR Blog: adidas Adipure Crazyquick Performance Review Primer

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

I should have the adidas Adipure Crazyquick in hand tomorrow afternoon and will hopefully get in a pickup run with them at 6 pm Wednesday night. I’m anticipating the review for this shoe for a couple of reasons.

First, adidas announced that the Crazyquick was the most wear tested shoe ever produced in the adi labs so I’m expecting a finely tuned fit thank to said wear testing and the nature of the TechFit upper itself. I also expect the transition to be top-notch thanks to the 17-part outsole that designer Robbie Fuller likened to a centipede with the way in which all the pods work in sync to grip the floor.

I’m also happy to hear that the engineers enlarged the Sprintframe chassis for the Crazyquick – I always felt that Rose’s shoes could have used a slightly beefier frame – and I hope that this gives it the necessary lateral stability despite the deeply segmented outsole. The deep grooves were the only thing that initially made me pause, as I hoped that torsional support wouldn’t be sacrificed in the name of flexibility or cutting weight (a la the Reebok Sublite Pro Rise, which is quite possibly the worst basketball shoe I’ve ever put on my feet).

The athlete feedback seems to be overwhelmingly positive, and a lot of the adidas-sponsored NCAA Tournament teams went to the Crazyquick during March Madness. John Wall and Damian Lillard are reportedly leading the marketing campaign, with Nic Batum making a few cameos as well. Former Indiana University guard Maurice Creek was still hooping in his at the rec center in Bloomington when Finch and I were down there playing pickup ball a few weeks ago, so there’s your insider (not really) nugget for the day.

More updates to come over the next few days at The Gym Rat Review Twitter account and expect a full review within 10 days.

TGRR Blog: A Quick Look at the Nike Elite 2.0 Series

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)
Pics: Finch (@Sir_Stymie)

With Finch hooking us up with a couple of quick in-store looks at the Nike Elite 2.0 series, we thought we’d pass along the images and some brief thoughts on the performance aspects of each.

With some of the tech-packed Elite models officially hitting retail already and others coming at various dates within the next few weeks, we were interested to get our hands on the three models (at least from a first-look standpoint; we ball on a budget right now and will try to cop and review the Elites at a later date if possible) and take a closer look at the performance aspects.

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We have a nice look at the KD V Elite and the LeBron X Elite in the above picture, but we’ll focus on the LeBron X Elite model first. Much like the IX Elite, the LeBron X uses carbon fiber wings for lateral support. The IX featured a one-piece carbon fiber wrap around the lateral side and from my experience with the “Taxi” colorway of the IX Elite, the fit and support were excellent. Though the LeBron X Elite uses two separate carbon fiber “wings,” expect top-notch support. The 360 Zoom Air Bag remains intact for great, responsive cushioning. A Fuse upper with Kevlar-infused Flywire should provide great lockdown provided you don’t have a super narrow foot.

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Next up is the Kobe 8 System Elite in a Poison Green colorway. One of the things I’ve always loved about the Kobe line (we’re talking Kobe V-present) is the external heel counter that provides the best heel lockdown and fit on the market today. The Kobe 8 Elite keeps the external counter and upgrades it with a carbon fiber build, locking the heel on to the footbed. I’ll mention it later in the KD V Elite blurb, but I feel that the fact that the Kobe heel counter is attached to the midsole is what gives it an advantage over the floating heel counter of the KD V Elite. I believe the KD V Elite will give you an awesome fit, but carbon fiber counter locked into the midsole is at the top of the lockdown chart. I also love the Dynamic Flywire – which I found to provide great fit as a key element of the Hyperdunk Low – and its placement on the bottom two eyelets in order to provide extra lockdown in the area where lateral forces are most extreme.

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Aesthetically, I prefer the KD V Elite over the other two models and I hope to purchase a pair as soon as the price lets up slightly. The caged heel Zoom bag is HUGE and it works in conjunction with the carbon fiber shank to provide great support and cushioning underfoot. As I mentioned previously, I’m a fan of the carbon fiber counter but I do feel like it would be most effective if attached to the midsole. I expect the fit and lockdown to still be top of the line, but it remains to be seen how well I like the floating counter on-court. From a design standpoint, the shoe still reminds me a lot of the Nike Zoom Vapor tennis shoe series and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the KD V Elite has some inspirational roots in that line of shoes. Elite tennis shoes are light, low to the ground and stable laterally, which is exactly what a basketball player needs as well.

TGRR Blog: Nike KD VI and adidas Rose 4.0 Release Dates

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

At my current place of employment, we recently posted a list of upcoming sneaker release dates that will be hitting our stores over the next few months. Two models stood out on the release calendar: the Nike KD VI and the adidas Rose 4.0.

Despite being the next signature models of two of each company’s biggest names, very little has been revealed about either shoe. A Google search revealed just one relevant post (from the always-reliable nightwing2303) concerning the tech specs of the KD VI. Searching “adidas Rose 4.0” yielded a little more information, though mostly just the blurry sample pictures that have been floating around over the last week and a half.

At any rate, the only new information that I can provide you is the tentative release dates for the two shoes. Again, I’m not an insider, but this is the first information I’ve seen concerning the release of these two shoes. The Nike KD VI (in a “YLW/NAVY/TEAL” colorway) is set to drop for this particular retailer on July 3, 2013 with a $130 price tag. The adidas Rose 4.0 in an “Away” colorway is slated to hit on October 10, 2013, while the “Home” colorway is scheduled for a December 5 drop. The Rose 4.0 has a MSRP of $160.

The other shoe of particular note to us here at TGRR is the Jordan Super.Fly 2, which is supposed to drop at this retailer on August 1 in four different colorways and a $130 price tag.

I stress again that I’m not an insider, and I’m only relaying the information from one footwear release calendar. Once more:

Nike KD VI – (Ylw/Navy/Teal) – $129.99 – 7/3/2013
adidas Rose 4.0 – (Away) $159.99 – 10/10/2013
adidas Rose 4.0 (Home) $159.99 – 12/12/2013
Jordan Super.Fly 2 (Gry/Blue/Ryl, Blk/Gry/Wht, Grn/Blk/Wht, Purp/Org/Blk) $129.99 – 8/1/2013

Can’t wait to see official pics and further release information regarding a few of the top performance shoes on the market. Leave us a comment or drop us an email at thegymratreview@gmail.com if you have any more info on these or other release dates.

TGRR Blog: My Love Affair with the Nike Hyperflight

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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To put it simply, the Nike Hyperflight is where it all started for me; it sowed the seeds of my kicks obsession. The aesthetic and the aura that shoe had helped me appreciate the form, function and the driving concepts behind a design. As an avid Kicksology and Kicksguide reader, I saw the pictures of the original sketches of that shoe (along with the Shox Stunner and Ultraflight) on each site and I was instantly fascinated. I began researching as much sneaker design and technology information as my seventh-grade head could handle. (I also developed a nasty habit of sketching shoes the margins of my notebook paper, homework assignments and daily planner – something that I’m sure thrilled my teachers) My mom refused to buy them for me when they initially dropped in 2002, but I eventually got my hands on a deadstock black/red pair back in 2008 and it’s the only pair in my collection that I won’t wear – I consider it the jewel of my collection and can’t bring myself to rock them and crease up that sexy silhouette. My love of footwear – the total package of footwear – was born of this beautiful, daring, and ultimately flawed, work of art.

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To me, the Hyperflight is the godfather of today’s Hyperdunk line and the lightweight movement in general. Back then – with Alpha Project at full strength and Nike designers being encouraged to push the limits of design, function and technology – Eric Avar was attempting to create a minimal yet functional shoe in a unique aesthetic package. The large “H” shaped structures were supposed to serve as the anti-ankle inversion support and Zoom Air cushioning gave it a low-profile midsole. The daring cut of the ankle gave it a never-before-seen silhouette and of course the shiny cobec upper gave it myriad options as far as color schemes go.

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The only problem was, the shoe sucked on-court. The anti-inversion structures weren’t strong enough to withstand the pounding of an entire game, the cobec upper wasn’t a very functional material because it creased badly and was too stiff to provide a good fit, and there seems to be a complete lack of a midsole under the arch of one’s foot. With the upper being too roomy, a lack of ankle support and little cushioning underfoot, the Hyperflight was really a dangerous shoe to play in.

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But at the same time, the shoe was a groundbreaker in terms of the (attempted) marriage of form and function. Avar has said that he designed the shoe as Bill Bowerman would have designed a track spike – by taking a shoe down to its core and using only the most necessary design elements in order to create a lightweight, high-performance package. While the shoe failed to hold up as a performer, it reset the boundaries to which shoes could be pushed. The minimalism of Flywire and Hyperfuse can trace its origins to the Hyperflight, which had its own origins in the designs of Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman. And that puts the Hyperflight at the center of one incredible and ever evolving lineage.

TGRR BLOG: Kim’s Performance Review Primer

Prose: Kim Nguyen (@317Kim)

Hey everyone! My name is Kim Nguyen and I am currently in my last year studying Exercise Science at Ball State University. As an Exercise Science major, I work with a lot athletes as well as people aspiring to become more physically fit. Because of my love for fitness, exercise prescription and shoes, my collection of runners and trainers has expanded greatly. Recently I was given the opportunity to write a guest post for TGRR, so to precede my in-depth review of my newest pair of shoes I wanted to let you all know what qualities I look for in a shoe to fit my active lifestyle.

Fit
As a runner, weightlifter and personal trainer I like to have shoes that fit each activities’ physical demands. One quality that is similar in all these types of shoes is fit. I’m a firm believer of TGRR’s statement that, “A performance shoe should be an extension of the foot.” I like it when it feels like a shoe is hugging my feet because it gives me support and stability during my high impact workouts.

In my collection, I would have to say my best fitting shoe would be the Nike Free Kukini. When I first tried on the Kukinis, it was love at first step. I honestly felt like there were heart-shaped fireworks going off in my room when I first experienced the comfort of the 5.0 Free bottoms and laceless neoprene/mesh upper. The stretchy and breathable upper instantly gave me a custom fit.

Heel – Toe Transition
I am a huge fan of Free bottoms, but I prefer to run in the Nike Lunarglide 4+ because of its smooth heel to toe transition. The Lunarlon midsole/sole combination wears evenly and utilizes a curved toe-off to give you a smooth rocking motion when walking and running. The cushioning is thicker in the middle and gets thinner on both sides leading to the toe and the heel which contributes to the smooth heel to toe transition.

Cushion
Cushioning is essential to my collection since I am always on the go. I need cushioning that can absorb and withstand high impact. One of the newer shoes in my collection takes the cake in this category. The Nike Roshe Run is known for its superior cushioning and creates a sensation of walking on marshmallows (a sentiment echoed by lots of Roshe wearers) because of the thick Lunarlon midsole and Kobe 8-esque sock liner. This is a winning combination which is why this is my go-to shoe when walking to class or after a workout. Even though I have heard of people running in them, I wouldn’t recommend them for anything more than a jog because of the questionable durability of the upper.

Traction
When it comes to traction, all of my Frees come to mind because of their flexible grooves. When I walk in them, I feel like the grooves are gripping the sidewalk as I go. One of my favorite pairs of Frees is the rare Nike N7 Free Forward Moc+. This sneaker provides a natural ride through its deep outsole flex grooves and gives you a barefoot feel that I have always enjoyed because it cooperates with the natural movements of the feet.

Materials/Durability
In my opinion, the most durable shoe in my collection would be the Nike Free Powerlines+. The synthetic overlay was made specifically to provide extra support and durability. The Powerlines also feature carbon rubber in high-wear areas such as the toe and the heel for enhanced durability. With all of these durable features, Nike was still able to make this a comfortable by incorporating a breathable mesh upper and sockliner that conforms to the shape of the foot.

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My all-time favorite shoe is the newly-acquired Nike Lunar Flyknit +1. After two weeks with this shoe, it is safe to say that it clearly has become my favorite. Its versatility and ability to perform during all of my various workout routines makes it worth every single penny. This incredible shoe incorporates all of my favorite qualities and just so happens to be the shoe that I will be reviewing here at TGRR later this week.

(Ed. note: Besides being the better half of our own Jerred Finch, Kim is an incredibly knowledgeable sneaker collector and Swoosh lover with a unique taste in kicks. She provides us with expertise in the fitness/biomechanical department thanks to her exercise science background – she’s also probably stronger and in better shape than Finch and I combined. Check her kicks out on Twitter and Instagram at @317kim and look for periodical contributions from Kim in the future here at TGRR.)

TGRR Blog: First Impressions of the Nike Barkley Posite Max

Prose: Finch (@Sir_Stymie)

When I go into work at my Footlocker, I like to look around and see if there is anything new beside the normal Air Max 90’s and Air Force 1’s before I clock in. On one special day last week, in shipment, we had the Nike Barkley Posite Max in the Eggplant colorway. Although I was unable to  give this highly-touted shoe a full detailed review because Footlocker is doing a raffle, I felt I would be doing you the reader and myself a disservice if I at least didn’t give you a run down or my first impression as it were; so let’s get to it.

The Barkley Foamposite is a hybrid shoe in the same lineage as a 1/2 cent which was a Penny/ Foamposite combination. I myself am not a huge fan of most hybrid shoes because I find them more of a novelty item than a functional shoe. But in that same breath, I am fan of Barkley shoes and and Foams so I figured I may give these a shot.

When I got the shoe out of the box I was immediately drawn in by that details that the shoes have to offer. The eggplant color is very vibrant and the “Not a Role Model” spelled out on the bottom was a very nice touch. That combined with the speckled Air Max bubble, paracord laces and nice color blocking make it an aggressive and classic Barley silhouette. I couldn’t help thinking to myself that this should could be a problem, in a good way. I thought I would have to cop this shoe and I was caught up in all the hype. I quickly asked my manager if I could try it on and I was ready to see what this shoe was really all about.

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When I had the shoe on foot I realized a number of things. First, this is one heavy shoe. In terms of the heaviest shoes I’ve ever had on foot, the Nike Air Total Foamposite Max is numero uno for obvious reasons, followed closely by the Nike Hyperposite. This is not a negative or a positive, but more of an observation that I thought was relevant. Usually I connect weight with reliability and overall quality of materials, but I have been wrong before.

Another thing that I found more concerning was how flimsy the upper was was although it is supposedly a Foam and synthetic combination. I was expecting more in terms of rigidity and the Foam on the upper seemed to be too pliable at the flex points of the shoe. I personally am not a fan of a lack of cushion and padding throughout the upper, and the Barkley Posite Max was disappointing in this department. This was surprising because I have owned a pair of Foams and several pairs of Barkleys over my life and I am usually very happy with the padding and comfort through the upper.

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The outsole is a mixed bag to say the least. On one hand the words and designs were very nice from an aesthetic standpoint, but traction as it is relates to performance this shoe is horrible. The lettering is the only part of the shoe with any type of pattern for grip and that is in the form of very light herringbone. The space that is not taken up by lettering has a very light stippling and a few wavy indentations that I believe are there more for style that actual functionality.

In closing, I feel that this shoe aesthetically is a work of art – definitely one of the best hybrid models Nike has come out with. On foot the Chuckposite will definitely turn some heads. With that said, its shortcomings from a quality standpoint as well as a functionality standpoint don’t make this shoe worth it’s hefty $235 price tag. I wish I had the opportunity to actually hoop in these to let you guys know how they really perform for what nature intended. I hope this will be suffice for now, and I urge you to head to your local retailer and ask to see them for yourself – I can only give you my opinion of my short firsthand accounts. Don’t let my words make or break your decision to cop or drop; check em for out yourself thanks for the read.

TGRR Blog: What It Means to be Elite

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

In 2012 Nike introduced the Elite series, which consisted of upgraded versions of the LeBron IX, Kobe VII and Hyperdunk for the athletes’ playoff runs. Upgraded construction like carbon fiber heel clips and midfoot panels, a reduction in layers of the Flywire-based uppers and beefed up midfoot shanks worked to provide wearers with a better fit, more durability and lighter weight.

On March 20, Nike officially unveiled the Elite 2.0 series. The LeBron X, Kobe VIII and the KD V all received the Elite treatment and were upgraded in different ways. We don’t normally do breaking sneaker news here because we try to keep TGRR as performance-based as possible – we’re not just another sneaker news blog. But this news was especially pertinent to us at TGRR, as these shoes are supposed to represent the best in Nike basketball technology and performance.

At the end of the post, add your vote to the poll at the bottom and let us know which of the three Elite 2.0 shoes you like best.

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The first model we’ll take a look at is the LeBron X PS Elite. “Unstoppable Power” is the tagline along with the shoe, and there are a few noticeable differences between the Elite version and the standard model. The midsole is slightly more chunky, but the real difference comes in the form of the large carbon fiber panels on the midfoot and heel. The heel piece, with three “wings” wrapping around the lateral side and two more wrapping around the back to the medial side, should provide a lockdown fit.

There’s also another smaller wing along the midfoot to provide some lateral stability. With Kevlar-reinforced Flywire and laces, this shoe is designed to lock you in and withstand any pounding a player could put it through.

LEBRON X PS ELITE: Unstoppable Power

Forged by time, heat and pressure, the diamond inspires LeBron James’s tenth Nike signature shoe. His elite version drafts off the rare Carbonado diamond, a virtually indestructible stone said to derive from an ancient supernova, the most explosive force in the universe. The shoe’s bright citrus colorway and graphic collar lining capture James’s unstoppable power.

The LEBRON X PS ELITE is designed to be stronger, offering the highest level of performance for James in the post season. The shoe builds on the innovative advances of the LEBRON X and takes it to a new level with:

  • Carbon fiber-reinforced mid-foot wings for excellent lateral stability
  • Kevlar® aramid-reinforced Nike Flywire technology for consistent lock-down through the midfoot
  • Kevlar® aramid laces resist stretching for a more consistent fit
  • Articulated foam tongue provides impact protection and minimizes lace pressure

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Next up in the Elite 2.0 series is the Kobe 8 System Elite “Deceptive Speed.” The Kobe 8 doesn’t get quite as many external upgrades as the other two – though it does feature a carbon fiber heel counter and midfoot shank – and some Dynamic Flywire shows up on the forefoot and reinforced with Kevlar. Under the hood though, the Kobe 8 gets Zoom Air cushioning (finally) and improved padding in the once paper-thin tongue. A better fit and more responsive cushioning should lead to a quicker shoe on-foot.

KOBE 8 SYSTEM ELITE: Deceptive Speed

Kobe Bryant often showcases the adept speed and precision of his on-court alter ego, the Black Mamba. The KOBE 8 SYSTEM ELITE is inspired by the lethal green pit viper snake and the x-ray vision emitted by its heat-sensing eyes. Bryant stays three steps ahead of his opponent with his keen vision. The KOBE 8 SYSTEM ELITE highlights Bryant’s power of deceptive speed with a poison green colorway and x-ray vision graphic on the collar lining.

The KOBE 8 SYSTEM ELITE is designed for precision footwork while offering:  

  • Carbon fiber heel clip and shank for lightweight stability, quick cuts and jumps
  • Dynamic Flywire technology reinforced with Kevlar® aramid to provide more consistent stability and lockdown
  • Articulated foam tongue provides impact protection and minimizes lace pressure
  • Kevlar® aramid laces resist stretching for a more consistent fit
  • Phylon midsole and Nike Zoom technology providing consistent, responsive cushioning

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Without question, the shoe with the most drastic changes from the base model is the KD V Elite. And I am instantly infatuated. The shoe goes from a mid-top in the regular version to a low in the Elite, a plus as far as I’m concerned. The next thing you’ll notice is the prominent, dare I say late 90s/early 00s-esque, caged Zoom Air bag in the heel. The large volume, visible bag transitions to the midfoot via a carbon fiber shank and noticeable arch. The arch and Zoom bag combination reminded me of the Zoom Drive or Zoom Vapor 8; I expect great cushioning and stability through the midsole but I’m interested to see if the heel-toe transition is smooth thanks to the high arch. Kevlar boots the Dynamic Flywire strands that are found throughout the upper, another new feature from the Fuse-based standard KD V. Carbon fiber shows up on the V as well, in the form of a large floating heel clip. If there’s a shoe of the three that I’d most like to review, it’s the KD V Elite.

KD V ELITE: Ultimate Control

Capturing Kevin Durant’s thunderous power of ultimate control, the new low KD V ELITE debuts in a volt colorway, illuminated by the sharp glow of lightning bolts. The design speaks to Durant’s versatility, shooting accuracy and finely-tuned court vision. 

The re-engineered low-top silhouette offers a full range of motion for Durant’s playoff push. Additional enhanced technical highlights include:

  • Carbon fiber heel counter and shank provide lightweight stability for quick cuts
  • Dynamic Flywire technology reinforced with Kevlar® aramid to provide more consistent stability and lockdown
  • Articulated foam tongue provides impact protection and minimizes lace pressure
  • Caged Nike Zoom unit in the heel for responsive cushioning and stability

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Underrated Kicks, Vol.4: Nike Air Carnivore

Prose: Finch (@Sir_Stymie)

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In the latest installment of Underrated Kicks we take a trip back to the 1990s, which in my opinion was the greatest era in sneaker history. With athletes like “Neon” Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson making a name for themselves not only on the gridiron but on the diamond as well, the 90s were a heyday for some of the most iconic and transcendent performance trainers of all time. To this day, these shoes are being retroed and used not only as a fashion statement but also for modern performance. For example the Diamond Turf (Deion Sanders) Reebok ES22 (Emmit Smith) and even Brett Favre and Dan Marino had pseudo-signatures with the Nike Zoom Turf and Speed Turf respectively.

One of the most iconic and original designs also made its debut 1990s: the Nike Air Huarache, which is Spanish for shoes or sandals. The Huarache line revolutionized sneakers with its use of lightweight materials, inner sockliner and structural minimalism – the use of exaggerated mesh or cutout holes to reduce weight and enhance breathability. This line has been retroed, re-imagined, updated and retroed over and over again. Whether it’s classics like the Nike Flight Huarache, which has been worn by numerous NBA players, or the lesser known Huarache Trainer 94, they’re some of the most visible shoes on the market. The Nike Huarache even recently took several of their most popular silhouettes such as the Flight Huarache and the Huarache Low and tried to modernize the design using Nike Free bottoms to attract today’s modern runners. Even though these designs were met with some scrutiny, it is a constant reminder that the Huarache line is alive and well.

Off of the success of the Huarache line and shoes like it came many other renowned (and albeit lesser known) silhouettes. These kicks share some striking similarities to its celebrated predecessor, but were either ahead of their time in terms of look or not properly indorsed enough to make a splash in this celebrated but crowded market of sneakers. An example of this misfortune happens to be one of my favorite kicks of all time.

The Nike Air Carnivore was released in 1993 in two colorways: the classic Green/Purple/Black and a lesser-known all black model with purple accents. In the 2010 the Carnivore was retroed in the same classic green, purple and black but with this release Nike added new white, red and gold – almost 49ers-esque – colorway.

The Carnivore was said to be the a trainer on steroids and featured a very aggressive and futuristic design. The Carnivore come with zero laces and the lockdown mechanism is provided via a series of straps very similar to the David Robinson-worn Nike Air Unlimited. The Carnivore has a strap over the forefoot, a strap on the ankle sleeve (which is where we see the most similarity to the Air Unlimited) and a small strap tightener on the outer which pulls that foot in to the midsole for a firm lockdown. The only other time that I have personally seen another strap of this kind was in Amare Stoudemire’s STAT signature shoe, except that strap was hidden. These straps by themselves wouldn’t provide the an adequate fit for a trainer, but when they all work cooperatively they provide a fit that in my opinion is comparable to some of the top basketball shoes today.

The aesthetics of the Carnivore set it apart from any shoe before or after, for that matter. With an extremely tall neoprene inner sleeve and a reptilian-patterned insole along with colors that are hard to match with a fitted or t-shirt, you can see how these sneakers could be an acquired taste to some sneaker enthusiasts. To this day this shoe is a gem for a few sneaker collectors; I personally am on my second pair of Air Carnivores and they were one of my first shoes in my collection. If I was to judge by the amount of looks and questions that I receive when I wear them out, it definitely is not a well-known shoe and is a head-turner for sure. You can usually find Carnivores at Nike Factory Stores, even thrift shops, and I was luck enough to get mine on the cheap on eBay (even though I’d over pay for these babies.)

It’s hard to tell why shoes don’t sell or are slept on. I think its a byproduct of people being afraid to step out of the box and pigeonholing themselves into one type of shoe or one brand of shoe. I myself have fell victim to this and have tried hard to step out of my comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to branch out and be an individual – you would be surprised at what you have been missing out on.

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Underrated Kicks, Vol. 3: Under Armour Micro G Juke

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Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

Some kicks are underrated because the community isn’t ready for the design and popular opinion doesn’t go in their favor. Some are underrated because they weren’t marketed or distributed all that heavily. Some are underrated because the company is stretching its boundaries and the shoe is sort of a trial model for a new technology or brand. The Under Armour Micro G Juke happens to meet all three of those criteria and is our third installment in Underrated Kicks.

Personally, I loved the Juke since the first time I set eyes on them. The silhouette is just sexy – sleek and low-profile with a plummeting collar line. The CompFit ankle sleeve was the most polarizing feature of the shoe, but I loved how it was used both aesthetically and functionally (more on that later). The shoe looks like it almost leans back and flows into your ankle, like an extension of your foot. I’m always a fan of properly-used perforations, and the laser-cut design along the midfoot worked well for me. I also thought the logo placement on the forefoot was perfect. The simple colorblocking was effective as well – white/black and black/black – added to the overall smoothness of the design.

The Micro G cushioning is absolutely joyful on foot, and the shoe feels bouncy and lightweight. The fit through the midfoot and CompFit sleeve is excellent. This is something that should not be understated either, because Under Armour really broke new ground with the CompFit system. We had not seen a shoe build in something like an ankle sleeve or brace (it’s not really a brace) before, and Under Armour almost perfectly nailed it in their first attempt. Getting the anatomy correct in terms of placement and attaching the sleeve to the inner lining was certainly something that took a lot of trial and error. For me, it works wonderfully well with the rest of the lacing system and tongue.

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The shoe wasn’t flawless – the synthetic material used for the toebox led to quick creasing and the odd structure off the toebox itself is a head scratcher – but for a debut of new technology for a relatively new brand, the Juke got almost everything right.

As far as why the Juke was slept-on, let me go back to that opening paragraph. First and foremost, Under Armour was still breaking into the performance basketball market when the Juke released back in 2011. The wary sneaker community wasn’t ready to accept the newcomers who hadn’t yet had the opportunity to prove themselves among the industry big boys. Brandon Jennings created quite a bit of buzz for the brand when he dropped 55 wearing an Under Armour prototype, but that shoe didn’t even release until two years later. The Juke was the boldest design in the Under Armour repertoire at the time, and people were hesitant to make the leap.

The Juke also wasn’t readily available at most retailers. It was tough to find them in physical retailers, though Eastbay and the Under Armour website had some quantities. The shoe was marketed fairly well at first – Kemba Walker graced the cover of SLAM Kicks with the Juke around his neck that year! – but with the shoe hard to find in stores and Kemba not rocking them consistently on court, the shoe didn’t live up to its cover boy status.

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Finally, the design was just…different. It was a new brand with a limit-testing design that didn’t look like anything else on the market. The technology – Micro G and the CompFit sleeve – hadn’t been proven on the market. Despite solid performance review scores from SoleCollector and NiceKicks, the Juke never caught on based on those factors. If you didn’t snag them when you could, it’s your loss. I continually searched on eBay for over a year before I found this white/black pair in my size last month; it was an immediate cop when I did.

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Under Armour pushed the limits of its own design and technology, and came out on top. That’s the recipe that makes the Juke a favorite in my closet.

TGRR Blog: State of the Industry, Part 2: adidas Basketball

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

In part one of our State of the Industry series, we took a look at the present and future of Jordan Brand. The face of the basketball sneaker industry and leader in market share, we looked for Jordan Brand to continue to push the limits of design and innovation while being led into the future by the Jordan namesake, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and newcomers Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin. While I jumped straight into the JB review and the future of the brand, the adidas story requires more of a history lesson.

Overview
The adidas basketball division is one that has undergone massive changes in terms of the branding and design of its products. Back in the late 90s and early 00s, adidas basketball launched a largely successful “Feet You Wear” campaign that made the company competitive it the basketball market.

Feet Your Wear was more a philosophy rather than an actual, tangible technology. Basically, Feet You Wear differed from a traditional shoe “last” (the shape of the outsole that the shoe is built on) by curving and molding the midsole and outsole to better fit the wearer’s foot. Adidas shoes built on the Feet Your Wear philosophy feature midsoles that wrap up higher on the foot than typical shoes while molded and form-fitting outsoles that targeted specific areas of the foot. This provided better lateral stability and torsional rigidity underfoot and promoted a natural footstrike. The upper was then brought close to the foot to provide better fit all the way up.

Behind Feet You Wear shoes like the adidas Real Deal, Top Ten and Crazy 8, adidas brought models to the consumer that were distinctive and performed well. They also had a strong presence on-court behind a young, budding superstar named Kobe Bryant. Feet You Wear proved to be short-lived, and once Bryant got his signature line – with the Audi-inspired Kobe and Kobe Two – adidas created some of the most loved/hated signatures of all-time.

Here’s a banger of a commercial with Kobe in the Top Ten:

Later on in the 2000s, adidas moved into the a3 and Bounce era as a response to the Nike Shox craze. While neither technology ended up enjoying much longevity, adidas’ versions were basically always seen as the little brother to the Vince Carter-led Shox series. Adidas had some moderate success with the a3/Bounce line as team shoes – I wore the a3 Pro Team during my time with the Indiana Elite AAU program – and the a3 Superstar Ultra was probably the most comfortable basketball shoe I’ve ever owned (though the outsole peeled off and the a3 pillars literally disintegrated after two weeks – and a couple of other teammates had the same thing happen).

Then, adidas trended back towards Feet You Wear with the Formotion campaign behind young stars like Gilbert Arenas while incorporating Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett (who had a couple of adidas signature models). They also pushed the limits of design with Tracy McGrady’s signature shoes (particularly the T-Mac IV and V). Finally, we got to the Team Speed line and with 2010’s TS Supernatural Creator and Commander. Adidas had created two of the best performance shoes of all time with the Creator and Commander, and were beginning to be led by Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard. The Creator is one of my all-time favorite performance shoes – its heel-toe transition, fit, cushioning and traction were nearly perfect. The shrouded upper also gave it a sleek, clean silhouette. The outsole was vintage Feet You Wear – perfectly tuned and molded, as well as stable and form-fitting with the pod outsole. Adidas was back and Feet You Wear was better than ever. I was prepared to buy whatever guard-geared TS shoe they cranked out…

And then adidas moved away from it all. Again.

In late 2010, adidas introduced its SPRINTFRAME and SPRINTSKIN on Rose’s first true signature shoe and thinned out the midsole. Then within the first two months of 2011, adidas rebranded their basketball line – under the adiZero campaign – in the name of speed. They launched the Crazy Light  – the lightest basketball shoe to date. At 9.8 ounces, the shoe and the campaign changed the idea of how light a shoe could be built. Even with Nike’s Kobe line pushing the low-top limits, adidas still clocked in lighter. And at $130, they were testing the limits of the consumer who’d pay top dollar not for superior technology or comfort, but for a lack of weight. They’ve continued with the Crazy Light 2 (as well as other light-driven models like the Ghost and Crazy Shadow), and appear committed to pushing the weight barrier on all its shoes for the near future.

*Market Share: 5.5% (via @MattSOS)

Latest Performance Models
Adidas Crazy Light 2
Adidas Rose 3/3.5
Adidas D Howard Light
Adidas Crazy Shadow/Crazy Fast
Adidas Top Ten 2000/Real Deal

The Crazy Light 2 has been a popular shoe at the professional, collegiate and high school levels. It was lauded as an improvement over the original Crazy Light (which had some durability issues) and beefed up the midsole and targeted stability of the SPRINTWEB upper. It’s available in a myriad of colors and we’ll likely see the Crazy Light line continue as a go-to team shoe in the future.

The Rose 3 was an interesting release to me because of the price point. At $160, the Rose 3 was priced to compete with the high-end Nike and Jordan Brand products such as the Hyperdunk and XX- line. But in my opinion, the shoe didn’t provide the type of technology or innovation that I want if I’m dropping $160+ on a shoe. Yes, the fit was very good and the SPRINTFRAME chassis was very well-sculpted. The full-length herringbone traction was a sight for sore eyes (especially after the embarrassment that was the Rose 2), but looking at the entire package the Rose  3 simply didn’t bring the requisite luxury feel and technology it should have at that price point.

Howard’s signature shoe has been lightly marketed and isn’t the prettiest shoe aesthetically. His line has been lauded in terms of performance for providing an extremely light but protective shoe (with top-notch Alive cushioning and cilia traction pattern) suitable for many positions, but as I’ll talk about later, Howard himself is limiting marketing opportunities. His shoes simply aren’t that good-looking and the namesake isn’t endearing himself to the public.

The Crazy Shadow and Crazy Fast silhouettes have also been popular among athletes at all levels, providing a lightweight option without the $130 price tag. Both the Top Ten 2000 and Real Deal are retro performance models – a welcome nod to the Feet You Wear days. The Top Ten has been seen on the feet of John Wall and Damian Lillard, while Avery Bradley was the first to break out the Real Deal.

Technology
When adidas went light with their basketball line, two technologies drove the weight cutting measures: SPRINTWEB and SPRINTFRAME. The SPRINTFRAME component is one that I personally loved. The idea of a single piece chassis makes a ton of sense in terms of cutting out excess material and providing a consistent fit and stability. SPRINTWEB is similar to Nike’s Fuse technology, as it’s a layered outer skin with targeted zones of overlays for durability. Where that support isn’t needed, such as the toebox of the original Crazy Light for example, it’s basically just a thin layer of mesh.

Further adi tech is pretty well known. Adiprene and adiprene+ have been cushioning staples for years, and the Torsion system has been providing lateral stability for a long time.

A quick note: adidas unveiled new Boost cushioning last week in their running shoes, and look for it to creep into the basketball line in time. Boost reportedly is three times more responsive than traditional foam, and seems to be a natural candidate to be employed on a basketball court to compete with Nike’s Zoom Air and Under Armour’s Micro G.

Top Athletes
Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Tim Duncan, Ricky Rubio, Damian Lillard, Eric Gordon, Harrison Barnes, Jrue Holiday, John Wall, Serge Ibaka

Adidas is obviously led by Rose and Howard in the signature shoe department, but they’ve also featured Smith in adizero Ghost ads. Adidas does deserve serious props for the job they’ve done in terms of bringing young, marketable talent to the brand. Rubio is one of the most watchable guys in the league and has international appeal, Lillard is far and away the best rookie in the league and Holiday is 22 and already an All-Star. Barnes has the potential to be a starter for years to come, and Gordon and Wall are young, productive vets who could still become stars.

I didn’t even include guys like Avery Bradley or Arron Afflalo, who both deserve mention for being the first to preview the Real Deal and Crazy Light 2 Low, respectively. In terms of drawing young talent to the brand, adidas has done a great job in the last two years.

Future Outlook
The Rose signature line is now six signatures deep (three regular models and three “.5” models, plus a low-top version of the Rose 2) and Howard has four officially to his name. One year ago, adidas had to be thrilled with their two headliners. Rose was the reigning MVP and Howard was the best big man in the league.

But today, various circumstances have clouded each players’ future and put adidas in a precarious spot with their top two basketball athletes. Rose endured a horrific ACL tear on April 28 and has yet to return to the floor this season (a minor dustup involving Nike designer Jason Petrie implying that Rose wouldn’t have gotten hurt had he signed with Nike put adidas basketball in the spotlight too). Adidas went ahead with the release of his third signature shoe before the 2012-2013 season and marketed “The Return” of Rose to the floor. It was a quality strategy due to the circumstances, but it’s still going to be hard to sell a $160 signature shoe behind a player that can’t play. It was nobody’s fault, but it is what it is.

Howard has quickly become one of the least-liked players in the league for his perceived lack of competitiveness, petulance, selfishness in Los Angeles and the way in which he left Orlando. This could not have helped sales of his signature shoe, which wasn’t exactly the most popular shoe on the market based on looks or marketing beforehand.

With Howard taking a hit in terms of public perception and Rose’s playing future somewhat in question, adidas may have to rely on its young talent to carry the brand. Luckily for them, the trio of Rubio, Lillard and Holiday appear ready to step up and be the face of the brand. This doesn’t necessarily mean signatures shoes all around, but adidas could have three All-Star point guards under 23 years old as soon as next season. And with the brand already driven by lightweight performance, the Three Stripes could end up with a perfect combination of product, players and performance.

*3/12/13 Update

Last week adidas unveiled the CrazyQuick, a shoe that may bridge the gap between reduced weight, comfort and performance. The shoe was the most weartested ever from adidas, and features a 17-piece outsole for greater stability, comfort and transition while keeping the midsole thin. The shoe also features the first-ever TechFit upper which keeps the weight down. To me, this shoe is a hybrid between the Feet You Wear adidas and the CrazyLight school of thought. Hopefully, they’ve found a way to incorporate the great fit and comfort of a Feet You Wear model while still making a competitive lightweight product. So far, John Wall is the most visible athlete associated with the Crazy Quick (personally, I don’t think he has the clout to carry a shoe) but I expect to see other guards in it very soon. For TGRR purposes, I plan to cop and review the CrazyQuick when it drops on May 1.