Performance Review: adidas D Howard 4

Prose: Finch (@Sir_Stymie)

Back in July of 2013, our good friend Jake reviewed the adidas Crazyquick and I must admit that I was itching to try adidas’ new natural motion midsole for myself. While It wasn’t in the cards for me last year, I stumbled upon a shoe that not only satisfied my desire to try adidas’ newest tech but also is garnering interest with the 2014 NBA All Star game rapidly approaching: the adidas D Howard 4.

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Recently, we have seen adidas go with a minimalistic approach in its performance line with models such as the Crazy Light and Derrick Rose silhouettes. This is far cry away from the Feet You Wear line of the late 90s, including the recently retroed Crazy 97, Crazy 8s and Real Deal (worn by Kobe Bryant and Antoine Walker, respectively). These classics featured a bulkier silhouette and a midsole that wrapped up around the foot – providing natural motion and support in a never-before-seen way. This line was one of the most popular and innovative developments in shoe history.

adidas dabbled in it again in the mid-2000s, with a new Formotion iteration showing up in Tracy McGrady and Gilbert Arenas’ signature shoes among others. They hit the nail on the head with the TS Supernatural Creator, a performance monster and the shoe that Derrick Rose wore in his first NBA season.

That’s why it’s still surprising to see adidas focus on minimalistic and lightweight designs. While adidas has a nice guard rotation repping the brand (Lillard/Rubio/Wall/Rose, etc.) I was really interested to see how bigger NBA players such as Tim Duncan (Crazyquick), David West (Crazy Light 3) and Dwight Howard played in these minimalist shoes. I couldn’t imagine those models being able to support their larger frames and in Duncan and West’s case, their older joints and muscles.

Furthermore, I was interested to see if these shoes could work well with my style of play. So with all the background out of the way, let’s get into the review.

Fit
I’m normally a 13 but I’ll go a size smaller in my basketball shoes to get the best possible lockdown, but I grabbed a 13 instead of the 12 for the D Howard 4. Personally, I didn’t really like the fit overall, but there were some really nice things about it.

The heel fit was very nice and had lots of added padding and structure on the interior around the ankle. The lockdown and partical mesh sleeve aid in a very nice overall fit. Even with that being said the overall shape of the shape didn’t fit my feet well at all – but this is where our new review charts should help take our own needs out of it and let you decide if a shoe might work for you.

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It seemed to fit long, so going a size down may have helped some but after I went back to try a 12 on it still felt long – like I may have needed an 11.5. This lead me to believe that my foot wasn’t really meant to fit this shoe. There was a lot of space in the shoe on the sides of my foot (I have a narrow foot) and near the toe box. The shoe shape simply wasn’t for me, but if you have a wider foot this might be good for you. Wider builds are tough to find right now so the D Howard 4 is worth a look.

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Heel-Toe Transition
Due to the natural motion midsole/outsole of the D Howard 4 the transition was very smooth. No “slappiness” and lag or hang-up in my gait – I was pleasantly surprised in this regard as the sole and midsole flexes really nicely under foot.

It’s easy to see why this type of natural motion design has transitioned from a running technology to being integrated into training and basketball models (even dating back to the Nike Free Huarache Basketball 2012, which was recieved with mixed reviews), although the kinks in the technology as a whole are still being worked out.

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Cushion
This shoe has very firm, low profile cushioning from the foam in the midsole. This is inherent due to the minimalist natural motion design. What you gain in terms of flexibility, mobility and traction you sacrifice cushion and support.

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In my experience with playing in the D. Howard 4, I recall feeling pain in my feet numerous times upon landing from rebounds and contesting shots. After a while, I continually felt the impact of landing on my joints. I had to give it low scores in this regard – any shoe that causes pain is never a good thing.

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The shoe’s almost complete absence of a midsole leaves a lot to be desired for in terms of responsiveness. There’s quite clearly a difference in the cushioning setup or at least the foam distribution between the D Howard 4 and the Crazyquick. I found myself growing more fatigued in these shoes then I have in my other basketball shoes (Jordan Superfly 2), which feature unlocked Zoom cushioning. The cushioning setup in the D Howard 4 is very bare bones overall and your foot simply isn’t supported.

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Traction
The traction that is used on the D. Howard  is a mix of the classic herringbone with a twist. The outsole is identical to the Crazyquick, and I’ll explain the functionality briefly. 

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The natural motion (think Nike Free) midsole/outsole with the multidirectional herringbone grip pattern allows grip and traction in every way you foot can go. This helps defensively when guarding someone off the dribble, gaining position boxing out in the post, or planting to driving to the basket. Like the Crazyquick, this pattern worked very well.

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Materials/Durability
The D. Howard 4 seems to be a very durable shoe. The upper is made of a synthetic leather with Sprintweb overlays. This material feels a bit thicker in certain areas and light stippling on the surface which seems to prevent scuffs somewhat. It is also quite flexible, and works well in conjunction with the midsole. For what it’s worth, I have worn this shoe a few times now and it shows very few signs of wear. Valued at $125 ($140 dollars retail, you would hope that you get a shoe that would last and I feel it will.

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All in all this shoe has a lot of good things about it, but due to its bare bones design and lack of an adequate cushioning system I find this shoe hard to play in and not really conducive to my style of play. For wide footers, it’s definitely worth a try-on. And if you are a power forward/center or a wing player looking for a lightweight shoe to provide great traction and durability, it may be an option.

dhoward4_Materials-Durability

Overall, just be advised that there is little to no support and cushion so if you’re looking for a plush ride, go elsewhere. Also, with the firm cushionings and lack of support, this shoe should probably be priced closer to $100.

There are a lot of new and interesting colorways coming out – like the All Star version – so at the end of the day it may just be a nice shoe to rock off the court.

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Performance Review: adidas Crazyquick

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

After wearing the adidas Adipure Crazyquick for the first time, I struggled to find the right adjectives to describe the shoe.

Stealthy. Predatory. Aggressive.

I struggled with a description because the Crazyquick doesn’t feel like any shoe I’ve ever played in. I told Finch after the first hoop session that I forgot they were on my feet by the end of the run – and that is a very good thing. One thing is clear though: this is a finely-tuned, precision engineered piece of footwear and is a performance beast.

Fit
As I’ve noted in each of my previous reviews, I value fit more than anything else when it comes to performance sneakers. The Kobe VI is my standard in terms of fit, as it brought the upper to the foot, locked me onto the footbed and moved with me. Yeah, well, the Crazyquick is now the new standard.

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When you’re talking fit with the Crazyquick and putting the shoe on for the first time, you’ll immediately notice two things: the Techfit upper enveloping your foot and the Sprintframe chassis locking the midfoot and heel in place. Techfit is not a new technology to the adidas brand – it’s been used in compression tops and bottoms, as well as a couple of running models, for a couple of years now – but this is the first version we’ve seen on a basketball shoe. The upper basically feels like a neoprene bootie base with strategic overlays – the three stripes enveloping the midfoot give the upper added lateral stability. The graphic pattern of the upper reminds me of the way that the Kobe VI used “scales” to give the shoe texture as well as added strength.

Sprintframe has been criticized in the past (notably on the Crazy Light models) for being too small, but the chassis on Crazyquick fully wraps the heel and extends through the midfoot. The heel and midfoot are completely locked in place. I experienced absolutely no slippage and the fit is glove-like from heel to toe. Dual ankle notches aid comfort around the ankle bone and range of motion, and the mid cut does a great job of giving you a supportive feel while not restricting movement whatsoever. I’m not sure what else to say regarding the fit, other than that the Crazyquick is the single best fitting shoe I’ve ever played in thanks to the TechFit/Sprintframe combination and bootie-like upper. This shoe becomes part of you and moves with you as an extension of your foot, and that’s exactly what I want.

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One final note: the lacing setup is slightly asymmetrical, which allows the three stripes on the forefoot to wrap around to the top of the foot to provide extra lockdown and support. It’s the little things, folks.

Heel-Toe Transition
The Crazyquick was absolutely perfect in this aspect as well, providing the best court feel I’ve ever experienced. The 17-pod outsole moves naturally through the footstrike and moves with you through any type of cut, defensive slide or sprint. The Crazyquick is reportedly the most weartested shoe ever produced by adidas, and that level of testing and refinement shows up in the transition. Getting all the pods to work in harmony is something that must have been fine-tuned hundreds of time. Crazyquick designer Robbie Fuller said he wanted the transition to be like a centipede, with each pod gripping the floor precisely when it should. The shoe does just that. I’d liken the sensation to wearing a minimalist running shoe or a well-cushioned Nike Free from a flexibility standpoint (the shoe still provides support – I’ll get to that later). The transition is smooth and rolls through the footstrike with stability and unparalleled court feel.

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Cushioning
There were a couple aspects of the cushioning setup I found interesting. Obviously, you’re going to give up a little bit of impact protection in order to get that great court feel so the Crazyquick is not necessarily plush and padded in the cushioning department. Impact protection is adequate though, and responsiveness is excellent – aided by the perfectly tuned outsole which allows you to push off and go whenever you demand it.

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When Finch and I first discussed the shoe, he was initially (and rightly) skeptical of the lateral stability/rigidity of the shoe given its deep flex grooves and carved-away outsole. Again, the shoe’s engineering came through. If you remove the insole, you’ll notice a rigid plate (part of the Sprintframe chassis, I’d assume) running from the heel to the midfoot that gives it good, lightweight stability while allowing the outsole pods to do their job. Again, I can’t understate the level of engineering and testing that this takes. (If you don’t understand how midsole construction affects the cushioning unit, check Finch’s review of the flawed Hyperdisruptor.) In the center of the plate directly underneath the heel you’ll find a small foam circle, indicating the adiprene-cushioned midsole that makes up the cushioning platform. I enjoyed being able to physically see the construction and it helps you understand how they designed such a great setup.

Traction
It’s herringbone all around and in various angles, and the traction is superb. Deep grooves on each of the outsole pods allow the pods to grip the floor securely and provide reassuring stop and go ability no matter how sharp the cut. Four zones and 17 individual pods work in concert to provide elite level traction. Not much else to say, but I’m happy that they went with the tried and true pattern underfoot, and it certainly pays off from a performance standpoint.

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Materials/DurabilityTime will tell for the upper of the Crazyquick when it comes to durability. The Techfit upper feels and fits amazing, but it is almost like a neoprene bootie with supports fused on strategically so it remains to be seen how long that lasts. I’m not doubting the durability, but since it’s a new materials setup we’re required to withhold judgement. I believe the outsole and midsole will hold up just fine, as thick, durable rubber was employed for the outsole and the midsole has remained firm.

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In conclusion, the adidas adipure Crazyquick is one of my all-time favorite performance shoes at this point. A ton of engineering, fine-tuning and development was put into this shoe and it shows. In a performance market where it seems like corners are cut on plenty of models, it’s refreshing to play in a shoe that bills itself as a performance beast…and actually backs that up. adidas introduced a new thought process with the Crazyquick line, employed new technology and updated some existing tech, and came away with one of the best performance shoes on the market.

Ratings
Fit: 10
Heel-Toe Transition: 10
Cushioning: 9.5
Traction: 9.5
Materials/Durability: 8.5
Overall: 47.5/50 = 95/100

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: 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: 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.

TGRR Blog: Performance Review Primer

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

Before I launch into the full Nike Hyperdunk 2012 Low review tomorrow, I think it’s important to briefly explain the areas of performance that I’ll be examining in my reviews. I also want to detail my background in performance hoop shoes and the standards that those shoes have set for me as a player.

Fit
The first and most important performance aspect of a shoe, to me, is the fit. I’m a guard and have a narrow foot, so I need a shoe that hugs my foot and doesn’t leave a lot of excess room in the toebox and midfoot area.  Heel lockdown is also extremely important. It should help anchor your foot to the footbed, aid in lateral stability and is key in preventing ankle injuries. I rely on quickness and change direction (thus I have been dubbed the “Ground Squirrel” by Finch) and I need my shoe to be an extension of my foot, so the fit is absolutely imperative.

When I review a shoe for its fit, I’ll pay close attention to the toebox, midfoot fit, the lacing system, upper flexibility and heel lockdown. For me, the best fitting shoe I’ve ever owned is the Nike Kobe VI. The fit from the sockliner and collar foam inside the shoe were incredible and the external heel counter provided perfect heel lockdown. I played in a black/dark grey pair until the outsole started to separate on the lateral side, then went out and bought the purple gradient colorway from a Nike Factory Store until the outsole peeled off under the midfoot. Every shoe I review will get compared to the Kobe VI in terms of fit.

Heel-Toe Transition
Because my game is predicated on quickness and playing low to the ground, heel-toe transition is very important. When I step on a court, I want each step to be smooth. I run with a heel-toe strike most of the time, occasionally toes only, but when I run I do not want a slappy feel as I transition through my heel-toe strike. At the same time, I can’t have a midsole that is too flexible and has too little torsional rigidity. For example, I loved the soft feel of the transition of the Jordan Q Flight but its lack of a midfoot plate and softer rubber outsole didn’t give me enough support.

While I loved the Kobe VI’s transition and have no complaints, the adidas TS Supernatural Creator is the standard for me. Its flexibility was perfect and the transition was perfectly tuned thanks to the Formotion outsole setup. From the absolute first wearing, the shoe was nearly perfect from a transition standpoint.

Cushioning
I’m a Zoom Air guy first and foremost. The responsiveness of Zoom is simply unmatched by any foam I’ve ever played in and I’m an unabashed lover of a full-length Zoom bag. I was a fan of the cushioning setup in the Supernatural Creator and the Kobe heel/met bag setup is excellent too. I played in the Zoom KD III and wasn’t as big a fan of the forefoot only Zoom, though it was certainly solid.

The Nike Zoom BB II featured a gorgeous, responsive full-length Zoom bag that kept its excellent cushioning over the course of a year’s worth of play – including offseason workouts at Taylor University – and is easily the best-cushioned shoe I’ve ever owned. The fit and materials, thanks to a full inner bootie and quality leather, was also very good. It is unfortunately extremely tough to find in my size nowadays, or else I’d have purchased more than one pair.

Traction
It’s herringbone or nothing for me when it comes to traction. The only drawback of the Kobe VI for me was the fact that its scale-inspired traction pattern was a little lacking, especially for the first few wearings when it had a noticeable, slippery sheen.

The Zoom BB II once again had the best traction I’ve ever experienced on a basketball shoe. It featured basically full-length herringbone, and the rubber herringbone strips were slightly wider and larger than typical herringbone. This gave it unrivaled grip and helped flexibility as well. Try as I might, I couldn’t wear out the traction even after a year of use and the inside of the shoe actually became warped and stretched, causing blisters and poor fit, before the traction gave out.

Materials/Durability
Most performance shoes are going to feature some type of synthetic upper with varying use and placement of each brand’s textile setup. Personally, I was never a huge fan of early-generation Flywire, though the Skinwire in the Kobe V and VI and Dynamic Flywire set up gave me more tangible benefits. I like the durability of Fuse, though it’s a bit stiff and can crease in odd ways. I have liked adidas’ material choices on the Supernatural creator, though I thought the White/Red Rose 2 was stiff and uncomfortable.

The Kobe VI is the standard for me when it comes to materials, as the Skinwire and scale pattern overlay allowed for maximum flexibility and support. It wasn’t too thick, it harnessed the foot perfectly and contributed to the unmatched fit. It was also exceptionally durable (I played in each pair daily for more than six months) and if you’re huge on aesthetic appeal, creases were barely noticeable.