adidas Harden Vol. 1 Performance Review

Prose: @jtsittler

Part 1

When I first went to buy the Harden Vol. 1, I had my eye on the first black/white/red colorway. I was smitten with the white leather toe cap and the asymmetrical lacing, plus I’ve been a huge fan of some Boost-based basketball shoes in the past.


Oh and they felt damn good in-store upon first slipping them on.

I went a half-size down to a size 11 because I felt they ran wide and somewhat long. The 11 really felt like a normal 11.5. I threw them on that evening and went to the gym around 9 pm (when I know it will be empty) to get jumpers up for a half hour or so. While they felt fantastic – smooth transition, great responsiveness while not sacrificing court feel – they were just a bit too roomy on the inside for me.

I was set to relegate them to casual wear because they’re just so freaking good looking, but I remembered the blacked-out Dark Ops pair I’d seen as well…so like a moth to the flame I went back the next day to grab them. I now own two pairs of the Harden Vol. 1 – one for off-court, and one definitely for on-court wear.

“It’s the blackout ‘Rari, got the back out”

The second time, though, I went with a 10.5 – a full size down for me – and it made all the difference in the world. The Dark Ops model has an elastic toe cap rather than the white leather one on my first pair. The flexibility of that toe cap allowed me to go down another half size without any toe box pain. My foot can still flex and splay normally, but the fit is now pretty much perfect. I need a 1:1 fit or at least damn close to it for me to keep a shoe for regular hooping, and the 10.5 got me there.

The elastic tongue made a difference for me – it allowed me to go a full size down for the best overall fit, yet gave my foot the flexibility it need to play normally

The burrito tongue does a good job of staying in place. It’s molded interior conforms to the foot well and is extremely comfortable. The lacing system is really not my favorite part of the shoe – I love the asymmetrical design and the way it matches the anatomy of your foot, but as many reviewers have noted the round laces and double lace holes make it difficult to really cinch the shoe down tight.

After a couple of wearings, this does get better as the upper breaks in. I’m able to pull the laces tighter now than I could initially, and the lockdown is excellent. I’d say there’s a tiny bit of heel slippage at times, but that’s more than likely due to the narrow profile of my foot – most of you will be ok. Either way, I feel completely secure on them without any significant movement no matter how quick the pull-up or how abrupt the change of direction.

The round laces kind of suck, but they get better after a few wearings. Lockdown is not an issue, and the asymmetrical setup is almost perfect

Underfoot, the Boost setup is for the most part caged and lower profile than the Crazy Light Boost 2016 (which I’ve tried on multiple times) and the Crazy Explosive. Caging the Boost slightly limits its responsiveness and the tactile “Boost” sensation you’ll get in some pure Boost setups because it doesn’t allow the Boost nodules to fully expand and return energy, but it’s still more responsive than most setups you’re going to find.

Caged Boost sacrifices just a bit of plushness and some of the tactile Boost feel, but in return you get a more stable ride. Check out that outrigger too

The benefit of this is improved stability and court feel – a trade-off I’ll gladly take. It’s still supremely cushioned, but it’s slightly firmer than your typical Boost runner especially in the forefoot. It’s closer to the Rose 5 than Rose 6 underfoot (my local Finishline just now got the Rose 7 in a Primeknit model for $160…hard pass for me until they go on sale). Stability is probably as good as any shoe on the market – the outsole seems slightly wider than most and the forefoot outrigger is substantial.

Transition is butter smooth, which actually surprised me given the noticeable arch in it. I know Schwollo mentioned that the arch support bothered him for a few wearings; mine were totally fine so that’s going to be something you’ll have to feel out when you try them on.

Smooth transition despite a noticeably higher arch
Smooth transition despite a noticeably higher arch

Support, a major category for me, has been awesome. You can see the support structure in the Dark Ops colorway through the icy outsole and it does a good job of dispersing impact and providing some needed rigidity under the Boost midsole. If a hoop shoe doesn’t have enough support for me, I’ll feel it within an hour and my arches will be sore for the next day or two; the Kobe VIs have just enough to keep me comfortable and the Harden Vol. 1 is about perfect in this department.

The full length TPU underneath the Boost midsole gives it needed support
The full length TPU frame underneath the Boost midsole gives it needed support

Traction has been a point of contention for Harden’s shoe. I’m sure you’ve all read how Adidas mapped the pressure points on his foot during the course of games last season and developed a traction pattern to grip better on high-impact and high wear areas. You’ll see a tighter pattern near the ball of the foot where more traction is needed, and the pattern is more dispersed elsewhere. It’s really not unlike the Kobe VI pattern, even down to being relatively shallow.

The results of pressure mapping...not earth-shattering but it works
The results of pressure mapping…not earth-shattering but it works

I like the traction on the Kobe VI, especially after it’s broken in, and I’ve found the Harden Vol. 1 to be the same way. I had to swipe more than normal on the first few wearings on semi-dirty YMCA courts, but now 5-8 wearings in I don’t really have to. On clean courts, the traction is excellent.

On the fourth pair, I’ve finally found a suitable partner for the Kobe VIs in my rotation. I had to go down a full size, but the Dark Ops pair with the elastic toe gave me the fit I need all around. The Boost setup, caged with a large TPU support underneath, is one of the best cushioning platforms I’ve ever played in. It’s responsive, stable, and super smooth. Though the shoe feels heavy out of the box, it’s so responsive and well-fitting that it plays way lighter than it feels.

You’ll definitely want to try them on first to determine what size you need, but I have no hesitation in recommending these for most guards and wings – the support is probably there for the bigs too if you don’t mind a low.

I’ll be answer questions and comments as they come in, and will drop a review from time to time when I need a new pair. I look to Schwollo (blunt, in-depth, well-written reviews) and Bryan aka Duke4005 from Weartesters (a guy who once helped me out as a college kid writing about shoes and an industry veteran with a ton of knowledge) for my regular review-reading, and I suggest you do the same.

Play to win, and get buckets.

The guide returns! Thanks to all those that have told me they appreciate it - I'm glad it's useful
The guide returns! Thanks to all those that have told me they appreciate it – I’m glad it’s useful

Performance Review: adidas Rose 6 Boost

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)


The last three years of Derrick Rose’s career have been utter disasters, largely thanks to issues beyond his own control. Multiple knee and ankle injuries, and a facial fracture in the preseason have battered the body of the one-time MVP and the face of adidas basketball.

adidas has marketed hope, the will to come back from injury, and Rose’s quiet resiliency but the fact of the matter is their ambassador has been sitting on the bench for roughly 2/3 of Bulls games since the ’11-’12 season. Because of that, Rose signature shoe releases have either been mocked (some recklessly think that his shoes somehow played a role in the injuries) or basically ignored by the sneaker buying community. They haven’t won many over with their aesthetics and Rose hasn’t been on the court enough to create a desire for people to want what he’s wearing.

While the adidas folks have been hamstrung in that department, what they have done is create the best performing signature shoe line in the game. People can pan the looks, the use of different materials and some ever changing tech but ever since his TS Supernatural Creator PE, Rose shoes have been absolute monster performers.

The Rose 6 once again debuted with muted responses and plenty of negativity regarding its looks, but Robbie Fuller and the adidas team may have created the best Rose – maybe the best adidas shoe period – of all time.

I went a half size down from my true 11.5 like usual – I always feel like it helps with the fit as long as I can live with the length. I’ve personally loved the fit of the Rose 4.5 and 5, with each providing complete lockdown. The Rose 6 isn’t quite on that level, but it is still very good.


The upper on the white pair that I purchased is a kind of mesh overlay on synthetic base (the black colorway is more of a traditional Sprint Web). It’s a nice combo, if simplistic, but it is stiff enough to provide good support and retain flexibility throughout. The upper is also well-padded on the interior and features an interesting liner material on the collar – it’s smooth if you run your finger from top to bottom, but from bottom to top it’s grippy with an almost sandpaper-like sensation (Bryan over at Weartesters did the black colorway and said adidas called the material Cat’s Tongue, which is exactly what it feels like). This gives the liner some friction and helps prevent extra movement within the shoe.


Moving the shoe’s most curious design element: that giant heel cage. I initially thought the cage would articulate and tighten when you laced through those top lace loops, but it’s actually fixed in place. The fabric straps will tighten slightly, but the heel portion itself fits pretty snug as is. Lacing is simple and the laces stay in place in the eyelets (some shoes don’t do this and it’s maddening). There’s a nice lace loop on the interior, basically right where the notch is. Lacing through that really locks the top of the foot in and is probably the key piece to that whole upper. Besides that, the loop and strap make up the only other eyelet.

(Schwollo, another reviewer and TGRR supporter, took matters into his own hands to improve the lockdown even more – check that out here.)

This brings that massive tongue into play. It’s extremely comfortable and well padded, but I’ll admit it’s a little awkward at first. It’s really padded because there’d be an uncomfortable amount of ankle pressure from those loops without it, but I will say it keeps me from feeling 100% locked in. I don’t report any side to side or worrisome slippage, but the tongue does give you a little more room around the ankle than you might be used to. It’s the only (extremely minor) negative I have with the upper.


The collar, I might add, is probably the most padded and comfortable one I’ve found on a hoops shoe.

Heel-Toe Transition
Two large Boost units plus a midfoot Stable Frame give you buttery transition right out of the box. I can’t stress how quickly these felt broken in. They’re ready to go the second you put them on.

As much as I love Micro G and some versions of unlocked Zoom, Boost is the best cushioning platform on the market. I rock a pair of Energy Boost 2 ATRs almost daily because everything else – even my Flyknit Trainers, Brooks Glycerins and Asics Gel Noosas, all fantastic shoes – can’t match up in terms of sheer comfort. Same goes for this version of Boost in the Rose 6; it’s the most comfortable basketball shoe I’ve put on.


Boost volume was increased in the forefoot, and it’s definitely noticeable. The plushness and responsiveness is incredible, but stability is also very good. I felt very connected to the floor and able to move laterally like I wanted to. Sometimes you’ll give up responsiveness and court feel with a soft cushioning platform, but Boost is unlike any other cushioning platform.

Another aspect that I loved was the midfoot Stable Frame. It’s a perfect moderating piece between the two Boost units and gives me just the right amount of support through my arches. With 6 years of high school and college ball followed by double reconstructive hip surgeries (swear I’m only 26), my back and lower body are generally in a chronic state of soreness. It’s not a miracle worker or the answer to an injury or anything, but the Rose 6 has been as good as any shoe I’ve recently played in when it comes to supporting me and relieving some of that foot, knee, hip, and back pain.


I’ll leave you with this: I love Micro G and I slipped on the Curry 2 after I tried on the Rose 6. But the Curry 2 cushioning felt completely inadequate compared to what I felt in the Rose 6. I have no doubt that the Curry 2 has a great setup and I’d like to review a pair, but the Rose 6 absolutely blew it away on the first impression.

adidas nailed the traction setup once again. The grooves look a little shallow at first glance, but the outsole grips like crazy. Extremely sticky on every indoor surface I’ve been on – a YMCA court, middle school gym floor, and tile-like church league surface.


No qualms from me here. adidas’ overall quality has been excellent in the Rose line and it’s no different on the 6. Everything is well built and put together with no apparent shortcuts in workmanship or materials.


Bottom line, this shoe is incredible. The best cushioned basketball shoe I’ve played in, beating out personal favorites in the  XX8, TS Supernatural Creator, Zoom BB II and Kobe VI. But it’s better than just Boost – the lockdown, support, and overall package is really, really good. I’ll be playing in these for a long, long time.

adidasRose6_review guide

Performance Review: adidas Crazylight Boost 2015

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)


After a review hiatus I’ve able to pick up and hoop in adidas’ flagship shoe, the Crazylight Boost 2015, for the past couple of weeks. adidas is gunning heavily for more market share in the US – the $200 million they gave to James Harden, dropping the NBA jersey sponsorship in order to focus on the product – and the CL Boost 2015 is good first step in that process. The shoe features Boost cushioning in the heel, which at this point is a proven product, and introduces Primeknit in a basketball model for the first time ever. The CL Boost features two of adidas’ latest and greatest technologies and is priced competitively, but how does it stack up on court?

There are so many lenses through which you can look at a knitted or woven upper and its use on a performance basketball shoe, and the final verdict is likely going to come down to what you value as a player. So here it goes…


Primeknit, in my opinion, is far better than any iteration of Flyknit to date. It is lighter, thinner, flexes more naturally and conforms to your foot better right out of the box. It’s the closest thing to a sock you’ll put on. The lack of material (not saying this as a bad thing) is almost shocking at first – I could see so much of my neon Team Speed socks through the upper it almost gave the shoe a different colorway!

With that said, the lockdown and fit was pretty good overall. The lace loops – so much better than Flywire/Flyknit combos – provide solid lockdown and an extremely tight fit if you cinch them up hard. The upper features a widely spaced knit on the midfoot and toebox, and a tighter knit along the vamp and other areas that will receive stress from lateral cuts.

Containment is better than other knitted/woven shoes, but still leaves something to be desired. I constantly felt like my foot was sliding over the edge of the footbed and never felt fully secure overall. Dead space when laced tightly, especially in the toe box, is an issue. Also, the individual lace straps can feel kind of harsh when laced up tight to achieve the most lockdown.


The external heel counter is rather large and stiff, and it has to be – the shoe is so low cut that the top eyelet is barely high enough to lock the heel in. I noticed a tiny bit of heel slippage (which may be slightly due to my swapping of the insole – more on that later) but I never felt unsettled or nervous to make a hard cut in that area.

Despite all of that and despite the other benefits a knitted upper brings…I really don’t think knitted and woven uppers are the answer on a performance basketball shoe. The containment just isn’t, there’s always too much dead space, and I’ve never found lockdown to be 100% secure in a knitted shoe, no matter what type it is. For basketball purposes. I will take Techfit (as used in the Crazyquick 1 for absolutely insane lockdown), Engineered Mesh, or a Fuse-based upper like the Rose 4.5/5 every day of the week over a knitted upper. When used correctly, such as the CQ1 or the Energy Boost 2.0 ATR runner, Techfit is the best upper out there according to yours truly. *ducks*

Heel-Toe Transition
Transition was smooth and the shoes were broken in right out of the box. No issues at all in this area.


This aspect really begins once you get rid of the atrocious stock insole. Why adidas put such an insulting insole into their top-of-the-line shoe is beyond me. I tried a couple of different insole swaps, including my old Rose 4.5s and a Crazy Comfort set that I’d been using in my Crazy 8s.

The forefoot adiprene+ is pretty thin and firm, so I opted for the extra thick Crazy Comfort set. It gave me better forefoot cushioning and still let the Boost work as it should. It may have raised my heel just slightly and hampered the heel fit, but it’s marginal at best.

Heel Boost is fantastic – well cushioned, responsive and aids in a smooth transition. While the forefoot is thin, it provides some support and adiprene+ is a durable compound. It’s miles ahead of last year’s horrific CL Boost. A Sprintframe system is used in the midsole and is rather supportive for a lightweight shoe. There’s also a small plastic piece under the midfoot for some additional support, which is a nice touch for those of us that have tens of thousands of court hours on our bones.


The shoe plays very low to the ground and is fairly stable despite the upper lacking some containment. Responsiveness is also high, and overall comfort is good as long as you swap insoles. Switching the stock insoles for some thicker ones also helps the dead space issue up front as well.

After being a massive failure on the Crazylight Boost 2014, traction is way better on the 2015 model. Featuring a blade pattern, I’ve found great traction on the various YMCA and high school floors I’ve been on. Most of those courts were at least relatively clean, but I could see the compound picking up some dust on a bad floor. I would not advise using these outdoors either, as the rubber is fairly soft. For now though, traction is really good.


It remains to be seen how the super thin Primeknit holds up but so far, so good. Primeknit has a thin Fuse-ish coating on its threads for further durability without making the knit stiffer than it needs to be. The outsole should hold up well on clean courts but I could see it wearing out over the course of a season of practices/workouts/games. Boost and adiprene+ both are fantastic cushioning units and also should hold up well.

If you’re a high school or college athlete, I do have some concerns about the knit holding up over the course of a season, but I don’t know if I ever made it through a HS/college season on one pair of shoes (which is why I typically had a pair for practice and another for games).

As I mentioned before, I have some decidedly mixed feelings on knitted uppers on performance shoes in general. The technology is amazing and the green processes involved are obviously fantastic. But for pure performance, I’d gladly take a different platform.

It’s impossibly light and comfortable, is good enough in all areas, and is damn good looking too. I buy less shoes than I used to and am still hooping on the regular, but these probably won’t stick in my rotation for next to my Rose 5s/Crazy 8s/Curry Ones.


Performance Review: adidas Rose 5 Boost

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)


Along with many other reviewers and sneaker aficionados, I anticipated the release of the Rose 5 as much or more than any other this year – mostly due to the implementation of full length Boost for the first time ever in a hoops shoe. The Crazy Light Boost experimented with heel Boost only, and in my only try on in-store the forefoot felt so terrible I couldn’t justify spending my own cash on it (we pay for all reviews out of pocket).

But I was going all in on the Rose 5, and a little unsure of what to expect. Running shoes featuring Boost foam were pillowy soft and bouncy – great for linear activities but not so much for the dynamic movements and change of direction that come with the game of basketball. The Boost setup in the Rose 5 though, is fine-tuned for the hardwood and is actually only a small part of what makes the 5 one of my favorite shoes I’ve put on my foot this year.

I went a half-size down to an 11 and found the fit perfect for my foot, with just the right amount of length and a very sung lateral fit.


I’ll throw Boost aside for a second, because the tremendous fit and lockdown is the best aspect of the Rose 5. The shoe features a SprintWeb upper with a Fitcage structure along the medial and lateral sides. Fitcage is a frame of sorts, holding the sides of the foot in place, wrapping around the heel with a substantial external heel counter, and extending up to the collar around the ankle bone. It’s stiff yet still molds with the foot and locks the foot in place. There’s not even a hint of slippage, even with my narrower foot. It’s every bit as secure as the best fitting shoes I’ve tested – the Clutchfit and Crazyquick 1 – and provides extra security against ankle inversion.


I’ve seen some criticisms of the synthetic upper material for its excessive creasing in the toebox. And it definitely does crease immediately, but I didn’t find it affecting the performance in any way. It may affect wide footers that take up more of the toebox volume, but I doubt that it’s a significant thing. I found it creasing in the normal areas that any Fuse or Frame type of upper would, and the shoes laced up with vise-like lockdown from toe to ankle. I didn’t notice any hotspots, and while it’s not a natural feeling upper like the Crazyquick 1, XX9, or Clutchfit, it’s as secure as anything out there. Much like the Rose 4.5 achieved great lockdown despite having a more stiff upper, the Rose 5 is near-perfect for all intents and purposes.

For what it’s worth, other colorways appear to have a SprintWeb mesh upper rather than the thicker SprintWeb synthetic found on this “Brenda” colorway. These may crease and fit a little more naturally than the colorway I picked up.

Heel-Toe Transition
The full length Boost midsole is spongy and smooth, and transition is aided by a large stability plate underneath the arch with four fingers extending to the forefoot and heel portions of the shoe. With the translucent outsole, you can easily see this plate sandwiched between the outsole rubber and Boost midsole. Transition was perfect, especially after a couple of wearings.


Boost is one of the hottest technologies in the industry, and has to be one of the most unique cushioning platforms on the market. In running shoe form, it’s super soft and flexible, providing spongy responsiveness and one of the plushest rides you’ll find. The basketball shoe version doesn’t feel quite the same, although it’s still softer and bouncier than anything else you’ll try on today. Zoom Air, Lunarlon, and Micro G are all more firm and structured, and I still think I might prefer a heel-toe Zoom setup or Micro G midsole. But Boost is damn close to those two and I can’t really find anything bad to say about it.


The midsole foam in the forefoot feels a little thin and less responsive than in the heel, but still provides good impact protection and responsiveness. Stability is taken care of by the Fitcage and low to the ground ride, and overall responsiveness is very, very good. I mentioned the support plate before, and it provides plenty of arch stability and lateral stability as it slightly wraps up and around the side of the Boost foam.


Boost is revered for its energy return, and it doesn’t disappoint. I’m not sure if I’m ready to put it ahead of Zoom Air, but adidas finally has a hoops cushioning platform (although they HAD a great thing going with Supernatural Creator-era FYW) that can compete with Zoom and Micro G.

The toe half of the forefoot is pretty traditional solid rubber, wavy herringbone and provides good stopping ability on most floors. The middle half of the forefoot and heel portions are a translucent rubber with a nubby pattern. On semi-dusty floors, I found myself needing to swipe to get great traction, but on most good floors you’ll be fine. Very good, not quite great, overall.


If you’re someone that cares about creasing, you won’t like these. The speed at which they crease hurts the Rose 5’s appeal as an off-court option – although that’s not what it’s built for anyway. I see the upper holding up extremely well, as it’s sturdy and tough from any angle. I did get mine stepped on in a Saturday morning league and got a pretty nasty scuff on the side, but again it’s not affecting the performance in any way.


I’ll be interested to see how Boost holds up over the long term, and whether it will lose some of that bounce and plush feel as it wears down. All cushioning eventually will get beaten down, but longevity is what I’m interested in. Given how soft it is, I imagine it will wear down some but so far, so good.

Overall, I loved this shoe to be honest. It fit fantastic and checked all of the cushioning boxes: soft impact protection, good responsiveness and an extremely low to the ground feel – even if it was a little thin under the forefoot. The Fitcage frame is still probably my favorite aspect, as the lockdown it provided made it feel as secure as any shoe I’ve worn. Do I wish the upper was more natural and less stiff? Yes, but then it probably wouldn’t have worked as well with the Fitcage and may not have provided the containment needed on this platform.

I think Boost lived up to and exceeded my expectations in basketball form. The Rose 5 should be one of the first shoes you try on this season, and is a shoe of the year contender alongside Nike’s KD7 and Under Armour’s Clutchfit.