Apparel Spotlight: Nike Tech Fleece Cape

Prose: Kim Nguyen (@317Kim)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Needless to say, it’s perfect.

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

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

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

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

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

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Performance Review: Nike Free Flyknit

Prose: Kim Nguyen (@317Kim)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TGRR Blog: Return of the Revolution

Prose: Finch (@Sir_Stymie)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: Underrated Kicks – Vol. 2: Nike Zoom Go Low

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Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

Steve Nash is without a doubt one of the greatest point guards of all-time and perhaps the greatest pure point since John Stockton. He’s a maestro running the pick and roll, has preternatural court vision and anticipation and is a master at keeping his dribble alive. Nash is also criminally underrated as a shooter: for his career, he’s shot 49% from the field, 42% from three, and 90% from the line. Only three times in his career did he shoot under 40% from behind the arc and he’s shot over 50% from the field eight out of his last nine seasons.

Nash’s shoe game has been criminally underrated as well. He rocked the Nike Jet Flight back in his Dallas days – perhaps the best performing shoe of all-time – but it has been slept-on by many current sneakerheads. He’s worn an eclectic mix since then, including the Zoom BB II, Zoom MVP, Cradle Rock Low, and Nash has favorited the Lunar Hypergamer Low for the 2012-2013 season. The Zoom Go Low was another shoe of choice for Nash back in the 2010-2011 season, and also one that I happened to snag off eBay a few months back.

The design is simplistic and there’s nothing flashy at all about the shoe, but that’s kind of why I like it so much. Everything about the shoe is built for performance, starting with the midsole and outsole. The midsole is full-length Cushlon with a forefoot Zoom bag that’s plenty soft. The step in comfort and transition are excellent. The outsole is fairly thick and solid but boasts flex grooves working in tandem with the podular design to provide an easy heel-toe strike. The traction is a modified, full-length herringbone pattern and the entire outsole design is almost identical to the setup found on the Huarache 08; I had several teammates and friends that hooped in that Huarache for a long time and raved about the comfort and traction. (Check the spec sheet here.)

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The upper is a mix of full-grain and synthetic leather, with the midfoot overlay providing very good lockdown when laced tightly. The toebox is reinforced with a full-grain overlay as well, and features the same hardened plastic reinforcement along the midfoot/heel as the Huarache 08. This piece gives the foot excellent lateral support. All in all it’s built pretty much exactly like the 08 from the ground up, but Nike did an excellent job of giving it a low-cut without sacrificing any stability or security.

The white/grey/purple/orange PE colorway is simple and a nice hookup for the then-Phoenix Sun. Personally, my favorite aspect is the “SN” logo on the heel -it’s  always a plus to get an obscure PE logo on your kicks. And as a point guard, I felt like I needed the kicks of one of the greatest to play the position.

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The shoe was available in two Nash PE colorways (the white-based model pictured here and a black-based colorway), several Team Bank colorways, and two “Trash Talk” colorways constructed of recycled materials. It wasn’t a major release in the states, and I can’t recall any major chain carrying the shoe. Thus, the Zoom Go Low is relatively hard to find on eBay and the prices, for whatever reason, tend to run high. Many eBay sellers offering the shoe were from Canada, so perhaps (and for good reason) the shoe was just more popular in the land to the north.

Regardless, if you can find a pair under $100 on eBay, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger. It’s a solid shoe for both hooping and casual wear, and mine will return to the rotation once this crappy Indiana winter is over.

TGRR Blog: Underrated Kicks, Vol. 1 – Nike Flight Lite II

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Black/Silver images are from here

Performance Review: Nike Hyperdunk 2012 Low

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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Weight: 10.6 oz
Size tested: 11
Colorway: Strata Grey/Midnight Fog

I was extremely excited to pick up the Hyperdunk Low for a couple of reasons. First of all, I had trashed my Zoom Soldier VIs during a semester of hooping damn near everyday and winning an intramural championship with Finch and Team Terminator X. I could bend the shoes completely in half and twist them violently side to side, so it was time to move on to something else. This meant going from a mid-cut shoe with double-stacked Zoom air in the heel, a Fuse upper and midfoot strap, to a low top with full-length Lunarlon and Dynamic Flywire.

The latter part of that sentence is the second reason why I was pumped to try out the Hyperdunks. I had never hooped in a Lunar foam-based shoe and hadn’t tried out Dynamic Flywire on court. I’d played in Flywire-based shoes, like the Kobe V and VI, but never with the new iteration of that technology.

Fit
Like I mentioned in my performance review primer, the first thing I look for in a performance shoe is the fit. For full disclosure, I went down a half-size and I always wear two pairs of socks to play in, so I expected the fit to be snug – for me I’d rather have my hoop shoes tighter than too roomy.

I immediately liked the fit of the Hyperdunk Low through the midfoot and toebox. The toebox is slim and the shoe is built on a narrow last, both of which I appreciate. The inner workings of the shoe feature a thin, mesh bootie, over which the Dynamic Flywire is laid. I was pleased with the lockdown I felt from the Dynamic Flywire, and I thought it did a good job of anchoring my foot over the footbed. It didn’t provide the completely locked-in feel of the Kobe V or VI, but it was very, very close. I loved the two notches at the forefoot around the lowest eyelet; I thought they were expertly placed and gave the forefoot plenty of flexibility.

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The heel fit is relatively solid too. There’s no external heel counter – the ultimate in heel lockdown – but the molded inner collar held my heel in place admirably after the first couple wearings. There is a bit of slippage on the most violent of movements, but not to the point where I felt unstable. One thing to note: there are six eyelets and I typically lace my shoes all the way to the top eyelet in an effort to lock in my ankle and heel. On the Hyperdunk Low, I felt some uncomfortable lace pressure across my lower ankle area right where my ankle bends when laced to the top. I laced only to the fifth eyelet on my third wearing, and was much more comfortable. I did not notice any difference in lockdown.

Heel-Toe Transition
With a full Lunarlon midsole inside a Phylon carrier, I expected the transition to be very good and it certainly was. There was no slap at all through my footstrike and running and cutting was smooth. Coming from the Soldier VI, which I felt had top-notch transition, I didn’t experience too much of a difference in that aspect. I would say that I felt like my foot sat down lower in the midsole carrier of the Soldier VI, though some of that can be attributed to the Soldier being a mid.

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The picture above shows a key bevel on the heel of the shoe. The outsole is slightly thicker in the heel medial side (arch side) of the shoe, so that when the shoe sits flat the inner half of the heel is what is touching the surface. If you overpronate, even slightly, during your footstrike, having that extra bit of rubber making contact with ground aids in a smooth transition. Even if you have a typical neutral gait, the extra millimeters of thickness are going to help when you plant on your foot and push off on the inside of it.

Cushioning
Yes, I’m a Zoom lover, but the Lunarlon/Phylon carrier setup is acceptable to me. I had read horrific tales of Lunar foam bottoming out within a week, but I haven’t necessarily found that to be true with the Hyperdunk Low. It’s certainly not as bouncy and responsive as Zoom (nothing is, in my opinon) but it provided excellent protection through the footstrike. It took a couple of wearings before I really felt my foot carve out a mold in the foam, but it feels natural at this point after eight wearings.

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I love being as low to the ground as possible, and Lunarlon doesn’t quite give you the court feel of a Zoom-Zoom or full-length Zoom setup. No major complaints from me, but I wouldn’t put the Hyperdunk Low’s Lunarlon ahead of the Kobe VI or any Zoom setup I’ve played in (or ahead of the Supernatural Creators Formotion setup). If I’m comparing these to other flagship Nike products, I simply can’t put the Lunar foam cushioning setup on par with a Zoom-based shoe.

Traction
Everyone knows and loves the classic herringbone pattern, and unfortunately designer Oliver Henrichot and the guys at Nike went with a more creative traction setup. It’s a multi-directional design that’s the same as the regular Lunar Hyperdunk version. The grooves and edges are well-placed alongside the forefoot flex zones and it features a solid lateral outrigger – always a plus for stability and traction. As Sole Collector detailed in their review of the original Lunar Hyperdunk Mid, the sublimated graphics under the main traction grooves detail where the Nike+ sensors are located in the versions equipped with that technology (the Lows are not).

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Overall the traction is very good, with durable rubber and thick edges gripping most court surfaces. On a dusty or dirty floor I found myself swiping a bit, but after a couple of wearings the rubber really started to break in nicely.

Materials/Durability
A full synthetic upper makes up the shoe’s outer shell and three eyelets feature Dynamic Flywire. There’s a large cutout along the midfoot where the thick Dynamic Flywire strands are exposed, and another triangular cutout near the heel where the collar is thickened.

The first two eyelets appear to have Flywire built into the upper, though the strands appear to be so thin that I wonder if there’s actually anything in there (though it honestly doesn’t make a huge difference.) I do have concerns as to whether the Dynamic Flywire will hold strong along the edges of that cutout in the long term, but by all accounts it’s solid so far.

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Many wearers hated the bottoming out of early forms of Lunarlon in hoop shoes, but this version seems fairly firm after eight wearings. It’s never going to be Zoom Air, but we’ll see how long it holds out.

Overall, I liked the Hyperdunk Low. The fit and heel-toe transition are excellent, and the cushioning, traction and materials used are all perfectly fine. I especially enjoyed the fit through the midfoot and the flexibility at the forefoot and toebox. I also like the way the Lunarlon midsole molds and forms to my foot.

But I hold my basketball shoes to an extremely high standard because I spend so much time in them, and I believe the Hyperdunk Low could be better. I can’t say it’s an elite performer. A forefoot Zoom bag would be a wonderful addition. Any top of the line Nike shoe, built for guards like the Hyperdunk Low obviously is, should have a forefoot Zoom unit. More sculpted collar foam or notches around the Achilles inside the heel would be an upgrade as well. At $130, the price is pretty steep, but they’d be a worthy pickup once the price drops. If you’re a guard and like the feel of a low, or you like to have a couple different shoes in your rotation, they’re a solid performer…once they fall into an acceptable price range.

Overall: 43.5/50 x 2 = 87/100

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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.

Performance Review First Look: Nike Hyperdunk 2012 Low

Prose: Sittler (@jtsittler)

I picked up the Hyperdunk 2012 Low today (s/o Caselton Finishline) and got a short shooting workout in at the local YMCA with them on foot. Very, very early impression: the fit is tight and narrow; Lunarlon makes for a smooth heel-toe strike; heel lockdown initially leaves something to be desired and the jury is out on the traction (and all these aspects) until I get some more runs in on good courts.

The full review will be ready in the next 7-10 days; I’ll get three or four competitive runs and several individual workouts in by then. In the meantime, enjoy the first look!