First Impressions: Kobe XI Elite

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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I picked up the Kobe XI on release day at my local House of Hoops in the Achilles’ Heel colorway. The shoe is gorgeous in person, and I was struck by the very minimal design. Time will tell how they perform but here are a few initial impressions after a shooting session yesterday.

You can find my first impressions along with tons more performance review content over at tackl.com as well

Fit
I went with an 11.5, my normal size in off-court shoes. I started with an 11 but the toebox was pretty cramped both width and length wise – definitely go true to size if you’re thinking about ordering. I’ll get into it more in the full review, but the XI Elite features an improved Flyknit setup with TPU fibers woven into the knit. I’ve been critical of knitted uppers and their ability to support and contain the foot during high intensity basketball games, but it appears to be a step in the right direction.

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The shoe feels a lot like the Kobe IX EM in terms of the upper – supportive and more “stiff” than a knit upper in that it does have some structure. This is absolutely a good thing. It’s pretty well padded at the heel but I had some early heel slip as it hasn’t yet molded to my foot.

Heel-Toe Transition
Extremely smooth. It’s a highly flexible shoe – probably too flexible for me – but it makes for a smooth, soft transition.

Cushioning
I have a certain beef with drop-in insoles, and that’s what we get once again with the XI Elite. It’s a pretty substantial block of Lunarlon with a Zoom bag in the heel. It borderline infuriates me that a $200 shoe doesn’t have full Zoom, when that insole is obviously already in production since it’s an option on the ID models. Hell, give me TWO insoles at that price – one with Lunar + Zoom and the other full Zoom.

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It’s great as far as step in comfort but I’ve never been a huge fan of Lunar on court. I didn’t like the feedback from the midsole upon first wearings but it does need to be broken in. I should have a better feel after some pickup ball tonight.

Traction
The YMCA floor I played on was fairly dirty from high kid use on a Sunday afternoon and traction suffered because of it. On a clean floor, combined with the flexibility of the outsole, I think they’ll be just fine.

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Materials
The aforementioned Flyknit is excellent – much closer to Engineered Mesh or Fuse that to traditional Flyknit. Still salty about the midsole tech. But the fit and finish is very nice, and it’s a sweet looking shoe. The next week or two will see heavy use out of them and I’m excited to see how it holds up.

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Performance Review: Nike Kyrie 2

Prose: Jake Sittler

Before I dive into the Kyrie 2, just a quick note: starting with the Rose 6 review, you’ll be able to find all TGRR reviews featured on tackl.com. Tackl is approaching shoe reviews from a crowd-sourcing standpoint, aggregating feedback from other wearers on just about any hoops shoe out there. They’ve asked me to post some expert reviews for them, and I’m happy to get TGRR content on more and more platforms.

As noted in my first impressions post from a few days back, the Kyrie 2 is a very different shoe right out of the box. The highly rounded midsole/outsole not only looks unique, but also feels unique on foot. I’ve now had a chance to get in a few 2-hour runs in them (thanks to the annual Columbia City Christmas break hoop sessions) and I’ve gotten a handle on one of the more intriguing (and sought-after) shoes out right now.

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Fit
If you’re familiar with the Kyrie 1 at all, you’ll remember that the shoe ran very narrow. I never played full-time in the 1, but in my store try-on I needed to go up to a 12 to get the right fit because of the extremely narrow last. The Kyrie 2 is still fairly narrow, but is much improved especially under the midfoot. I went with an 11.5 in the Kyrie 2, which is true to size for me in everyday use, but I almost always go down to an 11 in hoops shoes.

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From a general point of view, the full Fuse upper provides good lockdown and containment from heel to toe. It’s a better quality upper compared to the 1 and is pretty straightforward (there are a couple medial notches at the forefoot to aid flexibility) until you get to the neoprene heel area and strap setup. The heel is well padded internally, conforms to the foot and is nice and flexible, and the strap kept my foot locked into the collar pretty well. There’s not a particularly solid heel counter in there, but the strap does help with heel security. The strap basically only affects the heel/ankle fit – but the midfoot laces up plenty tight. I didn’t notice any slippage internally and felt secure on all hard cuts, stops, and starts.

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Heel-Toe Transition
The Kyrie 2 really shines here. The rounded sole came with a lot of scientific jargon in the Nike press release, but it boils down to this: it feels easier to roll from heel to toe during the footstrike. It’s a natural movement, and I kept getting the feeling that I was rolling inward just slightly – making it easier to push off the ball of my foot and big toe on hard changes of direction.

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The shoe isn’t going to make you quick or improve the speed of your crossover (hit some ballhandling drills with tennis balls and hit the weight room for that) but I do feel that the radiused midsole/outsole promotes more natural movement than a lot of shoes. If you’re a quick guard or wing to begin with, you’ll probably like the feel of these.

Cushioning
While the rounded sole was great for transition purposes, it did leave something to be desired from an overall cushioning standpoint. Some of this may have been because I came from playing on the pillowy Rose 6, but the Kyrie 2 cushioning felt very thin and firm. It’s a Phylon midsole with a tiny Zoom bag dropped in the heel and that Zoom is pretty non-existent. It also would have been nice to see an insole upgrade from the relatively thin unit used here (brands across the board, for whatever reason, are really skimping on the insoles lately).

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With that said, I think that the thin, firm midsole was necessary for the shoe to function as it was a intended. A thick, cushioned midsole isn’t going to be as flexible and responsive as the Kyrie 2 needs to be. I’m not even sure a Zoom bag in the forefoot would feel right with as rounded as the sole is. However as a guard, I don’t really mind the low, firm feel because it gives me great court feel and responsiveness. My knees might feel it after playing in these for another month or two, but so far I haven’t noticed any additional soreness. I had some of the exact same feelings about the Crazyquick 1 (which I loved playing in) in that the thin cushioning platform was a necessity and it’s benefits outweighed the lack of step in comfort.

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Overall I think it was a well-designed innovation from Nike even if their science is a bit dubious. It plays very low to the ground and is as stable as they come – look how the lateral side midsole wraps up around the heel to prevent a rollover – just don’t expect a plush ride.

Traction
Once again, the Kyrie 2 scores very well. A soft, pliable rubber makes up the multi-directional traction pattern that wraps up on the lateral side of the midsole. Designed to give traction in all directions (aren’t most traction patterns?), I found it to be a good performer on YMCA courts ruined by kids with dirty shoes and an excellent performer on two clean high school courts.

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Materials/Durability
It’s a pretty no-frills build, but I think it’ll hold up very well. Fuse is a tough, long-lasting upper material and the midsole cushioning has enough density and support that I don’t see it breaking down too quickly. The strap is a quality hook and loop setup and the overall finish of the shoe is pretty good for a $120 price point.

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I have a hunch that reviews will be all over the board for the Kyrie 2. I actually have loved playing in it so far and plan to keep it in the rotation for the time being, but I can completely understand if the cushioning setup turns some players off. At $120, these deserved a better heel Zoom unit and a beefed up insole. For me though, the smooth transition, overall lockdown and stable, low to the ground feel are perfect for my game.

kyrie 2_review guide

This review can also be found at tackl.com, right here

adidas Rose 6 Boost

Prose: Jake Sittler

While I wasn’t able to review as many shoes as I would have liked to this calendar year, I still hooped in quite a few including the Under Armour Curry 1, adidas Rose 6, adidas CrazyLight Boost 2015, adidas Crazy 8, Brandblack Black Hawk, Nike Zoom HyperRev 2015, Nike Kyrie 2 and Jordan CP3.VIII. If you’ve read my Rose 6 review here or over on tackl, you’ll know how much of a fan I was of the Rose 6. It’s no surprise then that it’s my 2015 shoe of the year.

Simply put, the Rose 6 is the best cushioned basketball shoe on the market right now – maybe the best one ever. Adidas finally nailed the Boost setup in a hoops shoe, marrying two plush units with a stable midsole for a near-perfect balance of comfort, transition and support. If it sounds like I’m gushing over the shoe, well I kinda am (and they were paid for with 130 of my own dollars).

adidas Rose 6 Boost

First and foremost, Boost is just ridiculously comfortable. No shoe can hold a candle to the Rose 6 in terms of step-in comfort. The forefoot unit is the key one here, as adidas had to take into account forefoot stability and court feel with such a plush, responsive cushioning material. The volume of the forefoot Boost struck that balance perfectly, giving great responsiveness that we’ve come to expect from a Boost unit while also remaining stable and providing good enough court feel for a guard like me.

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I think the Stableframe midsole is key too – as we’ve seen in the CrazyLight Boost models, Boost can be rendered way less effective and less comfortable when it’s not paired with a supportive carrier. Robbie Fuller totally nailed it. The Rose 6 knocked cushioning out of the park in every aspect I care about.

From there, they went nuts on internal padding, which is thick and comfy all over. Yeah, the tongue is a little weird but it pads the top of the foot and ankle very well, protecting them from the potentially harsh feel of that top strap. Another great design element was the fabric used on the lining, which was smooth if you felt it from the top-down, yet was grippy when felt from the bottom-up. This just meant it gave you a little extra help in the lockdown department and kept the foot in place even more.

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Traction was awesome in the white/silver colorway I tested, and I found the overall fit was great too. Once the upper broke in after a few minutes, it was easy to get everything laced up tightly. The white/silver upper was a bit basic, with a mesh/synthetic combo for a fuse-ish feel, but it was flexible and more than adequate in all areas.

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The most obvious visual element is the TPU heel cage, which really didn’t help a ton as far as lockdown, but nonetheless gave the Rose 6 a nice stable external frame. I would have loved to see it articulate a bit more for that exoskeletal feel. To be frank, the shoe is a little ugly (in the white colorway anyway, the away black/red is fire) but it played so well, I don’t really care. It functions beautifully, so it’s beautiful to me.

Unfortunately (and unexpectedly) I did have an issue with the outsole beginning to peel away from the Boost unit on the heel where a tiny outsole flange sticks out. I’ll be sending the Rose 6 back to adidas for replacement, but it’s not an issue I’ve read about elsewhere. The shoe is simply so good on-court that I can overlook this for now.

Doesn’t matter how it looks, doesn’t matter if Derrick Rose is a superstar anymore or not. Bottom line, if I had to wear any shoe I tested this year for a championship game, the Rose 6 would be my go-to without hesitation. Therefore, it’s The Gym Rat Review 2015 Shoe of the Year.

adidasRose6_review guide

First Impressions: Nike Kyrie 2

Prose: Jake Sittler

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I picked up the Kyrie 2 on release day – something I don’t always do with performance shoes – but I was excited to get in them for a couple of reasons. First, I was intrigued by the construction. The radiused outsole is something we haven’t seen much of in a performance hoops shoe, and especially not to this degree. I really wanted to see what kind of affect it would have as far planting and changing directions quickly. Second, my beloved Rose 6s are having a couple of durability issues and I needed to pick up a new pair while I send the Roses back.

What follows is a brief rundown of the 5 aspects of the Kyrie 2. You can also check out more info on the shoe over at tackl.com.

Fit
I was immediately impressed by the overall lockdown. The Fuse upper laces up very tightly and the tongue extends up higher than normal for a pretty secure feel. The midfoot strap only enhances the lockdown across the top of the foot, and I don’t have any movement to report on the interior. I don’t anticipate the strap causing any discomfort, as it’s pretty flexible and is well placed across the foot, helping to lock the foot into the heel of the shoe. Very good overall.

Heel-Toe Transition
The midsole is a bit stiff right out of the box, but it breaks in well in no time. The footstrike, thanks to the curved outsole and midsole, felt a little weird to me at first. I felt like my foot wanted to roll inward slightly off the big toe with each step, but I have to think that’s by design with the curved sole. Some extra support on the medial heel would have been nice in my opinion, but you really feel the effects of the curved sole with each step. I think the curvature is a good idea and while it’s not going to make you blow by every defender now, it does promote easier movement when changing direction and off my first step.

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Cushioning
It was a bit of a shock going from the plushness of the Rose 6 to the rather spartan setup in the Kyrie 2. It’s firm and plays low to the ground, with decent flexibility and responsiveness. The heel Zoom bag is…there I guess? I never was a huge fan of heel Zoom since I don’t typically play on my heels. Would have loved to see it in the forefoot, but I have a hunch that would play well with the curved platform. As a guard, I like the cushioning setup from the freedom of movement standpoint, both laterally and in a linear manner, but it’s nothing outstanding.

Traction
The multi-directional traction pattern was designed so that Kyrie would be able to stop on a dime or accelerate as fast as he needs to. I, as a matter of fact, am about 1/100th of the athlete he is but for me it’s worked very well. It’s rather soft, however, so I don’t anticipate it being a good outdoor option if you hoop a lot on asphalt.

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Materials/Durability
So far I’ve been very impressed. Fuse is pretty much bulletproof and this iteration feels like it’ll last awhile. The midsole is Phylon and feels pretty supportive out of the box. Overall, the fit and finish is very good.

After three wearings and a total 0f 5 or 6 hours, I’ve been impressed with the Kyrie 2. I like feel of the radiused sole and I think it’s an innovation from Leo Chang that directly aids performance. We’ll see what a couple more weeks brings, but I’ve liked it so far (especially at $120).

Performance Review: adidas Rose 6 Boost

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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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.

Fit
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Cushioning
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.

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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.

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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.

Traction
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.

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Materials/Durability
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.

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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: Brandblack Blackhawk

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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Perusing my local Finishline (and House of Hoops) is something I do every couple of weeks, even if I don’t drop as much money on shoes as I used to. This time, I was in shopping for some multicolor Flyknit Roshe’s for my wife’s birthday.

While I didn’t find a pair for her in her size, I stumbled across something that caught my eye: Brandblack’s Black Hawk, on clearance for a cool $55 (I promise I got her something else). I hadn’t gotten my hands on anything from Brandblack yet, but I’ve admired pretty much everything they’d done to this point, from their interwoven performance and aesthetic focus to their gorgeous sportswear line.

The Black Hawk is an older model, yet hadn’t shown up at my store until now. It’s actually geared for the outdoor hooper, but I decided to put it to the test indoors and see how it held up.

Fit
If you’ve read anything from me in the past, you know one of the ways to instantly compromise a review is poor fit. If I can’t get locked in the way I want, I won’t like the shoe (see my Crazy Light Boost 2015 review, for example). The upper on the Black Hawk is an interesting material – it feels a little foamy/spongy but isn’t overly stiff. In fact, it’s extremely pliable and flexible. There’s a circular cutout pattern (backed with fabric) throughout that has a bit of a Jordan 2010 Outdoor ethos (another shoe that I actually really enjoyed playing in).

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The collar area, is beefed up and features a nice quilted interior. An internal heel counter isn’t extremely sturdy, but does kind fit in with the rest of the upper design. I was able to get really good lockdown from heel to toe and the shoes lace up very nicely. I noticed a bit of slippage in the heel, nothing major, but still present nonetheless. I believe the heel counter could have been hardened or perhaps molded better, but it’s not bad for a shoe at this pricepoint. Overall, from a lockdown standpoint the Black Hawk is solid. It doesn’t use the highest quality materials nor is overly reinforced, but they lace up tight and are extremely flexible.

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Heel-Toe Transition
When I say the Black Hawk is flexible, I’m not kidding. You can nearly fold the shoe in half. It makes for a smooth, natural feel underfoot as the one piece outsole features a small plastic shank that offers minimal support. As is often the case in very flexible shoes, transition is great but support leaves something to be desired…

 

Cushioning
This is an area of the shoe that I liked, although I definitely didn’t love it. The midsole is fairly thin and flexible, and there are conflicting specs when it comes to the material. I’ve seen Jetlon and Multilon listed as the compound (they might even be the same thing) but either way I’d say it’s similar to Micro G in terms of bounce but in this particular application it’s not as firm or supportive.

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Court feel is great, but support is pretty much nonexistent. While I’m fairly light, I overpronate slightly and I definitely enjoy more support along the medial edge of the shoe. The Black Hawk unfortunately doesn’t help me much there, as the flexible midsole and upper both don’t provide much support. The forefoot outrigger was a nice design element and does aid in some lateral stability – especially important outdoors when you may not have great traction.

Overall, I liked the responsiveness and the court feel but didn’t find enough support or impact protection.

Traction
The outdoor-specific pattern has pretty wide, thick chevron-like lugs, but the rubber compound used is fairly pliable. The softer rubber plus the great flexibility I’ve mentioned before give the shoe great grip on the indoor courts I’ve played on. I was sort of surprised at the softer rubber on an outdoor shoe, but haven’t tested it outside yet.

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Materials/Durability
While I haven’t seen a ton of wear yet, the Black Hawk was built for balling outdoors so I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their longevity. I’m not sure how the synthetic/foam type upper will hold up, but it’s done great so far. The collar and eyestays feature extra stitching and an extra layer of synthetic leather. The insole was rather cheap as well, but not as bad as the Crazylight Boost! So far, so good on the durability side of things.

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In conclusion, the Black Hawk is a solid all-around performer from the up-and-comer in the performance footwear industry. While the JCrossover models feature fancier tech and higher quality builds, the Black Hawk is still good value when seen through the $55 lens. Compared to the budget models from the other major brands, the Black Hawk holds up pretty well. If you’re on the lookout for an outdoor pair or just a pair to keep others in your rotation fresh, the Black Hawk is worth a try.

brandblack_blackhawk_review guide

 

Performance Review: adidas Crazylight Boost 2015

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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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?

Fit
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…

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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.

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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.

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Cushioning
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.

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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.

Traction
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.

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Materials/Durability
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.

adidascrazylightboost_review_guide

Performance Review: Under Armour Curry One

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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No disrespect to Brandon Jennings and the Bloodline Under Armour models of years past, but the Curry One was likely the most anticipated and most marketed UA hoops shoe since the company broke into the basketball shoe market. Curry is the hottest name and best player on the NBA’s best team, and populates Sportscenter almost daily with an array of pull up threes, slick ballhandling and Steve Nash-ian court vision. In other words, it was time for Under Armour to capitalize.

Behind a slick “Charged by Belief” marketing campaign, the Curry One was rolled out in mid-February. I was pretty stoked to my hands on a pair and I copped mine the weekend they released. I was expecting a solid, if unspectacular performer, cushioned with “Charged” full-length Micro G foam. The AnaFoam upper was also something new on a UA shoe, so with a pretty high degree of excitement I laced them up in all three of my leagues the first week.

Now a month later, I continue to be blown away.

Fit
I mentioned the AnaFoam upper already, and it’s been fantastic from a lockdown and comfort standpoint. AnaFoam is built of (obviously) a foam layer but also a stretchy textile that gives it some flexibility and malleability which separates the material from stiffer Fuse uppers that you’d compare it to. I found it to be a very adaptive fit that molds quickly around the foot. There are also perforations throughout the shoe, reducing weight and adding breathability (although I never notice breathability when I’m playing, some may feel differently).

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Combined with seven lace loops, the fit is vise-like. I loved the way it laced up – no frills and serious lockdown. I had no movement or slippage anywhere inside the shoe, no matter how hard I changed direction or how quickly I’d stop and pop a jumper. The external heel counter is larger and more rigid than the Clutchfit – a definite improvement for me.

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Fit is the most important aspect of a shoe to me and the Curry One was perfect for all intents and purposes. Supportive, yet flexible and super light (one of the biggest initial impressions of the shoe is how light it plays on-court), UA has something very good going with AnaFoam.

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Heel-Toe Transition
Borrowing the outsole tooling from the Clutchfit Drive combined with a Charged Micro G midsole, the transition is buttery smooth. There’s a plastic TPU shank also, not beefy by any means, that adds some support but the shoe flows extremely well from heel to toe.

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Cushioning
If you’ve read any other reviews on here, you can probably figure out that I love Micro G. It’s the best foam cushioning on the market, period. adidas hasn’t quite dialed Boost in all the way and Lunar foam, in a basketball shoe, is laughably inferior in my opinion. Firm, responsive, consistent and low to the ground, Micro G is everything a foam cushioning platform should be.

In the Curry One, the Micro G is “Charged,” which basically amounts to UA adding a layer of the Charged foam on top of the Micro G unit. Charged foam is supposed to feel softer under less force (i.e. standing around during a free throw) and then firm up and be super responsive under higher forces. I will say that it does perform as it’s intended to, and while it’s not a drastic difference from pure Micro G, it is better from a firm, responsive standpoint.

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I already talked about the fantastic transition, but court feel and responsiveness also rate very highly for me. I think it’s better cushioned than the HyperRev 2015, Rose 5 and Clutchfit – and those shoes were all pretty darn good for me too.

Traction
Full herringbone and the same setup as the Clutchfit Drive. It’s a very good pattern, but the rubber is pretty soft and I’ve found it to be a little slick on less than perfect floors. As long as you keep swiping you won’t have any issues, and on clean floors it’s squeaky good. But most of us probably don’t play on the most pristine court surfaces so it is something to keep in mind. It’s nothing to deter you from buying the shoe, though.

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Materials/Durability
Early on you could ding UA for some shoddy craftsmanship, but that’s no longer an issue in my opinion. The last 5 pairs of UAs I’ve had (Spawn 1, Charge Volt Low, Spawn 2, Clutchfit, and now the Curry One) have held up extremely well for me and for the buddies I’ve passed them on to when I’m through with the review. All pairs have taken a beating and responded well.

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I’m seeing some scuffing and wear on the toecap of the Curry One, but that’s to be expected with any shoe. Other than that, the construction is pretty well done throughout and so far I’ve not had any issues whatsoever. UA did manage to throw in that shiny, plastic-y finish on parts of the midsole that I don’t like aesthetically but it’s nothing to criticize from a performance standpoint.

There are also a lot of cool details throughout the shoe and packaging that add to the story and experience with the shoe. You’ll see “4:13” stitched on the tongue in reference to Curry’s favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13, and “I can do all things…” shows up on the inside of the tongue. Personally, it’s great to see a brand embrace a player’s faith in that manner. Props to UA and Steph for that one.

Inside the box, you’ll find an extra set of laces (I swapped these in immediately) and a card thanking you for purchasing the shoes. The extra attention to detail is something I really enjoyed about the shoe.

I typically receive questions about the Curry One at least once a night in the various leagues I’ve played in, and my standard response is this: it is pound for pound the best shoe out there right now. It’s not fancy, not tech’d out, but it’s super light, the fit is incredibly good and cushioning is pretty perfect in all categories. Again, I’m a guard and this is a guard’s shoe, but I think most players would enjoy the shoe regardless of position. At $120 retail, it’s pretty affordable too.

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Performance Review: Nike Zoom HyperRev 2015

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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When I first saw images of the HyperRev 2015, months before its release, the first thing that came to mind was “Jet Flight”. The cult classic shoe of the Dirk/Nash-era Dallas Mavericks featured a unique mesh bootie build with second upper layer that laced up around it. Atop a Zoom forefoot/heel Air Max midsole, the shoe was one of the best performers of the early-00s and is probably my all-time favorite performance design.

The HyperRev 2015 isn’t exactly the same thing, but seems as if it carries on some of the lineage of the Jet Flight: Zoom forefoot cushioning, a full inner bootie base with a Fuse/Flywire outer shell, and wraparound heel counter integrated into the eyelets. Like its distant relative, it’s a premier performance option on court as well.

Fit
One of my biggest complaints about last year’s HyperRev 2014 was the poor fit all over the shoe. With just five eyelets that barely laced to the top of the foot, a few measly Flywire cables and no heel counter, I could not get any kind of lockdown or security despite the layered mesh build. The 2015 version jut about remedied all of that.

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I did go down a half-size to an 11 for this shoe  – for those wondering about sizing info – although I can do this easier with a narrower foot. The neoprene bootie by itself provides a better fit than last year’s version – and is snug enough that it’s tough to get on at times. A Fuse shell wraps around much of the upper, providing more security and lockdown than the 2014 model. In fact, the forefoot fit was really pretty solid with minimal slippage compared to any shoe out there. It’s not going to give you full lockdown  – you lace through and rely quite a bit  on 4 sets of Flywire cables – but it’s pretty good and the fact that the inner bootie holds your foot so secure to begin with that it makes it feel glued to you.

Speaking of that lacing system, you do lace through Flywire cables but also directly through eyelets of the Fuse shell. I’d like to experiment lacing through the eyelets only and forgetting about the Flywire to see if that gets rid of the inconsistent fit and feel of the Flywire.

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The molded TPU heel counter makes the heel fit absolutely miles ahead of the 2014 version. The cage wraps around the heel and has two eyelets at the end to tie it into the lacing system. It’s positioned pretty perfectly around the ankle bone and really locks the heel in. There are also two molded Achilles notches on the interior of the bootie – a tremendously overlooked aspect to providing good heel fit. The whole thing really fits like a sock and moves just like an extension of the foot.

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Heel-Toe Transition
Transition is super smooth – on par with the best out there. There’s no internal or external midsole shank so support may be an issue for you but it’s a flexible, fairly responsive setup that lets you move naturally.

Cushioning
One fantastic aspect of the original HyperRev was the full length Zoom unit – something we don’t see too often anymore. Housed in a soft Phylon midsole, it was a pillowy, responsive cushioning setup that most people – including myself – loved.  It had very little structure though, and I found my arches quickly getting sore from the lack of support.

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The 2015 switches to a firmer midsole foam and independent forefoot and heel Zoom units. Responsiveness is very good, probably a step down from last year, but still nice and bouncy. The flexible midsole and sock-like fit allow the shoe to move with you no matter what.

Court feel is also awesome thanks to the low profile cushioning and great flexibility, and overall the cushioning is fairly plush compared to most on the market. It’s firmed up some and feels thinner than last year so don’t expect it to feel exactly the same, but you get better structure and support from the 2015 cushioning setup overall.

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Traction
I thought the traction on the 2014 model was pretty terrible, and I’m happy to report the 2015 is much better. Deeper, wavy herringbone grooves and a seemingly tougher rubber compound gives you better grip on most floor conditions.

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Materials/Durability
With the neoprene bootie, Fuse shell and TPU counter there are plenty of independent pieces to the HyperRev 2015 but I expect them to hold up pretty well. They didn’t seem to accumulate a bunch of wear even playing in 3 to 4 leagues per week, and I haven’t seen any issues crop up so far. I’ve only used them indoors, FYI, and I’d probably hesitate to take them outside.

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I really loved playing in the HyperRev 2015, and it’s been one my favorite recent pickups. It’s a little thin on forefoot cushioning but that’s probably my only real gripe – I think as I get older my old bones value impact protection more and more so that’s probably part of it.

It fits like a glove and the flexibility and responsiveness make you forget the shoe is even on. I personally love the inner bootie construction and the natural feel; as a point guard, is something you always value. The vastly improved lockdown simply makes the HyperRev an awesome guard option and one of the better performers out there right now.

hyperrev2015_review_guide

Performance Review: Jordan CP3.VIII

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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I’ve reviewed the last two shoes in Chris Paul’s Jordan Brand signature line and generally found them to be good but not great overall. Being a point guard myself, I’m always excited to try out the shoe built for one of the game’s premier PGs, but something seems to be lacking in each model.

The stiff Fuse upper of the VI compromised the fit for me and I wasn’t able to get full lockdown – unsettling in a lowtop. The VII had fantastic cushioning with the Zoom-based Podulon system and the materials were rugged, but again the shoe didn’t fit me properly. I had a hard time with the VII especially, because there were a lot of aspects I really, really liked about it and to this day I wear them all the time off-court. In both cases though, I thought that the material choice and build of the upper really hampered the overall fit of the shoes.

The CP3.VIII sees the introduction of a full length TPU frame and targeted Lunar/Zoom cushioning combo. Once again the shoe sounds great on paper, and this time delivers as a very good all around performer.

Fit
The toebox is fairly tight, and I went with an 11.5 – even with a narrow foot I would not recommend going down a half size at all. I found the lockdown to be excellent for a couple of different reasons. First, the shoe used mesh/woven panels on both the medial and lateral portions of the upper – very similar to Engineered Mesh. Whereas the Fuse and other synthetics of the last two models kept me from getting a truly snug fit, the slight change in materials really helps the shoe fit more naturally on the foot.

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You’ll still get Fuse in the toebox and vamp areas, bringing with it stiffness and great durability. I didn’t find any hotspots or weird creasing with this combination upper. The other aspect contributing to the great fit is the full length TPU frame. Acting as the external heel counter and then sculpted all the way down the shoe, it provides heel lockdown and lateral stability for the quickest cuts. I wondered about the rigidity of it going in, but after a few wearings it began to feel more natural and three weeks in it simply feels great to be locked in.

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My only gripe is with the dynamic lacing system, as the laces run through little lace straps embedded in the upper. These straps don’t hold the laces when you try to lace them tightly from the toe up, so it’s difficult to get them laced as tightly as I want.

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Heel-Toe Transition
With a fairly firm midsole, the TPU frame, and a harder, less flexible rubber outsole, the transition isn’t really the shoe’s strongest point. I found it to be a little slappy through the first four or five wearings – I noticed distinct heel and toe strikes – but it admittedly became more natural as I broke them in. It’s designed to be a more firm, responsive midsole and is also pretty supportive, so the transition gets sacrificed some here.

Cushioning
As mentioned before, the stability is excellent in part due to that full TPU frame. But the shoe also plays very firm and low to the ground, making the shoe ideal for quick changes of direction. It’s not plush comfort by any means, but the Lunar foam directly under the heel is a nice addition and you get a large Zoom bag in the forefoot. Court feel is simply ideal.

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Responsiveness is good if not great. The Zoom bag is large and seems to be thick and bouncy (not all Zoom setups are created equal) but the extra firm midsole and slightly clunky linear transition saps some of the responsiveness here. It’s still good, and plays low enough and stable enough that you probably won’t notice too many issues in the responsiveness department.

Traction
I had an issue with traction initially because I felt like the wavy pods picked up way too much dust for my liking, and I was constantly swiping through the first couple of wearings. The outsole is also a pretty firm rubber compound, and those typically take longer to break in as well. But after a few intense sessions, the rubber broke in a little and I barely noticed any slippage. There are portions of the outsole that hold too much dust because there’s too much of a flat surface and not enough grooves, so a dusty court may give you some trouble – but that’s the case with most shoes anyway.

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Materials/Durability
The CP3 line is typically built with tough, durable materials and the VIII follows that trend. It’s kind of a no frills type of shoe, and there aren’t a lot of areas I can see excessive wear building up. The outsole is pretty tough, though probably not setup for outdoor play, and the toebox features plenty of Fuse overlays. The woven portion is a tight weave and the build in general is very good. The only issue that could crop up would be with the lace loops (I had ones like these break on my XX9s) but so far, so good there.

The CP3.VIII is without question my favorite Chris Paul signature of the last three years and it’s just a really good all-around lowtop. The fit is fantastic and the shoe plays low to the ground with good responsiveness; it nails the big areas needed for a good lowtop. A slightly different traction layout would be nice and it’s not as smooth from heel-toe as the other shoes I’d been playing in (it does improve considerably once broken in though). Surprisingly, it’s a sleeper favorite of mine and I’ll keep them around for when I feel like hooping in a pair of lows.