Performance Shoe of the Year

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

I reviewed nine different models this year and my Shoe of the Year pick basically came down to two choices: the adidas Crazyquick and the Under Armour Micro G Anatomix Spawn. After much deliberation, my shoe of the year is the Crazyquick. It was really a brutal decision for me, not only because I loved both shoes, but because I understand that the Crazyquick isn’t for everybody. I’ll do my best to convey why I loved the Crazyquick so much and also why there were a couple other shoes I felt like could be considered top choices for many people.

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Like I said, the Crazyquick suited my needs perfectly. Not everyone loved it and not everyone could wear it because of how narrow it was and the lack of plush cushioning. But the shoe needed to be flexible, low to the ground and responsive – and the cushioning setup allowed it to be just that. Techfit was a dream to play in and the upper fit as snug and as comfortably as any shoe I’ve ever played in. I’ve been through it before, but the shoe just performs exactly like it was intended to and I have yet to find a better overall guard shoe.

I ultimately came to the decision in this way (and I think it’s a good thought process when deciding what to hoop in when you have multiple options): if you were playing in a championship game, and you had to choose the shoe that allowed you to be most confident and play your best, which shoe would you choose? For me, it was the adidas Crazyquick.

I loved the Anatomix Spawn almost equally as much, even though it wasn’t quite as guard-specific. Where it wasn’t as light and flexible as the Crazyquick, the midfoot support and cushioning were just awesome. The TPU frame underneath was an awesome innovation and provided tons of support while allowing the shoe to still be light and flexible. When I’m not reviewing a new shoe, I switch back and forth hooping in both the Crazyquick and Anatomix Spawn.

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I also definitely enjoyed playing in the Jordan XX8 SE and CP3.VII. The XX8 SE had an incredible cushioning setup – the Zoom Air units were utilized perfectly and provided a ton of responsiveness. Unfortunately, those bags blew out within in two weeks so there was a definite caveat in that shoe. The CP3.VII was extremely well-cushioned, and felt great underfoot. It didn’t fit my foot that well personally, but I’ve heard tons of good feedback about the shoe and I would not hesitate to recommend it.

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We’ve had over 66,000 hits on the site this year and are carrying a lot of momentum into 2014. Thanks to all who’ve checked out the site, commented and spread the word about our small operation. We’re looking to get more consistent with our reviews this year, as Finch and I both have finally settled into solid jobs, and it’s my personal goal to double the amount of reviews in 2014.

Keep an eye out for a Jordan Super.Fly 2 review in the near future, as well as ones on the Nike Zoom HyperRev, Zoom Crusader, and adidas D Howard 4. Happy New Year from TGRR.

TGRR Year in Performance Reviews

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

With the end of 2013 quickly approaching, I thought we’d take a quick look back at every shoe we’ve reviewed here at TGRR. With Finch and I both wrapping up our college days and entering the real world, this site has been a great creative outlet and a way to keep both of us in the shoe game. It helped me get my first real job and kept me writing and editing.

Finch and I both also still play a lot of competitive ball (our latest league championship was won just two weeks ago) and we’re always looking for the best performance products. Focusing on how a shoe really performs – not just the colorways or hype that it gets – is something that gets lost in the sneaker community at times. At TGRR, we try to keep on-court performance at the forefront.

Hyperdunk 2012 Low
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Reviewer: Sittler
Pros: Fit and lockdown; plays smooth and low to the ground; lightweight
Cons: Traction could be better; midsole/cushioning breaks down too quickly; not enough impact protection
Verdict: A nice alternative to the midcut Hyperdunk, the Hyperdunk Low gives you great fit and court feel. But the cushioning wore out much too quickly for my taste and I felt the lack of impact protection in my knees and hips after just a couple months of wearings.

Nike Zoom Hyperdisruptor
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Reviewer: Finch
Pros: Heel lockdown; lightweight; traction; plush Zoom cushioning
Cons:
Midsole is too flexible, creating various issues; outsole separated from shoe after a couple of weeks
Verdict
: A lightweight shoe that’s nice to play in initially, but the flimsy midsole hurts performance in a variety of ways. The Zoom bags aren’t as responsive as they should be, there’s not enough structure or rigidity through the heel-toe transition, and there’s simply a lack of support due to the soft midsole and no shank. Plenty of durability concerns. Also probably overpriced at $130.

Jordan CP3.VI
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Reviewer: Sittler
Pros: Podulon cushioning has been refined and improved; traction is top-notch; smooth transition and low to the ground feel
Cons: Upper a little stiff, leading to fit being not quite snug; Achilles pad is comfortable but tough to get full heel lockdown
Verdict: The CP3.VI is an elite guard shoe. It featured some of the best traction and cushioning of any shoe I’ve tested and the whole shoe just played well. I wasn’t a fan of the fit – I couldn’t get a glove-like, snug fit with the Fuse upper being kind of stiff – but I do have a narrow foot and that may be more a reflection of my own needs than the shoe itself. If the shoe fit me better through the midfoot and heel, I really would have loved it. It’s an extremely comfortable shoe as far as cushioning goes, and it was immediately added to the off-court rotation.

Nike Flyknit Lunar1+
Reviewer: Kim

Nike Air Way Up
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Reviewer: Finch
Pros: Ankle, tongue and heel padding; supportive midsole
Cons: Poor transition; traction doesn’t meet modern standards; bulkier shoe than most of today’s models
Verdict: It’s probably better served as an off-court shoe, but it was still fun to see how a 90s retro compares today. The leather build and interior padding were great from a quality standpoint, but the shoe just doesn’t play like the current options out there.

adidas Crazyquick
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Reviewer: Sittler
Pros: Flexible and low to the ground; excellent traction and lateral stability; fit is the best of any shoe I’ve ever had
Cons: Midsole doesn’t have a ton of support (it’s not built for that); runs very narrow – good for me, bad for a lot of folks
Verdict: The Crazyquick is shoe 1b for me this year. I absolutely loved it. I’ve never worn a shoe that played so low to the ground and allowed for such quick changes of direction. The shoe actually gave me confidence, in the sense that I knew I could play and move exactly like I needed to with it on my feet. The fit, with a Techfit upper and extended Sprintframe, was like a glove.

Nike KD V Elite
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Reviewer: Sittler
Pros: Snug fit from heel to toe; quality materials used throughout
Cons: Stiff and rigid midsole; cushioning neither soft nor responsive; traction not as good as most I tested
Verdict: The KD V Elite was the one Elite model I was most excited to try out this year (because it differed so much from the base shoe) and I was wholly disappointed. While I loved the lockdown and support from the premium upper materials (including plenty of carbon fiber), the transition was poor thanks to a very stiff chassis. The cushioning was overly firm – from the outsole to the midsole, it just wasn’t an enjoyable setup underfoot.

Nike Hyperdunk 2013
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Reviewer: Sittler
Pros: Excellent fit, flexible with great lockdown; overall comfort
Cons: Midsole support leaves some to be desired; Lunarlon cushioning
Verdict: The Hyperdunk 2013 will probably the shoe you see on court more than any other this year, and for good reason. It’s a great all-around performer that will fit a variety of player types. It’s good – but not great – in a lot of areas, with the most glaring being a lack of support in the midsole. A more substantial shank would have been a huge bonus. But the fit and lockdown are great, and it’s a shoe I’d recommend.

Nike Zoom Hyperquickness
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Reviewer: Finch
Pros: Zoom cushioning setup; traction is excellent; overall value at $105
Cons: Fuse upper is a little stiff, doesn’t hug the foot; Fuse isn’t quite as high quality as other models
Verdict: At $105, the Hyperquickness is a good value for budget-conscious hoopers. You’re not going to get an overly refined shoe from a fit standpoint, but the cushioning and traction are solid and the Hyperfuse upper is plenty durable.

Nike Free Flyknit
Reviewer: Kim

Under Armour Micro G Anatomix Spawn
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Reviewer: Sittler
Pros: Midfoot support system is excellent; Micro G cushioning is responsive as ever; lockdown is perfect
Cons: Traction pattern is not deep enough and is poor on even slightly dirty courts
Verdict: Along with the Crazyquick, this is shoe 1a for me. The fit and lockdown are as good as any shoe on the market. Micro G cushioning doesn’t get enough respect, and it proves to be both responsive and stable in the Anatomix Spawn. The midfoot TPU frame is one of the coolest support systems I’ve seen and it actually works too. A great overall shoe that will probably be ignored by too many people.

adidas Adizero Crazy Light 3
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Reviewer: Sittler
Pros: Extremely light; plays low to the ground
Cons: Cushioning is firm and a little slappy; lacing system and fit are sloppy; midsole is barely there
Verdict: The Crazy Light 3 is, in fact, light. But that’s just about all the benefit I could glean from the shoe. The cushioning is fairly responsive considering how thin it is, but it just doesn’t offer much impact protection or general comfort/support. I could never really get true lockdown thanks to a poorly designed lacing system (needs more eyelets) and the upper itself felt too thin and cheap.

Jordan CP3.VII
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Reviewer: Sittler
Pros: Excellent use of materials; cushioning provides both impact protection and responsiveness; traction is very good
Cons: Couldn’t get perfect lockdown; shape of the footbed didn’t personally suit me
Verdict: The CP3.VII is undeniably a great on court option – but it didn’t fit me all that well. Each aspect of the shoe was very good, even excellent, except for the fit and that is too crucial for me to ignore. Make sure you try them on first before ordering, but you’ll get great cushioning, traction and quality from the CP3.VII.

Jordan XX8 SE
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Reviewer: Sittler
Pros: Midfoot support with Flight Plate chassis; heel fit and overall fit; Proplate Zoom setup is awesome
Cons: Lack of customization with 5 eyelets in the lacing system; Zoom bag blew out within 10 wearings
Verdict: I loved everything about the shoe until the Zoom bag blew out. Normally, it could be chalked up to a freak occurrence but I’ve seen a pair of regular XX8s – with same cushioning/midsole setup – have the same issue. Both shoes had a huge bulge develop along the vertical line in the forefoot Zoom bags. Other than that, the shoe was awesome. The Zoom setup was super responsive, carbon fiber was used strategically and effectively; it was simply a great performer on-court.

Moving forward, we have a couple of reviews on deck. Finch will be supplying us with a Jordan Super.Fly2 review in the near future, and is excited to cop the Nike Zoom Crusader for his next review. I’ll be copping Kyrie Irving’s Zoom HyperRev (as soon as my voucher comes back from Nike for my XX8 SEs that blew out) and reviewing them next. The HyperRev is certainly a unique silhouette, but I’m interested to see how much support will come from a Phylite midsole (with a full-length Zoom bag). We’re looking forward to a new year and a plethora of new shoes to review here at TGRR.

Performance Review: Under Armour Micro G Anatomix Spawn

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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The Under Armour Micro G Anatomix Spawn is not built to blend in. Its name is loud, it begs to be stared at and when you put it on your foot, it stands out as one of the best all around shoes of the year.

It’s not a new concept, but Under Armour bills the Spawn as a shoe that becomes part of your foot (Jason Petrie, the legendary Nike designer, said this about the Flightposite I way back when). There’s a certain organic quality to the shoe – I think you can tell it and the Flightposite were similarly inspired yet executed in an entirely different manner. I was initially intrigued by the shoe because I felt it looked like a shoe that someone had sketched out on a piece of paper, then was taken straight to production in that same raw, organic form. Creatively, I felt like I connected with the shoe and it only got better once I put it on.

With Stephen Curry’s recent signing with Under Armour, look for him to raise the profile of the shoe on court this season as well.  His Golden State colorway worn during the preseason may be one of the best yet.

Fit: 9

The first thing that stood out to me when researching the design and technology background of the shoe was that Under Armour says that the upper of the Anatomix Spawn supports the tendons and structure of the foot. This is primarily achieved through a fused, layered upper very similar to Nike’s Hyperfuse technology (though UA calls the process a “hot melt” and it’s “a way of layering synthetic.” There’s a base mesh layer (grey in this colorway), two different levels of overlays that get progressively thicker (the maroon portions around the edge of the mesh) and a final outer layer (orange) that is placed around the foot in varying degrees of thickness in areas where the most support is needed.

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Spawn designer Ross Klein provided some sketchwork in a SoleCollector interview that revealed some of the creative process behind designing those layers in a way that would support the muscles, bones and tendons of the foot.

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All in all, the process worked and I felt like the upper provided great fit. The heel counter is rock solid and when laced up the fit was snug from toe to collar – no weird flex points once it was broken in. Personally, I don’t necessarily love having a shoe laced up so snug and so high on my ankle, but the fit was great in terms of lockdown and security. It was slightly stiff on the first few wearings and at 10.7 ounces it’s not heavily padded on the interior and can feel a little harsh. The tongue had targeted padding, but was pretty skimpy as far as comfort goes. But the lockdown, especially in the heel and through the midfoot (it runs narrow), is excellent.

Heel-Toe Transition: 9

The midsole is highly sculpted and is designed to mimic and fit the foot tightly, and it definitely does. There’s a sizeable gap from forefoot to heel which can lead to a slappy transition, but the outsole and midsole are cored out at various points throughout the shoe. This makes it flexible at exactly the right spots and makes the transition pretty effortless.

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It’s especially cored right around the big toe area on the outsole, making that area independently flexible and allowing the wearer to really plant and push off of the toe. It’s a nice touch and an anatomically beneficial design aspect.

Cushioning: 9.5

Micro G is one of, if not the best foam cushioning platform on the market in my opinion, and the Anatomix Spawn features the technology from heel to toe. Micro G is more responsive than most foam systems and, to me, has a longer shelf life than others such as Lunarlon. The shoe also plays low to the ground and the court feel is excellent – again Micro G with its responsiveness allows for a low-profile midsole yet still provides impact protection. It does sit slightly higher in the heel than the shoes I’d been playing in (adidas Crazyquick, Crazy Light 3) but I think that sensation was just due to the fact that those two models play extremely low to the ground.

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Perhaps my favorite aspect of the shoe though, was the TPU support frame. The solid TPU piece runs along the lateral side of the shoe (providing lateral support) and wraps underneath the foot where it’s cut out in certain areas to provide firm support without extra weight. The orange frame runs from near the ball of the foot all the way through the midfoot to the middle of the heel. This is one of the biggest midfoot frames I’ve ever seen and it provides some of the best torsional support I’ve had in a basketball shoe. It was both engineered and executed very well.

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Traction: 9.5

The Anatomix Spawn uses full length herringbone on each of the pods of the outsole, and it provides tried and true traction. The rubber compound used is firm and the herringbone pattern is tightly placed. If we’re nitpicking, sometimes I like to see a wider-grooved pattern in the herringbone but it’s nothing major. No complaints from me in the traction department.

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Materials/Durability: 8.5

The upper is a full synthetic hot melt, so I don’t foresee any issues with the materials separating or coming apart, but the upper isn’t the most luxurious thing you’ve ever worn. It’s not bad, but like all fused materials it never truly flexes naturally. The toe flex is fine as it’s mesh all the way across the toebox, but the repeated creasing of the mesh creates a point on the inner part of the toebox where I wouldn’t be surprised to see a tear develop eventually. Other than that, the outsole traction has held up well on various floors, cushioning has remained responsive and the upper seems to be holding up well to this point.

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The Anatomix Spawn is a shoe that I frankly loved playing in. The fit was excellent and the support, thanks to that TPU frame, was the best I’ve found in a shoe this year. I can’t stress how nice it is to play in a shoe that’s both light and still supportive through the midsole, and the Spawn strikes a great balance. Traction and cushioning were both very good if not great. With pictures of a low top model, this may not be the last Spawn that I purchase this year.

Overall: 45.5/50