words // Zac Dubasik
images // Zac Dubasik
As a fan of sneakers, it was exciting to find out that Under Armour was entering into the hoops world a few years back. We’ve seen plenty of small companies try to enter in that world, with mixed results – but Under Armour isn’t a small company. Their apparel business gave them an instant sense of credibility – even though the footwear game is an entirely different world. How would they differentiate themselves though, and find their own identity? The thing I wondered most was how, and if, Under Armour could merge their success with textiles into their footwear – not through name recognition, but by literally incorporating it into their product.
From the very beginning, even the three variations of the un-released Prototype models featured Heat Gear linings – one of Under Armour’s proprietary materials. But moisture-wicking fabrics alone aren’t necessarily groundbreaking in their use in footwear. And that’s why the Micro G Juke is such an interesting shoe to me. It’s the first one I’ve worn from Under Armour where I felt that they took the incorporation of their heritage to the next level in footwear, with the introduction of a compression sleeve-enhanced collar. While it’s great that they were able to do that, the biggest question is how does that translate to performance?
From the moment I first stepped into the Juke, I was impressed. Not only was the comfort and fit fantastic, the collar system felt like something truly different. When laced tightly, the synthetic upper hugged the foot securely, and the compression sleeve provided a reassuring, yet unrestrictive, sensation that is hard to compare to any other shoes currently on the market. It gives an added sense of security, with basically no compromise to range of motion. This could easily be a false sense of security, because, as we know, true ankle support comes from stabilizing the heel. Luckily, the highly sculpted internal heel counter works in conjunction with the collar system to provide both lateral lockdown, as well as keeping the heel firmly planted to the footbed. My only issue with the collar system was that the large and heavily padded tongue didn’t fit inside the collar as well as it could have. It didn’t present a major problem, thanks to the give in the compression sleeve, but some tapering towards the edges of the tongue, or even a slightly thinner overall collar, could have made the fit and comfort that much better. My other issue with the upper is that, in the forefoot, I experienced some lateral slippage. While the fit through the forefoot was great, the upper didn’t hold my forefoot over the footbed quite as firmly as I’d like. Larger players and heavy slashers may want to look for something a little more secure.
Like all of Under Armour’s shoes to incorporate Micro G cushioning, the Juke’s ride is protective and balanced, yet still low. The full-length foam-based cushioning is smooth and responsive, and nicely resilient over the life of the shoe. Its court feel and transition are excellent, while still providing rigidity through a large midfoot shank. My only real issue with the shoe’s tooling was the traction. It wasn’t actually bad – in fact it is perfectly acceptable – but it just never gave me the sense of security I crave. As long as I was on a well-maintained court, I was fine. But a dusty court quickly had me focusing too much on swiping the outsole. When a shoe does so many other things “great,” it makes it that much more disappointing when the traction is only “good.”
I liked almost everything about the Juke, and found its playability issues to be mostly minor. An issue that is more concerning to me however is its durability. I’ll point out that these issues didn’t materially affect the shoe’s performance over my few weeks of testing, but did hurt my confidence in its long-term ability to hold up over a season. After only a few wearings, I experienced the compression sleeve beginning to separate from the collar. Stitches became unraveled and I’m worried about the sleeve potentially tearing away from and out the heel counter down the road. Less troublesome, yet still worth mentioning, is that the upper was very quick to show visual wear, particularly in the toebox.
Based strictly on performance, at $100, the Juke is a no-brainer. It required basically no break-in time, was protective, light, extremely comfortable and smooth. It’s an exciting shoe too, that I hope is a preview of the ways Under Armour will try to push design with its textile-influenced heritage. I liked the Juke so much that it made it tough to grade overall. Performance-wise, I had few major complaints, and really loved so much about it, but the durability issue with the collar is definitely a concern of mine, and cost the shoe a few points on the 100 scale. That said, at the time I finished playing in them, the collar still was secure and my issues with it hadn’t affected performance. As a game day shoe, or if you don’t have major concerns about a shoe making it through the entire season, the Juke is still an easy recommendation. Under Armour may still have some kinks in their hoops line, but the encouraging part is that the things they are doing right, they are doing very right.
Under Armour Juke
A- (91 / 100)
Comfort & fit: 4.5/5
Ankle support: 5/5
Heel-toe transition: 5/5
Weight: 5/5 (12.6oz)
Best for: Guards and small forwards looking for a well-rounded team shoe
Colorway tested: Black/Black/White
Key Tech: Micro G foam, TPU midfoot shank, HeatGeat CS compression sleeve
Pros: cushioning; comfort; compression sleeve; transition
Cons: traction, durability
Improvements: if you can’t beat herringbone, use herringbone; stronger stitching to attach compression sleeve to upper; taper tongue to better fit compression sleeve
Buying advice: The Juke is easily one of my favorite shoes of the year, but I have concerns about it being able to last a season for most ballers, due to quality and construction issues. Based solely on how it plays though, it’s an easy recommendation. It would be an outstanding value at $100 if it weren’t for the durability issues I experienced.