Interview // John Wall Talks adidas Crazyquick

Interview // John Wall Talks adidas Crazyquick

Interview // John Wall Talks adidas Crazyquick (1)

words & interview // Nick DePaula
portraits // Jotham Porzio

As he rose through his high school class rankings, helped to lead a renaissance for Kentucky’s storied basketball program and has since starred as the 2010 draft’s #1 pick for the Washington Wizards, there’s always been one advantage that John Wall has been able to rely on – his quickness.

While the jumper (and roster help) is still to come, he’s been playing the game at a different speed than the rest of the league, a league filled with elite guards, ever since he stepped onto the pro hardwood.

Now the newest member of the adidas Basketball family, Wall is hoping to also help to lead their newest silo of sneakers built for his game and playing style. The Crazyquick, which he wore throughout the second half of the season, features an all new segmented adipure outsole that aims to offer up better court feel, traction and control.

Interview // John Wall Talks adidas Crazyquick (2)We caught up with Wall in New York the night after he debuted the Crazyquick to hear how he’s liking the shoe so far, what he thinks of the colorway and what we can expect next from the new partnership.

Nick DePaula: We actually just came from the gym and got to play in the Crazyquick, and you wore them last night for the first time. What was different about them on the court, and what’d you like about them?

John Wall: They were great to me. It’s a very light shoe – 11.25 ounces. It’s the Crazyquick, so it changes the game for me. I’m already quick, and quicker than my opponent, so I feel like it gives me another advantage, especially with it being light. And I like the colorways. Any time you can have your logo or your name on a shoe, growing up that’s a dream come true, so I was very happy.

NDP: And was that silver colorway that you’re wearing something that you asked for, just to have it be a little more loud than white, blue and red?

JW: Kind of, and I like loud colors, but adidas actually brought the color to me. I like the way it blends in with my team colors, but it also throws in an off color to it, so it was great.

NDP: What was it like going against Ricky [Rubio] in the shoe for the first time, and also now being apart of a brand that has so many great guards?

JW: It’s great. It’s like a guard’s league now, and we’re doing the best we can at the adidas family to get as many as we can. There’s a lot of young talent and a lot of young guys at adidas that’s doing great, and Ricky is a good player and I think he’s just going to get better with time as a guard that’s still developing in this league.

NDP: Can you walk me through the logo on the back? Is that going to be your main logo, or are you still working on something?

JW: We’re still working on it, and I think that was probably the best one that I liked so far. That’ll probably be the one that I use.

NDP: What did you think about the Techfit material? When we were playing in it tonight, it felt a lot more snug and different than some other shoes.

JW: Yeah, I think it’s totally different, and it gives me an advantage of stopping, going, breaking and changing direction, especially since I’m quick. If I want to go one way, I can stop, go one way and then go the other way. It was great for me, and wearing it for the first time last night felt great.

NDP: When I was talking with Robbie, the designer, he mentioned how this shoe is all about helping athletes with that one quick play. When you look back on your short career, is there a certain moment that really sticks out as being one of your best quick plays? Whether it was crossing someone over, or something else?

JW: Just about any play I do. Like if I’m chasing someone down and going for a steal, or maybe a change of direction. Everything I do is pretty quick, and it’s different from what you see with other guys. I feel like this shoe, being light and the Crazyquick, with already being quick, gives me more of an advantage to be even quicker.

Interview // John Wall Talks adidas Crazyquick (3)

NDP: You’re coming over from Reebok after having your own signature shoe there for three years. Were you able to get more comfortable with all of the shoe terms and better at giving feedback along the way? What was going through that process like the last couple years.

JW: I think being with Reebok, you do get better with giving your advice, opinions, feedback and things like that. I feel like when I switched to adidas, right away they came and talked to me and said, “Whatever we do, we’re going to keep going forward with it and we’re going to make sure we get your opinion from day one.” I think that’s something that’s a very big key in building my brand and what we do with adidas to make they brand keep improving.

NDP: Now that you’ve been with the brand for a couple months, do you have three favorite models that you like wearing off court? I see you’re wearing the Hackmore today.

JW: I like this shoe, I like Jeremy Scotts and I like Shell Toes. Anybody would like wearing those around. Something you can throw on with socks or no socks in the summer time.

NDP: What’s the reaction been from your friends and family now that’s it been a couple months of you being with adidas?

JW: I think it was great. My family and everyone on my team were very supportive and we respect everything we did with Reebok, but I feel like with the way my brand wanted to go and with the way adidas is going with their direction, I feel like it was best for us to bond together. Ever since we did, everyone is excited for it and we just keep looking forward to improving.

Available: adidas adiPure Crazyquick

Interview // John Wall Talks adidas Crazyquick (4)

Interview // John Wall Talks adidas Crazyquick (5)

Video // Leo Chang Details The Nike Zoom KD V

Video // Leo Chang Details The Nike Zoom KD V

words & interview // Nick DePaula
video // Jotham Porzio

After humble beginnings in the DMV and a journey that’s taken him to Austin, Seattle and now on to superstardom in Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant is looking forward to yet another season in the Association and another shot at the NBA Finals after coming up short last spring.

“Championship drive takes an entire team,” says Durant. “The new KD V represents the roadmap I follow.”

As Nike Basketball Design Director Leo Chang, who’s now penned all five of Durant’s signature models, explains in our exclusive interview below, ever-present theme of team and family never escapes the Zoom KD series.

Hear firsthand from Chang below as he breaks down the initial starting points for the new Zoom KD V, along with design and logo details and why Durant’s newest shoe comes equipped with heel Air Max, a first.

The Nike Zoom KD V is now available in both the “OKC” Black / Photo Blue colorway and “DMV” Bright Crimson / White / Wolf Grey colorway.

Interview // Dave Dombrow Details The Under Armour Cam Highlight Trainer

Interview // Dave Dombrow Details The Under Armour Cam Highlight Trainer

Interview // Dave Dombrow Details The Under Armour Cam Highlight Trainer (1)

words & interview // Nick DePaula

Even though Under Armour’s Training category has been in the footwear game for a handful of years now, it isn’t until this fall that they’ll be launching their very first signature sneaker.

Why the wait?

They have an athlete in Cam Newton that’s not only been getting it done on-field, as evidenced by his Rookie of the Year campaign last season, but he also brings a sense of style to the historically all-things-performance brand that allows them to enter a new space.

Interview // Dave Dombrow Details The Under Armour Cam Highlight Trainer (2)

Afterall, the guy was regularly wearing as many as seventeen UA logos on Saturdays during his title run at Auburn.

To get a full breakdown of Under Armour Training’s first signature, The Cam Highlight Trainer, Eastbay caught up with UA Creative Director of Footwear Dave Dombrow. Whether it’s the rich suede upper, sharply sculpted midfoot shank or logo hits and subtle accents throughout, dive into all of the detail and inspiration that went into The Cam below in this exclusive interview.

The Cam Highlight Trainer is available here at Eastbay now in Blue Heat/Black/Metallic Silver and Red/Black/Steeltown Gold.

Nick DePaula: When Under Armour first signed Cam, how impactful was that for you guys to get him on board?

Dave Dombrow: When he signed on, you could definitely get a sense for how big of a signing it was and how excited the company was. When he came out to the campus at Under Armour, you could tell there was something there and there was a presence. You could tell that he was really into the brand and invested in Under Armour. He wanted to help us and really take it to another level. It was a big deal. I remember it like it was yesterday.

NDP: Was the idea all along that you would be building him a signature shoe?

DD: Yeah, it was. Right from the start, before the accolades and before anything else, we just had this huge belief in him. Obviously, he was linked to us already because of his success at Auburn. We had this huge belief that he was a next level hybrid of an athlete that doesn’t come around often, if at all. Right from the start, we knew we wanted to do something big with him.

NDP: Once you guys started to work on the early stages of the shoe, what were some of the things that he served up that you took inspiration from, and some of your early ideas for it?

DD: The first important thing was to figure out who he was as a person. Style wise, attitude wise and in life. We always wanted to make a pinnacle performance shoe, whether it was on field or whether it was part of his training. That goes without question. The way we did that is met with him at the Under Armour headquarters, but also, I went down to Charlotte and hung out with him down there. I started to find out what his interests were and we touched on things like cars. Whether it was Bugattis or Ferraris, he had a certain kind of style of cars that he was into. I also would go into his closet to see what other footwear was there and what apparel he had. I wanted to see what his style was like, and I think what came out was that he had this GQ sense of style about him, and he’s a bit unique in that sense. He didn’t fit anybody’s one mold. One thing that you might see in the shoe, is there were some Prada sneakers in his closet, and we definitely tried to work some of that flavor into the shoe. Not overtly, but you can see it through the proportions of the entire shoe, proportions of the midsole and proportions of the toe box. There’s a cool, modern link there.

NDP: What were some of the performance needs that he was looking for? The CompFit system was probably something that was driven from the fact that he was one of the first people that ever wore it when he was still in school?

DD: Yeah, and he might’ve been the first.

NDP: I think he was.

DD: I think you’re right, and the look definitely became something that was associated with Cam. Obviously he was having a great season, but he was also playing in the Highlight cleat. He liked the way it performed, and he had great success with that boot. The look and the feeling of that compression around your malleolus was something that right from the start, we knew we wanted to work it in in some way, based off of what happened with the Highlight that Cam wore. We’re going to offer the shoe in a Low also, and Cam likes to wear both so we want to offer both, but we’re putting the emphasis on the CompFit as a statement look for the launch.

Below: The Under Armour Cam Highlight Trainer in Black / Blue Heat / Metallic Silver
Interview // Dave Dombrow Details The Under Armour Cam Highlight Trainer (3)

Interview // Dave Dombrow Details The Under Armour Cam Highlight Trainer (4 NDP: Was there anything in particular that he mentioned looking for from a performance standpoint, whether it was being low to the ground or having a certain stance?

DD: The shoe is built with all of that in mind. It’s built with a really wide platform that’s also low to the ground. We actually integrated the sockliner into it, to get you even lower to the ground, so there’s less slop when you put your foot in. It also makes for a sleeker look, because you’re integrating that volume that normally you’d have to account for. Laterally, you can see there’s a TPU wing that gives you that lateral support. If you go up, you tie that into the CompFit sleeve, and that locks you into the upper. The great part about the CompFit is that it’s giving you support, but it’s also very mobile. It’s a nice mixture of mobility meets support. The key was having a balance of lateral support, being really low to the ground and then ultimately, it’s also a really light shoe. We wanted to keep all of that in mind, and I don’t think there’s a shoe quite like it out there. Definitely not in the training world, and it’s unique in its own right.

Interview // Dave Dombrow Details The Under Armour Cam Highlight Trainer (5)

NDP: Whether it was weartesting from him directly, or internal testing, were there any big changes along the way to the height or setup of the CompFit sleeve?

DD: Yeah, there were. Cam was of course involved the whole way through and he did a lot of weartesting himself. We also did a lot of weartesting separately from him. One big thing was – and I don’t know how many people saw it – but there was an earlier picture of the shoe that leaked, and the CompFit was quite a bit higher. Through Cam’s feedback and his own weartesting, we actually took the height down a little bit, based off of where it was hitting and where he wanted the support for the trainer versus the football cleat. We micro-tuned it in from there.

NDP: With the retail price being $150, what did that allow you guys to do from a materials standpoint? There’s a lot of cool molded details and the real sculpted shank here too, which we wouldn’t have seen if it was priced lower.

DD: That’s a big part of the shoe, actually, and I’m glad you asked that. The vamp is a really, really rich, up-spec’d suede. Going back to the car inspiration, we actually were looking at this one Ferrari, and the seats had this really rich suede feel. We wanted to get that into the vamp in some way, and we used that same type of material. When people feel it, they’re going to get a real sense of luxury throughout the shoe. The bottom has a composite shank in there, and that obviously allows us to get the weight down and have quite a bit of stability through there as well. With that, you’re getting high performance, but you’re also getting high-end style with it.

NDP: In terms of lifestyle, that’s kind of a new element to Under Armour, which at times is more about strictly performance design. It’s cool to see Cam lead that and bring something new there too.

DD: Definitely, and he allows us to do that.

NDP: From a story and colorway perspective, you guys have the black and blue version that’s based on his team colors. Is the red colorway taking some of that car inspiration into account?

DD: Yeah, the red one is kind of inspired a little bit by the Ferrari with the red suede, but we’re also calling that one “The Dirty Bird” as a codename. Going back to Atlanta and an old Hawks jersey. It isn’t on the upper, but if you look inside of the shoe, you’ll notice some yellow hits along the liner. Obviously Cam has ties to Atlanta, and if you look inside of the collar you’ll see the Hawks’ yellowish-gold tone. There’s hits hidden throughout, and that goes back to the old Dominique days and Hawks jersey.

NDP: Ok cool, that makes a lot of sense. You guys have been using the Micro G platform now for a couple years too. Were there any learnings from the Charge line that helped you here, in terms of how to sculpt out the shank and set up that cushioning platform?

DD: It’s similar to the Charge platform in a lot of ways actually. Obviously, the shank is different. It’s not a spring plate, it’s more about torsional rigidity through the midfoot. It’s very similar though, and it’s the same compound. It’s a little bit broader in some areas, because the key with this was we wanted a really solid platform to support him when he’s moving laterally. We did get some learnings form the Charge and some other shoes in terms of how much you could carve away. We tried to get the optimum blend of this “Less is More” design philosophy.

Below: The Under Armour Cam Highlight Trainer in Black / Red / Metallic Silver

Interview // Dave Dombrow Details The Under Armour Cam Highlight Trainer (7)

Interview // Dave Dombrow Details The Under Armour Cam Highlight Trainer (8)

Interview // Dave Dombrow Details The Under Armour Cam Highlight Trainer (9)

NDP: Can you walk me through the design of his logo?

DD: I have to say, it was really organic how it came together. It started on our side at UA, and then it made it’s way back and forth a few times. Cam had input the whole time, and we just went back and forth on it. We got to a point where we had it without the number, and then we worked the number in. Ultimately it came out to that “C1N” styling, and it stuck. It was one of those things where it went around and we developed it together, and we’re both really happy where it landed.

NDP: There’s four logos of his all throughout the shoe. How’d you guys decide where to place each of them?

DD: When it came to logo placement, Cam was very specific about that. Some of the logos are directly a result of what he said. There’s one on the middle of the tongue, and it’s kind of an unorthodox place for a logo. We never have it on there normally, but Cam decided to put it there, and it actually became an ideal places for a logo. [laughs] It’s great. Your pants can come down over the tongue, and then you’ll still look down and see the logo. It’s a cool hit from the top down view.

NDP: Was the idea here to make his logo the focus? All of the UA logos along the lateral side and tongue are all tonal.

DD: Yeah, and we do call out the Under Armour logo on the medial side. We have a big one there, and we like that placement a lot. We don’t do a lot of signature shoes at Under Armour, and we wanted to make a point that it’s an important shoe and Cam is a very important athlete for the brand. We look at him as a guy that can take us to new places, and we wanted to put a lot of emphasis on his logo in this case. This shoe is transcending into a new space for Under Armour, and we wanted to reflect that.

Below: Under Armour Creative Director of Footwear Dave Dombrow’s final Cam Highlight Trainer rendering
Interview // Dave Dombrow Details The Under Armour Cam Highlight Trainer (10)

Interview // Dave Dombrow Details The Under Armour Cam Highlight Trainer (11)

Interview // Dave Dombrow Details The Under Armour Cam Highlight Trainer (12)

Exclusive // adidas adiZero Smoke Interview

Exclusive // adidas adiZero Smoke Interview

words & interview // Nick DePaula
images // Brennan Hiro Williams & Jotham Porzio

One of the best things that can happen in the footwear industry is when an insight works, works across multiple categories, and even better, works for multiple seasons.

For adidas, the idea behind furthering the boundaries of lightweight innovation has continued to push the adiZero range of products for the company, and the rolling successes in categories like Basketball, Running and Football have continued to carry each further in the minds of athletes.

Specifically in football, the brand has been leading the lightweight charge not just for one position or style of play on field, but for athletes of all sizes and abilities. “Everyone wants to be fast,” you’ll often hear at the company’s Portland-based “Village” headquarters.

With speed still in mind, the team looked to build on the success they were already riding with the new adiZero 5-Star series and offer up a new cleat aimed at players looking for just a bit more protection. That cleat is the adiZero Smoke.

We recently caught up with Designer Todd Rolak and Product Line Manager Jeff Morris from the adidas Football team to hear all about how the newly released adiZero Smoke came to be. Dive in and read all about the initial inspiration that led to the shoe’s defining colorblock and more in our detailed conversation ahead.

Nick DePaula: What’s the feedback on the adiZero range been like so far, and where does the Smoke fit into the line?

Jeff Morris: This was a bit of an expansion of our adiZero line. Basically, what we did was launch with the 5-Star and it was a big hit; lightest cleat on the market. When we went out and started talking to kids after that shoe was on the market, we started to get feedback that there’s still the kid that wants the lightest cleat ever, which is the 5-Star kid, but we also started to hear from some players that they want “lightweight, but …” So that’s how we started to classify it: “Lightweight, but …” A lot of the things that came up was the shape around the collar and having more protection there in the collar. This then became an evolution of the 5-Star, and it was about creating more comfort for those players.

NDP: Was having such a bold block on the shoe one of the big original ideas when you started working on the shoe?

Todd Rolak: Yeah, it was. We started with the 5-Star as the base model, and American muscle cars were the overarching theme of the season. When you start dealing with racing and American muscle cars, the colorblocking cuts across the form, versus following the form. It’s unbound by the surface, and the block cuts across it. For us, it’s one of the first times that we’ve ever done something like this with the plates on the cleat, and it was a challenge for our development team. They hit it out of the park, but finding suppliers and executing that idea was tough. You can instantly see that inspiration coming across the form of the cleat in the striping of it.

JM: That was the design inspiration for the range for the entire season. Todd actually took a cleat down to our lab and had it spray painted with a bold colorblocking, and then he just had it sitting on his desk. Every time somebody would walk by, they’d just stop and walk over and pick it up – “Oh my God, this is awesome!” We saw that and really wanted to try and make this happen. It was literally spray painted.

TR: It was just taking the idea of being raw and American and inspired by muscle cars, and then taking that into the paint booth. We did three or four different blockings, but this one became the most successful. Using that influence really drove the visual, and it gives you a great 30-yard read, a great 50-yard read, and it draws you in from up close too.

NDP: When you guys met with athletes for feedback on the idea, I’m assuming that’s something that they could associate with and really liked?

JM: The look of the shoe was a big hit once we started showing it to players. The type of player that wears this shoe – the skill players like receivers, defensive backs and running backs – are the more flashy players on the field already. They’ve got that swagger and they like to be seen. When we started showing them these, they were flipping out. They all said, “This is unbelievable!” Beyond that, from the color side of it, we got the inspiration for the bright colors from a 7-on-7 tournament we were at last year in Texas. There was one team that had blue and orange for their school colors, but they all had on cleats that were either really bright blue or really bright orange. It was their team colors, but really amplified. We started seeing that trend a little bit more among the football players, and especially even more during the summer when they’re playing in 7-on-7 tournaments.

TR: They’re unbound by tradition and they can form their own teams and their own colors in the summer. They can be untethered to the traditionalness of team football. We’re certainly starting to see more loud colors.

NDP: Once you guys got into building the shoe, were there any guys that were instrumental during the weartesting process? What were some of the big performance cues that you guys were able to dial in? 

TR: Everybody wants to be fast. Everyone. From the lineman to the coach even. [Laughs] These are for skill players, but every position on the field now is skilled, and every position is fast. The low cuts are for your traditional skill positions, and the mid is more for the linebacker and bigger players. When we started focus-grouping, we saw the need for the mid and we brought that to the table. The lineman are all pretty fast now too, so we wanted to also do a mid to hit those needs too.

JM: As far as specific players and teams, we test all of our product on our NFL and our collegiate athletes. This went through that same testing process that all of our other cleats do as well. We also actually launched this shoe during Bowl season last year. Notre Dame wore this colorway last year, and Eastbay loved the color so much that they ended up picking it up. It was our key launch during the Bowl games, and then in spring of this year, you probably saw it on RGIII for his Pro Day.

NDP: Of course. Definitely saw that.

TR: We went down there to meet with him, and it was perfect timing. His fellow students on the basketball team were making a run in the Final Four Tournament, and they were all rocking the loud electricity too. It was just perfect with his love for loud socks to also put him in an all-electricity Smoke.

JM: Knowing that it was coming out later in the year, it was a perfect opportunity to get it on RGIII.

TR: He was real into it, which was great.

NDP: Notre Dame was obviously where we saw it first, but are there any other big moments that you guys have planned coming up that we should be looking for?

JM: The one that’s coming up next is the Dublin game for Notre Dame. They came to us with the idea actually.

TR: They saw our inline offerings and they saw our Bowl shoe, and brought this concept to the table. It’s their heritage.

JM: They wanted to do something special just for the Dublin game, and they actually asked us, “Can you do a shoe using the colors of the Irish flag.” It played in really well with the design of the shoe. We are doing more special events throughout the season too.

NDP: With the NFL branding rights situation, I know you guys didn’t have stripes on field last season, but you will this year?

JM: Yes, we will. Some of these samples have tonal stripes right now, but we’ll have visible stripes on field for the season. The cleat has such a bold colorblock already, and that also obviously plays on the Three Stripes too.

NDP: In terms of the plate underfoot, you guys have been pretty consistent lately and are gaining some momentum with the SprintFrame plate. What kind of feedback have you gotten from guys now that the plate has been out there for a year?

JM: Phenomenal. It’s a super lightweight material, but also very strong, so we’ve engineered it so that it flexes in the right way and not in the wrong way. In football cleats, you don’t want any flex in the midfoot. On top of that, we’ve also developed the traction studs here with a new triangular shape, and the placement of them also plays a huge part in the traction for football. You can see the front three cleats that help with acceleration and toe-off, and then the middle two cleats that help with rotational traction and side-to-side movements. In the heel, these back cleats really help with balance and breaking. The feedback has been phenomenal. Guys wear it on field turf and natural grass and they love it. It’s enabled us to make revolutionary lightweight product with this material.

NDP: It’s also been cool to see both adidas Football and Basketball using the same technologies at times, like with SprintFrame, and really build around that platform.

TR: Absolutely.

NDP: As I’m looking through the renderings and sketches that you have there; it’s just cool how the colorblock really stands out so strongly, more than anything else out there.

TR: It’s funny, because this color story actually came after our initial process was already in motion. Normally, our team in marketing will see a need and then execute against a need. This project wasn’t like that. We already had an existing platform and that was successful, and the idea just happened to come from a paint booth. Some of these renderings and drawings came after we had already started to design the cleat.

NDP: Is there a lead guy that you’ll have wearing the Smoke? RG will be in the 5-Star, right?

JM: He and most of our pro guys will be in the 5-Star, but the Smoke will be worn by a lot of our NCAA teams.

NDP: Just looking at all of these samples that you guys have here, man, I wish you guys could share this colorblocking with the Basketball group. It’s just so cool. [Everyone laughs]

TR: That’s funny. We actually did, and maybe that’s something you’ll see later on. The inspiration behind American muscle really came from football and who that person that follows the sport is. It’s important to our athlete and Americana, and using that as a driver really did start to migrate into other projects and other categories. You can see some influence in the 5-Star Mid, and it’s been a big hit so far.

NDP: With the 5-Star, there was a big emphasis on weight. Was there a particular weight target here with the Smoke?

TR: Yeah, and we got it to 7.2 for the low, and 7.9 for the mid. Still within the same adiZero range, and we don’t want to go outside of that bracket. In meeting the needs of certain athletes, we thought that was well within the range of what they’d want.

NDP: Do you know where your competitors’ same-class products weigh in?

JM: The lightest cleat from a competitor in this range is 8.7 ounces.

NDP: Nice, and I remember the 5-Star was a couple ounces lighter than its competitors when it came out.

JM: When we launched the 5-Star, it was a full three ounces lighter than anything else. We’re well ahead of the game, and we know that lightweight is important to this consumer. When we go and talk to kids and do focus groups, one of the first things we ask them is, “What do you look for in a cleat?” Almost always, at least 90 percent of the time, the first thing they say is “lightweight.” We know that’s important, and at the same time, we know that we have to make it functional for both the athlete and the sport. I think with the technologies that are in this cleat with the SprintSkin upper and SprintFrame plate, it’s the perfect blend of lightweight, which is what grabs that kid’s attention, and function.

Available Now: adidas adiZero Smoke

Nike Zoom Hyperdunk 2011 Elite Performance Review

Nike Zoom Hyperdunk 2011 Elite Performance Review

words & images // Nick DePaula

Sometimes you’ll read paragraph after paragraph about a shoe before finally making it to the verdict and main chunk of the performance review.

This is not that review.

That’s because the Hyperdunk Elite is the best shoe of the season – the best shoes in years, actually – and a complete joy to play in.

During that first week after I got my pair, I was looking forward to the clock hitting 6:30 every day so I could bounce from work and go play in them. They’re the best-fitting shoe I’ve ever worn. They’re incredibly supportive, lightweight, cushioned, responsive and stable. Everything you’d want in a sneaker, these have. (Well, maybe not the price tag …)

The Zoom Hyperdunk 2011 was already my favorite shoe of the year when it launched, with its sweet blend of cushioning, fit, traction and support. When I first heard about the Elite Series that Nike Basketball was kicking off this spring, I really wasn’t sure how they could improve on it.

It’s pretty easy to see that pretty much the entire upper has been revamped here, and while the launch Hyperdunk 2011 fit damn well, the Elite version takes things to an entirely new bar-setting level. The upper has actually half the layers, and it hugs better than anything I’ve ever worn.

On top of that awesome fit, the Pro Combat tongue is tremendously plush and padded, but unlike the LeBron 9 Elite, it’s only incorporated right over the top of your foot and then thins out towards the top of the tongue, resulting in less puff and exact lockdown around the collar. The shoe is flooded with Kevlar Flywire, and in tandem with the actual carbon fiber heel counter, you’re locked right in.

This is the first shoe in a while that I have zero complaints about. Perhaps the breathability could be better, but literally everything about them is money. The traction is squeaky and perfect on even a dusty court. The lockdown and support are perfect for slashing players and speedy guards. And the sheer comfort that comes from the beefed-up insole, Pro Combat tongue and heel / forefoot Zoom Air combo is unmatched.

You won’t read many reviews this brief, and in this case, it’s because the Hyperdunk Elite is simply that good. If you have any specific questions that you’re curious about, fire away in the comments section and I’ll be sure to answer. Literally everything about these is awesome, and they’re also great for any position on the court. (Unless you cut powerfully and plan to have Marc Gasol stepping on your foot.)

If you’re up for the $200 price point (even though you can definitely buy two pairs of the launch Hyperdunk for that much now that those are on sale), you won’t regret it all. They’re one of my favorite shoes in years.

Grade Breakout //

designed by: Leo Chang

best for: all positions

colorway tested: Black / Metallic Gold

worn by: Blake Griffin

key tech: two-layer bonded upper with Kevlar Flywire strands throughout, sizable real carbon fiber heel counter and midfoot shank, heel and forefoot Zoom Air units, Pro Combat tongue, anatomical sockliner with grip nubs, Kevlar laces

pros: The best combination of fit / support / cushioning / traction and total performance in years.

cons: price

improvements: I seriously can’t think of any.

sizing: true to size

buying advice: The Hyperdunk Elite is my favorite shoe in years. Right out of the box, everything about them is amazing. The fit and feel, cushioning and ride, and support and traction are all industry leading. All in all it’s a monster of a sneaker that I’d recommend to everyone. That is, if you’re ok with the monster price tag.

Available Now: Nike Zoom Hyperdunk 2011 Elite