words & images // Zac Dubasik

When I finished testing the Super Beast last season, I was actually disappointed to move on to other shoes, since I liked it so much. I’ve even returned to it throughout the year on the rare occasions I wasn’t testing something else, or when I just needed a break and wanted to play in an old favorite. It wasn’t without its issues, but they were mostly small ones. So, going into playing in this year’s adiPower Howard, I had pretty high expectations, since it is a very similar shoe.

If you haven’t already noticed, the adiPower Howard reuses the tooling of the Super Beast. And that’s a positive thing. I know there were fans of the PURE MOTION-based TS Beast, and while it did offer better court feel, I prefer the Twist torsion and Alive cushioning of the Super Beast and adiPower Howard. I’m someone that really places a premium on court feel, but I still feel that what you gain in protection in this case more than makes up for that small loss, because court feel is still excellent. Last season, when I spoke with the designer of the Super Beast, Robbie Fuller, he explained that, “One of the key elements of PURE MOTION is that it’s designed for what happens when force is applied, and the same thing happens with nano. It’s designed to activate once force is applied to each of the elements.“ The more you push the Alive cushioning, the more I could feel it protect. What makes that so important is that it doesn’t ever feel mushy. It contracts where you apply pressure, but stays stable throughout the rest of the midsole. It may not have the responsiveness that the quickest players want, but for anyone looking for maximum protection, it’s as good as you’ll find.

And speaking of protection, the Z-shaped TWIST torsion system was designed to geometrically control and protect the foot “so it literally wants to twist the right direction and oppose the wrong,” says Fuller.  “This new solution really takes advantage of the powerful movements that a player like Dwight initiates. It’s a simple solution that can prevent injury and increases the body’s efficiency.” I found the system offered just the right level of stability. You can feel it help control the foot, but in a very natural and unobtrusive way.

Rounding out the shoe’s tooling is the traction, which I found to be similar to other shoes using the Cilia traction surface — and that’s a fairly positive thing. It doesn’t have that perceivable and reassuring squeak, but is solid. On a dusty court, you will have to swipe, but when clean, it offers reliable footing and great traction. Because there are so few negatives with the adiPower Howard, it’s one of the few areas left for some slight improvement.

So, while most everything about the shoe’s tooling is great, none of it is new. If you liked the cushioning, court feel and traction of the Super Beast, you know exactly what to expect. The biggest issue I had with the Super Beast was with the upper. It was good, but the shape didn’t quite have that one-to-one fit with my foot, and that was accentuated by the bunching created by the metal eyelets. I loved the way the SPRINTSKIN hugged my foot, and even offered up some non-bulky abrasion resistance, but the shape just didn’t allow it to flex with my foot as well as it could have. With the adiPower Howard, that issue has been fully corrected. The metal eyelet covers are gone, which helps shed a little weight, and allows the shapelier upper to flex much better. What that means is that the shoe feels even more mobile and quick, thanks to achieving superior fit. Combine that with the fact that it drops over a full ounce from the Super Beast, an already lightweight sneaker when it comes to “big man” shoes, and you’ve got a shoe that can appeal to more than just the biggest players on the court. It will probably still be a little too much for some players, in an era of sub-10 ounce hoops shoes, but it could easily appeal to any player that likes a higher cut and more protection in the upper.

Heel lockdown is once again aided by carefully placed padding in the collar, which left me fully locked down. The heel notch creates plenty of room for range of motion, while still offering security. Breathability still isn’t great, but isn’t an actual problem – especially in a shoe that is this protective. My only real complaint left with the upper is that I would still like to see the SPRINTSKIN on the medial side as well. But to be fair, that would probably result in a shoe that costs more than the $100 retail of the adiPower Howard.

Summing up my thoughts on the adiPower Howard is a simple thing. I think it’s basically the Super Beast with a better upper. Considering that the upper was the main area of the Super Beast with room for improvement, and pretty much all of those issues were addressed, it should be no surprise that I found the adiPower Howard to be a really fantastic shoe. It’s at the very top of its class and should be the starting point of any center’s sneaker search. It offers almost everything you could ask for in a big man shoe – cushioning, abrasion resistance, support – yet still is light and fast. What makes it so impressive is that while it’s my new standard for a big man shoe, it’s use isn’t limited to just big men.

A (97/100)

Comfort & fit: 5/5

Cushioning: 4.5/5

Ankle support: 5/5

Breathability: 3.5/5

Heel-toe transition: 4.5/5

Traction: 4/5

Weight: 4/5 (14.1oz)

Best for: all players other than smaller guards

Colorway tested: Royal/White/White

Key tech: SPRINTSKIN upper with mesh backing; Twist torsion; Alive cushioning; Cilia Traction surface

Pros: cushioned and protective without sacrificing too much court feel and being too restrictive; plays light; fit

Cons: could have better breathability

improvements: SPRINTSKIN on medial side of upper

Buying advice: The Super Beast was an excellent shoe with few issues. The adiPower Howard corrects those few issues, and basically sets the new standard for what we can expect from a modern big-man shoe, now standing in a class of its own. At $100, this is a very easy recommendation for any player looking for a protective, yet mobile hoops option.

Available now: adidas adiPower Howard