words and images_Zac Dubasik
adidas Heat Check | So Close, Yet So Far Away
When a shoe is able to successfully incorporate color-changing logos and a convertible collar “system,” into a premier-level on-court hoops shoe, yet has fundamental fit and stability issues, it gives me serious concern as to where priorities are being placed. What’s so frustrating in the case of the adidas Heat Check is that it does so much right, only to be undermined by these gimmicks.
In all fairness, the color-changing stripes don’t actually do anything to hurt the performance. (Whether or not it hurts the shoe’s looks is up for debate, but it’s the least of the shoe’s problems.) The shoe’s major (as in close to deal-breaking) flaw has to do with the nonsense going on in the collar, which prevents proper lockdown.
The Heat Check’s convertible collar can be worn under the tongue, laced through the tongue and lace holder, and then the laces are shoved in a hidden pouch at the very top of the tongue. This, according to adidas, is the off-court, stylish, variation to wear the shoe. Then, for on-court performance, the tongue is placed inside the collar, and laced over the top like a standard shoe. [Click on the diagram at right for the official guide.] The problem is, with all of this excess material, it prevents a snug and secure fit. To make matters even worse, an extra eyelet is badly needed between the top eyelet on the base of the shoe, and the “floating” collar. Without anything to hold the foot down here, I found there to be an excessive amount of movement. I just never felt fully confident in the shoe’s lockdown.
Also beware of the shoe’s “second” collar. While the shoe’s true collar (not visible when being worn), that actually wraps the ankle when tied tight, doesn’t provide optimum lockdown, there is an additional collar behind it that does absolutely nothing. This extra material around the ankle is strictly cosmetic, other than the rubbing it did on the back of my ankle. Thicker, longer socks were enough to block me from it, but for a feature that does nothing in terms of performance, I would rather have not had to deal with it.
For as big of a flaw as the collar system is though, there are a lot of positives in this shoe. For one thing, the Heat Check may have the best step-in comfort I’ve ever experienced in an adidas shoe. The upper is soft, breathable and conforming. So much so, that it has a little bit too much give, and doesn’t hold the foot over the footbed quite as securely as I’d like. From a comfort standpoint though, it’s exceptional. On my test pair, below the insole sits a layer of memory foam, which provides a plush feeling underfoot. A word of caution here; some colorways of this shoe may not have this layer of memory foam. Since the Puremotion tooling was introduced, some versions have had this foam, and some haven’t. As best I can tell, the versions with the foam have been priced at a slight premium, and have been player exclusive colorways, or other “special” versions. The adidas Nations version I tested did have it. This thin layer of foam isn’t the answer to the lack of cushioning found in Puremotion-based shoes (more on that later) – it bottoms out quickly under heavy impact – but it’s better than nothing. It feels very comfy underfoot though when present, even if it doesn’t provide a high level of impact protection.
Another positive is that the Puremotion tooling provides great court feel, and solid traction. If you played in any of last year’s Supernatural shoes, it should be immediately familiar. Based on the old Feet You Wear principals of emulating the contours of the bare foot, Puremotion provides some of the most natural court feel you could ask for. So natural, in fact, that it’s a little too close to your bare foot when it comes to cushioning. The good news is that it does break in some. The first wearing was by far the most firm, and the cushioning became tangibly softer as I wore them more. Even once it broke in though, it still didn’t provide a high level of impact protection, and even less responsiveness. Premium court feel pretty much always comes at the expense of reduced cushioning though, so if you are a lighter player, or one who values court feel over cushioning, this may not be such a bad thing.
In the past two seasons, adidas basketball has made some major strides in the right direction, producing some of their best footwear in many years. Feet You Wear was an iconic part of their basketball heritage, and its principals are being excellently reintroduced through Puremotion. Its strictly foam-based cushioning may never be the best out there, but for some players, it more than makes up for it with its dynamic court feel. The inclusion of so many gimmicks in the Heat Check is frustrating, because it comes so close to being a great shoe, and its performance flaws tie directly to those gimmicks. (The collar, not the color-changing stripes.)
If you play regularly, and at a high intensity, the Heat Check just doesn’t have the stability in the collar and upper that I crave. As a casual shoe that you can also play in, the Heat Check may be a great choice. It’s definitely comfortable and breathable enough to keep your feet happy all day off the court, while still offering a reasonable level of mild-intensity performance merits.
*Performance Review shoes provided by Eastbay*