words_Zac Dubasik
images_Nick DePaula
A Sole Collector Performance Review

Having a great fit is one of the single most important things for me in a hoops shoe. If I feel secure, I have the confidence to push myself that much harder. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll play better, but it does mean that I won’t be worrying about my foot sliding around while I should be worrying about who I’m guarding. But the story of the Hyperfuse isn’t about fit. It’s about the new construction technique, the weight reduction and the breathability. Those elements work in conjunction to produce a shoe that fits so well though, that fit steals the show.

Performance Review - Nike HyperfuseThere have been some amazingly shaped shoes in the past few years. Shoes like the Air Jordan XX3, Zoom Kobe IV and V, and the Air Jordan 2010 were all supremely sculpted to the shape of a foot. That is a great thing, as long as they happen to fit the shape of your foot. In contrast, the Chuck Taylor is a shoe with about as generally shaped of an upper as you can get. If you’ve ever laced a pair up tight though, you’ve probably noticed that the thin canvas upper actually forms to the foot very well, regardless of the unique shape of your foot. It doesn’t have the strength and support necessary to perform to the standards of modern basketball footwear, but the fit is dead on. Strangely enough, the Hyperfuse has a lot more in common with the Chuck Taylor style of fit than the aforementioned more modern performance shoes. And it’s a good thing. A very good thing.

To be fair, the Hyperfuse does have a much better overall shape than the Chuck Taylor. It doesn’t at all resemble the sloppiness of the Converse classic, but it’s the thinness and flexibility of the upper, rather than its shape, that takes it to a level of fit that I’ve rarely, if ever, experienced in a more traditionally constructed shoe. All that great fit doesn’t mean much though if you don’t have enough strength to contain your foot – you might as well just wear a pair of Chucks otherwise. It is the combination of strength and flexibility that makes this new construction philosophy truly shine.

We’ll go much more in depth on the back-story and construction of the Hyperfuse in the upcoming weeks and months, but here is a quick breakdown. Rather than sewing and gluing layers of leathers and synthetic leathers, the fuse process bonds three much lighter and thinner layers together to create a single unit that makes up the entire upper. First, a synthetic base layer provides support in strategic areas to contain the foot – not unlike the thought behind Huarache-based shoes. Next, a mesh layer holds all of the pieces together, and provides large windows of breathability. And finally, a skin layer provides abrasion protection in key locations on the outside of the shoe. Along with some carefully placed foam in the collar (which provides solid heel lockdown), the layers are then bonded together to create a unibody upper, which also results in zero harsh seams along the underside, a common result of stitched sneakers. This unit is so thin and flexible that, as high tech as it is, it draws comparison to the canvas Chuck upper. But that’s really where the comparison ends, because its strength and breathability are not only on par with the best hoops shoes from today, they may even be setting new standards.

Performance Review - Nike Hyperfuse

When fully cinched up, the upper hugs the foot as well as any shoe I can name. I often like to reference the fit of the Air Penny 2 when it comes to a shoe that laces up great and slopes to the shape of my foot. Well, I may have a new point of reference in the Hyperfuse. It’s that good when it comes to providing the one-to-one fit ratio that performance shoes strive for.

Performance Review - Nike HyperfuseSo, with the upper of the Hyperfuse providing some exciting innovation, how’d the cushioning round the shoe out? If forefoot Zoom Air were used in every basketball shoe ever, I’d have no complaints in that department. The Hyperfuse subscribes to that school of cushioning, and uses a full-width bag embedded in a Phylon midsole for a responsive ride up front. Fans of Max or Zoom bags in the heel may be disappointed, as there is no additional cushioning unit in the back outside of a traditional foam-based footbed and midsole. The Phylon midsole provides effective impact protection though, though it’s not exactly responsive. The base of the shoe is finished off with an excellent outsole. Liberal use of herringbone (even wrapping up the midsole on the medial side) creates a squeaky ride, which gave me secure footing on both clean and dusty courts alike.

One major area of note is the shoe’s width. My feet are slightly on the wide side (not enough to be a frequent issue), and the Hyperfuse felt very narrow. If you can’t try these on before buying, sizing up may be a good option.

The exceptional fit alone would have made the Hyperfuse a standout. That it’s been achieved as a result of a new construction method (which also makes great progress in the weight and breathability departments) makes future iterations even more exciting. The fact that this shoe retails for only $100 makes it an easy recommendation. While there are cheaper shoes out there, they don’t come with nearly the amount of innovation as the Hyperfuse. And luckily, the innovation seen here translates directly to performance.

Grade Justification:

Comfort & fit: The fused upper fits like a glove, and the lack of traditional seems makes the interior smooth and soft.
Cushioning: Forefoot Zoom Air is a positive thing every time. The Phylon-based heel is a notch behind, but still provided a perfectly adequate level of impact protection on landings.
Ankle support: The collar padding is well-shaped, and combined with the overall fit, make for a secure shoe.
Breathability: It’s not on the level of the most breathable running shoes, but it’s about as good as I’ve felt on a hoops shoe. Tough to find breathability in a hoops shoe with this much support.
Heel-to-toe transition: The entire shoe is flexible and smooth, though midfoot support may be too flexible.
Traction: Excellent on a clean court as well as dusty courts.
Weight: They feel light on the foot. Pretty straightforward.

The Nike Hyperfuse will be available at Eastbay in August.

Performance Review - Nike HyperfusePerformance Review - Nike HyperfusePerformance Review - Nike Hyperfuse
*Products reviewed provided by Nike.*