words and images_Nick DePaula
Under Armour Micro G Lite | Light & Comfortable
For two years now, we’re all well aware that Under Armour was making basketball shoes — it just so happened you couldn’t buy them anywhere. That’s not because the demand wasn’t there, but because after a few missteps in the Running category, they wanted to make sure they got things right. Right from the start.
During that seemingly endless window before the brand finally launched hoops publicly this fall, Under Armour was outfitting some twenty high schools and several of the top basketball programs in the country, getting valuable performance feedback along the way that would help to shape the models that would be releasing. While I was being my normal impatient self and hoping they would’ve started releasing products for Brandon Jennings’ rookie year, getting a nailed-down across-the-line aesthetic and cushioning platform was probably the right call. I guess that’s why they’re sneaker executives, afterall.
It was during that time of unavailability that quite a few of the Under Armour Prototype high school PEs began to show up online, whether on the Sole Collector Forums or on the main SC Blog, and naturally, everyone would comment away in frustration about how they couldn’t get them.
Except one day, a kid named ‘DFish404’ from California was proudly bragging to everyone:
“I gotta pair of these!”
So, I emailed him: “What’d you think?”
I was curious, ‘cause I hadn’t yet played in a pair of Under Armour basketball shoes. The kids have it good these days. He plays ball for an Under Armour-sponsored high school.
“Dey are light and dey are comfortable.”
It wasn’t the in-depth feedback I was looking for, but as it turns out, once the actual Micro G collection finally was rounded out and made its way to retail stores around the country, those were the two bright spots that have me continually coming back to the Under Armour Micro G Lite well after my review time had passed.
Light and comfortable. They really are, and that’s really what it comes down to for most basketball players these days. Now, of course, there’s quite a few more technical thoughts and feedback that go into playing in a shoe like the Micro G Lite, and as I found over the course of a few weeks, it’d go on to be one of my top-3 shoes to play in for this season.
The Micro G Lite is without a doubt the gem of the new Under Armour Basketball collection. From the shoe’s sharply contoured collar to its amazingly breathable Skeletex mesh-based upper and targeted support overlays, everything about the Lite screams high performance, and was designed with performance in mind. “It’s got a fairly extreme dip in the heel,” describes designer John Humphrey. “So you get the flexibility of a low-top, but then the collar comes up higher so you have the support of a mid.” The fit through the heel is precise, with the low Achilles notch and higher top eyelet giving you great range of motion and protection — a great blend of height between low and mid.
Where the shoe’s support and design is most impressively functional is through the forefoot, where the lone profile view branding hit can be found, and where the the shoe’s bonded overlays really do a great job of providing structure and support. “The Micro G Lite was very purpose driven, so you look at where the overlays are in the forefoot, and it’s really meant to hold you in there,” Humphrey says. Lockdown is yet another bright spot of the Lite, as on sharp cuts and changes of direction, your foot moves with the shoe as one. Because the upper is so pliable, thanks to the awesomely flexible, light and breathable Skeletex-coined mesh paneling, it also fits and conforms that much better when laced. The forefoot is a bit more wide than I would like, and I laced them pretty snuggly on the bottom three eyelets, but for a team-aimed sneaker built to suit several sizes of players and styles of play, the fit and lockdown throughout the entire shoe is real impressive. I felt the Lite had the lightest playing upper of the season, from any brand.
Along with the shoe’s great light weight is, of course, the aforementioned comfort that I really enjoyed. But “comfort” can mean all kinds of different things. The two areas more specifically comfortable are the padding found in the tongue and collar and also the shoe’s cushioning platform. The tongue is more plush and padded than you might expect in a product as light as the Lite, and it helps disperse annoying lace pressure that is often a compromise found in hyper lightweight sneakers.
I was instantly a fan of the upper, but the Lite also does a great job underfoot throughout a night of several pick-up games. The shoe’s full-length Micro G cushioning platform offers great bounce in the heel and a smooth transition during play, thanks also in part to the shoe’s impressive midfoot shank. Termed “Micro G,” a synonym for “zero gravity” and “weightlessness,” the foam compound is said to be up to 30% lighter and also boasts more high-rebound properties than traditional EVA compounds. I found the lightweight claims to be rather true, but no brand uses EVA as the main cushioning set-up in a high performance basketball shoe.
Micro G isn’t as responsive as Nike’s Zoom Air, but it’s also not as firm as adidas’ adiprene foam compound. It’s right in between and provides a nice balance of spring and stability that the two competing systems can sacrifice at times. Adiprene is clearly the more durable, long-lasting option of the bunch, but it’s Zoom Air that’s known as the industry’s benchmark for responsiveness. Under Armour’s Micro G falls nicely in the middle, and thankfully, they’ve brought a new underfoot performance sensation to the table. If you’re intensely curious about the varying cushioning units and systems out there in the footwear world, the Lite is absolutely worth giving a shot simply to experience an entirely new feel.
The ride of the Micro G-based Lite is on its own incredibly smooth in transition and flows from heel to toe excellently, but the key component that took the shoe over the top for me is its very sizeable carbon fiber shank. By industry standards for a $100 shoe, it’s pretty unparalleled, actually. Seen through the semi-translucent outsole, the rigid midfoot shank is supportive and springy exactly where you want it. Job well done here.
While the ride, weight, breathability and flex of the shoe were impressive across the board, one issue to note is the Lite’s inconsistent traction. On a well-maintained hardwood floor, traction is outstanding, biting on step-back jumpers, cuts and a variety of movements. There’s not an overly pronounced outrigger, but enough of a flare of the midsole that support and stability is dependable in tandem with the shoe’s traction when playing on a clean floor. On less-than-stellar courts though, you’ll have to swipe more often, as the shoe’s shallow traction grooves pick up dust quickly. Real quickly. It was kind of surprising how fast the traction could sharply decline, and I’d have to recommend that they go entirely away from the grooved pattern in the future, in favor of a more all-around and reliable pattern like the one implemented in the Micro G Black Ice. Or, you know, there’s always herringbone too. That’s worked perfectly for a few decades now.
Traction issues aside (costing the Lite a true “A” grade), for being one of four models in Under Armour’s first-ever basketball collection available at retail, the Lite is a seriously impressive shoe. The cut is exact, the shoe fits and conforms well, and yes, dey are extremely light and comfortable. At 13.4 ounces in a size 9, the Lite is actually tied with the Black Ice for the heaviest among the batch of four models, as the Blur clocks in at 13 ounces flat and the Fly a mere 12.8 ounces. But after playing in all four, I can confidently say that the Lite plays and feels the lightest over the span of several games. Part of that could be due to its awesomely breathable upper, great fit, and even the springy midfoot shank that the other shoes lack, but the Lite does the best job of making all of its parts and pieces work in unison, and in turn, work with the wearer’s foot. Guards and forwards will love the no-frills materials and performance-first design, and at $100, it’s certainly worth a look for teams. It’s a swift playing shoe that was an absolute joy to play in, with great court feel, cushioning and a smooth ride, and what’s usually most telling about the shoes I best liked playing in throughout the year — they’ve earned a permanent slot in my trunk for go-to nights when I want something I know I can depend on.
Available now: Under Armour Micro G Lite