We see sustainability challenges as opportunities to think beyond conventions and break traditional boundaries in our engineering and use of materials; our dyes, finishes, and printing; our product development, and elsewhere.
ELASTOMERIC HARD YARNS
In 2014, we challenged ourselves to continue leading the industry by reducing our dependence on elastane. Elastane provides stretch, but it holds moisture and increases odor problems; requires more energy by increasing dry time; wears out faster; and makes many fabrics difficult or impossible to recycle. Our new thread texturing techniques and polymer developments eliminated the need for elastane: those products perform better, last even longer—and can be completely recyclable. This innovation is revolutionary not just for us—it’s a future game-changer for the entire athletic apparel industry at a scale we haven’t seen elsewhere. We continue to challenge ourselves to engineer more materials that are 100% recyclable.
It’s strange to think back, and realize that it’s only been a year since Under Armour’s hoops line hit retail. Brandon Jennings was the first athlete to sign a shoe deal with the apparel giant, and has been wearing their kicks since his 08-09 season in Italy. But, wanting to ensure their footwear was ready for mass consumption, Under Armour fine-tuned their line for another two years before finally launching last fall. Fans were frustrated when they couldn’t run out and buy a pair of Prototypes following Young Money’s (aka Young Buck, aka Black Ice, aka Compton’s Most Wanted) 55-point explosion against the Warriors his rookie season, but in return for their patience, were rewarded with an impressive debut that outshined kicks from some companies who have been in the footwear game decades longer. Much of that credit has go to the team behind the line. While it was their first with Under Armour, they were hardly new to the business, having brought experience from hoops-centric brands like AND1 along with them. The logos on-court may have been new, but the feel of the shoes was familiar. That’s not to say that everything was perfect though. The initial line, while impressive, did have issues. One that showed up with consistency (with the exception of the Micro G Black Ice) was in the traction department. And unfortunately, that’s right where the Supersonic, one of the first releases in UA’s second hoops lineup, picks up.
The traction pattern may be different from that found in last year’s line, but the results are similar. On a well-maintained court, you are good to go. But once a little dust is introduced to the equation, things go straight downhill. I respect that designers are not complacent, and don’t want to simply throw herringbone on an outsole and call it a day. But when it comes to an element as important as traction, if you can’t beat the non-proprietary industry standard, I’d like to see shoes stick to it. It’s too bad, because other than one additional and notable problem, everything else about the shoe is fantastic.
The Supersonic’s midsole, for instance, is exceptional. If you are familiar with Micro G cushioning, there’s nothing new here, and that’s a good thing. Micro G is soft, without being mushy, providing an outstanding balance between protection and court feel. As good as the cushioning is though, the highlight of the midsole is its buttery smooth transition. The flex groove in the outsole encourages you to stay on your toes, and along with the supremely flexible upper (more on that later), functions as a complete system. I’ve played in plenty of shoes that have a smooth midsole transition, only to have an overly stiff upper fight against it. But the Supersonic is close to perfect here, with the outsole, midsole and upper all working together to promote optimum transition. The shoe is light, and plays even lighter thanks to the mobility that transition provides. And thanks to the addition of its TPU shank, the Supersonic doesn’t lose support.
Moving to the upper, the Supersonic smartly utilizes the technology Under Armour made its name with: advanced textiles. In this case, that means the light and breathable HeatGear. And while moisture management is great, in my opinion, that was secondary to how well it fit. When fully laced, it achieved that one-to-one ratio that all performance shoes should aim for. What makes it so impressive is that as great as it fits, it flexes just as well. There were no hot spots or pinching to be found. The addition of patent leather overlays provides additional support where needed, without adding bulk.