Pros: Incredible upper support, lightweight, responsive cushioning, dazzling looks
Cons: Lunar Foam compresses over time, less-than stellar traction
Nike has not brought out a fully, integrated marketing campaign for a basketball shoe like the Hyperdunk since the Zoom Huarache 2K4 back in 2004. This heavily-hyped shoe (no, no pun intended in the least) was talked about for several months before anyone ever saw a model on the basketball court. Having several of the Nike USA basketball athletes wearing it in the 2008 Summer Olympics only brought more notoriety, especially Kobe Bryant being the main wearer. After all of this, does this shoe perform on the court with two very new significant Nike innovations? Let's find out.
The upper is where we start and let me tell you, not since the advent of Foamposite technology has an upper been so ridiculously supportive. The new innovation is called Flywire, a technology based on advancements in bridge construction. You see how long, thin cables support the weight of a massive bridge, aka, the Golden Gate bridge and this idea, thought of by Jay Meschter, Innovation Director of Nike's Innovation Kitchen-the place where all these innovative kicks come from-is applied to the upper. Thin strands of material called Vectran (a liquid polymer-based material) are sandwiched between thin panels of polyurethane providing unsurpassed support for hard cuts and lateral motions. When I made quick cuts and side-to-side motions, the upper kept my foot locked down onto the footbed, not allowing any motion, a good thing. The plus side of this technology is that it weighs next to nothing, yet provides the support of heavier synthetic materials and other components that are usually used to provide support in athletic shoes.
When this material is flexed, it loses zero percent of its tensile strength, thus supporting the foot even better. The lightweightness is incredible as me being a size 9; this shoe weighs only 13 ounces! This is unheard of in a basketball shoe, yet provides unparalleled support compared to heavier shoes on the market. I could definitely tell after a game that my feet felt a lot less fatigued than in my other basketball shoes, notably the Zoom LeBron IV's and V's. This reduction in weight while still providing unmatched support is something that every basketball player craves in a shoe.
Combining with a foam-based heel counter and midfoot support wedge which are ample, and the carbon fiber insert placed in the midfoot for torsional rigidity, this shoe places a premium on lightweight containment and support. Never have I had such a lightweight shoe with such great support, I felt myself trying to drive to the basket more often to test its limits and it continued to feel good every time.
Of course, this doesn't matter if the inner isn't comfortable and luckily the Hyperdunk employs a partial-length mesh inner sleeve that coddles my feet in comfort and non-chafe free from the hidden seamwork. There is a slight cut-out of the upper, near the top of the shoe and this works to provide more flexibility for your foot. If you lace the shoe to the top ghilly lacing holes, this is more than enough to lock your foot down.
The cushioning is provided by a low-profile 8 mm heel Zoom Air unit, yet again providing extremely responsive cushioning with impact protection to boot. The tensile fibers locked into this Air bag continue to be the peak in lightweight cushioning as the responsiveness is so great to have on the court. However, Nike innovates a second time with a material called Lunar Foam, which is placed in the forefoot. It is made of a combination of EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) and nitrate rubber which is 30% lighter than the typical Phylon material that Nike uses in a lot of midsoles. At first, this marshmallowy unit provides ample feedback to your foot. But soon, after about 10 wearings in my experience, this unit compresses under itself and you no longer feel the springback that you first got. Unfortunately, this new tech is not up to par with Nike's usual innovations. It's a great concept, but definitely needs to be tweaked. If a forefoot Zoom Air unit would have been utilized, this would have made the shoe a lot better, cushioning-wise.
To stabilize all this technology, the outsole utilizes a solid rubber recessed groove traction pattern with a herringbone pivot point on the forefoot. This outsole provides good traction on clean courts, but on dusty ones, you are gonna have to wipe them down a lot because it tends to pick up the debris quite easily. The radiused, decoupled heel is something that you typically find on a running shoe, but really does a nice job on this basketball shoe by providing a nice heel-to-toe transition. A lateral (outside) outrigger is a nice touch to provide a stable base and helps the feet to make changes on the court in a second by providing instantaneous feedback to the wearer. This occurred several times to me on sharp cuts near the baseline where it told my foot to go a certain direction, a very nice thing to have.
The design touches are very nice with the eight dots built into the heel counter, midfoot, and toe which stands for 08/08/08, the day the Summer Games opened. Depending on what model you get, there is either an "Elite Hyperdunk," "Hyperdunk 08," or Kobe's Shozoko logo on the tongue. There have already been an explosion of different colorways. Of course, you have the nine TB colorways, such as white/black, white/royal, white/red, etc. There are also several "fade" colorways, such as white/black/white/black, royal/black, etc. A McFly edition based on the Nike shoes in the movie Back to the Future (watch the movie, believe me, its in there!) is a highly-sought after one, fetching prices upwards in the thousands on eBay. You also have the Supreme colorways that are $15 more than the general releases, such as the Kobe Laker-based colorways of black-varsity maize/purple and white-varsity maize/purple, and other ones that correspond with the Nike-sponsored teams in the Olympics, such as China, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Germany.
A couple more limted-edition ones such as the one that has the TNT NBA broadcasting team of Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson, and Kenny Smith are lithographed on the tongue, United We Rise edition with a lasered upper, and a Mamba Kobe edition with snakeprint and his Olympic number, 10, on the medial side, Snakepool version in which Kobe wore in a Nike viral commercial released in Youtube, and several others. A truly unique shoe, this definitely sets Nike even farther ahead of the competition. There are some tweaks that need to be made to give it a complete 5 rating, but I'ma round up to 4.5 for that 5. It can be worn by any position as the upper is more than stable enough to lock down any player's weight. The Hyperdunk definitely lives up to the hype, this time, pun very much intended.