Happy new year everyone! The WearTesters team has some thoughts about 2017 so make sure to hit all the pages and let us know what you think. What’re you looking forward to in 2017?
2016. I said it before, and I stand by it now, 2016 was the best year for performance sneakers EVER. From adidas and its entire basketball line, to the resurgence (almost) of Zoom Air in the Nike HyperRev 2016, Hyperdunk 2016, and KD9, plus Under Armour progressing its line top to bottom, and what Brandblack, PEAK, and Anta are doing, it couldn’t be better.
And that worries me. Not that brands will stop, but honestly, I wonder what companies can do to get better. How much better can Boost get? How will Nike Zoom get better than the KD9 (perhaps improved durability)? How can Under Armour improve the ClutchFit Drive 3 and Curry 3 (oh, more Micro G). Which smaller brand will break out?
What am I looking forward to in 2017? Here is my list:
Nike feeling the competitive heat and bringing big ideas, big advancement, and big designs to the basketball line. Let’s face it, Nike designs are stagnant. Zoom is still the brand’s best cushioning, and it has been around since 1997. The LeBron 14 has nothing groundbreaking (from first look), and it is supposedly the flagship Swoosh basketball shoe. Granted, when implemented right, Zoom works as good or better than any cushioning out there, but it has implemented right few and far between in the last four to five years. We have the PG1, Paul George’s first shoe, coming soon, but the cynics among us are already guessing forefoot-only Zoom and materials lagging behind other similarly priced shoes from competitors. The Kyrie 3 just dropped, but only heel Zoom and a $120 price tag seems to be an idea outdated in ambition. I hope Nike feels what adidas, Under Armour, Brandblack, and others are doing — they are giving the consumer superior materials and cushioning at cheaper price points, and lowering prices across the board (honestly, the Kyrie 3 at $90 is more like it) while giving us something groundbreaking in design.
adidas keeping the momentum rolling with Boost and Primeknit. This really worries me; as good as adidas was, and let’s face it, they ruled 2016 across the board, what can it bring in 2017? Can Boost improve and get even more responsive while being slimmed down? Can Primeknit be thinned out and kept supportive and comfy at the same time? Will the UltraBoost continue to rule running and lifestyle? Will the AlphaBounce become the BetaBounce?
Under Armour “bouncing back.” Under Armour felt a little slip with the Curry 2.5 and 3 — not in performance, but it seems the fickle sneaker-buying public doesn’t want to buy shoes from Under Armour if Curry doesn’t win a championship and MVP, cure cancer, and land on Mars. For people who actually prefer performance, the Curry line hasn’t gone anywhere. The ClutchFit series seems to be back with better cushioning and traction, and the lower models are borrowing liberally from the higher tiers, improving performance down the line. With leadership back in place, Under Armour should be stronger in 2017.
Jordan Brand. This is tough. I still look at Jordan as a performance brand, even though for the most part performance has taken a back seat. There are still designers at JB that want to make performance beasts and put everything they can into their designs. The company, though, has to realize a Jumpman does not mean they can charge $30-$50 premium increases over similarly tiered product from other brands. The Super.Fly 5 was a shoe that should have never been priced over $100, based on materials and technology, but saw $150 as retail. The CP3.X, a shoe with design elements of a $110 shoe, was priced at $125. The times have changed — now, let’s change philosophy.
From brands like Brandblack, PEAK, Anta, Li-Ning, and others, there is really only one thing to look forward to: growth. That means signing players, and more U.S. availability (although after the Finish Line/Rare Metal launch fiasco, Brandblack may not wish for more distribution channels). For the amount of experience in the market, especially with the narrow-minded American market, these brands are making fantastic performers that NEED to be in more stores. While Brandblack is, thankfully, being found in FootAction stores now, I know what some of its 2017 designs look like (and they are killer). There will be no slowing down for them.
PEAK needs to get the U.S. sizing correct so consumers, and reviewers, over here know how to order the shoes, because it is making great product. Anta has new minds on the design team, namely Robbie Fuller (of the adidas Supernatural Creator/Rose 1 designs), so its line will see fresh ideas coming soon (again, the hints I have seen are niiiiice).
What do I not look forward to? Retros, “remasters,” and $200 shoes based on 30 year old technology. I don’t look forward to shoes selling out because they are limited. I don’t want to see ideas stagnate and spoil. I don’t want brands to lie to us about availability, technology, benefits, and materials. I don’t want brands to give us cabbage and call it ice cream.
Finally, I want everyone who reads and watches WearTesters to grab a shoe that fits their game, based on our reviews, pay a good price for it, and be happy.