Review: adidas Recovery Sleeves

If you’re reading this, you know that I’m someone who’s always interested in the latest athletic gear. When adidas produced the various TechFit gear in advance of the 2008 Olympics, I was intrigued, if not mildly skeptical. After all, compression gear already existed, right? But the science was there and I have to admit that I’m a convert. I wear TechFit PowerWeb shorts during every workout I do. (This is not an exaggeration.)

But as the workouts intensify, sometimes it’s what happens afterward that’s just as important. So now adidas is pushing Recovery gear. Again, I found myself intrigued but skeptical.

I am, after all, someone who already wears compression gear during a workout, so am I supposed to peel out of that and then put this on right away? (The answer: yes.)

The big thing with these sleeves, I found in my various trial runs, was to wear them for a long period of time — even sleeping in them. Your mileage may vary on this type of use. Maybe it will bother you when you sleep. For me, a short-term use did little to help alleviate pain in most cases. But wearing the calf sleeves after a long two-hour hoops run or back-to-back conditioning classes at my Y netted results that at least felt like more than a placebo effect.

I tend to have issues in my right calf after a particularly long week of workouts, so these felt great on my push leg after an evening of sprints at the gym. I felt less of an impact from the arm sleeves, but I also tend to experience less soreness there.

This recovery product absolutely has its advantages, but I’ll say that it takes the niche market of compression apparel and really goes to the next level. This is something really geared at the serious athlete, and probably not someone who just goes for a few 30-minute jogs every week.

The adidas recovery collection is on Eastbay, ranging from $24.99 for the calf/arm sleeves reviewed here to $59.99 for larger pieces. Check it out here. I’d also love to hear in the comments what, if any, recovery routine you have after a particularly tough game/workout. Have you ever used anything like this apparel, or something along the lines of “The Stick” to relieve muscle soreness?

Full disclosure: adidas supplied me with the leg and arm sleeves that were reviewed in this space.


Review: Reebok RealFlex

Two belated reviews in one night. What’s not to love?

Given my previously mentioned foot problems, I’m developing something of a love-hate relationship with thin-and-lights, but let’s take a look at this shoe independent of my personal issues. The RealFlex hit the market around the same time as the previously reviewed adidas ClimaCool Ride and a latest iteration of Nike Frees. It’s spring/summer and thin-and-lights are in style and flying off the shelves. The RealFlex is one ounce heavier than the Ride, checking in at 9.2, but it bests the Nike Free Run 2, which weighs 9.4 oz. It’s a relative push between those two though.

Despite what you see in those oh-so-popular RealFlex ads with the talking bits of shoe sole, these actually come with a pretty substantial sole. When compared to the Ride, I felt like there was a little bit more going on underneath. I wasn’t wild about the suede (?) material that was on much of the upper. Just thinking out loud, was the idea to try and keep the elements out? If so, it seems sort of counter to the rest of the shoe that is really ultra-breathable.

Stability, like with the Ride, is my biggest concern with the RealFlex. Just as with its adidas counterpart, you’d never catch me in these doing anything that involved any sort of quick change of direction. Because the sole is a bit more substantial, I did feel almost kind of elevated, which would be fine except the upper material is really flimsy because of its lightweight properties, so I didn’t feel particularly locked in. I was really only comfortable using these for straight-line running.

I have to continue to say to people that if you have any sort of foot needs for special support, be prepared to pop in your own insoles. I’m using $40 SmartFeet insoles at the moment, which might lead you to question why you’d even bother with these if you had that need. (Of course, you can move the SmartFeet around to multiple pairs of shoes, but if you consider yourself a serious runner who also finds himself with special support needs, you might be better off shopping for that straight out of the box.)

These run relatively true to size, although you’ll find yourself with a little bit more wiggle room as the materials in the shoe just aren’t as thick as your typical kicks. (I wear an 8.5 in both these and the Zig Slash. Don’t think I could squeeze in an 8, but definitely could tell I had a little more room, so I slipped on thicker arch-supporting socks.)

I enjoyed walking around in them around the house and just being out running errands. Thin and lights are great for that, and I’ve got every day insoles I can pop in to make them more comfortable for those trips.

The Reebok RealFlex continues to be available in a variety of colorways from for $89.98, and you can get free shipping and returns for orders on $79, so if you’re curious… what’s the risk?

Review: Jordan Fly Wade

Sincerest apologies in the delay of this review. I’ve had a busy June and a foot injury — plantar fasciitis — that kind of slowed down the progress on this one.

The Fly Wade was an important step for Jordan Brand in that it was finally time to step up and deliver a shoe for the sneakerheads who cried for years to get Dwyane Wade free from Converse and over to the marquee Jordan Brand name. Did they deliver? In many ways, yes, but there are still ways to treat this like the high level product it ought to be.

This will not fall into the Crazy Light/Zoom Kobe VI class of “ultra light/thin-and-light,” but by Jordan Brand standards that’s certainly the case. The shoe checks in at 13.7 oz, a full ounce lighter than the Jordan 2011 and nearly two ounces lighter than the Melo M7.

That weight reduction doesn’t come with any sort of quality/comfort reduction. The toe is still a sturdy patent leather piece and there is ample cushioning for your ankles and Achilles in this shoe. Zoom Air is featured in the forefoot and Max Air with a visible bubble is featured in the heel.

The sole also stood out to me. Here’s the technical jargon from Eastbay: “The sole is made with solid rubber and designed with a modified elephant crackle pattern for multidirectional traction on a variety of surfaces.” I not only used this shoe for basketball, but I also took it to my athletic conditioning class, which consists of sprints among other things, so change of direction was important going from one end of the court to the other. The grip was outstanding. I can’t speak to how it handles outdoors, but my experience playing ball and running on a basketball court showed me they were up to the task.

As for sizing, these run true to size based on my experience. If you wear a 9 in the Zoom Kobe VI, you’d wear a 9 in these, too.

If I could tweak two things, it would be design and presentation. First, on design, this isn’t like ZigSlash-type design criticism, but I don’t think people were falling over themselves to pick this one up based on looks. Despite being light, it still looked sort of bulky to me, something not really fitting Wade’s style. Curious to see what the future looks like for Wade and Jordan Brand’s designers. Second, the presentation. If you’re Jordan Brand and you’re pushing Wade as arguably your marquee guy these days, shouldn’t the presentation of his first sig involve more than the standard gray and black JB box? Between these two elements, I thought they missed a chance to really make a splash. (Also, we could talk about when these were rolled out in the scheme of things for general release, but I don’t know what kind of politics go into the release calendar at Jordan Brand, so maybe there was a perfectly good reason.)

All four colorways of the Jordan Fly Wade are still available from Nike for retail price of $140. Click here to check them out. You can also customize them on NIKEiD and really create some sharp designs, so be sure to play with that option, too, if you think the shoe is right but just aren’t feeling the general releases.

Review: adidas ClimaCool Ride

A few years ago, I worked out in the first few iterations of the Nike Free trainers. I loved them, but as I took on more running, I didn’t feel like those trainers I loved were suited for running and I went back to more traditional runners. Fast forward a few years and the market is absolutely overloaded with thin-and-light options targeted specifically to runners. Thanks to adidas, I had the opportunity to check out one of those offerings, the adidas ClimaCool Ride.

According to Eastbay, the ClimaCool Ride checks in at 8.2 oz. (It’s actually a fun social experiment. Toss these shoes to a friend of yours and watch the look on their face. It’s usually a total jaw-dropper.) I don’t believe even the early Frees I worked out in were this light, so it really was an experience unlike any other for me in that regard.

One of the other strengths of the shoe is the breathability. You can watch this video for greater detail, but to sum up, essentially every part of the upper is breathable, but even the sole has breathability through the flexible notches on the outsole and the perforated insole.

While I’m not knocking that outsole, it’s also not the kind of standout stuff I’m used to on the bottom of, say, an adidas hoops shoe that’s a little bit bulkier.

From a sizing perspective, if you go to pick these up, make sure you go down at least a half size. If you have the chance, go try them on in person before buying them. They absolutely run big, and you don’t want something this flexible where you’ve got a thumb-length plus in the toe box.

By normal runner standards, the stability of the upper is actually better than I anticipated it would be. Because the thing feels so flimsy and light in your hand, I anticipated my foot feeling somewhat naked and unstable. While you won’t catch me doing quick change of direction and sprints in these, I had no worries about rolling an ankle or anything when I was just out running.

My biggest caveat, beyond sizing, is that runners should know their foot and their stride style before jumping into an ultra-light like the ClimaCool Ride. I pronate, and I’ve got a pair of shoes with specifically targeted support for my arches. (Side note: I’m dying to find a trainer in the same boat, so before I go shopping for inserts, anyone have any suggestions?) This is really a no-frills shoe when it comes to special support for over/under pronation. You could easily pop in a pair of insoles/heelcups/inserts, but know that you’ll need to make that adjustment if you have any special needs of your own.

Style-wise, this is a really strong item for adidas. The customization that’s available is outstanding. If you’re searching for regular colorways, you’ve got lots of options from Foot Locker and The shoe retails for $90.

Big thank you to adidas for providing the ClimaCool Ride — in this outlandish orange colorway that got me more than a few comments everywhere I went — so I could review the shoe.

Next up (in hoops): Jordan Fly Wade

I’ve been playing in (and loving) the Zoom Kobe VI, but courtesy of Jordan Brand, I’ve got the chance to check out the Jordan Fly Wade. I’ve been really looking forward to this. I was intrigued that they were able to make a slightly lighter performance shoe. It’s not an ultra-light along the lines of the ZK VI, but at 13.7 oz, it’s a big step forward. Zoom Air is in the forefoot and Max Air is in the heel. They’re also using a seamless style that helps cut down on weight. Much as it pains me to put the ZK VI on the shelf for a bit, I’m looking forward to putting this pair of kicks through its paces. Anyone gone out to get the Fly Wade in its first week or two on the market? (Oh, and in case you haven’t seen, it’s available on, and it gives you some pretty great options.)

[View the story “New story” on Storify]

Next up (in running): Reebok RealFlex

As I’m wrapping up my look at the adidas ClimaCool Ride, I’ve got another thin-and-light to take a look at. The Reebok RealFlex checks in at 9.2 ozs. I want to offer up an opinion on the ClimaCool Ride before I start comparing the two, so I’ll write up that post tomorrow. Expect a post on the ClimaCool Ride tomorrow, and then I’ll get to work on these. Has anyone jumped out and picked these up? There’s certainly a marketing push behind them.

Sneakerheads’ Newest Obsession: Nike Elite Socks

As far as sneaker consumerism, I kind of feel like I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen people overpay in dollar amounts I could never imagine for shoes I’d never wear. I’ve seen fights and police at sneaker lineups. So it takes something special to make me do a double take. About a month ago when I was hunting a new hoops shoe, I was skimming my old stomping grounds NikeTalk for a new hoops shoe, I stumbled upon a message board thread title that caught my attention. “What’s good with Nike Elite Basketbal Crew socks? (SOCKS FTW!)”

Socks? Really?

But the thread had about 100 pages at the time, and actually started about a year ago when I discovered it. I found it totally fascinating and bizarre. I don’t pay a ton of attention to my socks. I don’t buy bottom-of-the-barrel stuff because I’ve just found that my habits tend to burn them up too quickly, but I’ve also never gone out of my way to find the ultra premium stuff either. And yet, it was tough to miss Elite socks this season in college basketball, whether you knew you saw them or not. They were those socks seemingly every school wore — most notably, Kentucky — with the marks down the back of the leg. They were generally crew length, another real departure from most times when people like to wear no-shows or lows.

Most fascinating about the thread wasn’t the obsession with the quality — although there was a fair amount of that — but it was the hunt. These socks had become the new thing to find before they disappeared from store shelves. Special editions of them were reaching profoundly insane prices on eBay.

$1,025 for a pair? (OK, probably someone who wound up not paying.) But more realistically, $250 for a pair of the limited edition Think Pink Breast Cancer ones? It was incredible to me. You can get yourself a quarter-cut pair of USA Basketball ones for just a shade under $100 after shipping. And how do you know when a Nike product has truly made it? When there are even fake versions floating around. (Not to disparage this seller, but the word on NT is that the pairs coming from Israel are fake.) Even other companies are making similar socks. And I don’t mean similar in tech. I mean similar in look and style. How else would you explain this offering from Under Armour with an awfully similar stripe down the back?

So I was at least curious. I went out on my own and started hunting for a pair of these socks to try. And that is no easy task. Finding the running version is a little more straightforward. I tracked those down on my first trip. But my first few tries out for the basketball version got a lot of the same replies from store workers that all sounded like this. “No, we are out. Yes, we usually carry them. They disappear immediately.” I sort of expected eye rolls and a lot of “Elite what?” responses, but every time I asked an employee, I didn’t get the impression I was the first person that day, nor would I be the last, to ask about them.

The socks run $12 when you find them for retail, although there is a special Kobe Bryant quarter-cut edition floating around at Foot Locker stores that is allegedly $15. (As an aside, I found the Bryant ones because I wanted quarter-cuts, but didn’t have time to make it to the store tonight. Will have to give it a try tomorrow or over the weekend.)

Finally, about a week ago, I found a pair of white/black elites — I also found some red ones, but didn’t want socks that loud, so I only grabbed one pair. The verdict, without having actually played in them yet: they’re comfortable, but are they $12/pair comfortable? Not sold. More than likely, I’m going to opt for the next step down and play these now that I’ve got Zoom Kobe VI lows.

But regardless of what I do, these Elite socks are a success by any measure Nike uses. They can’t keep the things on shelves at this point. What I’m most interested in now is how Nike has created this grass roots viral apparel hit. (Buzz words!) They don’t advertise socks like they do shoes, and as far as I know, there hasn’t been a transcendent moment featuring these socks that I can remember with a notable athlete. On some level, I’m sure it’s built in grass roots hoops. Nike-outfitted teams wearing the things create curiosity with players who go out and find them, but just the fact that a specific type of sock has enough branding that every employee I’ve spoken to knew them immediately speaks volumes to Nike’s branding power, yet again.

Have you tried the Nike Elite socks? Do you even pay attention to the kind of socks you usually wear? I’d be interested to hear from the peanut gallery on this one.

(Image via NikeTalk)

Editor’s note: Just an update to this. I asked Stevie Taylor, a high school senior headed to my alma mater about his experience with Elite Socks. It further solidifies my theory on these that young players are getting these in their hands and they’re being branded with them early the same way they are with the actual Nike shoes. He told me on Twitter he’s been playing in them since his junior year and that he’s got six pairs. I also had to laugh when I opened Facebook this morning and saw this photo from Megane Ann Wilson of Amir Johnson’s monster shoes … while also wearing Elite socks. These things are everywhere.

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