Under Armour Micro G® Charge BB

The Under Armour Micro G® Charge BB

Introduction

A quick 3 season has seen Under Armour basketball carve a small niche for themselves in a demanding market.  This Fall season looks as though the company will skip a player signature model for Brandon Jennings, as they continue to build a solid foundation for the future.  What comes as the most risky design not only this year, but in the past couple of years, the Charge BB is sure to bring a lot of attention.  Some may see the design as a gimmick.  Some may see it as something new and exciting.  Regardless of the what the shoe may look like, one thing is for certain – Under Armour has not disappointed on the performance end.  Jumping right into the boot-like design, we take the Under Armour Micro G® Charge BB on the hardwood.

Part of their Fall 2012 Basketball line up, the Under Armour Charge BB pushes the limits of aesthetics in a basketball performer.  The features include the following:

  • Two-piece upper with high ankle support to provide an accurate fit around the foot and ankle
  • HeatGear® material used for breathability and moisture control
  • Cushioning provided by Micro G® technology (midsole and sockliner)
  • Rubber outsole with traction pods
  • Stability provided by mid foot TPU plate

Aesthetics and Styling

By far the boldest design in the last 15 years, the Charge BB may not be for everyone.  Yes, basketball shoes are made for performance, but in the market today, casual friendly and sleek designs fit the modern fashion trends.  What looks to be more of a snow boot than an every day high top, Under Armour has went in a direction no company is willing to go.  We have seen interchangeable midsoles, seamless and light weight uppers, unique uses of upper materials (i.e. metallic, foam, etc.), and even low cut performers.  But the high cut design the Charge BB is designed with may top them all.  The two piece upper is made with light weight performance in mind but with superior support from the ankles down.  Micro G® cushioning is always dependable and the Under Armour signature quality out of the box is ever present.  An initial release featuring four color schemes reaching major retail chains shows that Under Armour is truly backing their boldest effort yet.  For this Performance Review, a bright orange “Fuego” color scheme is the choice.

Under Armour Micro G® Charge BB

Aesthetically, the Charge BB is bold and daring for a basketball shoe

From a side profile, the shoe looks just like a ski boot with a sleek feeling fit for the hardwood.  Pointy lines run from the midsole and over layer on the upper, while the translucent sole adds a color touch below.  Flipping the shoe over, the rubber outsole is designed in two pieces to mimic the bottom of the foot.  First, the forefoot area is curved and forms a toe cap.  Two herringbone pods are found here – a large one in the middle and a small one on the lateral side.  The translucent rubber is marked with diamond shaped indentations for traction, with small circular holes cut on the medial side.  At the mid foot, a large sculpted stability plate can be seen through the translucent rubber.  In the middle, a circular pattern is formed, while two diamond shaped indentations are part of the midsole.  Finishing off the outsole is the heel.  Orange translucent rubber covers the heel, moving sharply on the lateral side.  Here, more circles are cut into the rubber, while on the side of the heel, a “MICRO G” logo is present.  On the medial, a green Under Armour logo is found on the side.  Supporting the outsole is a foam midsole, designed with two layers.  The midsole has two colors and runs around the foundation, wavy and pointy.

A soft mesh like material forms the base layer of the upper.  The toe box is covered with this material for comfort and flexibility, as a thick and smooth piece is stitched around the front for protection.  This piece has the Under Armour logo discreetly placed on the medial forefoot.  On the sides, a matte finished over layer sits atop the soft base.  This reinforcement layer gives body to the bootie like base and has perforation holes throughout.  The design is symmetric on each side, and the panels come up to a point to support the hoop eyelets.

The most glaring aesthetic portion of the shoe comes at the back end.  A shiny leather material has corrugations lining the heel, leading to the flaring collar flap.  Opening like wings of a bat, a large Under Armour logo is planted right in the middle of the flap, with perforations on the sides.  The leather material is stitched on to the soft base layer.  On the inside, soft padding is found all over, with a U-shaped lobe in the center.  The heel integrates seamlessly to create a bootie system, while the shoe is lined with a textured synthetic featuring the “HeatGear®” technology.

Heavy duty oval laces run through a minimal lacing system consisting of five lace hoops.  Since the construction is pretty much a one piece bootie, there is no true tongue, but for what would be a tongue, a large support piece is stitched down the center of the shoe.  Much like the side panels, the matte finished synthetic has perforations and gives body to the shoe.  Lace holders run down the center to keep the laces firmly in place and branding is found at the top with the “UA CHARGE BB” logo.  The top of the tongue is designed like the back collar flap with the HeatGear® lining, ample padding, and padded lobe.  Finishing off the boldest shoe of the year is a contoured Micro G® sockliner.   The orange foam is thick and does not bend easily, with a final “MICRO G” logo on the heel.

Comfort and Fit

Extending up high are the tongue and back collar flap.  To enter the sock-like construction, the padded heel flap and tongue bend easily to reveal a small opening.  Since the upper is pretty much set in place, fit is a generous true to size.  The materials feel soft and comfortable around the foot.  Lace pressure is not tight at all, with most of it felt, if any, around the tongue.  Up front, the toe box fits close and precise, while the reinforcement supports on the sides give body to the fit.  As the aesthetics of the shoe focus heavily on ankle support, the first aspect evident is good heel lock down.  The counter holds the heels in place well, but not too tight, and is distended from the back collar flap.  Ankle support is at a maximum.  Although the ankles are exposed, the tongue and back heel are high and sit just below the calf muscle.  The grip is not tight at all and the support is comfortable because of the heavy padding.  Next, the cushioning base is true to all the Micro G® performers released – dense with a soft, comfortable, and responsive feel.  The midsole does feel thick, but the minimal rubber sole gives a natural, close to the ground sense.  Side support is provided but the reinforcement overlay, which flows into the eyelets, and the middle of the midsole which brings a contoured feel.  A very unique fit with high ankle support, the Chrage BB is comfortable all around with a soft, dense base.

Under Armour Micro G® Charge BB

Micro G® cushioning is comfortable, while the collar provides very good ankle support

Performance

There is no getting away from high collar and ankle support, which is felt with every step, and in a static position.  The Micro G® foundation is very comfortable, while the minimal outsole gives a natural court feel.  Once into a sprint, heel to toe transitions are fluid and the shoe is very comfortable.   Around the foot, the upper flexes well with no break in time needed while the cushioning system is great for running.  On the back end, the collar flap can be felt pushing just below the calf with each step, but does not feel like a hinderance.  It does feel more supportive and comfortable than restrictive.  The weight of the shoe is on the light side, but because of the padded tongue and collar, the weight around the ankles might make it feel a bit heavy for some.  For performance, the Charge BB is catered to those who want versatility and fluidness on the court.  The shoe plays nothing like a true boot, and is more fluid than some of the performers on the market today.   Fast players will find the court feel and responsiveness of the shoe right out of the box.  Whether playing off the forefoot or heel, the shoe has a rolling feel.  That is, it pushes the player into motion with good balance.  A glance of the shoe would make one think that lateral movement would not be favorable, but this is one area where the shoe performs well.  The opening created by the detached collar system keep the ankles from being locked down, resulting in better flexibility.  Pushing off the Micro G® foundation on the lateral side feels low and the player moves in stride.  Speaking of the Micro G®, getting into a jump, whether it be from a standing position or in the context of a drive/moving is always comfortable and responsive.  The natural feel of the outsole may make for some hard landings, but the shoe gets the player right back into action.  Getting over the non conventional aesthetics, the Chrage BB is a comfortable, fluid, and responsive performer.

A shoe designed like a boot can only mean excellent stability.  However, for the Charge BB, stability does not revolve around a bullet proof, durable upper or a close gripping fit.  The shoe leans more towards a bend but do not break classification of stability as it balances light weight performance and flexibility with ankle high ankle support.  Constructed with a two-piece bootie system, the upper does a great job of keeping the foot contoured and in place during play.  But highlighting stability performance is the ankle support.  Normally, a basketball shoe with a collar as high as the Charge BB has would mean great support with poor flexibility.  The designers at Under Armour made sure that this design would be functional on the court and have succeeded.  Some might not feel comfortable with the collar running up so high and close to the calves, but those who value ankle support will find numerous positives.  The material used is flexible and does not restrict movement, most importantly, lateral movement.  Padding is just right for excellent comfort, and the fit has a protective feel.  At the end of the day, stability for the Charge BB revolves around great ankle support and a comfortable bootie.

The minimal rubber outsole design yields responsive based traction.  At the forefoot, the herringbone pods offer the sticky court grip for all those stop and start movements, jabs and heavy foot plants.  In the flow of action, the natural feel of the shoe is more adapt to those playing with a heavy step.  Since the hardwood surface is smooth, getting the most out of the traction for the Charge BB is best playing hard on the sole.  That established, traction is very fluid and motion based.  Especially moving laterally, the shoe just flows on the court.  The diamond dimpled surface helps ease the player into changing directions and not getting stuck in place.  Moving forward, there is grip from the herringbone pods, but transitioning into a hop step or quick side step is done with fluidity.  Playing off the heel is very natural with the back to the basket.  The player can back down and spin off the traction surface as it feels like one motion.  In summation, traction performance is fit for those looking for fluidity and responsiveness on the court.  Ventilation is an area where the shoe performs well. The one piece bootie is comfortable throughout the foot and does not have a cumbersome feel.  Perforations on the upper and HeatGear® technology on the inside are the foundation of excellent ventilation.  The foot is allowed to breath and the open area around the ankle vents air.

Conclusion

When push comes to shove, no one can argue that Under Armour is a company that does not take chances.  Building a niche in the basketball shoe industry is a monumental task, which requires toppling the giants that dominate the market, while at the same time attempting to shift the mind of the consumer from the norm.  Aesthetically, the Charge BB looks to shake up the market, and will certainly receive plenty of negative scrutiny from other companies, as well as fans accustomed to “normal” looking basketball shoes.  Putting the aesthetics aside, on the court performance is comfortable and responsive with excellent ankle support.  At the end of the day, the marketing ploys basketball sneaker companies use every season is based around improving performance in some way (whether it is a new technology, concept design, or more athlete input).  Under Armour needs to be commended for releasing a shoe that destroys what the common basketball shoe “should” look like.  How long can the company last in the basketball sneaker world with these bold design, and will it ever catch on?  Whatever happens in the future, right now, Under Armour is the one company breathing fresh air into the industry.  Some may say Under Armour needs to go back to the drawing board after seeing the design of the Charge BB.  If looked at in another way, it seems like they are the only ones at the drawing board.  The most bold basketball sneaker on the market today, the Charge BB is available now, in multiple color schemes, at the Official Under Armour Online Store.

This shoe is comparable to:

Under Armour Micro G® Torch