The Athletic Propulsion Labs™ Concept 3 – Black Lotus Performance Reviews
When Athletic Propulsion Labs™ (APL) revealed the Concept 1, they looked to break into a very crowded market by basing their shoe on a specific aspect of performance. The company gained mainstream recognition as they were “Banned by the NBA” before the 2010-2011 season. This notoriety burst them into the spotlight but that did not necessarily translate into widespread commercial success. Regardless, APL continues on with their latest effort for the Summer with another Concept model. Claims of increased vertical leaps may be disputed, but the performance, design, and presentation of the Concept can not be denied. Does this version of the Concept show improvement or will APL need a revamp with a new model? Our latest Performance Review takes the Athletic Propulsion Labs™ Concept 3 for a run on the hardwood.
The third signature shoe for Athletic Propulsion Labs™, the Concept 3 brings a light weight build with the familiar Load ‘N Launch® technology. The features include the following:
- Open mesh upper with FloZone layer for light weight performance and ventilation
- Cushioning provided by foam midsole with compression grooves
- Rubber outsole with herringbone traction pattern and orbital grooves
- 3/4 internal mesh bootie for a seamless, close fit
- Load ‘N Launch® technology for an increase in vertical leap
Aesthetics and Styling
The founders of Atheltic Propulsion Labs™ are no strangers to the basketball sneaker world, having a background working with companies in the past. This experience is evident with all aspects of the company, from the presentation of the shoes, to the construction, down to the design of the shoes. Both the Concept 1 and 2 had a modern look and were made with high quality leather. The 3 follows in similar foot steps, having a look that can be described as a meld between the Nike Lebron 9/X and the Hyperdunk/Hyperfuse. Furthering the modern feel is the upper, changed from leather to a mesh/synthetic combination for light weight performance. And as always an APL shoe would not be complete without the Load ‘N Launch® technology. For those who have not tried on or felt an APL product, the quality of the build is an aspect that jumps out. The Concept 3 feels like a premium basketball shoe and the choice for this Performance Review is the now signature bright green color scheme.
Sloping and dropping at almost 90 degree angle, the collar of the Concept 3 sets the tone for the shoe from an aesthetic point of view. The side profile has a sleek and flowing look with curves rather than sharp points. Compared to the 1 and 2, the 3 looks more stealth and efficient. Our evaluation begins on the underside where a dual traction pattern is found. The front of the rubber finds the outsole forming a toe cap, while the lateral side has a flaring outrigger. At the forefoot, the two traction patterns are found cirlcing the two oval design. Around the ovals is an orbital traction pattern, while the ovals are molded with herringbone. Translucent green on the ovals reveals the Load ‘N Launch® device at the forefoot. The outsole has a dip at the midfoot where a smooth stability plate lies on the medial side. Branding includes the “APL” logo on the plate and the “LOAD ‘N LAUNCH” branding molded into the rubber. Finishing off the outsole is the heel which has the forefoot set up featuring the ovals and translucent rubber. Completing the foundation is a thick foam midsole. This midsole is designed with compression grooves all around.
For the upper, a thin FloZone layer sits above the mesh openings. A smooth synthetic overlayer is placed around the shoe for body and support. Starting at the toe box, all the layers of the upper are on display. The toe cap has the synthetic, Hyperfuse type material, while the top has the FloZone layer above the mesh bootie. The FloZone layer has chain mail-like look & feel (but made of nylon). Each quarter side panel has a synthetic layer of support outlining the triangular designed cut outs. The cut outs reveal the mesh under layer and have the FloZone layer sitting on top. To solidify the thin build of the upper, a thick, smooth layer of black rubber lines the base.
At the rear, more layers of the upper are found covering the stiff heel counter. Pasted in the center of the counter is a plastic “APL” emblem. For the collar, a more sturdy black synthetic material covers the sides and Achilles notch. This synthetic layer is padded, which is evident with a protruding look. On the inside, the collar is lined with a textured synthetic and has soft padding.
High quality oval laces are tipped with metal aglets. There are six eyelets join two laces hoops (the lace hoops are placed on the inside of the collar after the 5th eyelet). The eyelets are punctured into a reinforced eyestay to handled extreme pressure. Fit and comfort come with a 3/4 bootie formed with the mesh tongue. The tongue has a lace holder in the center with an APL logo on the top of the tongue. Last but not least is a thick and plush black insole covering the footbed. The insole has the final APL logo printed on the heel.
Comfort and Fit
Sucking the foot right in is the 3/4 inner sleeve. Fit is a very tight & close true to size, but feels very comfortable. Some might want to go half size up to give the foot some wiggle room. Lace pressure is felt down the center but because of the sleeve and thin upper, it does not feel like there is anything heavy bearing down on the foot. At the toe box, the bootie gives a precise feel side to side, top to bottom. There is ample room for those who have wide feet. Around the ankles, the high collar brings excellent coverage with the tongue. Padding feels very plush as the ankles feel secure and protected. The Achilles notch on the back end is also comfortable and does not restrict movement. Heel lock down is very tight. On the footbed, the thick insole brings plush comfort. The foundation has a thick, high feel, but is not unresponsive. Pushing through the insole, the player can feel the Load ‘N Launch device at the forefoot. For side support, the thick black base layer and contours combine with the tight fit. The foot feels like it is snug and secure all around. Locked in place with comfort and a plush footbed, the Concept 3 fits like a basketball shoe should.
The tight fit of the Concept 3 feels ready to explode on the hardwood. Court feel is excellent even though the profile of the shoe is not the lowest. As the heel has a thick base, the foot is slammed down on the Load ‘N Launch device. This is where the tight fit comes into play, pressing the foot right on the footbed to maximize responsiveness. For heel to toe running the flexibility of the upper is excellent. Especially at the toe box, the foot can flex easily through the mesh bootie and FloZone layers. Since the throat line is a bit higher up on the foot than normal basketball shoes, the toes can flex fully, which is important not only for running, but for jumping (which the Load ‘N Launch is intended to enhance). With the heel a bit high up than the forefoot, heel to toe transitions have a more solid than soft & fluid feel. The contours of the sole and the overall feel of the shoe, however, are comfortably tight. As for weight, the shoe is balanced. This is not a feather weight shoe. Most of the weight is on the backend of the shoe, from the top of the collar down the heel, and to the mid foot, freeing up as the forefoot is reached. For performance, versatility makes the shoe fit for all types of players who are looking to be explosive and aggressive on the court. Right out of the box, the player will want to charge forward. This is where the shoe works best, showing the responsiveness off the forefoot. Any type of burst or first step feels natural in this shoe. For the power player, the heel plays well with the forefoot. Back to the basket play is very responsive and solid, allowing the player to push hard and fast. Another aspect of the shoe that is deceptive is the nimbleness. The tight fit may feel like it is limiting movement on the whole, but in the context of a game situation, it is great for the aggressive player. This is very evident with lateral movements. Changing directions on defense or offense is just solid and fast. Both the responsiveness and the flexibility of the shoe shine. The last aspect of performance is with jumps. As the shoe touts an increased vertical leap, most players know that this claim is very dependent on the player. In any case, as with the Concept 1 and 2, jumps are very explosive and responsive. Pull up jumpers pop the player up off the Load ‘N Launch, while finishes at the rim can take the player to new heights. There is not really much to say except that they can be very explosive. Landings are handled comfortably because of the thick and plush insole. Great court feel, responsive, and explosive, the Concept 3 is simply a high quality, high performing basketball shoe.
Stability performance is based around the tight fit and high quality build. Beginning with ankle support and stability, the shoe is very good. The collar and tongue provide a comfortable wrap which is not too tight. From the Achilles around the ankles, there is ample coverage for those who need the support. For fit, the player is able to play with no restrictions. A low cut, minimal upper shoe will give the player a free sense on the court. But with a tight and comfortable fit like this, it makes the player play with little restrictions. This is surprising because of the thin material used. From top to bottom it works as the upper keeps the foot locked in place and the thinness allowing for the foot to bend easily. Aggressive players can find stability for all those harsh lateral movements and forward bends driving and stopping. Post players can push hard in the post in comfort. This says a lot about the build and construction of the shoe because the soft feel does not mean that the shoe can not take a pounding. Next, the foundation of the shoe is just solid. Not too thick or thin, the midsole and outsole are made for intense play. It is comfortable enough to handle those who are not heavy footed, but at the same time feels made to be constantly taxed. This goes along with the responsiveness of the shoe as it is important to have a stable base for a shoe that has a focus on increasing vertical leaps. High quality construction and a tight fit are the highlights of stability for the Concept 3.
Traction performance for the Concept 3 is just outstanding. With forefoot and heel segments having herringbone sections and the orbital traction pattern on the outside, the sole can grip the court with the best of them without the feeling of the player getting stuck in place. Quick burst, curls, and cuts utilize the herringbone sections to give the player sticky grip off the forefoot, while the orbital pattern allows the player leeway when the direction change comes. Movement is solid but not jerky and surprisingly fluid for outsole set up. All in all, the player is able to push the sole very hard and always find the grip needed. A mesh bootie and open panels all over the upper mean great ventilation. The tight and close fit of the bootie does not deter any hot air from venting as the FloZone layers keep the foot comfortable. Even with the padded collar bearing down around the ankles, heat and moisture build up are controlled.
Three years in and Athletic Propulsion Labs™ has another impressive performer on their hands with the Concept 3. The promised increase in vertical leap is both dependent on the player and is debatable. As with the previous 2 Concepts, one aspect that the Load ‘N Launch device does increase is responsiveness of the shoe overall. A versatile performer that brings a tight & comfortable fit with excellent traction and responsive play, the Concept 3 plays like a high performing basketball shoe. All gimmicks aside, those looking for a premium, solid performer can look no further. It will be interesting to see what APL has up their sleeves for the near future. Besides more color schemes, a player endorsement and a new model would be welcomed. Released early last month, the Concept 3 is available in multiple color schemes at the Official Athletic Propulsion Labs™ Online Store.
This shoe is comparable to:
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