The Under Armour Micro G® Charge BB Low – Black Lotus Performance Reviews
Before we continue our Fall 2013 look, we take a step back for an Under Armour performer that did not get the full attention it deserved during the second half of the 2012-2013 season. As the most controversial design last season (aside from the Air Jordan XX8), the Charge BB brought mixed reactions all around. It did draw a lot of attention in the basketball sneaker world, but not for reasons Under Armour had in mind. Nonetheless, the shoe had a wide spread release and was very prominent in the Under Armour basketball catalog. The Charge BB turned out to be one of the most unique basketball shoes of the year, looks aside. And during the second half of the season, a revised “lower” cut version of the Charge BB saw a limited release and was featured on the NBA courts by a number of UA athletes. This Performance Review takes the Under Armour Charge BB Low for a spin.
A lower cut and more tame version of the most controversial release last fall, the Charge BB Low brings a more agile package. The features include the following:
- Two piece synthetic upper based around articulation for the ankles while providing light weight support
- Cushioning provided by Micro G® foam midsole and sockliner
- Clear rubber outsole that is cored out for light weight performance with traction pods on the forefoot
- Mid foot stability provided by TPU shank plate
- HeatGear® technology for moisture and heat control
Aesthetics and Styling
After a couple of season with subdued designs, Under Armour released the most radical design of the year in the Charge BB. The mainstream reception was lukewarm at best, but the fact that the company did take a big chance as a newcomer showed the market they were not afraid of pushing the limits of design. Taking away the high flapping collar makes the BB Low look like a more modern shoe. It does take away all the shock factor of the original. That said, all of the other design and performance aspects remain in tact – two-pice upper, Micro G® based foundation, and the large mid foot stability plate. The Charge BB Low was introduced during the second half of the NBA season and had a limited release. For the Fall, Under Armour has accommodated fans that may have missed out on the first run with a three new color schemes including the blue/red/black for this Performance Review.
The detached collar of the BB Low does not have the dramatic effect as the high cut predecessor but is flashy in it’s own right. Wavy lines throughout the upper and midsole bring a flowing look. The way the shoe holds color gives it the added style and flash. Design wise, there are no big changes from the Charge BB Low to the standard Charge BB. From the foot shaped, cored out outsole, to the wavy Micro G® midsole, to the two-piece upper, the lack of changes are a given, and not necessarily a negative aspect for the shoe. After all, the Low is just simply another option for those who do not feel comfortable with the extremely high cut of the standard version.
Looking only at the biggest design change, a lower cut collar wing rises at an angle less than 90º. Patent leather covers the wing from top to bottom giving it a shine. An Under Armour logo is printed on the top portion, which flares out wide. The collar has a single lace hoop at the top and is amply padded. There is a padded Achilles notch on the inside for more comfort, while the HeatGear® lining insures comfortable performance during those intense game sessions.
Comfort and Fit
The two-piece construction with the flexible collar makes it a breeze to slip into the BB Low – much more easier than the expansive wing of the high cut model. With the collar detached, the shoe has a bootie/low cut feel. But when laced tight, the shoe feels just like any normal mid cut basketball shoe. Fitting is a comfortably tight true to size. Most of the lace pressure is felt right on top of the tongue with the upper feeling close but not overbearing on the foot. The patent leather overlay on the sides brings the pressure, but the nylon based upper feels very comfortable. This is very evident at the toe box where the softness is felt when wiggling the toes. In terms of width, the shoe has plenty of room. The main design feature of the Charge BB revolves around ankle support and protection. Here, it is outstanding. Obviously it is similar to the high cut version but with a lot more leeway for the player to articulate the ankles. The wrap has excellent coverage and the support & protection felt is tight. Solidifying the back end support is tight heel lock down. This is only fitting for a shoe that puts ankle support at a premium. Next, Micro G® based cushioning is contoured, comfortable, and dense. As we have pointed out in our past Under Armour reviews, cushioning does not get any better than the Micro G®. The side panels and sculpted stability plate keep the foot from sitting flat, and the tightness on the sides keeps the fit close around the foot. A tight and secure fit is highlighted by superb ankle support and the comfortable Micro G® cushioning.
Comfortable fit and cushioning go with exceptional court feel in a static position. The Charge BB Low feels like a secure basketball shoe, ready to break out of the gates. Although court feel is very good, the profile of the shoe may not be the lowest, and the weight is not the lightest. Even so, getting up to speed has the natural feel out of the box. Heel to toe running gives the player a good feel of the court with the Micro G® cushioning providing good comfort and responsiveness. The upper has comfortable flex especially down the center. With the large collar wing, the backend carries most of the weight – very prevalent from the ankles down to the heel. Unlike the high cut of the standard Charge BB, there is a sense of freedom with the added movement and articulation around the ankles. For performance, the Charge BB stays true to the original with versatility and is all about movement & court feel. The design of the sole (from the outsole to the midsole) is efficient for both responsiveness and quick movement. Guards will find that the shape allows for cuts and changes of directions to flow more smoothly than jagged. The curves let the player move freely both forward and laterally, resulting in quicker reactions and overall faster play. Unlike certain midsole/outsole set ups which do not have contours or have a sort of thickness to them, the Charge BB is shaped to mimic the foot. Transitioning from a jog to a sprint, from a run to a jump, there are few hiccups or missteps because of the design. All of this plays along with the comfortable fit of the shoe. The collar might be a bit too bulky for some, but the quality of the materials feels great playing casually or in a very competitive atmosphere. For jumps, the Micro G® based cushioning is very comfortable. It has a thickness & density to keep responsiveness high and not have a spongy feeling. Whether the player is a high flyer or not, the Micro G® will provide all the comfort needed. All in all, the Charge BB brings exceptional court feel, comfort, and versatility.
Stability is an area where the BB Low shines. It goes without saying that the ankle support and protection is solid. The wing set up protects the backend from the ankles down, while the detached design does not limit movement. Mentioned earlier, it can be a bit cumbersome or heavy for some, the the fact that it is non-restrictive makes it the best example of protection, support, and articulation on the market today. The big man will find this combination perfect in the post for both power and agile play. To go along with the great back end support is the comfortable upper. The patent leather overlay on the sides and down the center of the shoe gives a feeling of a 90s performer. With the base made of nylon, the weight of the leather is lessened because it is stitched on. Comfort comes from the fact that the upper is not completely form fitting, giving the player some room for those abrupt lateral stops. And since the body of the shoe (mainly the tongue) is in a fixed position, sliding and the need to readjust the shoe during play is practically eliminated. Rounding out stability is the very large TPU shank plate. The plate covers a very expansive area and keeps the shoe true. It is a perfect compliment to the minimal outsole and the large back end. At times, it feels almost connect to the back wing, just like the Adidas Sprintframe.
Like the original, traction performance is based on court feel rather than the pattern molded into the rubber. To keep the focus on court feel, the shape, amount of material used, cored out areas, and low profile cushioning set up help to negate the fact that the shoe might not have the stickiest traction. Stick is provided by the herringbone pods on the forefoot, which are felt for those abrupt stops and cuts. In ideal court conditions, the Low feels just as sticky as any herringbone based shoe. But where traction shines is with the balance and feel of the court that the player has. The player feels balanced whether it is for high speeds, jerky stop & starts, or hanging around the perimeter. Some issues might be found on a very dusty court. The stickiness of the sole is affected and may cause some loss of footing. Last in performance is ventilation. The HeatGear® technology is great for keeping hot air and moisture under control. Also the two-piece upper design brings a non-cumbersome fit and the openings around the collar all add to the excellent ventilation performance.
It is no surprise that the original Charge BB turned off many basketball sneaker fans based on aesthetics alone. The shoe was not all about looks, with high quality performance featuring great court feel, outstanding ankle support & protection, and was just one of the most unique performers last season. With the release of the Charge BB Low, some players who have shied away from the aesthetics now have a chance to experience the performance of the shoe. In some ways, it is an upgrade over the original. The ankle support and protection is almost as solid, but has the added articulation because of the lower cut. Also, the fit is more seamless because the collar does not move as much during play. Quiet simply, it is a more well rounded version of the standard BB and is an amazing performer. This shoe definitely gets our highest recommendation. Initially released in limited numbers earlier this year, the Charge BB Low was made more widely available in multiple color schemes last month at the Official Under Armour Online Store.
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