by Sandy Dover / @San_Dova

In the NBA world, athletes are subject to physical rigors that most laypeople cannot comprehend. For the elite basketball player, his/her body is his/her literal temple and principal livelihood, and while the roughly 400 players in the NBA put their bodies and minds to the test daily and yearly, those outside of that realm (in the so-called real world) also have become just as conscious about their fitness and health. The FIT is a series that will concentrate on the Fuel, Information and Training (F.I.T.) that it takes for both NBAers and laypersons to be at their very best in the world, as well as focusing on the literal Food, Intelligence and Technology that also comes into play in our physical fine-tuning—because after all, without having the vital fuel, guidelines and tech advancements to feed our bodies, help us better absorb and process what’s necessary, and make the labor efficient and effective, we don’t have much to advance our collective health and performance. The FIT is here to bring to light what can make us all the uniquely tuned creatures who we presently are and can continue or aspire to be.

Who would have known the company best known for the t-shirts would be a leader in footwear performance? Not I, not back in 2009, not in 2010, and it took me until 2011 to get a clue, and even most of that year I was clueless. Being a longtime Swoosh fan and fairly recently converted disciple of The Brand With The Three Stripes, I was very curious, but also somewhat doubtful of what Under Armour could bring as a competitor in footwear performance; what I knew most about Under Armour as an evaluator (prior to the Charge RC) was that their performance socks are fantastic. The Micro G Bloodline did an adequate job of allowing me to understand the dynamics of Under Armour’s footwear technology, but it has been the Charge RC running shoe that has made me into a believer; but before I get into my experience in the shoe, here is Under Armour’s own entire explanation of the purpose and breakdown of the Charge RC:

WHAT’S IT DO? The UA Charge RC packs seven game-changing innovations into fast running shoes that weigh in at less than 10 ounces. A two-piece upper encourages your foot to flex like it does naturally. Snug, UA compression wraps your forefoot muscles in a squeeze that maximizes their strength and slows fatigue. UA HeatGear® fabric wicks away sweat to keep your feet dry, cool, and ultra-comfortable. Micro G® foam and a carbon fiber spring plate add a bounce to each step, converting downward heel-strike energy into forward energy. Inside, our 4D Foam™ sockliner literally molds to your foot for a slip-free fit. We added more of it around the collar, so you won’t even feel this shoe around your ankle. Be light on your feet. And be quick about it. With the fast, innovation-packed UA Charge RC.

Revolutionary two-piece upper lets foot flex for more natural, efficient feel

UA compression fabric in forefoot gives ultra-secure fit and reduces muscle fatigue, for harder, longer training

UA HeatGear® fabric wicks away sweat to keep feet cool, dry, and light

Full-length Micro G® foam cushions your landings with the unique ability to quickly relaunch you

Carbon spring plate on bottom transfers heel-strike energy, and you, forward

Padded MPZ® toe and tongue protects your foot while allowing you to cinch tight your shoe for a stable, secure fit

Thinner midsole materials keep you closer to the ground for better road feel and stability

Molded 4D Foam™ foot bed conforms to your foot’s exact shape, eliminating slippage

Ultra-soft 4D Foam™ around collar wraps foot in comfort

Blown rubber in the forefoot adds additional cushion

Carbon rubber in the heel adds durability to this impact point

Weight: 9.25 oz.

WHY WE MADE IT: We had a bit of an advantage in designing the UA Charge RC. The best athletic shoe designers in the business—with all of Under Armour’s technologies and innovation at their disposal. Upfront, UA HeatGear® compression fabric squeezes forefoot muscles to make them more efficient and more fatigue-resistant. A two-piece upper actually evolves your foot’s anatomy, giving it natural flex and support. Our molds-to-your-foot inner liner keeps your foot from slipping around inside as you fly along—propelled by freakishly efficient innovations down below that actually convert your downward energy into upward, forward energy. You’ve simply never experienced running shoes even close to these before. No one has. Now’s your chance. They’re going—fast.

Simply put, the Under Armour Charge RC is a top-level running shoe, and one worthy of the attention of today’s basketball player looking for a conditioning edge (as all of the visible UA endorsees in the NBA have been very healthy this year). Designed with the mechanics of wild animals and certain kinds of insects in mind, the Charge RC first distinguished itself with me with its unique fit. There’s no true tongue, as it what is acting as a pseudo-tongue is really just an extended piece of the forefoot. The lacing is attached to not only the pseudo-tongue/forefoot upper directly, but it incorporated into the quarter paneling of the Charge RC, enhancing the security of the entire shoe. The fit of the shoe is further distinguished by the 14-piece outsole, comprised of the six-part carbon rubber heel pods and the eight-part blown rubber forefoot pods, making the ride of the Charge RC incredibly unique underfoot and hard to compare with other sorts of running footwear, in a very good way.

Though I appreciated the efforts of said Micro G Bloodline, I felt that the cushioning was ultimately less than what I felt was personally desirable. My reasons for that opinion are based on what I felt was a lack of decent arch support from the sockliner (which is correctable in its nature), but also because I felt that the actual Micro G foam (apart from the Micro G insole) lacked bounce; on the contrary with the Charge RC, UA implemented an excellent combination of Micro G foam and its patented 4D Foam sockliner. With those two technologies working in tandem underfoot, I felt that the entire system of the shoe compressed and rebounded well under stress and made shock from foot impact in my testing. Both the Micro G and 4D Foam are soft and resilient in use, and the usage of the latter in the collar and strobel only makes the shoe more likable. The 4D has a great texture to it and acts similarly to (but feels very different from) Nike’s occasionally-used Sphere technology, in that the 4D Foam dimpling encourages moisture evaporation in the recesses of its bumpy fabric—a handy bonus feature I noticed particularly when I ran in the Charge RC without socks, which I highly recommend.

What else stands out about the Charge RC? It’s structurally very strong, largely because of the synthetic upper and high-tech sole materials, which are very dense, but simultaneously light in weight (I’m thinking of the 4D Foam strobel board that’s vented and visible in the bottom of the shoe, and the carbon composite spring plate that helps distribute forces placed upon the shoe and the foot housed within it for the entire length of the shoe). The toe spread of the Charge RC is good in foot stride and strike, and one thing that I adore in a cushioning set-up is a springy/snappy foam or like system; the Charge RC’s cushioning is very much springy (much to my delight), which encouraged my own midfoot/forefoot propulsion and foot strike—essentially, I was able to run the correct way without being deterred by the shoe’s build (as many shoes produced today are overbuilt).

With all of that said, the Charge RC can still improve in just a few key areas. One area of concern was the arch support; I do have low arches and had some strain placed upon them from some ill-fitting shoes from months before, but with that considered, a rounder mound in the midfoot would be a delightful amendment to the glorious 4D Foam insole. Also, the breathability of the Charge RC is decent overall, but some actual perforations in the upper near the toebox would’ve been more helpful; not that the HeatGear moisture wicking textile in the forefoot was useless, but I feel that it could’ve been assisted in my testing with open-air holes for more direct venting. Lastly, one more pair of eyelets in the upper’s quarter-panel eyestay would have helped my feet gain a closer 1:1 fit in my evaluations, but in all, these calls for improvement are outweighed by the various strengths of the shoe in its entirety.

The Charge RC has, in its very short time in the marketplace, become an elite-level shoe for runners and athletes of all training levels and shows the great promise of Under Armour’s running initiative.

(For additional photos of the Under Armour Charge RC, go to Facebook.)

Sandy Dover is a published author, media consultant, and web & print magazine columnist in the world of publishing, while acting as a sports product evaluator and as a wellness & training consultant, advocate, and journalist in the fitness industry (with the two worlds often colliding). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at About Me, Facebook and Twitter.