by Sandy Dover

Looking at the Orlando Magic’s star center Dwight Howard, you can’t help but be taken by his presence. His physique is like someone out of DC Comics (Kal-El, perhaps?), his athleticism is world-class, and his persona is as visible as someone who wears his or her emotions on the sleeves. Never mind that the uniforms also attract some attention, too, he’s just someone who stands out. Then you may happen to look at his feet as he rises high for a quick dunk, and his shoes are something totally different; they look almost alien in construction and they’re hard to ignore. Like ‘em, love ‘em or hate ‘em, Dwight’s adidas TS Suadidas TS Supernatural Commanderpernatural Commander sneakers are shoes of intrigue, and with my curiosity, I went to put them to the test.

I tested the most famous colorway of “Superman II”‘s model, his away Commanders, which are prominently black with white and blue accents. I held them and immediately was blown away by them. Mind you, I’ve always respected and liked adidas’ products, but beyond spending my middle and high school years in three stripes running shoes when I ran cross country and track, I hadn’t had much time with Adi Dassler’s claim-to-fame footwear; getting the shoes in the mail, opening the box and then seeing them made me feel good. They’re glossy, pretty, substantial, light and just aesthetically pleasing altogether. As good as they look on No. 12, they look even better up close.

I put them on and the first thing I felt right away was how heavily padded they are, which seemed both unusual and really positive to me. In the age of minimalism in the performance shoe realm, these seemed to bring some substance to the feet without feeling ridiculous like the shoes of 20 years ago. I proceeded to go to work in these running around, making cuts, jumping up, and making all the moves I could so I get comfortable in them and took them to their limits as much as I could and felt comfortable. The break-in was relatively easy and these ended up being legitimate court-friendly sneaks. There are a lot of positive aspects of the TS Supernatural Commander that should be highlighted and I’m not going to let them go unnoticed.

Along with the interior of the Commander being so cushy, but the soft fabric of the lining is almost felt-like in feel. It’s clear that the shoe is geared toward big men, because a lot of complaints from guys in the post is that they often have had a hard time finding shoes that are comfortable, and there’s almost nothing more comfortable than plush lining in a sneaker.

From a cushioning and in-step perspective, the Commander gets another *thumbs up*. From all of my jumping around, cutting and the like, the cushioning was so stable. It was really just right–soft enough to give to my body’s weight, but firm enough to hold its inner stance, and I could tell it was good, just from how my feet felt–they felt rested and not tired, actually. The impact protection was very solid across the entire footbase, particularly in the heel and midfoot. The forefoot cushioning isn’t at all bad, but it wasn’t very springy, but that’s a little nagging on my part. The adiprene+ in the forefoot will last, and that’s probably the most important thing; it’s resilient and reliable, due to what I believe is compression-molded dense foam that makes up the midsole. Upon observing the foot for myself, I’ve wondered whether the midsole is dual-density or not, and it’s a mystery that still lingers. There is a quasi-sidewall of EVA foam that sort of cups the heel’s sides, but it seems softer than the lower level of the blue midsole region–these details add to the strength and longevity of the shoe.

The overall transition (ride) of the Commander is really good, too. Because of the Formotion concept of the outsole, which breaks up the traditional solid sole into podular regions of the foot (a la Feet You Wear), foot flex is less tedious. It’s something that’s subtle with the shoe, but when you pay attention, the differences are easy to pick up. Toe flex is so easy and makes even walking seadidas TS Supernatural Commanderem like a nice idea in the shoe, let alone running on the court. The pods are so big, but are rounded on the lower perimeter of the shoe, like the edges and balls of your feet are, so you don’t have to sacrifice stability for foot-to-ground coverage when the Commander is in use. One other thing that’s key to the feel of the shoe is how the shoe manages the stress of playing and activity. The Torsion System is barely identifiable in the arch because of the Formotion pods, but is the skeleton for the shoe’s base. It’s visible in the inside (medial) arch of the Commander, but also lines the sneaker above the midsole for additional support, and the whole frame is lightweight enough to keep from interfering with the feel.

This particular adidas shoe is made for active frontcourt and power players, so the aforementioned support also comes in the form of a tough upper. Made up of faux patent leather, weaved textiles and reinforced stitching with a bulky ankle panel, the black/white/blue colorway is sturdily made. The key feature of the shoe are those three large stripes that wrap over the foot bridge; they not only make for an appealing look, but they also have Velcro applique on the lateral and medial side of the shoe for ultra lockdown, which is a nice touch since there the straps are not of the traditional hook-and-loop variety. (In my experience, though I have slender feet, the lining is so full-feeling and plush, I re-strapped the shoe just keep my feet from feeling overly constricted.)

(Speaking of the ankle panel of the Commander, it’s attached to the lower region of the shoe, which makes it a legitimate high-top. I don’t really want to compare the shoe to the Swoosh, but wearing and studying the shoe reminded me of the Air Jordan 5 Retro+ 3/4 Hi, because of how high the the shoe goes near the top eyelets and how low it dips to the Achilles’ tendon. Also, without that additional ankle component stitched to the shoe, it’s virtually a low-top, [which also reminds me of another classic sneaker that I'll keep to myself] and may add to the good feel of the sneaker.)

Though the TS Supernatural Commander is a very good shoe, it, like all other shoes, isn’t perfect. As much as I did love the cushy feeling of the inner lining, the Commander lack sufficient breathability. I would’ve enjoyed a little ClimaCool action on the bottom of the sneaker, ideally in between the Formotion pods or some medial side perforations, but the shoe doesn’t become so hot that you are egregiously uncomfortable. A remedy for this would be to wear cotton blend socks or perhaps some synthetic moisture-wicking ones (with adidas ClimaLite technology, possibly?).

Another less-than-ideal point of the Commander is not so much of a complete letdown, as it is a matter of relativity; the full Formotion technology is based off of the original Feet You Wear designs (made famous in Kobe Bryant’s rookie shoe–the adidas Top Ten 2000–and Antoine Walker’s rookie shoe–the adidas Top Ten 2010). The official Feet You Wear tech employed a more ergonomic design of the foot, in that the balls of the foot that were segmented were actually fully rounded, whereas the Formotion outsole system is flat to the ground. My preference lies in the more rounded Feet You Wear setup, but to its credit, the Formotion’s flat surface does provide a certain familiar, stable feeling that FTW did not.

I’m a swingman when I play ball, so I normally play in shoes that are somewhat sleeker and provide more lateral support to play the perimeter, and so, if you’re a guard/forward like me, you may want to consider something else that won’t compromise your feet leaving the footbed, but overall, the TS Supernatural Commander is a very, very good shoe that will easily last a full season of play and up to a good year, I think (the insole is thick enough to do so, that’s for sure). If nothing else, the design is avant-garde yet humble enough to wear casually, and it’ll look good on the feet. If you get Dwight Howard’s sneaker, do like him and have a little fun with it.

Special thanks to Ryne Nelson, Susan Price and the good people at adidas for allowing me the opportunity to review the adidas TS Supernatural Commander.

Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist and fitness enthusiast, as well as an unrepentant Prince fan (for real). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Facebook, Associated Content and Twitter.