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.
The ideal cross-trainer is something that actually is an afterthought; it’s so good that you’re not reminded of the limitations of your footwear, you think about what you want, and if you can physically do it, it’s done. The ideal cross-trainer is light, it’s low (to the ground), and can keep you balanced inasmuch as you yourself are balanced; it’s secure like a skin, it’s strong and durable for anything you want to do and your feet aren’t tired. Basketball is the ultimate test of strength, speed, and durability. Between the forces placed on the feet and body, the varying weights of the players, and various kinds of training that ballers often employ to gain an advantage, a cross-trainer of worth has to be like a hurricane-proof building—it has to be equipped with tremendous tensile strength and still be flexible enough to hold its ground.
The New Balance 997 trainer is all of these things. In fact, it is the best cross-trainer that I’ve evaluated to date. It has all the good and necessary things that impact you in the positive, and depending on your foot, it adds next to nothing in the negative. I was able to find, with great success, that the 997 is supreme in my own multi-test evaluation, but before that is outlined, is a breakdown of the technology that was crafted within the trainer, per New Balance:
Bringing REVlite to New Balance cross-training, the 997 combines lightweight stability with flexibility to allow the athlete to move more quickly and efficiently during all activities.
- QUIX technology on the medial side of the forward half of the foot provides optimal traction and a solid base for side-to-side or cutting movements, keeping rubber in contact with your training or playing surface for an excellent grounding for better performance
- PROBANK technology, on the lateral side of the foot’s forward half, distributes force more evenly so you can change directions quickly and efficiently. Cutting movements can cause the foot to slide to the outside, or lateral edge of the shoe, and this technology inspired by progressive banking on a race track helps keep you moving through course changes more smoothly than ever before
- Innovative REVlite midsole provides premium responsiveness and durability at a 30 percent lighter weight than other foams with comparable performance
- Ndurance® rubber compound for maximum outsole durability
- Non-Marking Rubber Outsole won’t mark floors
- Synthetic/Mesh upper provides lightweight comfort and support
I remarked earlier that the 997 is the best trainer that I’ve ever had the pleasure of evaluating, and it’s a bold, but honest statement. Though New Balance is not necessarily known for its training innovations in footwear (as opposed to its apparel), I had no prejudice against the brand, so when I was able to put the 997 through physical trials, I became an immediate believer.
What sold me? Well, one major thing that I loved about the 997 in my testing is that the shoe holds up in pretty much any kind of training session. Heavy weights? Done. Standard running? Yes. Interval training? Absolutely. Stability strength training? Da. The strength, support, and stability of the 997 are major reasons why it succeeds, and there are derivative reasons for its ability to withstand the weight of the wearer and outside forces placed upon it.
The upper is mesh with synthetic micro-suede panels that are pressure welded to the upper; essentially the welded body panels are like tendons to support the shoe further and that very set-up of the upper adds another wonderful wrinkle in the form of excellent flexibility (because the mesh is so pliable, the seamless micro-suede molded to my foot, customizing my fit almost immediately). The most profound feature of the support of the 997 is in the PROBANK wing, where a denser (red) foam and lateral outrigger work in tandem provide outside support of the body; the outrigger widens the footprint of the shoe, providing more ground coverage and thus greater stability – this was especially noticeable in my stability strength training, where one-legged exercises make balance a necessity in execution of said exercises.
The 997 outsole, made of Ndurance rubber, adds not only stability, but increases flexibility as well, with its multi-paneled layout and deep sipes throughout the length of the foot; both the panels and sipes made my foot flexion virtually laborless and the upper’s pliability just aided the properties of the outsole.
(Also, an underrated strength feature are the laces, and in the 997, they are flat and strongly weaved to lock in the eyestay of the shoe and allows for great lockdown when secured.)
The weight of the trainer is another selling point. At only 10 oz, the 997 makes standing, running and sprinting, and jumping seem like mere afterthoughts to execute. Though the upper is a major reason for the light weight, perhaps even more significant is the REVlite foam midsole. Aside from its distinct, visually attractive form (specifically in its geometric aesthetic and horizontal line voids), the foam itself somehow acts as a memory foam in the footbed and dually acts a shock absorber and cushion system that rebounds remarkably well (and better than many other foam technologies within the shoe industry). REVlite holds weight very well and yet, fails to bottom out to complete failure, which only makes a shoe as comfortable as the 997 even more comfy; and to amend the case for the 997’s comfort, the combination of the REVlite, the low-cut, the plush inner lining and collar of the shoe, and the breathability of the trainer make for a truly successful product.
There is no true weakness of the 997 as I see it. I would love to see the collar of the New Balance Minimus 20 Cross-Trainer make it to the 997 (which, if that happened, would make for the most near-perfect trainer I might ever know), but in wearing a low-cut shoe, heel slip, even minor, is a part of the experience, and I experienced a very insignificant amount of slip. Otherwise, the 997 is one of the best training shoes made available in the footwear market, and easily the best shoe that I’ve tested that’s been made purposely for the gym. Basketball players and all athletes of all kinds will be able to seize the most out of their workouts with this model, and it will not be a surprise if the fanfare for the 997 grows.
(For additional photos of the New Balance 997, 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.