Hyperizin’: Helpin’ or Hoaxin’?
‘We just be Hyperizin’–Y’all just be criticizin’…’
I was taking my stroll through Internet Land and checked out the Ball Don’t Lie blog on Yahoo!’s NBA site late in the previous week. I was immediately alerted when I read and saw this: that the Detroit Pistons’ head trainer Arnie Kander implied that the Nike Hyperize was the cause of several injuries to his players during this ‘09-10 season.
Me being a sneakerhead, it was sort of hard to really wrap my head around that. After all, ankle sprains happen all the time and so many shoes have been in common-wear over the years by NBA players who weren’t implicated (and none were as disasterous as Allen Iverson’s off-line I3 Playoff sneaker from several years ago–those were plantar fasciitis waiting to happen). I’ve been studying the industry since I was about eleven years old, way before there was even a mainstream name for being a shoe aficionado.
Anyway, I actually lost sleep thinking about this on the Thursday night that I read the column, and though I was tempted to forgo some sleep to write this very column, I figured that I should think about everything involving this bit of news. Now, I have not tested the Nike Hyperize…yet…but I know about all the components of the shoe, and so, I was more intrigued about the shoe’s structure and its wearers. For starters, Ben Gordon and Will Bynum seem to be the principle players who have been the injured guys that Kander alluded to in wearing the shoes. Fair enough, they may very well have suffered injuries in the shoe, but really, from what I know about how the shoe was built (and Mark Smith from Nike went all out two years to break down the Lunar Form and Flywire technologies–some of it is probably on YouTube), the Hyperize is made to cut down on those sort of injuries.
Basically, Kander didn’t name the shoe in question, but the Hyperize is really the only shoe that qualifies, based on the weight specifications that were described in the Yahoo! column and the original Detroit Free Press piece. It’s a high mid-cut shoe, but the leather that would normally be in the sides of the shoes is removed–that’s where Nike’s Flywire technology comes in. Basically, the concept of Flywire is these low-creep, super-strong fibers are strung from a material called Vectran, which is used in a lot of different industrial products. Vectran is a synthetic fiber that has a high amount of tensile strength (in essence, strength based on the object’s ability to withstand force several rates of weight beyond its own weight/density); Nike decided to investigate and use these Vectran fibers in the form of thin, twisted strings as a way of support the foot and cutting drastic amounts of weight. In effect, the Vectran strings would become like external tendons or ligaments outside of the foot, and keep the foot in place–one of the reasons the Zoom Kobe and Hyperdunk series has become so popular and critically acclaimed. The unity of the strings together with a synthetic sheath covering (usually some sort of ultra-thin thermoplastic layer on the upper of the shoe) become what we know to be Flywire technology.
Now, the concepts of the technology seem sound and I personally have heard no complaints about Flywire. What I have heard complaints about is the Lunar Foam, which is also found in the Hyperize (as well as the Zoom Kobe IV and Hyperdunk). The Lunar Foam is a resilient foam that was engineered by and for astronauts, and the investigative forces from the Swoosh, again, adapted that material into a new cushioning element for current and future sneakers. While Lunar Foam has been a joy for runners (particularly with the LunarGlide sneaker), basketball players, professional and amateur, have had a varying, collective opinion. Lunar Foam lasts long, but it’s very soft, and when you land hard, part of the joy of having Nike Air is the Air bag is made so that the impact made on the lower extremities is softened and made of null effect; Nike Air is usually dense enough to withstand the typical stress of jumping, landing and cutting, particularly in basketball, but foams degrade at a faster pace and usually don’t provide the same sort of protection. In the case of the Hyperize, users have complained on sneaker forums and in shoe stores about how the stress of their feet is felt even more so in the forefoot of the Hyperize because the Lunar Foam has given way too soon. Now…if one plants his or her foot, but the cushioning is super soft, and in fractions of a second, the user tries to make a cut or move, that can hypothetically cause some issues, but whether or not an ankle would get sprained is up in the air. Many others have praised the Lunar Foam for being sufficient as basketball footwear cushioning (though Kobe allegedly opted against Lunar Foam for his latest shoe, the Zoom Kobe V, in favor of the excellent Zoom Air in the forefoot–something I myself prefer for my own fitness activities).
This isn’t really a defense for the Hyperize or a “poo-poo to you, Arnie” sort of thing I’m writing–I’m basing this stuff off of actual evidence, tests and candid comments made about the Hyperize. Consider the other principal wearers of the shoe, like Grant Hill, whose ankle was so mangled by an awkward foot break that it was within actual reason that surgeries and a later infection would be cause to actually cut his foot off–he’s been wearing that shoe all throughout the ‘09-10 season and is currently playing relatively great; his teammate Amar’e Stoudemire–you know, the guy who had those microfracture surgeries on his knee–has also worn the shoe all year with success as well (as much success as being the starting Western Conference All-Star center can bring). Remember the Hyperizers of 2009? Kevin Durant, Mo Williams, Rashard Lewis and Andre Iguodala? All have worn those shoes with varying degrees of usage with no major problems.
Basically, I’d trust the injuries are fluke issues, and with the seemingly infinite degrees and angles the human body is placed in while playing pro basketball, anything is possible. I’d also trust Kander is doing the right thing and protecting his players, though if I were him, I’d probably get in contact with Nike Basketball myself and ask some questions–and maybe even order up some customized Hyperizes that are “orthodically sensitive”.
Just as I previewed several months ago as an Internet-first with actual photos (with the help of my good friend “Aussie Andrew”), the new Hyperdunk 2010 will not only rid itself of Lunar Foam, but also use a stronger upper material (not unlike the Zoom Kobe V’s upper) for its Flywire casing, so obviously, Nike is also heeding their own research results and fact-gathering.
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, Twitter and Associated Content.