Reebok JJ1 Review (J.J. Watt Shoes)

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I love surprises.

When surprises come in the form of well made, great performing, competitively priced shoes – it’s even better.

When the the JJ1’s first launched, I hardly batted an eyelash at them. Truth be told, I’ve barely watched a season of football for the last 5 years, mainly because Los Angeles doesn’t have a team and I don’t want to be a bandwagoner.  That being said, who doesn’t know who J.J. Watt is?! He’s one of the greatest defensive ends to grace the sport and all around insanely elite level athlete. The man can put up a 700lb backsquat, run the 40 in 4.83, and has a 61″ box jump; that is no small task at 6’5″ 290lbs. So why didn’t I care about a shoe made for such an athlete? I’ve just tried too many trainers that weren’t CrossFit specific and been disappointed. Not to mention, the first colorway was kind of wack. Even with that, the JJ1’s managed to sell out…and that got me interested.


At the beginning of the month of August, the JJ1 “Preseason Training Pack” launched with a much, much better colorway; who can resist the colors of Old Glory? Since they only retail for $99, I said what the hey, at least they look good to wear if I couldn’t train in them. I was literally trying them out on a whim with the lowest of expectations. Boy, was I surprised. These are some of the best all around training shoes that I have ever tried. Period.

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Looks & Construction:

I could not emphasize that these shoes are great looking enough. Everyone that sees them doesn’t even bother asking what they are, they just compliment them. I’m not sure if it would have been that way in the original colorway, but I think the blue/white/red colorway goes with the lines and shape of the shoe perfectly. The blue/white paint speckles on the midsole give the shoe some character without being too loud. I would not mind wearing these around the town, coaching, or on a hot date. Okay, maybe not the last one.

On Reebok’s website, there are a whole lot of technical mumbo jumbo names for features the JJ1’s have, so I’m just going to try to simplify them as best as possible. The upper is mainly put together with synthetic materials, some mesh,and some nylon bits. Overall, it’s very breathable and does a great job in keeping your foot where it needs to be. Since these were probably made with agility as well as stability in mind, your foot not spilling over the sides during lateral movements was probably crucial in designing the shoe.

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The JJ1’s are a whole lot of shoe, but that never keeps them from feeling light enough and being easy to move around in.  Flexibility is almost about as good as Nano 6.0s, maybe more on par with the Speed TR’s, which to me are a little less flexible. There’s an interesting lacing system that connects the medial and lateral sides of the shoe together on top (or on bottom I should say) of your typical shoe laces. Minimal trainers these are not, the insole is thick and outsole gives you at least a good inch of height. The “LiquidFoam” insert provides an ample amount of comfort, but at the same time is dense enough so that you never feel off balance. Since the shoes are mid-cut, the ankle area is well padded and the “internal bootie” system keeps any of the synthetic upper from creating any hot spots on your feet. The tongue is reminiscent of the Nano 5’s, which I didn’t mind at the time, until I tried the Nano 6’s. While not a huge deal, this is probably where the JJ1’s suffer most. Overall, these are still very comfortable shoes to wear on a daily basis.

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Performance & Fit:

The majority of testing I did with the JJ1’s was during metcon’s since the past couple weeks I had been using the Lifter PR’s for strength. While not marketed towards Crossfitters, or not even being a minimal shoe at all, the JJ1’s are still a shoe bred for performance in all areas that an elite level athlete would need to excel at; in which case, Crossfitters should take notice. In my time testing the JJ1’s, I have not had any second thoughts about what shoe I need to wear to the gym for anything, they just perform excellent given any task you throw their way. Admittedly, I stuck to mainly just WOD’s in the beginning because I wasn’t so sure how they would handle throwing weight around, but as my confidence in the JJ1’s grew, so did the range of movements I would try in them.

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Plyometric movements are the JJ1’s bread and butter. Being able to transition proficiently from box jumps, to kettlebell swings, to wall balls, and to burpees are what the JJ1’s are all about. The ninja star shaped outsole lugs keep you stuck to whatever you need sticking to and despite having such a thick outsole, the JJ1’s are extremely responsive and stable, but not to mention also very comfortable! To my surprise, running in the JJ1’s is probably one of it’s best features due in part to the upwards slope of the forefoot; though I shouldn’t have been surprised, given how much running NFL players have to go through during training sessions. Running is never comfortable for me, but the level of support the JJ1’s have kept me moving without any issue and I actually PR’d my mile time, by a lot!


That same forefoot that is welcome for running, puts you a little bit more forward than I’d like on oly lifts; the shoes are still stable but require you to put a little bit more thought into sitting back on your heels. Overhead squats and snatches required a little bit of adjustment but cleans felt just fine and I think I had an easier time jumping due to the shape of the forefoot. Initially, I was worried that due to the large outsole, heavy squats and deadlift stability would suffer. Squatting up to my 90% yielded no adverse quips in performance, and I thought I was moving weight with more force and feeling more stable than squatting in the Lifter PR’s I had been testing for the past few weeks.

As stated before, the JJ1’s are a whole lot of shoe, probably designed with big people in mind. I had originally ordered a size 9.5 and they were much too big, making me size down to a size 9, which fits perfectly. I’m seeing the trend that if you see Reebok’s with a “pointier” toe, size down. If it has the same shape of Nano’s,  go true to size.

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Value & Conclusion:

Where the JJ1’s surprise me the most is the MSRP, they only retail for $99! One would think that due to the name, the shoe would have a premium price tag. The moderate asking price might actually put some people off, as it originally had put me off. I expect to pay at least $130 for a shoe that performs as well as the JJ1’s do, without even having an athlete tied to it. Combine the lower than most price tag, the exceptional looks, the outstanding performance, and the amazing comfort of the JJ1’s and you’ve got yourself one hell of a training shoe. Sure, though not designed with CrossFit in mind, the JJ1’s are made with the same ethos that Reebok uses for all of their excellent training shoes. The type of training that NFL players go through is just as demanding, probably more so than a typical WOD is anyways. For bigger dudes or anyone looking for a bit more support in their training shoes, but don’t want to sacrifice any performance, the JJ1’s are a no brainer.

Get your Reebok JJ1’s here!

Reebok Lifter PR Review

Back when I purchased my first pair of weightlifting shoes, I had done a ton of research  before landing on the original Adidas Powerlift Trainers. Honestly, what drove my decision back then was price. Weightlifting shoes don’t come cheap, but they should last you quite some time before you’ll have to replace them. Back then I didn’t see that value and I was still shocked at the $120 price tag of Nano’s (look at me now). Four years later and there is still a lack of affordable weightlifting shoes. Reebok is looking to change that with the Lifter PR’s, coming in at a solid $90 price tag, but are they a solid weightlifting shoe?

The Adidas Powerlift hasn’t changed much aside from the way it looks. It’s still got a .6″ effective heel height, EVA outsole, $90 and for some reason it’s still called the Powerlift. That being said, it’s still a great weightlifting shoe and even top level weightlifters in the Olympics were rocking them in Rio. The Reebok Lifter PR’s share pretty much everything that make the Powerlift’s so popular, but have a few thoughtful changes. Since Adidas is the parent company, it’s not surprising to see a variant of the Powerlift’s branded Reebok’s way. What is actually surprising is that it took them so long to do it.

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Construction & Looks:

Though the price tag is significantly lower that most oly shoes, the Lifter PR’s are an exceptionally well built shoe. The quarter/back of the shoe is made from a synthetic leather while the vamp/toebox is made with real full grain leather. This is a huge step up from the Powerlift’s because leather tends to conform with your feet better and is also usually more flexible. Not even the Lifter 2.0’s have a leather toe box, so this is a step in the right direction. Good thing, because I found this area a little stiff to break in and also a bit narrow.

Cuts must be made to keep the cost down, so the heel’s construction is mainly EVA and rubber. There is a TPU plate connecting the upper to the outsole for a bit more stability, but I don’t think it does anything to help keep the outsole from depressing. Like the Lifter 2.0’s and the Powerlift’s, there is only a single “Thermo TPU” strap that covers the whole midfoot. It does a great job of locking your foot down, though it’s a little flimsy compared to the Lifter 2.0’s. The insole is a bit softer and thicker than on the Lifter 2.0, as U-Form also makes a welcome return. The weight of the shoe is 14.4 oz, so they’re featherweights compared to other oly shoes.

These are great looking shoes and I’m a fan of the minimalist design of the upper. They are not CrossFit branded shoes so there’s no crazy print all over them; the only logo is at the rear of the shoe and it’s not an eyesore either.At the moment, there’s only the white colorway available to buy, though Rogue has a couple more on their site that are pending release.

Reebok’s shoe fitment is all over the place and I think the Lifter PR’s are the weirdest of them all. I typically wear a size 9 in all of my oly shoes and the PR’s are still about a half inch too big in this size, whereas the Lifter Plus 2.0’s in this size fit perfectly. These shoes run abnormally long, so you might want to go a full size down. Fitment of oly shoes should be fairly snug.  A few of my shoe sizes for reference:

  • Nano 6.0’s – 10 (9.5 fits, but is snug)
  • Metcon 2’s – 9.5
  • Chucks – 9
  • Speed TR – 9
  • Oly’s – 9

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Performance:

Back when the original Powerlift’s came out, there was a bunch of talk about how an EVA outsole wouldn’t perform well for power delivery due to it being compressible. While that’s true compared to wood or TPU, it doesn’t make the outsole of the PR’s soft at all. You can depress the outside ridges of the outsole with your fingers, but the center is packed incredibly densely and does not give. Unlike wood or TPU, if land on the outside ridges of the shoe, it can depress; but unless you’re squatting over 500lbs the outsole should be plenty hard enough for you. If you were squatting over 500lb’s, you wouldn’t even be looking at an entry level shoe anyways. At the weight I’m pushing, the PR’s perform as well as any other oly shoe and I’m never at a loss of power.

Another thing that didn’t exactly wow people with the Powerlift’s was the heel height being .6″, with the majority of popular oly shoes being .75″. Those with mobility issues would benefit with a higher heel, but it’s a subjective thing, as I prefer a slightly lower heel. Comparing the two shoes side by side using stock pictures, it looks like the angle of the drop of the PR’s could be a little bit more aggressive than on the Powerlift’s. On the bottom of the left shoe, it says 22mm, which would be roughly .85″. UPDATE: The total heel height is 22mm and the drop is 15.5mm, making the effective heel height the “same thing” as the Powerlift’s at .60″. When I measured the Powerlifts, I came up with only an 11mm differential! Making them only .43″.

Compared to other model of oly’s I have on hand, it feels like:

  • Lifter Plus 2.0 .75″ – PR’s feel taller, differential feels more steep.
  • Romaeloes .75″ – Feels shorter.
  • Position 2.0 .85″ – Feels very close, but slightly shorter.
  • Inov-8 370 .65″ – Feels taller
  • Adidas Leistung 1″ – Feels shorter


 Sounds crazy, but with the exception of the Romaleos, all signs point towards it being actually being around .85″. That would be a huge departure from the Powerlift’s and even the Lifter 2.0’s. There’s also variances in overall shoe heights to keep in mind as well.  This is not concrete information and I’m not going to give up the search to find out what it actually is, but lifting with the heel of the PR’s felt just about the same to me as it does in other shoes, excluding the Leistung.

The PR’s have a heavily emphasis towards the midfoot, so jumping feels natural and they should be okay to WOD in since they’re a lot less clunky feeling. Toe off feels comfortable, but when you shift your heels the whole front of the shoe lifts off the ground. Due to the compressible nature of the heel, you won’t feel as planted to the ground as you would with TPU or wood heels; a trade-off for a bit of mobility. You should be fine if all you’re going to do is just squat in these shoes, but they’re less stable compared (a little forward) to my current oly shoe of choice, the Position’s.  I’ve had mainly positive lifting sessions in the PR’s, so I’m not that worried; it’s just something to get used to.

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Value:

Let’s get something straight, I don’t think these are the best oly shoes I’ve ever worn, but for $90, they’re great. Obviously  they’re not going to perform better than than shoes that cost double the price, but that doesn’t mean they don’t serve a purpose. Would I take them over my Position’s? Depends on what I’m doing I guess. If I have to WOD in oly’s, I’d take these any day. If I’m just lifting, I’d go with something a little more stable like the Positions or Romaleos. If you’re looking into your first pair of oly’s, don’t want to break the bank, or lifters you can WOD in, the PR’s should suffice, though I would probably do a little bit of shopping around for some discounted Lifter 2.0’s (or even Plus’).

Click here to get your Reebok Lifter PR’s!

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Viter Energy Mint Review

I have a problem: I’m a caffeine addict.
Like super irritable, grouchy, and just overall unpleasant when I don’t have it. Like all drug withdrawals, I get crazy headaches when I’m deprived. Sounds pretty intense, right? Because it is.

Earlier in the year I took a trip to Japan, first time overseas and first time experiencing a half day’s worth of jet lag. I thought I would be fine, but nope, it’s as bad as everyone says it is. If you haven’t been, Japan is one of the most awesomest places in the world that anyone could ever go to; I wasn’t going to let jet lag ruin my trip. I was on the go whole trip I knew the only way that I would survive is if I had caffeine – lots of it. Before I took off, the good folks over at Viter sent me a tin of their mints to try out, what perfect timing. You couldn’t ask for a better scenario to try out mints laced with caffeine!

The target audience of Viter mints are the people that are the go and don’t necessarily have the time to stop to grab a cup of joe. Each mint contains 40mg of caffeine, which is roughly half the amount a cup of coffee or Red Bull has. With the caffeine comes a B vitamin complex that supports cellular energy production. Not only do they pick you up, they’ll also unstank your breath; perfect for that date after a long days work. They’re also perfect for those WOD’s where you need a little bit of energy, but don’t want your heart rate to go through the roof from pre-workout. Not to mention they’ll keep you breathing better!

The actual mint itself look a lot like IceBreakers, roughly the same size and taste as well. Though the site says the mints are strong, I actually don’t find them to be that way at all. Maybe I’m just imagining Altoids (I had a huge phase), but I could use a little more flavor. They still taste good either way but I can only speak for the Wintergreen flavor which I think taste just like IceBreakers. For $5, you get only 20 mints per tin; which I find kind of a bummer because I would literally be eating them like candy if they were more plentiful. They’re also IIFYM, RP, paleo (kinda?), zone, keto friendly because they’re sugar and calorie free!

40mg of caffeine should suffice most people, but personally I could use more per mint; I get that I have an extreme case of caffeine dependency though. Hopefully we’ll see an extra strong version in the future!

Needless to say, I survived and had a lot of fun in Japan. Not saying Viter mints had a direct role in that, because there was definitely a ton of coffee involved, but they definitely made some of the (tons of) hikes and times I didn’t have access to coffee shops a lot more manageable. I say just buy em in bulk and have a secret stash wherever you go, you fiend.

Wait, that’s me.

Assault Air Bike & Xebex Fitness Air Bike Comparison

In this (lengthy) video, I go over the similarities and differences between the games standard Assault Air Bike vs the carbon copy Xebex Fitness Air Bike. You might be surprised by some things! Both are great training tools and it just comes down to what fits your agenda the best.

Note: The reason the Schwinn AD Pro wasn’t included, other than the fact that I don’t have one, is that it counts calories much different. Not that it’s a bad bike, it just doesn’t fit the CrossFit “standard”.

Check out my review on the Xebex Bike here 

Purchase a Xebex Fitness Air Bike here!

or

Purchase an Assault Air Bike here!