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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.