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Reebok JJ 2 Review (JJ Watt Trainers)

The original Reebok JJ 1 turned out to be a surprise hit. Personally, I had a ton of great training sessions with the shoe, but it was never really enough for me to drop my Nano’s or Metcon’s for. Just because it wasn’t quite there for me, doesn’t mean it wasn’t for other people though. It became my staple recommendation for people looking for a more supportive shoe that they could also run and lift weights in. People that tried the JJ’s, ended up loving them, and for good reason – you could just do anything in them. For the meager $100 asking price, they were a bargain.

Like any other shoe, they weren’t without their problems. Sizing was based off of giants feet but didn’t initially come in larger sizes, they were a little tall and a little too bulky for some people. Depending on how you wanted to lift weights, the heel-toe drop could have been detrimental as well. Either way, they were an excellent training shoe that made for a great alternative CrossFit shoe. The JJ’s are a shoe designed to the exact specifications of JJ Watt and as far as I know, he doesn’t do CrossFit, so Reebok hit the nail on the head with the JJ’s.

Reebok’s new JJ 2’s attempt to fix some of it’s predecessors shortcomings by giving the shoe almost a complete overhaul while maintaining some of the features that made the original so good, but did they go too far?

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Looks/Construction

I didn’t mind the way the original JJ’s looked, but I didn’t love them either. The first colorway was pretty basic, but almost every one after that looked pretty good with the exception of the icing on the cake one. The only colorway for the JJ 2’s at the moment is black with a white midsole and translucent grey outsole, which is safe, but looks good enough to wear from the gym to the street without anyone hating. The silhouette doesn’t have any dashing lines or panels so the shoe overall in black is pretty unoffensive, but boring. If you like black (who doesn’t), you’ll love this colorway.

Other than any shoe in their CrossFit line, Reebok usually puts out shoes that kind of feel cheaply made; this is not the case with the JJ’s. The JJ 2’s feel like tanks built to standards on par with Reebok’s flagship Nano series shoes. Not to be confused with NanoWeave, the JJ’s sport Reebok’s patented FlexWeave (LenoWeave?) upper giving the shoe an even higher quality feeling than the previous JJ’s. Why the difference in name, I have no clue, because they’re pretty much the same exact thing. Like the NanoWeave found on the Nano 7’s, the FlexWeave upper moves with your feet extremely well. Unlike the Nano 7’s, the midsole and outsole combination also does as well. The FlexWeave upper also leads to virtually no hotspots or bunching up, giving you a much more comfortable, seamless feel inside of the shoe. They also feel much less bulky than its predecessors but still feel like a big shoe in comparison to a lot of other training shoes. If you’re on the bigger side like JJ Watt, I’m sure you won’t notice this much at all.

Other tidbits like the tongue have been changed for the better. The once anemic tongue is gone and now there’s a nice padded one that stays in place a lot better. The lacing system is different as well, but I didn’t think the previous one was bad in the first place. Probably the best change to the construction of the shoe is that it’s a low instead of a mid cut. The ankle collar actually has a little more cushioning, it just doesn’t extend down into the shoe as far. Don’t fret, your ankles still feel nice and secure inside of the JJ 2’s.

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Fit

Sizing the JJ 2’s is a little bit more normal now, the sizing feels much more true to Reebok training shoe sizing than the original model’s titan sizing. They’re still very much a wide shoe, but the length is akin to typical running shoes so size them accordingly. Personally, I wore a 9.5 with a fair amount of space in the previous models but now a 9.5 fits me snug, yet comfortable enough to workout in, depending on what socks I wear; I actually think I could probably get away with wearing a 10. The shape of the toe is more pointy like a running shoe, so it does accommodate Morton’s toe pretty well.

My sizes for reference:

  • JJ1 – 9.5
  • Nano – 10
  • Metcon – 10
  • Speed TR – 9.5
  • NoBull – 10
  • Converse 9.5
  • Oly Shoes – 9.5

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Performance

There are a lot of things that you wouldn’t think the JJ 2 would do well, but actually does. Everything, actually. 

Making a return is the Liquidfoam midsole, but only in name, because it feels a bit different than the original model’s did. Don’t let the name fool you, it’s anything but liquid-y or foamy (Who comes up with these names anyways?). Previously, the JJ’s had a pretty solid and responsive ride with decent amount of support, they just lacked any kind of energy return or bounce. The shoe was also really tall for a training shoe. The new retooled midsole “gives” a little bit more, but is every bit as stable and responsive not to mention, lower to the ground (still tall though). That extra bit of “give” translates into a shoe that has better energy return and just overall feels less clunky. I set my PR mile in the previous JJ’s and I thought they were excellent for running, but I think the JJ 2’s are even nicer to run despite them weighing in at 11.54 oz.

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Given the fact that there’s still a ton of midsole, you wouldn’t think that power delivery would be all that great. I didn’t, until I actually put myself under some weight and moved it just as well as I did my comparison Metcon 3’s, which are my preferred squatting everything shoe. The support pillars inside of the midsole actually do their job in keeping it from compressing too much and the heel counter keeps you from shifting around providing great lateral stability.  Slow lifts are fine, but these would not be my go-to Oly lifting shoe because of the 7mm drop, which happens pretty aggressively around the ball of your feet. The JJ 2’s are still a generally flat shoe and for most weight you’ll find in a WOD, they should be okay.  I sometimes found myself on my toes with Oly lifts, but it’s not too hard to adjust to – and like I said, I wouldn’t be shooting for any one rep maxes.

Traction was one of the best features of the original JJ’s and still is with the updated model. I’m not entirely sure why the pattern was changed from the star pattern to the oval pattern, but either way, it works just as well. The style is more like a turf shoe, but grips pavement and rubber flooring just fine; I’ve never found myself at a loss of footing in any situation.

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Value/Conclusion

After all the inflation that’s going on, I still can’t believe these shoes only cost $100. The JJ 2’s are a well built, high performing, excellent quality shoe that can hang with most shoes that cost about half more than Reebok is asking. It easily trounces most shoes in it’s price range, save for the Speed 2.0’s. To say that the JJ 2’s are the bargain of the year would be an understatement. On top of that, these are the shoes that JJ Watt actually wears to work out, not just to make money.

Are the JJ 2’s the perfect training shoe? No, I would love to see them a little bit lower to the ground with a slightly lower cut around the ankle. Still, the JJ 2’s are one of the best training shoes for people that need a little bit more support while retaining stability and don’t want to break the bank. They’re comfortable to spend the day in, look good enough to wear with jeans, and perform well enough to be your one shot training shoe. As an overall shoe, you’d be hard pressed finding anything that outperforms the JJ 2’s for the price.

The Good

  • Flexible, easy to run or jump in.
  • Stable enough to go heavy in.
  • Cheap for a high quality training shoe.

The Bad

  • Could be a little bit lower to the ground still.
  • Still a bit bulky.
  • Oly lifting isn’t great in them.

The Ugly

  • Boring colorway.
  • Sizing will confuse people.
  • 7mm drop

Get your JJ 2’s here!

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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!