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The Hyperdunk+ shoe line, which came out this summer, represents the latest step in Nike's push to add more technology to its products and boost its presence in the burgeoning smartphone world. When I think of space-age fitness gear, the Lunar Hyperdunk+ smart basketball shoes certainly fit the bill. (Nike makes Hyperdunk+ shoes for both men and women; the Lunar seems to be currently only available for men, but a Lunar model for women is said to be coming out in September.) They didn't help my woeful basketball game much, but thanks to the built-in Bluetooth sensor and accompanying iPhone app, I could track just how awful I was from game to game. At a pricey $250, though, these high-tech sneaks are more nifty gimmick than training tool.
The Lunar Hyperdunk+ shoes are outfitted with four pressure sensors that track your motion. Underneath the insoles are slots for removable Bluetooth sensors which connect to your iPhone (sorry, Android fans, no app is available for you yet). To get going, you charge the sensors, pop them into the sneakers, press the heel of the insoles to active them, then connect to them via your iPhone and free Nike+ Basketball app. From there, the shoes can track your performance through several metrics: time played, vertical leap, quickness measured in steps per second, and Nike's proprietary NikeFuel score.
You can start and stop the workout and pause for timeouts. Once you're done with a game, you use your iPhone app to transfer the data from shoes to phone for a handy readout on your handset. The Nike+ Basketball app displays the times and dates of each game, too, giving you a handy breakdown of how many Nike Fuel points were scored, how fast you moved, and how high you can jump. You also receive banners if you set a high mark within any of those areas. On a game-by-game basis, the app tracks whether you were improving or starting to feel the fatigue as well.
By tilting your phone horizontally, you can get the data broken down by time, so you can see when in the game you peaked in terms of quickness, height, or Fuel points.
Your performance doesn't have to live in a vacuum, either. You can compare your stats with your friends', that is if if they also use the app and own a pair of Hyperdunk+ shoes. While Nike has recorded data from athletes using these shoes, it sadly hasn't published any of it yet, which means you can't see how you stack up against Lebron James or any other professional athletes. Nike says it plans to eventually share some of that data with users.
One of the coolest Hyperdunk+ features happens right after you connect the app to the shoes. The app graphically displays the two shoes that fluctuate between orange and black in real time depending on the pressure you apply with your feet, similar to a live heat map. I know this animation doesn't do much, but you have to admire its slick presentation.
Beyond tracking your game, the Nike+ app offers an alternative Live Mode, which constantly measures how high you jump and how quickly you can shuffle your feet. Presumably, you can practice with Live Mode to improve your movement during a real game. There's also a Showcase Mode, in which you can take a video of yourself during the game, pair it up with the relevant data at the time, and share it with friends on social platforms.
While I'm by no means a fashion critic, I wasn't a fan of the look of these shoes. They seem to try way too hard to appear futuristic, with ugly, thick plastic ridges and candy-color blue accents. The sneakers' tongues also felt thin and almost cheap -- not exactly something you want to feel if you've paid this much for a set of kicks this pricey. I wasn't alone in my style assessment, either; even the shoe enthusiasts in the office weren't enthusiastic. That said, the Hyperdunk+ shoes are very lightweight and comfortable.
Like many other Nike+ products, the Hyperdunk+ keeps track of your Nike Fuel score based on your activity. After reviewing the
All the same, I'm skeptical about the usefulness of Nike Fuel in relation to these shoes. People who have invested in the idea probably have already bought a Nike FuelBand, so one of the metrics provided by Hyperdunk+ is redundant (although potentially more accurate, since it measures foot motion as opposed to wrist motion). Conversely, if you don't care about the FuelBand or Nike's Fuel concept at all, then the metric is meaningless. I appreciated the other data the Hyperdunk+ kit logs and found it helpful to look at how well I performed on the court. For the record, my progress was more of a mixed bag than anything else, with my leaping ability improving from game to game while my speed slowed dramatically as the day and games unfolded.
One big hassle I ran into was the need to repeatedly reconnect the shoe to my phone in between games. While playing I stowed my iPhone in my backpack and placed it on the ground at one end of the court. Because of the constantly changing distance between the phone and my feet while playing, the Bluetooth connection broke often, forcing me to resync between games. This sync takes a little while, too, which is very frustrating if you're getting rushed back on the court. Also to my dismay, I found that I had mistakenly pushed the wrong button in the iPhone app and didn't record stats for one game -- a particularly grueling one, I might add. Nike says the shoes and app were initially designed for players in game-time or practice situations, where the player would only need to sync once after a game.
Additionally, while the performance details the Hyperdunk+ tracks are interesting, having more would be better. For instance, I would have liked to know how many steps I took during a game, how much distance all my game-time steps added up to, or how many times I jumped any distance worth bragging about. As a result, the experience was a little lacking, especially considering the price you pay for the shoes.
Early versions of the app asked me to sign in with my Nike+ information, even after I had synced properly with the shoes. The need to type in my username and password each time was a real annoyance, especially as I rushed out to games. Subsequent updates, however, seem to have fixed the problem, though I'm still wary of it popping up again. I do appreciate the short motivational clips from James included in the app. Don't worry, Laker fans, I was wearing my Kobe Bryant shoes and socks the whole time.
The Lunar Hyperdunk+ basketball shoes represent significant progress in integrating technology into off-the-shelf sportswear, and Nike should be commended for pushing the boundaries. Costing a premium of more than $100 over the base Hyperdunk model, these shoes are expensive even for hard-core sneaker enthusiasts. I'm also not a big fan of the shoes aesthetically. That's why I can't really recommend them for casual b-ball players. Still, if you have a few hundred dollars to burn; live, eat, and breathe basketball; and can stay diligent about connecting the shoes and tracking your stats, you might see an improvement in your game. But that's a lot of ifs.