With its place firmly established in the world of performance footwear and apparel, Under Armour has, in the last two years, slowly made its presence felt in the world of basketball. Outfitting some of the most explosive and talented young players in the NBA, Under Armour’s basketball shoes have received plenty of exposure. Its two latest models, the Spine Bionic and the Charge BB, show that the company isn’t afraid to challenge convention with bold designs and unconventional silhouettes; the Charge BB in particular has been getting a lot of looks for its unorthodox design that many have compared to snowboard boots or boxing shoes. The polarizing design of the shoe had us wondering whether the form really did enhance the function of the shoe and we knew we had to test it. Does the tall collar really improve ankle protection? Is it comfortable? And is it worth the $130 price tag? We put the shoe through its paces to find out.
The Under Armour Charge BB is a polarizing shoe with looks that you either love or hate. It’s been likened by many to a snowboard boot and the similarities are undeniable but whether you like the looks of the shoe or not, its appearance is defined by its function. A mix of HeatGear and synthetic materials, it’s the prominent tongue and ankle that really dominate the shoe visually. Designed strictly for on-court wear, the shoe sticks to a tech-heavy look which, apart from the overall silhouette, is nothing radical.
The fit of the Charge BB is definitely the focus here, particularly at the heel and ankle. With its articulated heel design, the Charge BB is designed to wrap around the ankle while still maintaining flexibility thanks to the cutouts around the ankle bone. In theory, this should work great, providing rigid support without sacrificing mobility. In practice, the tall ankle felt restrictive and uncomfortable with the cutouts on either side causing some friction and discomfort. There was also plenty of wiggle room at the top which could have been remedied with an additional set of lace loops. The shoe also seemed to run a half size big during testing. Overall, the fit of the shoe failed to live up to the claims with the heel area a source of particular discomfort.
Traction was a particular strong point for the BB Charge. The shoe features a clear rubber outsole with cored out holes for decreased weight and herringbone-patterned traction pods where they’re needed most. Nothing is particularly innovative about the shoe but in this case it doesn’t need to be. During testing on an outdoor court, the shoes performed admirably, with no slipping or sliding at the start. With time and the accumulation of dust, the grip did give out a bit but it’s nothing that a quick wipe can’t fix. For the most part the shoe gripped well and very rarely did we find ourselves thinking about traction.
Cushioning was another strong point for the BB Charge thanks to the full-length Micro-G foam cushioning. Not as soft or spongy as other foam cushioning systems, most notably Nike’s Lunarlon, we found the Micro-G cushioning struck the right blend of cushioning and responsiveness with none of the sponginess sometimes associated with foam cushioning. During multiple session of play, the cushioning stayed poised and consistent. This is one aspect of the shoe we had no complaints with.
Over several months of testing, the shoe proved to be very durable, with high-quality materials built to take the stresses of the game. The traction on the outsole held up well and the think upper survived with just scrapes and scratches. The Micro-G foam held up well, ensuring the shoe was comfortable several months in.
Overall, the shoe was a bit of a letdown in terms of performance. Under Armour’s aim to provide lockdown fit without the excessive weight is to be commended, but in this version, it ultimately fails to deliver on its promises. Under Armour has to be commended for taking a gamble with a unique silhouette. The gamble hasn’t paid off yet but we can’t wait to see what the next generation of BB Charge looks like. With just a few tweaks and refinements, we think this could be another great performance basketball shoe from Under Armour.