I’m skeptical. I’m about to start a half-hour fitness class, and Nike’s just given me a pair of their new Air Zoom SuperReps, a set of training sneakers that, in theory, are built exactly for fitness classes.
The problem: They’re completely unlike the training sneakers I’m used to, with a raised heel (translation: No way am I doing squats and deadlifts in these), a pair of Zoom Air pockets in the forefoot, and, all around, a much . . . larger design than what I’d typically use for training. I’m a major fan of Nike’s Metcon line, and I’ve used the Reebok Nano, and No Bull’s trainers — and I generally want a shoe without a massively elevated heel and too much cushioning.
Then we start doing the lateral lunges, and the fast-feet drills, and the burpees. And then I start to understand (and yes, dig) the Air Zoom SuperReps. Nike’s first HIIT training class shoes — and at its core, that’s what these kicks are meant for — are really a hit. They hit stores on Jan. 2, and will run you $120, the first in a series of Nike kicks designed specifically for group fitness.
Nike’s Air Zoom SuperReps are built for group fitness.
Nike built the SuperReps for a very unique purpose, to fill a very targeted void in the sneaker market. These are training shoes, and because of that, you may think they’re overlapping with Nike’s already terrific Metcons, and the other bajillion training shoes out there.
But head to your next fitness class, and check out everyone’s feet; there’s a good chance you’ll see a vast array of different kinds of footwear. Most people wear running shoes to, say Barry’s, and you’ll find a few people in Metcons, and some people (confession: This is me sometimes) randomly and thoughtlessly in basketball shoes that have no business on a treadmill. And the reason for that is the market void that Nike’s trying to fill: We don’t really have a shoe specifically designed for the interval training that we get in group fitness classes.
Nike Air Zoom SuperRep
Your average group fitness class is a big sometimes-beautiful (sometimes-decidedly-not-beautiful, but that’s a story for another day) mess of fitness ideas, an effort to pack a bevy of movements into one hour of work. And if you wanted to get super-precise, you’d actually need a different sneaker for each. You’d use the running shoe that most people wear for any treadmill work, but then you’d want a lifting shoe for some deadlifts and squats, then something with a bit more cushioning for the box jumps, and something with tight lockdown (basketball shoe, anyone?) for the skater lunges.
Except nobody wants to do that — and that’s where the SuperReps come in. This sneaker is one-sized-fits-all-fitness, ready for any group fitness challenge. And despite what you think of group fitness, it’s an underrated one-of-a-kind test, both for your overall fitness ability, and for your footwear. But the SuperReps are well up to the challenge.
Nike built the SuperReps with beginners in mind.
This just in: Usain Bolt and The Mountain aren’t showing up at Barry’s. And that’s a key thing to understand about the SuperReps. Critics are going to say that these aren’t perfect lifting shoes, because hey, when I deadlift or squat, I want a flat platform, not the big heel that the SuperReps offer.
But Nike’s unique challenge was building an all-around shoe that can deliver in a variety of situations, and support and cushioning are critical in group fitness — especially for beginners. Reality is, if you’re an awesome fitness type, you can crush a skater lunge in any shoe (or no shoes at all). But if you’re new to fitness, you just want to survive the skater lunge, landing with balance and security — and without feeling like you could fall at any moment.
The SuperRep gives you that chance. Its extra width around the forefoot creates a larger base than, say, a Metcon, and the Zoom units offer extra cushioning. That leads to extra-comfortable forefoot landings and movements when I’m doing both lateral lunges and fast feet drills. Later, I play with skater lunges and lateral shuffles, and the SuperReps shine here, too. They lock down my foot tightly as well.
The SuperReps “burpee break” helps you get even more from your workout.
This smooth landing is critical to letting you take your group fitness class on with confidence, and confidence and aggression is everything in these situations. Go to Barry’s with the wrong running shoes, and you’re going through the motions on anything lateral, mailing it in. You don’t want to do that.
The SuperReps are optimized for group fitness in other ways, too. Just about every group fitness class includes some sort of burpee variant at some point, right? The SuperReps include a unique separation in the forefoot called a “burpee break.” It breaks right where your toes have to curl upwards when you’re in plank position, and it actually does make burpees and pushups that much more comfortable. I test it out with Superman pushups hours later, and it’s even better here, delivering a level of forefoot flexibility so reactive that I can land more easily and comfortably than ever.
Two days later, the SuperReps answer my biggest question: Can they survive on the Concept2 rower? A staple of many fitness classes, the rower locks down your foot on a pad so you can row with power. In CrossFit classes, this means fitting the sleeker Metcon or Nano in position, but what about the width of the SuperReps’ forefoot?
My answer: It’s no problem at all, and I’m able to slip out of the rower just fine to do burpees, too.
The SuperReps’ weakness can sometimes be a strength.
If there’s an issue with the SuperReps in general training, it’s the heel. When you squat and deadlift at a high level, you want a shoe with a flat platform, not an elevated heel — and you don’t exactly want extra cushioning.
Except even in this situation, the SuperReps aren’t all that bad. That flat platform is ideal for squatting if you have ideal ankle mobility to squat; most people, especially gym beginners, don’t. And very often, that leads some people to drop plates on their heels when they squat. Key thing in squatting and deadlifting: Make sure you’re driving through your heels, not rising onto your forefoot.
Would I do a full, intense squat workout in the SuperReps? No. But for group fitness squats and squat jumps, these wind up working just fine.
Bottom line: Nike’s SuperReps work.
The SuperReps are meant for group fitness classes — and they deliver on that promise with deathly precision. Sure, they may slow me down by a few split seconds on a TrueForm Treadmill than my go-to running shoes, Nike’s Epic React Flyknits, but the SuperReps compensate by making my landings on box jumps and burpees that much more friendly. They work well in the unpredictable situations that group fitness invites.
That’s exactly what Nike built them for. If you’re planning to do a very specific kind of training, like boxing, or weightlifting, or CrossFit, then you’re better off with — wait for it — a boxing shoe, or a weightlifting shoe, or a CrossFit shoe.
But increasingly, the variability that comes with group fitness is its own specific brand of training, and, truth be told, that’s long demanded a shoe better than a basic running shoe. Come January, Nike’s Air Zoom SuperReps will be those group-fitness-specific shoes, and Barry’s just might be a bit more fun.
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