Launched in July on the heels of the brand’s sixth generation Nano, Reebok’s JJ was marketed as the “ultimate training shoe.” J.J. Watt, the NFL’s three-time Defensive Player of the Year and sneaker namesake, explained to a room of media and sneakerheads that the partnership was inspired by his general disappointment in the current selection of athletic shoes. “I’ve trained in many different shoes throughout my career, but there was never one that I felt was clearly the best shoe to get the job done,” he said. He needed, he explained, a shoe that could go from the weight room to the track, from agility drills to barbell cleans.
In other words, his goal was to create a shoe that could handle constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movements.
The JJ isn’t a CrossFit shoe, but it should be. Even the sneaker’s official launch event — a circuit workout of box jumps, weighted sled pulls, tire flips and jingle jangles — felt like a WOD. And the JJ felt like a shoe that was made for it.
The JJ is the first product to utilize Reebok’s new Liquid Foam technology, which is designed to provide “rapid reaction to every impact.” (Makes sense, considering Watt’s rabid enthusiasm for box jumps.) Maybe it’s this techy new cushioning, or the snugness offered by the midfoot FlexCage and double laces, but the JJ is comfortable and primed for sprints, long runs and double-unders, all with minimal breaking-in time. The multi-directional traction provides grip on surfaces including wood, concrete, gravel and grass. And, unlike most cross-trainers, the JJ is still flat enough to offer stability during heavy lifting.
Despite its strengths, the JJ is outperformed by more specialized CrossFit shoes in a few categories. The first problem is purely aesthetic; the JJ’s virginal white upper doesn’t stand a chance against the grit and grime of even the cleanest box. And only time will tell if the shoes’ toes and medial sides will hold their own on repeated rope climbs without the benefit of fortifying features like the Metcon’s midfoot rubber wraps or the Nano’s RopePro® technology.
Then there’s the tongue, which is a flat and leathery flap, like something you’d find on a football cleat. What was probably a nod to Watt’s dominance on the field may be a deal-breaker for CrossFitters who WOD sockless or prefer a more cushioned tongue.
CrossFit shoe or not, the JJ is priced affordably at the MSRP of $99. For athletes who haven’t picked a side in the ongoing battle of Nano vs. Metcon, or, like Watt himself, can’t seem to find a shoe to stand up to their WODs (or training sessions, for the non-CrossFit set), the JJ may be worth a shot.
Reebok's JJ Trainers are available from Reebok for $99.