Men’s Cloudfoam Ultimate B-Ball Shoes:
Test your limits. These shoes have a basketball-inspired look with a stretch knit upper. A rippled Cloudfoam outsole keeps them feeling comfortable for hours.
The perfect example of an anti-hype shoe, we should pity the lowly adidas Ultimate B-Ball. The no-love sneaker was sold on the down-low as a straight-to-outlet model by the company that otherwise only offered it online. Not even Famous Footwear, a retailer renowned for peddling lower-end models (predominantly from the NEO and Cloudfoam collections) wanted the B-Ball on its shelves.
You would be excused for never having heard of it.
Online exclusive shoes such as the B-Ball represent a disturbing retail trend that shifts the sneaker shopping experience increasingly further from the visceral and tactile enjoyment that it is. Today’s computer-dependent age favours a more cost-effective and millennial-friendly alternative, which is to accept a virtual representation of what you’re shopping for, and then wait for it to arrive in the mail. This is a gripe perhaps best left for another day.
Despite the apparent apathy surrounding the B-Ball, I felt it was a compelling design and grabbed a pair – off an adidas Outlet shelf – when it first became available.
A cursory overview of the B-Ball confirmed its casual intent; its soft and inviting profile that consists of gentle, sometimes exaggerated, curves creates a big, and somewhat docile presence. It’s certainly not a performance shoe. Almost apologetically, adidas describes the B-Ball as a sport-inspired design that delivers the vibe of a court shoe in a more comfortable and affordable package. In short, it’s a nod to basketball without the pretense associated with a signature sneaker, and a lifestyle alternative that stands on its own in terms of style and function.
The most appealing feature of the B-Ball is its thick mélange knit upper. The two-tone (Hi-Res Red and Core Black) material stretches to any required shape and coddles your feet, and combined with the complimentary-coloured rope laces, it’s a visually appealing package.
The laces weave their way through fabric webbing to compress the tongue-less textile upper, and the setup provides decent lockdown; however, undoubtedly some will prefer to leave it loosely tied and take advantage of the shoe’s large fore and aft pull tabs that provide slip-on functionality.
The B-Ball is available in four colourways domestically (Core Black and Footwear White DA9653; Footwear White and Core Red DA9654; Carbon and Core Black DA9655), but a global search will reveal that there are – not surprisingly – other colourways out there. Such are the anomalies of a global brand. In Canada the B-Ball is considered to be an Originals model, but travel to Thailand and you’ll find it’s a part of the NEO collection.
The shoe’s foundation, a one-piece midsole and outsole unit, is made of Cloudfoam, which provides good comfort and cushioning for the price. It artistically flows around the circumference of the shoe to create the illusion of an upper floating on a cloud. You can expect average traction from the three-row, chevron patterned outsole, which incorporates a mock pivot suction point under the ball of the foot.
Impossible to miss, and giving the shoe a little added structure and support, is a large TPU heel cap. The midsole also provides a measure of lateral stability because it rises above the level of the footbed around the heel and midfoot. And while these features might make the B-Ball a slightly more stable shoe to kick about in, don’t be fooled into thinking they would be capable of anything more; this soft and flexible lifestyle sneaker doesn’t come close to what a true performance shoe provides, and it’s an unlikely candidate for tearing up a court.
Inside the shoe, in lieu of a removable insole, you’ll find a memory foam footbed. In combination with the Cloudfoam sole it creates a poor man’s Boost, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Even though it may not provide the rebound energy of a more expensive suspension system, do you really need a high tech sole for just kicking around town?
How durable it all is might be another matter. Admittedly I’ve never logged serious miles in a Cloudfoam shoe, but have been impressed by the longevity of a pair of Cloudfoam slides that I wear daily throughout the summer.
The traditional adidas 3-stripe branding is created using strips of flat-black rubber welded to the upper. It’s worth mentioning because it’s not just any old rubber. Supple and ultra-smooth, it’s actually a gratifying experience to rub a finger across it. And if those stripes weren’t enough to tell you which company was responsible for the B-Ball, adidas branding appears in three different locations on the shoe: so whether you’re coming or going, or doing a handstand, the adidas wordmark is always on display.
Like so many other adidas models that fly under the radar because they aren’t marketed and don’t have a retail presence, the B-Ball can be purchased for less than retail through the company’s outlet stores. And although it’s not really the ultimate baller its name suggests it is, it does successfully capture the hardcourt spirit as a modern interpretation of the classic basketball shoe. You can’t argue against a sneaker that manages to deliver a statement without pretense or hype, and especially not since it’s a great bang for the buck.
ON THE OTHER FOOT
The first thing I noticed about the B-Ball was its midsole. Clean and smooth where it meets the upper, I liked how a hint of the outsole’s pseudo herringbone pattern peeks out from the bottom the shoe. The midsole is similar to those used for some Alphabounce models, and given that it’s made of Cloudfoam, it could be a take-down version of those Alphabounce midsoles.
An examination of the upper revealed a different design influence. I saw an adaptation of the Yeezy design in the B-Ball’s knitted, deconstructed upper, and in particular the shape of its foot opening. The Yeezy is a silhouette that really works, one that adidas can tweak in order to create successful variant models such as the B-Ball.
The knit itself was interesting. The use of two colours within the thread was another thing that reminded me of the first Yeezy. The use of two-colour thread back then made it a harder shoe to copy, and easier to spot fakes from the originals. However, chambray-like knits are popular and more common now – people like them – and their current use is more of an aesthetic thing than a theft deterrent.
The stitch work throughout the B-Ball’s knitted upper is nicely executed, as is the binding used for the toe box. Exposed stitching is another thing that stems from the popularity of shoes such as the Yeezy; shoes at one time were always neat, and the more expensive ones used techniques that rolled the material over so you didn’t see any stitching at all. Now it’s the opposite. Exposed stitching is trendy, and it looks good on the B-Ball.
One not-so-good thing, and not just with this pair of adidas but with a lot of shoes in general, is the sight of glue. On the B-Ball it was particularly obvious around the heel tab. One reason for this might be the type of materials used in its construction: Knitted uppers allow movement in areas that normally would be more stable in a leather shoe.
The heel counter was the one thing I really disliked about the B-Ball. The selection of its material and size make the B-Ball look more like an entry level shoe – even though that’s what it actually is. The single-injected piece appeared to be designed originally as either a two-piece or two-colour component, but instead it was just textured differently – most likely to keep costs in line. The heel counter might not look so bad against the other B-Ball colourways, but on this one it’s just a big piece of cheap black plastic that lowers the shoe’s visual value.
I found decent cushioning in the footbed, and although it’s impressive that adidas didn’t cheap out there, you could see where it did save money. The lining around the heel area stops mid shoe, an easy and one of the first places to cut costs because typically consumers don’t look in there.
The pull tabs are a nice touch and an accoutrement that’s been trending for a while now. I’m also a huge fan of the speed hook type design used for the eyelets, which is another on trend feature. When combined with eliminating the tongue, it gives the shoe a nice clean look. The only thing tricky about not having a tongue is that you have to rely on the shoe’s form for its fit. With a tongue you can open the upper up a little if needed, or bring it in, but without one the shoe’s fit can become an issue. That’s why adidas had to use this lacing system; if needed, it allows you to pull the fabric together and improve fit.
The Ultimate B-Ball was clearly inspired by adidas’ basketball shoes, and although I could see that connection, there’s no question it’s purely a lifestyle sneaker. Much as it did with the Prophere, Sobakov, and Kamanda, adidas tweaked a previously successful design to create a desired effect. In this case it added a little more height, and exaggerated the front portion as an ode to the big-tongued basketball high tops. The result is a nice mid-height version of other models that adidas is currently producing.
The highlight of the B-Ball for me was how light it is, and that it has a fairly wide footprint. I’ve found that adidas models are generally more accommodating of wider feet than most brands, and since I have flat, wide feet, models like the B-Ball work well for me.
|Model||adidas Cloudfoam Ultimate B-Ball|
|Category||Basketball - Sport Inspired|
|Colourway||Hi-Res Red/Core Black/Footwear White|
|Manufacture Date||October 2017|
|Upper||Textile and Synthetic|
|Size||10 US / 9.5 UK / 44 EUR / 280 JPN|