First things first. I want to give a big thanks to the officiating community at large for rallying around the 2010 launch of our Reaction Pro Plate Umpire Shoe. We truly appreciate your support as well as the continued, and often pointed, feedback that has made the Reaction one of our most well received product lines ever. I’ve just been told by our good friend Dennis Mader – the Supervisor of Officials for the NPF – that many of the NPF officials who worked NCAA post season play wore the Reaction Pro Plate and Reaction Base Shoe and that they “love them.” Great to hear, guys.
Many of you have asked what separates the 3N2 Reaction line of officiating shoes from other brands? It boils down to price, function, weight and comfort. You will find the Reaction line is very competitively priced and uses the existing proprietary last and midsole technology that is found in our successful Turf Line. These proven technologies reduce stress on the knees, joints and back and allow you to officiate multiple games over a day or weekend without feeling the aches and pains associated with other footwear brands.
The weight and function of our officiating shoes are two sides of the same coin. Our Reaction footwear is by far the lightest on the market. How do we do this? It’s not by reducing function and protection. It really comes down to modern technology. For years, a steel-toe plate was the only option for industrial, military, police/fire services and behind-the-plate umpires. Steel toes result in a much heavier shoe that can provide a great deal of discomfort as – no surprise here – there is a piece of steel wrapped around your toe.
Modern advancements in protective technology have enabled 3N2 to provide a composite carbon fiber toe and plate that provides the needed protection for umpires without the extra weight, foot rub and pain associated with a steel toe.
Although we’ve had a lot of tremendously good input on the Reaction Pro Plate, I understand that there are those who question our use of carbon fiber. I completely understand the concern. Steel toes have been in use for many, many years and still serve a purpose in very specialized fields. However, that purpose no longer involves the ball field.
The truth is that today steel is really only necessary for industrial jobs involving heavy moving objects or machinery. Today’s advanced carbon fiber composite materials provide far more protection than you’ll ever need behind the plate, while being infinitely lighter and more comfortable than steel. The proprietary carbon toe and plate we’ve developed for the Reaction is fashioned from a material that is basically identical to that of our factory partner, which produces footwear for the FBI, Police, Fire and Military services. Their material rates at ASTMF 2413.05. In addition to a superior strength to weight ratio, carbon fiber also provides added protection from electrical hazards.
If you love steel toe shoes and/or are OK with the added weight and discomfort, I say stick with them. There is no questioning the toughness of steel. However, unless a piece of airplane engine falls from the sky and onto your foot, a steel toe isn’t going to do anything more for you on the ball field than today’s modern carbon fiber composites.
Funny story. I’m a serious stickler for testing. For our products, I require that we meet all protection related standards and the Reaction goes through a battery of official and rigorous crush and impact tests, such as the vice test. To take it one step further, we undertook and documented our own in-house test as well. Let’s call it the “Jackass” test. We asked for volunteers among the 3N2 staff to put on a pair of Reaction Pro Plates and let one of our 200 pound office brutes wearing Pro Metal Baseball Spikes jump from a ledge spike first on to the carbon toe of the Reaction. The result?
Partial amputation and workers comp claims?
Not at all. Volunteers reported what we knew would be the case. There was virtually no pressure from the direct impact of the cleat on the toe. I hope to pop up a video showing our “Jackass” Reaction test soon. No interns were injured during the filming of the test and please, please do not try it at home!
What’s the bottom line? The carbon composite protective toe technology in our Reaction Plate Umpire Shoe provides above-and-beyond protection for officials, without the weight and discomfort of an outdated steel toe.
So, if you’re a baseball or softball official struggling with steel toe shoes, you should really give the Reaction Pro Plate a look. The carbon fiber Reaction Pro Plate is likely less expensive, more comfortable and just as protective as those steel toe dinosaurs.
You can learn more about the Reaction Pro Plate Umpire Shoe on our website which will also be available in a Mid Cut and EE width in 2011.