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A Sole Collector Performance Review
A New Standard in Team Shoes
The thought of a team shoe can mean different things to different people. For some, it invokes images of something in a size 18, most likely in a white and orange colorway, and on sale for $29.99. In other words, something relatively cheap, not particularly attractive, but, hopefully, a good enough performer. When the “team” concept debuted in the Jordan line though, shoes like the Jumpman Pro represented something entirely different. While compromises may have come at the expense of aesthetics, these early team shoes made zero compromise in the performance department. They were looked at less as take-downs, and more as stripped-down performers. Less frills (after all, it’s still Jordan Brand, so it’s not no-frills), more business.
The first team version of an Air Jordan Game shoe would probably be considered the Air Jordan 18.5, and it was a great example of the concept. Extras like the lace cover were done away with, while the shoe’s original tooling allowed it to retain many of the performance characteristics. We’ve seen team editions of many Air Jordans since the 18.5, but the 2010 Team is the first since the Air Jordan XX2 PE. With the Air Jordan 2010 being such a good performer, would the Team edition be able to live up to my lofty expectations?
In a word, yes. And then some. At first glance, it might appear that the 2010 Team is simply a standard Air Jordan 2010, minus the clear midfoot panel and toecap. And that’s partially true – it definitely has a very similarly shaped upper, minus the two aforementioned traits of the Air Jordan 2010. Performance wise, it stacks up very comparatively, and possibly even better. The much-debated (Ok . . . hated) clear window has been replaced with a far more practical solution. Large perforations have been placed in an array to mimic the styling of the original’s window, but they function as pretty substantial heat sink. Too many hoops shoes lately, such as the One6One7, use perforations liberally as design elements, with basically zero functionality. You can have perforations the size of nickels, but if you back them with leather, not much is helped in terms if breathability. In fairness, the original 2010’s clear panel was perforated, and did an adequate job, but the Team version is a definite step above in terms of midfoot breathability. The next improvement comes through the Team’s lack of TPU forefoot counters, which were found on the original. While a solid support element, they made the shoe potentially unwearable for those with wider feet. The TPU counters definitely played a performance role, but the overlay, and quality construction of the 2010 Team leaves little to be desired in terms of stability. In fact, as you’ll read over and over during this review, the 2010 Team is one of, if not the most stable shoes I’ve ever played in. Wrapping up the differences in the upper is the Team’s lack of a floating toecap. The toecap of the original 2010 was more than just for looks. It offered an additional area for heat to escape, while helping smooth out the heel-to-toe transition, thanks to the mesh underlay. Because it wasn’t a thick, solid piece of leather, like that of the 2010 Team, it made for a more flexible upper. That said, it took two or three long runs for the shoe to reach it’s potential in terms of a smooth transition. Once it broke in, though, I found it to be very comparable to the original.
So, if the upper of the 2010 Team appeared that similar, and performed that similar to the 2010, the tooling must be almost exactly the same, right? Wrong. This is actually where the shoe’s biggest differences come to light. Aesthetically, aside from a few changes from the prints on each shoe’s midsole, the two toolings appear almost identical. The major change comes from what’s found inside the shoe, and the way they were built.
While the Air Jordan 2010 wasn’t the first time bottom-loaded Zoom was ever used, it was certainly the most high profile. This method of construction worked well, and the shoe was excellent in terms of cushioning. But, if you’re at all familiar with playing in Zoom Air-based shoes, it definitely felt different. Not necessarily different-bad, but different nonetheless. The best way to describe it would be to say it was a bit dull, and with a less tactile feedback than you’ve come to expect from Zoom Air. It did the job just as well when it came to impact protection, but it just wasn’t the same. I was happy to see that the 2010 Team returned to the more standard construction method, and used top-loaded Zoom – at least in the forefoot. That brings us to the next big difference between the two shoes. Rather than Zoom Air in the heel, be it top- or bottom-loaded, the 2010 Team uses a standard Air unit. I’m a major fan of this setup, and prefer it to any other configuration. As someone who runs on their toes, the Zoom Air in the front just feels faster moving across the court. And during hard landings, like coming down with a rebound, I feel standard Air offers better impact protection, with little to no bottoming out.
The setup and construction of the 2010 Team not only is preferable to me from a strictly cushioning perspective, I felt it also offered better court feel than the original. Court feel was definitely solid on the original, but the bottom-loaded construction almost led to a slight over-cushioned sensation. But the 2010 Team feels low, fast and extremely stable. The base, while wide, feels even wider than it actually is. It strikes the perfect balance between being wide enough that you can feel the additional security, and being so wide that it becomes being clunky. It’s an impressive feat that the shoe still feels as fast as it does, while being so stable.
Adding to that stability is the excellent outsole. This is one area where the 2010 Team not only looks the same as the original Air Jordan 2010, it actually is the same. Herringbone pods span the wide base and provide for squeaky traction on a well-maintained court. On a dusty court, as with the original, there was a drop off in effectiveness, but it still held up respectably.
It’s pretty hard to come up with many criticisms for the 2010 Team. For what it is, it’s close to everything you could want. Yes, it could probably be a little lighter, but then you’d also probably end up sacrificing some of the upper’s durability, which is something you want in a team shoe. And yes, the thick leathers lead to somewhat of a break-in period, but again, those high-quality materials also lead to the shoe lasting longer. And even still, the break-in period isn’t that long. Overall, the 2010 Team is about as much as you could ask for in not only a team shoe, but almost any performance hoops shoe.
A true sign of a great shoe, to me, is one I feel I can push myself harder than I am normally comfortable with while wearing. Thanks to the incredible stability of the 2010 Team, I was making cuts I normally never attempt. If I were to rank the performance of the Air Jordan 2010 and Air Jordan 2010 Team amongst each other, I’d have to put the 2010 Team at 1, and the original at 1a. Part of that comes down to personal preference. My favorite elements of the original, such is exceptional fit – especially thanks to the perfectly placed, molded heel notch – were carried directly over. And the few things that I liked, but didn’t love, such as the cushioning and court feel, I find better suit my tastes with the Team. Any way you analyze it, though, head-to-head with its predecessor, all alone, or against any other current shoe out there, the Air Jordan 2010 Team stands among the most elite performers. It’s just about everything I could ask for in a hoops shoe.
Available now: Jordan 2010 Team TB
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