words // Zac Dubasik
On paper, the Air Max 360 BB Low didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I get that low-tops are in favor right now, and still gaining momentum. I reasoned though that players who want maximum protection, want maximum protection. Which means that if you want a shoe with full-length Air Max, you’d probably want a fully padded upper and collar to complement it. While there are exceptions, Max Air has traditionally been more of a technology for big men – as is a high-cut collar. Times are changing though, and today’s big men are more concerned than ever with mobility, and the sight of a 5 on an NBA court in a low-top is no longer taboo.
The cut of the Air Max 360 Low is that of a true low-top, and offers excellent range of motion. The collar doesn’t have the refined padding like that found in the Zoom Kobe line, but it is molded enough that lockdown isn’t a problem. The upper is made up of a first-generation Flywire, which means it’s much less pliable and breathable than what’s currently being used on shoes like the Hyperdunk 2011. It’s a comfortable shoe, but the shape is a step or two behind the more advanced iterations we’ve seen on most recent shoes utilizing Flywire. When tightly laced though, the upper of the 360 BB is stable, relatively light, and help to keep my foot over the footbed.
If you’ve played in the Air Max LeBron VII, LeBron 8, or last year’s Max Hyperdunk, you’re familiar with Nike’s latest full-length Max bag. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the extra-premium sockliner like that found in the LeBron 8 – which is where the majority of that shoe’s comfort came from.) My favorite aspect of the bag is the impressive radius of the heel, which is not normally a strong suit for heel Max. The squared off base of most Max Air shoes can often lead to a slappy transition, but this evolved unit makes major strides in the right direction in that department. But even with that heel radius, transition is merely decent. The giant Air bag just doesn’t flex as much as a shoe with a traditional midsole, which also leads directly to not-so-great court feel. Impact protection, not surprisingly, is exceptional in the heel. Like I’ve found on all of the previous shoes using this bag though, the forefoot is just too firm.
Unlike the other shoes I’ve played in featuring full-length Air, the shoe, overall, felt a bit more nimble thanks to the low cut. Traction however is just OK. I always say that if you do nothing more than throw lots of rubber herringbone on an outsole, at the very least you’ll end up with 4/5 on our traction scoring scale. And that’s exactly what happens here. It’s disappointing for a shoe with this much herringbone, which is not actually bad – just not as good as it could have been. You’ll need to swipe more often than you like on a dusty court, but will find reliable footing as long as you keep the shoe’s outsole relatively clean.
At 16 ounces, the weight of the Air Max 360 BB Low isn’t anything to brag about when compared to today’s standards, but it plays noticeably lighter than the other shoes to use this Air unit – even the LeBron 8 V2, which only weighs 15.6 ounces. That doesn’t mean I think it’s a better shoe – the aforementioned sockliner, along with the shape and design of the 8’s upper are much more advanced – but I did enjoy playing in the 360 BB Low just as much. Overall, it’s less protective, but I found it to be a much more mobile shoe.
That said, I think the Air Max 360 BB Low is ideally more suited to a big that likes a low-top, rather than a guard who wants extra impact protection. Zoom Air and even simple EVA can provide a totally adequate level of cushioning for most smaller players, without compromising the court feel and transition like the 360 BB Low does. If you’re looking for a casual shoe that you can also play in, or for the low-top loving big man, it’s a shoe worth checking out.
best for: Players who like Nike’s Air Max 360 bag, but prefer a low-top.
key tech: Full-length Max Air, Flywire incorporated into upper
pros: impact protection, better range of motion than high-tops utilizing this Air unit
cons: lack of court feel inherent with full-length Max Air
improvements: utilize more advanced Flywire uppers which are already available
buying advice: It may have just been my low expectations, but the Air Max 360 BB Low turned out to be a pleasant surprise. While I wouldn’t choose it as my first option, if you are looking for a casual shoe that you can also play in, or love full-length Max but prefer a low-top, this is a shoe worth checking out.
Available now: Nike Air Max 360 BB Low