Nike Zoom Hyperenforcer Performance Review
words & images by Nick DePaula

As teams on both the NBA and college level look to make their playoff run every season, the hope of the coaching staff and players alike is that they’re playing their best ball down the stretch – improving on the inconsistencies and missteps that plagued them early in the season. Luckily what will be on many of their feet, the new Hyperenforcer, fits right into that approach, too. It builds on everything the start of season Hyperfuse 2011 offered and perhaps came up short on, with minor tweaks and improvements here and there to really maximize your performance.

While the Hyperfuse franchise has been gradually emerging to a huge level of adoption through the pro and college ranks, I had a single complaint about the 2011 that I thought really needed to be looked at. It was way too damn stiff through the forefoot. Because the shoe’s Fuse upper, a thin synthetic of bonded layers that is used on all but a few Nike Basketball sneakers these days, didn’t really rely on much of a backer or mesh insets right over the toe, the Hyperfuse 2011 was exceptionally stiff directly underneath the flex zone. The problem was that on every single step, stride or movement, you could feel the shoe bunching and working to break itself in. Right out of the box, they were annoyingly stiff and unnatural. Things only got better after a few weeks, and while the rest of the shoe was dependable and well built, that was a huge flaw. For Nike Basketball Design Director Leo Chang, that flex point pressure was exactly where he wanted to start when he began to work on the update to the Hyperfuse 2011, the Hyperenforcer.

“Tracy Teague, our Creative Director, and I were talking and he was just saying how when these guys are making their run for a trophy, whether it’s college guys in March Madness or pro guys come summertime in the playoffs, they don’t want to have any distractions,” explains Chang. “They don’t want to have stuff to think about, and in some ways, the shoes should almost disappear. That was the thought that went through my head in designing this shoe. I wanted to look at the areas where there could be some potential irritation.” Because there were a lot of players that were wearing the Hyperfuse to start the year, Chang and the Nike Basketball team were also able to hear a resounding and echoing chorus of irritation and flex pressure complaints.

So, how did they fix the issue in a shoe that is named kind of the same, looks kind of the same, is priced kind of the same and appears to be constructed kind of the same? There’s actually an entirely different way in which the tongue is anchored this time around, and it makes a world of difference. The biggest problem with the Hyperfuse was that there were stiff layers – and too many of them – bunched together in a zone known for transition that needs to be flexible. So Chang simply moved the bottom of the tongue attachment along the eyestay up – about two eyelet punches forward to be exact – and incorporated some more generous flexing mesh over the toe. It’s pretty much a paper clip-like solution in its simplicity, and the improved fit, flex and feel is pretty surprisingly good given how similar the shoe still is in general design. The best part about the re-aligned tongue is that you’d never notice a difference without some close examination, as two punched eyelets into a slit layer on both sides of the eyestay help to keep the lacing setup exactly the same as most traditional hoop shoes. It’s an impressive fix for what was a huge problem.

In addition to the moving up of the tongue, the actual Fuse package is different too; instead, they opted for a more breathable and dynamic mesh base layer, as compared to the stiffer synthetic layer found on the Hyperfuse. Another huge deal here, you guys. There’s exceptionally better flex throughout, and that’s key if you struggled through the break-in period that never quite went away in the Hyperfuse. Since I’m always looking for perfection, I of course would like to see perhaps even more underside padding added in, as the thin Fuse layers (coupled with my love of thin socks) always means a stiffer sensation for my feet. If you like to play in Nike’s ultra-thick Elite socks, you’ll be fine. I tried for the first time with these, and they’re simply too hot for my taste.

While the upper of the Hyperfuse was in need of some major flex upgrades, the shoe’s traction, ride and support were all really good, and yet, Chang looked to still improve them as much as possible. The Hyperenforcer, which also features a full-herringbone traction pattern, looks like more of the same upon first sight. It’s even better though, thanks to some minor adjustments to the pattern that really get the most out of each and every groove. “If you start from the bottom up and look at the outsole now, it’s a finely tuned herringbone for the motions of basketball and having durability in mind,” Chang begins. “If you look at the lateral edge of the forefoot, the beveling is actually more skewed towards the lateral side. Then you have the toe-off area, and that is angled back a little more. As you look at the heel, there’s a bevel in the direction to help that breaking motion. In the midfoot, it actually spaces out more because you don’t need as much traction there. You need traction and durability under the ball of your foot and in the heel.” Pretty technical to follow, but it’s efficient stuff. The traction, smooth flex and close fit were my favorite parts of the shoe.

Another area of the Hyperenforcer that I really enjoyed was its general support and stability. The shoe’s low heel and high collar top-line design lock you in precisely, and there’s a noticeable helping of collar foam here that we didn’t see in the Hyperfuse that is very much welcome. You have to lace pretty high to get just the right lockdown and fit, but if you’re not loyal to lows and like a little more proprioceptive protection, it’s definitely worth the tradeoff for mobility. The shoe’s exactly targeted outrigger, great fit and sturdy base make it perfectly supportive for shifty guards, skying forwards and lumbering bigs. It’s a great team option for that reason alone, and probably would’ve been a better shoe to launch during the fall when all teams make those buys. If you’re on an AAU squad that isn’t good enough to have trucks backing up to your crib weekly with loads of gear, you’ll definitely want to check these out.

All that said, there’re two things about the Hyperenforcer that you might be concerned about on paper if you’re really closely reading up on them. There’s no heel cushioning. And the weight is listed at 13 ounces. Unfortunately, the heel is indeed what it is. There’s Phylon, and a deflection pad through the middle of the outsole that tries as hard as it can to provide some heel softness. But it’s still firm and something you’ll have to live with. Of course, the forefoot Zoom unit is great and exactly what’d you’ve come to love and expect. The Hyperfuse and Hyperenforcer don’t feature heel Zoom Air for a reason – they’re priced in that $100 to $115 zone and sit just below the Hyperdunk. If you want Zoom up front and in the heel, go grab those.

Luckily, the Hyperenforcer actually plays much lighter than its listed weight, a credit to the shoe’s outstanding fit, transition and support. I was also pretty shocked to actually look up the weight after first playing in it and see the 13-ounce figure. If weight is your number-one priority, there are definitely great (lighter) options out there, but I wouldn’t at all rule out the Hyperenforcer by any means because of weight. It plays lighter than the Hyperfuse 2011 because of better flex and fit, and those were listed at over a half-ounce less.

The playoff and college tourney run is always an interesting time for companies to launch new sneakers. It totally makes sense from a “moment” perspective, as the game’s best are hitting buzzer beaters, cutting down nets and all of those exciting things that we somehow will remember forever. For the most part, though, the average high school and rec guy buys their main shoe at the start of the NBA season. If you happen to fall into the category of needing some new shoes now and are on the hunt for something current, the Hyperenforcer is a great option. Other than a few expected scuffs and bruises here and there, they also held up real well throughout the month I wore them. A great gauge for all of the reviews I do is also how long I plan to wear them after my allotted testing time is through, and these will definitely be getting run into the ground all summer long. They’re great for all positions, I really liked the improved flex from the Hyperfuse, and they also feature outstanding traction and extremely sturdy support and stability. Unless you must have heel and forefoot Zoom units or feel like getting hung up on a listed ounce or two, I’d definitely recommend the Hyperenforcer for any level of play.

Grade Breakout:

designed by: Leo Chang

best for: all positions

colorway tested: Black / Black / White

worn by: Russell Westbook, Rajon Rondo, Rudy Gay, Andre Iguodala, several college teams and many more

key tech: Hyperfuse-construction upper with Flywire cables, forefoot Zoom Air, dynamic herringbone traction pattern, Phylon midsole, TPU midfoot shank

pros: superior traction and support, great forefoot cushioning, smooth transition, plays much lighter than listed weight

cons: upper is a bit thin and firm in some zones; could use more heel cushioning

improvements: add padding to Fuse underside

buying advice: This is a really good shoe. It’s also a really good shoe for all positions and as a team option. Look elsewhere if you absolutely must have heel and forefoot cushioning, but the Hyperenforcer offers targeted fit, great support, exceptional traction and a smooth ride that I really enjoyed playing in.

Available Now: Nike Zoom Hyperenforcer