AIR JORDAN 2010 | LUXURY. PERFORMANCE. PRESTIGE.

words & images_Zac Dubasik
A Sole Collector Performance Review

If you are looking for a car that can go from zero to 60 in under four-and-a-half seconds, there’s certainly more than one way to do it. For instance, Porsche has a few different models of the 911 that will get you there for a price in the $100,000 range. Or, you could opt for the top-of-the-line Subaru WRX STi for well under half that price. Obviously, the Subaru is the far superior deal. Unfortunately, you’ll still be driving a Subaru. Not that there’s anything wrong with a Subaru – but there’s a certain prestige, craftsmanship and design aesthetic that goes along with Porsche that is undeniably missing in the WRX. Is it really worth the extra cash? That’s ultimately up to the prospective buyer to decide. If they can afford it, and value that level of elite luxury (to go along with the elite performance), chances are it is worth it.

The Air Jordan 2010, at $170, is the most expensive performance hoops shoe of the year from any of the major brands. Similar to the Porsche (but thankfully on a much more affordable pricing scale), you are getting more than just a fast ride when you buy a pair. Plush materials, excellent construction, and a design courtesy of the greatest to ever do it in the sneaker game come together to create one impressive luxury sneaker. It also happens to be a serious on court performer. It’s not the only great hoops shoe out there this year, but it sure is the most finely crafted.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; when it comes to new performance kicks from Jordan Brand, forget what you’ve come to expect from the inferior-quality Retro product. The Air Jordan 2010 sits at the top of an already impressive lineup of well-made kicks, like the 16.5, Icons and CP3.III. But the attention to detail and quality of materials seen on the 2010 puts it in a class of its own, and is something just not seen very often in the world of mass-produced athletic footwear. Next-generation construction techniques like the bonded seams found around the clear midfoot inset perfectly compliment the even rows and smooth stitching found at the base of the toecap. And speaking of the toecap, the pebbled leather feels as soft as it looks, and adds that much more to the overall sense of luxury of the 2010.

What makes all of these high-end materials and construction techniques really matter though is how well they translate to the fit, and therefore the performance of the shoe. While the 2010 felt even better after three or four runs, it’s step-in comfort and fit were very impressive. Each panel and part of the upper was expertly crafted with fit in mind. This is very apparent on court, as my foot felt completely supported thanks to the outstanding shape and contouring of the upper. One word of caution goes out to those of you with wide feet. The clear counters found along both the medial and lateral sides of the forefoot, which are extremely effective in the support they offer, could potentially cause some major comfort issues (reminiscent of the Air Jordan XX3’s protruding TPU wrap, but not as sharp at least). I fortunately (although narrowly) avoided disaster, and found that for my feet, even a normal thickness sock could solve my problems. I played in my normal socks the first few times I wore these with no issues, but then decided – for strictly stylin’ purposes – to play in a very thin pair of red socks. For the record, it looked really cool, but the lack of cushioning in that pair of socks created some comfort issues on the lateral sides of each forefoot. The good news though is that I have a decently wide foot, and a slightly thicker sock put an end to my issues, so I don’t expect that this will be too widespread of a problem. Still, take caution and try them on first if you have wide feet. It’s also worth noting that the counters will easily get scuffed up during play. The good news is that these counters – both the forefoot and heel – provide excellent lockdown. I had zero side-to-side slippage. That, combined with the molded padding found in the collar, make for one of the most secure shoes I can name – maybe ever.

Say what you want about the clear midfoot panel, but its perforations are fairly effective as a heat sink, and it forms closely to the foot when laced up tight. Also adding to the relatively decent breathability is the floating construction method of the toecap. A mesh panel lies just below the textured leather, which isn’t visible from outside the shoe. The two pieces are not connected, and allow heat to escape in a way a more traditional construction doesn’t. I’ve heard some complaints of this construction allowing for some slippage in the forefoot, because of the very small gap between the mesh and the more supportive leather overlay, but I didn’t experience any of that. I did play in a 12.5 rather than my standard 13, which could contribute to my lack of issues.

An upper this good deserves a hell of a ride, and the Air Jordan 2010 comes through here once again. As you may already know, the 2010 features tried and true Zoom Air for its cushioning. There is a slight difference this time though, as the Zoom Air has been placed into the tooling via the bottom rather than the standard top-drop method. What this results in is more foam atop the Air bag rather than under it, and moves Zoom closer to the ground. The feel of this bottom-loaded method isn’t entirely unfamiliar, as it‘s been used in classic running shoes like the Zoom Talaria and Zoom Spiridon. In fact, I don’t think even longtime Zoom-lovers will be disappointed. It is a slightly different sensation than a more traditional top-loaded or sockliner based Zoom feel, but it’s still great. It’s responsive and protective as you’ve come to expect, but makes for a feel that’s just a little different – in a good way. There’s a deeper padding feel, as compared to a more expected hyper-responsive bounce from directly embedded units. From a strictly cushioning standpoint, this is probably the top shoe of the season for me. My knees thanked me after each and every run.

As is often the case, supreme cushioning like this comes at the expense of diminished court feel in the AJ2010. Fortunately though, the tradeoff is pretty minimal. The court feel is still very good – but a step behind the best in that department. Even though the midsole is a little blockier than I like, it’s more than compensated for via impact protection. If as-good-as-it-gets court feel is your first priority in a shoe, this may not be your best choice. But if cushioning is what you are after, and still like a pretty great court feel, the 2010 is definitely worth your consideration.

As for the traction, the 2010 once again shines. Herringbone pods, combined with a wide base, provided reliable and squeaky traction. The traction pattern spans the entire outsole, from the medial side all the way to the understated – at least in appearance – outrigger. On a clean court, it was about as good as I could hope for. On a dusty court, they held respectably, but it was a bit of a drop off.

Thanks in part to downright bad Retro quality at times, MJ’s lack of on-court visibility, and last year’s clunker of a performer in the AJ2009, the thought of a new Air Jordan had lost a little of its prestige in the eyes of some fans. I’ve seen many members of our Forum begin to have the attitude of “Oh no, what’s next,” (of course followed by the thumbs down emoticon) rather than, “I can’t wait for what’s next!” when it comes to anticipating a new Air Jordan. The year 2010 just might mark a change in that mentality though. With a truly top-tier player in Dwyane Wade (sorry Joe Johnson) supporting the Game shoe on court, and the all-around luxurious quality of the Air Jordan 2010 performing the way it does, there is little doubt in my mind of the importance and relevance of the Air Jordan line. I’m happy to say that the 2010 is exactly what an Air Jordan should be. It not only performs very well, it makes you feel as if you have the best pair of kicks on any court you play on. Wearing the newest Air Jordan should make every other player on the court envious of your kicks, and with the 2010, that’s once again the case.

Who’s Worn It? Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat), Joe Johnson (Atlanta Hawks), Gerald Wallace (Charlotte Bobcats), Quentin Richardson (Miami Heat), various University of California, University of North Carolina and Georgetown players.

Grade Justification:
Comfort & fit – Best in class fit; one of the best fitting hoops shoes I’ve worn
Cushioning – My favorite cushioned shoe of the season
Ankle support – Fantastic collar fit thanks to a sculpted heel notch, combined with exterior heel counters make for as secure ankle support is you could ask for
Breathability – Better than most hoops shoes this supportive, but could be better
Heel-to-toe transition – Suffers thanks to awesome cushioning, but still very good
Traction – Excellent on clean courts, but a step behind the best traction I’ve played in recently on dusty ones