words // Zac Dubasik
images // Nick DePaula 

The Air Jordan 2011 was both luxurious and ambitious, offering perhaps the finest leather ever found on a hoops shoe, along with its interchangeable midsole system. It was also a solid performer, excelling in the cushioning, finishing and materials departments. But while it was very capable on court, it was expensive, and made a few sacrifices to performance to enhance its high-end feel. The Q Flight strips down much of that luxury, and brings pure performance based materials to the upper. “When you look at what the 2011 does,” begins the shoe’s designer, Tom Luedecke, “in terms of blending some leathers that are really, really high end, along with comfort and performance and a really hand-crafted construction, there’s a price point attached to that. Now, we know the shoe performed well, in terms of cutting, traction and there was a modularity system there too, but now, it’s about, ‘How do we take some of the good stuff out of that shoe, and bring a product to market that more kids can have access to?’

Jordan 2011 Q Flight Performance ReviewSo, out went the plush leather, and in came Jordan Brand’s first use of a fused upper. If you are familiar with the Hyperfuse, then the multi-layered upper of the Q Flight is nothing new. “It’s the same composite as the Hyperfuse, just laid out in a different way with the windows and beams,” explains Luedecke. “I just wanted to look at a fast and sleek way to pull those windows in there. That was a challenge for me, and I did maybe fifty or sixty sketches on just the windows to see how they’d end up being shaped.” Performance wise, the hard worked paid off. The upper of the Q Flight is both flexible and secure. It doesn’t have the refined last shape of the Hyperdunk 2011, but its pliability allows it to conform closely to the foot, and hold the foot securely over the footbed. The upper’s construction also allows for a better-than-average level of breathability.

While the fused construction of the upper is in stark contrast to the premium leather of the Air Jordan 2011, some things that you can’t immediately see are identical on the Q Flight. “We have the exact same comfortable bootie from the game shoe. At $120, you’re getting this ultra-high comfort bootie that we’ve proven out on the 2011,” says Luedecke. And comfortable it is. It envelops the foot in a padded, yet non-bulky liner that effectively protects the foot from the footbed-to-eyelet lacing system. My only complaint about this upper and liner is that it doesn’t offer heel lockdown on par with the best out there. The dog bone-shaped collar molding that Jordan Brand has been expertly using for the past couple years isn’t present here. The heel lockdown isn’t bad, and to my feet, even felt just a bit better than on the AJ2011 (probably just due to the non-modular cushioning system), but for a shoe that does everything else so well, it’s one of my few criticisms.

Jordan 2011 Q Flight Performance Review

Cushioning-wise, the Q Flight is outstanding. The heel and forefoot Zoom bags feel similar to those found in the “Quick” setup of the Air Jordan 2011, although not quite as close to the foot. What differs greatly from the AJ2011 though is the shoe’s transition. The fact that the modular cushioning system actually worked, didn’t shift around, and felt just like any other shoe was quite an accomplishment, and gave wearers an unprecedented level of cushioning options in a single shoe. But it also made the transition decent, but less than perfect. The Q Flight on the other hand is about as smooth as it gets. The Zoom KD II serves as my current benchmark to compare heel-to-toe transitions to, and this is probably the best example I’ve felt since. While its 14 ounce weight isn’t anything to write home about by today’s standards, the shoe plays very light thanks to the extra-smooth transition.

I criticized the Air Jordan 2011’s traction for focusing too much on the graphics side of its performance graphic-based outsole. It wasn’t bad, but when such better traction can be had through herringbone, I’ll always criticize a shoe when the aesthetics of an outsole prevent it from performing its best. That said, I was disappointed when I realized that the outsole of the Q Flight is identical to that of the AJ2011. Surprisingly though, I found that the solid white rubber used here was noticeably superior to the clear outsole of the 2011. It still doesn’t quite match up to the very best available, but I have no complaints.

Jordan 2011 Q Flight Performance Review - Outsole

While the AJ2011 may have been a great shoe, its high-end materials didn’t necessarily make for the most performance-orientated experience. The shoe was so nice in terms of quality, that they may have been hard to actually go hoop in. “We wanted to build a shoe that kids are not hesitating to beat up, and hesitating to take to the court, where they might worry if someone is going to step on their beautiful leather Js and mess them up,” explains Luedecke. “And really, our entire brand is shifting towards more and more performance, and better and better performance, so every chance we get, we’re going to try and take a step towards that.” The Q Flight is an easy recommendation, and for a shoe offering both elite cushioning and next-generation construction, is an impressive value at $120.

best for: Most players other than those favoring higher cuts

colorway tested: Black/High Voltage

key tech: heel and forefoot Zoom Air, fused upper construction, full-length inner bootie, performance graphics outsole

pros: transition, cut, cushioning, traction

cons: fit less refined than the best of the competition

improvements: return to molded collar of AJ2010 for better heel stability, refine last shape

buying advice: If you liked the Air Jordan 2011, you’ll love the Q Flight. It doesn’t have the modular cushioning system, so you are stuck (which is NOT a bad thing) with Zoom Air, but it improves on the transition, weight and traction (same pattern, different material) of the flagship Game shoe.

Performance Review: Air Jordan 2011 Q FlightPerformance Review: Air Jordan 2011 Q FlightPerformance Review: Air Jordan 2011 Q Flight