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Jordan Melo M6 | Getting It Right

words & images_Nick DePaula
A Sole Collector Performance Review

Up until now, Carmelo Anthony has had issues. Everyone knows it. The scuffle at the Garden, a regrettable DVD appearance and a driving infraction he’d rather never re-live. But through it all, he’s worked to correct his mistakes. It may have taken the world’s most complete offensive player [that’s right] a few years to figure it out, but amongst the flaws and missteps, he’s managed to mature, both on and off the court. Coincidentally, his footwear has taken a similar path towards today, as each year there remained flashes of greatness, but also a noticeable flaw or area of improvement. This season, Carmelo Anthony and the Jordan Melo M6 have been all about getting it right.

As Melo has polished his image, taken on more ownership on the court and proven to be back to his winning ways with an Olympic Gold Medal and Western Conference Finals appearance, the timing couldn’t be better for him to thankfully be putting the pieces together. His fans and supporters have believed in his talents and gifts all along — that will never be in question — but we’ve all been waiting for him to put together a complete season, a season where he excels not only on both sides of the floor, but more importantly where he shows that he can mature without any off-court distractions. For fans of his footwear, we’ve been waiting for his all-position style of shoe to follow a similar path towards improvement and building on past faults.

In the past, Melo’s signature line has incorporated heritage based looks with the 1.5 and V.5, as well as inspiration from cars and jaguars. Once again, as often happens in the footwear industry, an affinity for auto cues is used as the base of the shoe’s backbone, with its most dominant panel taking notes from “monocoque” construction. Not being a huge car guy, I had never heard of such a thing, but it’s apparently an ideology in building sports cars where all of the car’s parts are built around a single unibody piece. In the case of the Melo M6, the lateral side’s dominant, dual-branded, piece takes on the role of centerpoint for the upper’s guts. It serves as a lateral support panel, houses four eyelets along the eyestay and the top double eyelet, and is also responsible for the shoe’s semi-double lasted look. While the straightforward midsole and rest of the upper offers that smooth “clean toe” look that is often born out of marketing meetings where the phrase “jean friendly” is likely in attendance, I found the Melo M6 to be surprisingly the most serious performer in the line yet.

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One thing I will call out from the start is the potential for irritation along the lateral side of the shoe. As you can see, there are several panels that all meet together, conveniently for description purposes, right ahead of where the Jumpman is located. Now, for me personally, after just a few games I had broken in the shoe enough to where any irritation had subsided and I was good to go from there. For fellow writer and frequent hoop teammate Zac Dubasik, he continually noted the officially termed “pinky pain,” and at one point in the week of pick-up games, he had to switch out of the shoe entirely. His foot was throbbing. Words solely reserved for the basketball court were said, yet there I was without any issues at all. So, if you have a wide foot, be sure to try the Melo M6 on in-store first. You’ll be able to feel the bulging build-up quite easily, and move around a bit to see just how much pressure that specific point is inflicting. Again, for me, a few games of flexing the shoe and breaking them in was all I needed, and I had no complaints at all thereafter. If it’s an initial issue or becomes an issue that pains you, “That’s too damn bad” is the best I can offer, as you’ll just barely miss out on an outstanding shoe that I‘ve had the pleasure of playing in.

Underside bunching (that sounds odd…) aside, nearly every element of the M6’s upper is an improvement on an already existing cue from prior years. The tongue offers a partial wrap that was first incorporated into the 1.5, and here it’s far more tuned in and locks the foot down more precisely, whereas the 1.5’s tongue ran a tad long and could bunch up. The variable width lacing set-up was seen in both the V.5 and M3, and in the M6 the shoe synches up just right through the midfoot, building off of the great fit that made the M3 a common favorite. While the bottom eyelet, a ghilley, keeps the laces firmly in place at the base of the tongue, it’s the four eyelets to follow that can be credited with the shoe’s great midfoot fit. The lateral side of the upper features the aforementioned “monocoque” panel that extends to above the outrigger, but on the medial side, the panel is shorter, extending just above the arch and flowing with the contours of your foot. From the design feedback I’ve gathered online, that’s of course always aided by “digital courage,” the panel may look to be too prominent for some, but every square inch is purposeful in contributing to the shoe’s fit and support. Along the toe, a clean look that’s been carried over throughout the line is once again back for another year, and the shoe’s smooth transition and flexibility seen most in the M4 also returns.

The upper might not boast any more recognizable visual elements like a Flywire panel or TPU support piece, but it’s the internals of the shoe where fit is continually offered. As we saw in the M5 last year, the heel collar features a foam package that’s built around the foot’s ankle bones, or “malleolus” as I’ve only ever heard a designer say, and there’s been a great deal of effort placed in improving upon last year’s more puffy padding. This year, the collar foam is just right, enough to lock you in nicely without being too overbearing, noticeable or distracting during play. In taking each past shoe’s shortcomings and attacking them with a design and construction solution in mind, the team of Taylor and Developer Joe Gomez has built the best fitting Melo shoe to date. They got it right.

SC Melo 2Another aspect the design and development team closely looked over was the shoe’s cushioning set-up. For the past five years, each Melo has featured a different cushioning arrangement, and that’s been entirely by choice. The 1.5 offered full-length Air in a cupsole construction and the V.5 both heel and forefoot Air. Both were admittedly antiquated approaches, given the inspirations behind the models. Heel Dual Hardness Injected Phylon and forefoot Zoom Air was found in the M3, with the M4 featuring a smooth ride via a dot-welled Air-Sole unit, and the M5 boasting heel and forefoot Zoom Air. While I normally would be perfectly happy with adding Zoom Air to each and every shoe that Nike or Jordan Brand releases, the M3’s midsole offered the best ride and stability of the group, as compared to the most responsive cushioning, a difference worth noting.

With the M6, the decision was made to pick the best platform for ball, and with the 6’6” Taylor clocking in countless hours each week on the hardwood, personally weartesting his latest design along the way as both he and Melo wear a size 15, heel DHIP and forefoot Zoom was the call. The DHIP offers a great softness all players will demand, but it’s also nicely stable as a landing crash pad. Up front, I’d definitely be complaining if Zoom Air wasn’t in the cards, as it’s proven time and time again to be more responsive than a dated Air-Sole unit and far more durable than a slab of Lunar Foam, which hasn’t yet made its way into Jordan Brand footwear. From the first night on the floor to weeks later, the forefoot cushioning is graciously substantial, being all an active player could ask for. The midsole of the M6 is just right, tuned for just the right balance of cushioning and stability, often one of the trickiest tasks in crafting a basketball shoe.

SC Melo 5Another noteworthy change, which for a more egocentric athlete would be likely unwelcome, is the improved traction pattern along the outsole. Melo apparently hasn’t minded much, but the Melo-specific repeating ‘M’ pattern we’ve come to know has been relegated to serving as a simple cosmetic touch in the M6, and for the first time since the M3, you’ll get consistent squeak out of the shoe’s traction. [That’s scientifically how I normally gauge traction: A. Did the shoe stop when I wanted? B. Did I hear a squeak?] The biggest difference for the improved grip is the abundance of herringbone throughout the forefoot of the shoe, which is also zonal and broken up just where needed for some added flexibility. For as long as shoes have been made and for the decades to come that basketball shoes will be designed, it would seem that only one pattern would logically be placed in the region through the forefoot where a basketball so greatly depends on great traction: Herringbone. The varying directional pattern works. Every time. Better than anything else. With the M6, as you could probably guess, they got it right. Where herringbone is needed, herringbone is. Filling in the rest of the outsole’s insets with the Melo M pattern was a nice gesture, but hopefully for the line going forward, herringbone has won the battle for usage where needed.

Just like the shoe’s namesake, the Melo M6 is pretty simple and reserved at first glance. It won’t shout from the shelves of your local sneaker store that it’s the best in the building. It may not feature a panel like Flywire or contraption like Articulated Propulsion Technology that has a marketing-friendly buzz word to boost its value, as I can bet you haven’t heard of “monocoque” construction before, which in this case simply serves as a logical solution for both design and build. But just like Carmelo Anthony and his emerging role and continued success on the court, the Jordan Melo M6 has been the culmination of years of insights and efforts to improve, and has finally gotten it right. Up til now, everyone has been hoping that Melo himself, and in the mainstream, perhaps to a lesser extent, his footwear, would finally figure things out, learn from past mistakes and get things right. The Melo M6 is a nice representation of that evolution. With tremendous support thanks to a targeted outrigger and the shoe’s most dominant panel, as well as commendable fit due in part to the collar foam padding and midfoot lockdown, it’s a great shoe at a reasonable retail price of $120 that makes sense for players of all positions.

Who’s Worn it? Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets), Ricky Davis (Los Angeles Clippers)

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