words & images // Nick DePaula
Kicksology // Jordan Melo M8

Perfect If You’re Carmelo Anthony — Outstanding If You’re Not

Ever since the concept of a signature sneaker was born, the approach was pretty straightforward: Build a sneaker to the athlete’s exact specifications. Which is great. There’s been some classic cues born from that ethos, whether it was more recently a defining performance trait like Chris Paul’s brake-reliant medial rubber wrap, or Kobe Bryant’s insistence on midfoot lockdown and heel fit in a lower collar height.

For Carmelo Anthony, his line has bounced around a bit through the years between cushioning technologies, design inspiration and quite honestly, general interest, but this new upcoming season and his eighth signature model finally seem to be veering the series back on track. The best part is that they’re built to his exact specifications. If you’re not 6’8 and a silky smooth scoring pro forward, the good news is that the Melo M8 is an outstanding all-around and versatile performer.

The expectations through the years have elevated for every facet of the equation, with Melo gradually going from the $120 price point with his initial 1.5 model to now the $135 mark. Of course much more notably, he’ll also be gearing up for the first time as a New York Knick for opening day of an NBA season. With the NYC market a bit more daunting than Denver, the added pressures didn’t seem to weigh much on designer Justin Taylor. “This is the first time that we’ve been able to come right in and launch the Knicks colorway as the main launch, and we’re excited about that,” says Taylor. “Melo is really excited about that.”

While the Melo M6 and M7 that Taylor first worked on for Anthony featured slightly more complicated tongue and collar fit systems, the biggest shift this season is the much more traditional collar found on the M8. Melo himself is still extremely cautious of his ankles and the lockdown in his shoes, but I found that with some snug lacing up to the very top eyelet, the M8 offers great protection and a nice plush feel thanks to the partial fit sleeve. The fit isn’t quite as targeted as the past two seasons, but you won’t encounter any problems either, making the shoe’s entry point perhaps a bit more generally accommodating. Personally, I’ve never cared much for convoluted collar stories, prefer more range of motion and definitely never bothered with the optional fit sleeve included with the M4, so the modified throat to the M8 is a welcome change for me. The shoe should work better with ankle braces than past models, and synch up just fine if you like to lace and go otherwise.

Another big shift in the upper of the shoe is certainly the introduction of Flywire for the launch version of the model. Of course, we saw the lightweight containment panel first used on the M7 Advance last spring, but those were only made in limited colorways and didn’t quite have the volume of pairs that the M8 will see. As Taylor explains, the addition of Flywire to the mix for the 8 was a decision made later in the process. “Initially, we were trying to do a custom synthetic that was just going to be for Melo,” he begins. “But after the M7 Advance came out, and Flywire did really well on that shoe and he liked it, we decided that Flywire would probably be the best fit on this one.” To be completely honest, the panel didn’t really do anything for me performance wise. The cables are anchored to the eyestay and in theory anchor to each lace loop, but the version incorporated is more similar to the first generation panel that Nike Basketball used in 2009 on the Hyperize, and not nearly as evolved or well-fitting as more current iterations.

The shoe conforms fine, but as we’ve seen in the Hyperdunk 2011, a real benefit of Flywire can be when it’s used with a mesh base for added breathability and tremendous fit. Clocking in at 14.7 ounces, the Melo M8 isn’t necessarily all that lightweight — or “impossibly lightweight,” as the brand likes to call hitting the 13 ounce mark these days — and I’d like to see Flywire used in conjunction with a more holistic approach to lighten up the entire sneaker. If the Melo line continues to use Flywire, hopefully it’ll be with a more dynamic and targeted approach to really maximize the shoe’s ability to harness and hug the foot too. At $135, I get that in today’s retail ladscape there’s a thing called “visible value,” and maybe the addition of Flywire was more for marketing reasons in replacing a less compelling synthetic along the upper — all I’m saying is I wasn’t blown away by it in this application.

On the note of visible value, one thing I won’t be complaining about at all is the cushioning that you can so clearly see. It is damn good. With a heel Max Air unit for stable landings and solid impact protection, the true gem of the Melo M8 is its forefoot Max Zoom Air bag. It’s exposed — a first ever for Jordan Brand — and it’s also placed directly between the midsole and outsole with no filler, so you get a hugely responsive and full-feeling 10 mm Max Zoom unit up front. If you’re a small guard looking for the lightest weight shoe, compromising a few ounces for this much cushioning might be worth it. If you’re a bigger forward and interested in having your feet feel good, this is where you should start in the hunt for your next shoe. “It’s tried and true,” Taylor says of the setup. “Plus, Melo loves the Max Air. You’ve seen in the last few that we’re putting the larger Air bags in the heel.”

Along with great cushioning all throughout the shoe, another real nice feature is the shoe’s support and robust midfoot shank. The TPU shank extends all the way from the heel of the shoe to the forefoot, and actually also helps to cage the forefoot Max Zoom unit for some added durability. Forefoot exposed Zoom bags can often bottom out or become less responsive over time without enough pebax encasing or support, but the cushioning held up great throughout my time in the M8. While I previously mentioned the need for the shoe’s Flywire to be a bit more effective, the large rand that runs throughout the upper nicely holds the foot over the footbed, and the stability of the shoe is a nice bright spot. If you’re a versatile forward like Melo that enjoys battling in the post or stepping out for jumpers and drives, the M8 should nicely complement a versatile style of play.

Moving down to the very bottom of the shoe is something even more tried and true than its cushioning system — herringbone. And as nearly every time, it works perfectly. You’ll find less need for swiping than most other shoes, and you’ll also really enjoy the transition and hold that the shoe’s outsole offers. Traction can at times rank highest in terms of what I look for in a shoe, and the M8 is right there among the best. The combination of traditional herringbone with a radiating siped pattern surrounding the pivot point is a great tandem, and hopefully not much changes from it for next year’s model.

All in all, the M8 was a joy to play in, and is well built, strong and stable. I would definitely love it that much more if it was around the 12.5 to 13 ounce mark, but if you’re a larger forward, it’ll feel tailor made to your game. The shoe’s cushioning, support and traction are all outstanding. I’d still like to see a more modernized version of Flywire in the shoe, as it could fit a bit better and should probably be more on par with Nike Basketball’s evolved Flywire of today, as compared to the more plasticky versions of years past. But, the effort to elevate Melo’s line with the company’s most celebrated materials and construction methods is a start. If you’re looking for more exact midfoot fit and lighter weight, you might want to check out a few models on the BB-03 last that are more narrow through the body of the shoe, like the Zoom Kobe VII and KD IV. (The Melo M8 uses the more generally accommodating QF-8 last.) If you’re after maximum cushioning, great support and want an all-around versatile performer, the M8 is definitely worth a look.

Jordan Melo M8

A- (92 / 100)

Comfort & fit: 4.5 / 5

Cushioning: 5 / 5

Ankle support: 4.5 / 5

Breathability: 4 / 5

Heel-toe transition: 4.5 / 5

Traction: 5 / 5

Weight: 3.5 / 5 (14.7 oz)

Best for: forwards looking for more impact protection, cushioning and support at the expense of weight and court feel

Colorway tested: Black / Orange Flash / Blue

Key tech: heel Max Air unit, TPU midfoot shank, 10 mm forefoot Zoom Air unit, Flywire upper, herringbone traction pattern outsole

Pros: cushioning; step-in comfort and plush bootie; dependable traction and stability

Cons: slightly too heavy for current market, midsole feels a bit substantial

Improvements: There really isn’t too much to alter here. Perhaps a few ounces could’ve been shaved from the tooling, and the midfoot could be improved for a closer fit.

Buying advice: At the $135 level, there are definitely several other great competing signature products, but if you’re not concerned about playing in the lightest weight shoe on the market and it’s impact protection and maximum cushioning you’re after, the Melo M8 is an outstanding choice. If you’re after traction, support and cushioning in a plush build, check them out. Bigger forwards will love these.

Available now: Jordan Melo M8