words and images_Zac Dubasik
Jordan Take Flight | Max Air Done Better
Shoes with as much Max Air as the Jordan Take Flight will probably never be the lightest or fastest playing shoes. They won’t be the smoothest or have the best court feel. And they won’t be the most responsive or most stable either. In fact, if these previously mentioned factors are your primary concerns when looking for a hoops shoe, you’ll probably want to stay away from anything utilizing full-length Max Air. But if maximum cushioning and impact protection, with as minimal as possible sacrifice to the rest of those attributes, is what you want, then the Jordan Take Flight is worth some serious consideration.
It may not be immediately obvious, thanks to the painfully tacky looking support cage surrounding it, but the Take Flight employs the exact same Air bag originally used in the Air Max LeBron VII. As bad as the external Air bag cage may look (and the lettering only adds to the harshness), it marks a major improvement from Nike Basketball’s use of this technology. When playing in the LeBron VII, I was constantly worried about the shoe’s lateral stability. Poor heel lockdown, coupled with the thin sidewalls of the Air unit just didn’t provide me with a confident feeling when I moved side-to-side. The Take Flight’s support cage does an excellent job of adding some much-needed structure to the Air bag, with basically no negative effects to cushioning – the heel and midfoot cushioning still feel soft and protective, and the forefoot still a bit firm. Add to that the molded heel notch that Jordan Brand so often uses nowadays, and you’ve got a much more secure and stable shoe than the previous ones to use this Air bag.
The upper of the Take Flight utilizes thick, high-quality leathers. Add to that a patent leather-esque overlay rand (complete with a tonal print for added effect), and you have quite a substantial upper. To its credit, the shape is well designed, and helps keep the clunkiness to a reasonable level. The previously mentioned molded heel notch does wonders for lockdown, and contributes greatly to the overall fit of the shoe. Also utilized is a half-length inner bootie, which creates a smooth and comfortable interior. Although the tongue is mesh, it does little to aid in breathability. The straps crossing between the laces, á la the Air Jordan X, add an additional layer on top of the tongue, and do absolutely nothing but make the shoe look silly when fully laced. They are attached only on the tongue, and bunch up when laced tightly. I can imagine they don’t add too much weight, but any shoe this substantial just doesn’t need any unnecessary additions.
Not surprisingly (even with a fairly heavy upper), the huge Max Air bag, combined with the addition of the TPU support cage, make the Take Flight feel bottom heavy. The transition is better than expected (much like the Air Max LeBron VII) for a shoe with such an emphasis on cushioning, but the court feel is still pretty bad compared to the best of today’s competition. Unlike the LeBron VII though, the lockdown of the Take Flight’s upper helps to keep the overall bulkiness of the shoe in check, by allowing the shoe’s upper and tooling to function much more cohesively. When the upper fits so securely, it allows the tooling to become more of a part of your foot, and just makes for an overall better experience. The shoe’s entire outsole is composed of herringbone, and made for very secure footing on both clean and dusty courts. It doesn’t have the same squeak as the very top echelon shoes when it comes to traction, but was still very impressive. That solid traction makes the additional lateral support offered by the Max Air unit cage all the more important.
The Take Flight is never the type of shoe I’d reach for on a regular basis to play in. As much as my knees thank me for the extra impact protection, the substantialness of the shoe just makes me feel slow and sluggish around the court. I know that full-length Max Air shoes have quite a fan base though, and for players who value cushioning over all else, there is little to keep me from highly recommending the Take Flight. The addition of the support cage surrounding the Max Air bag has done wonders for the shoe’s stability, although it might not be as aesthetically pleasing. I hope Nike Basketball finds a way to make some of these improvements as well if they continue to use the cushioning set-up, as the support benefits are undeniable.
Available now: Jordan Take Flight