Performance Review // Air Jordan XX8

Performance Review // Air Jordan XX8

words // Zac Dubasik

When the Air Jordan XX8 was unveiled to the public for the first time last December, it was introduced along with the concept of “stealth.” During the design process, when the theme was taken to MJ, he pulled no punches when explaining what the concept meant to him. “Stealth is like Black Cat. It’s an ultimate aircraft. You never hear it coming, but it’s deadly as hell. You don’t ‘F’ with stealth. My game is like that. When you see it, it’s too ‘F-ing’ late.” The concept of stealth could even be tied in to the fact that the shoe was the first Air Jordan of the blog-era to not leak beforehand.

Kicksology // Air Jordan XX8 Performance Review (2)But while “stealth” may have defined the shoe’s design aesthetic, and even the unveiling, beneath it all, this is basically a shoe you’ve seen before. A much better version than you’ve seen before, but still a shoe who’s lasting impression comes more from its refinements rather than breaking entirely new ground.

Since it’s impossible to look at the Air Jordan XX8 without taking note of it’s sky-high height, let’s start there. The Air Jordan line has been a pioneer in collar heights, dating back to the mid-cut of the III. “This time, instead of being the first one to be a mid-cut, this is going to be the first one to ever be an eight-inch tall basketball shoe,” explained Tinker Hatfield. “We’re using these super lightweight materials so we can make it still a very lightweight, high-performance shoe, but it’s eight inches tall. And it has the silhouette of a military boot – something that you’d see in battle.”

As tall as it may look though, the XX8 more or less plays like a low-top. You may feel a bit of proprioceptive reassurance when the collar is fully zipped, but it offers basically nothing in terms of support. And that’s just fine, because as we’ve learned over the past few years of low-tops becoming more widely accepted on the court, the real support comes from controlling the heel and cradling the midfoot, rather than collar height.

That means the majority of the support and control comes from what’s hidden under the shoe’s shroud, which is basically a low-top inner shoe. The dynamic fit inner system is composed of a heavy mesh sleeve, with five finger-like straps, which wrap up from the midsole, and provide a fit that’s both fully supportive, and extremely comfortable. With only five eyelets, it almost seems like there aren’t enough to provide the necessary lockdown, but it somehow works. It works so well, in fact, that the midfoot lockdown offers enough stability that it allows the toe area to have minimal support. That allows the toes to spread more naturally, which increases comfort and court feel, without sacrificing performance. When combined with the carbon fiber external heel and forefoot counters, I felt locked in at all the right places, yet unrestricted.

One important note here is that the shoe runs large. I’d recommend starting a half-size smaller than what you normally wear. Jordan Brand has stuck with the traditional, generally accommodating QF-8 last, which they’ve used on all recent Game shoes. This means the shoe will fit more people than the sleeker lasts used by Nike Basketball, but it won’t fit as close as say, a Kobe model. There’s a little more volume in the toe box and a slightly wider overall fit. And with the particular construction and method of support utilized by this shoe, the right fit is extremely important. A half size big will have your foot moving around too much for proper lockdown. So, if you have the luxury of trying a pair on first, take advantage of it.

One last note on the shoe’s upper, is the outer sleeve’s lack of breathability. The material itself may breath, but it’s adding a layer, which means the whole shoe gets that much hotter. I accepted a long time ago that regardless of a shoe’s breathability, my feet will be soaked by the time I get done playing. And that’s fine. I always look at breathability as a bonus for me. If it’s there, great. If not, it doesn’t affect how much I like a shoe.

But the Air Jordan XX8, with its extra layers, never seemed to dry out. Almost every time I put them on, they would still be wet from the day before. And that’s not a particularly pleasant experience – especially when the shoe is so comfortable otherwise. Faster drying materials would have been a major improvement, assuming they didn’t impact the shoe’s playability otherwise.

Kicksology // Air Jordan XX8 Performance Review (9)

It’s still Zoom Air, still the same reactive fibers embedded in an air unit, but thanks to a more holistic system, you are able to get more out of it than ever before. “The basic system is all around compression, deflection, and ultimately moderation,” explained the shoe’s developer, Josh Heard. “Zoom Air bags by themselves are extremely energy efficient. The problem was the way we had used Zoom Air bags in the past. We would encapsulate them in foam and what not, and it would lock up all the energy. So what we did was we unlocked the Zoom. We unleashed the Zoom. We’ve cored out foam all around the Zoom Air bags, so literally you are stepping directly on Zoom when you are getting that first, initial feel. The outsole also helps, as I said, piston that effect. And then we have a moderator plate on top, that eliminates any bumps or hot spots under the foot. So, it’s moderated all the way through, and you get that nice, comfortable smooth feel.”

The change may seem small, but the results were immediately noticeable. You can feel “more” Zoom, without the use of “bigger” Zoom, such as the full-length Max Zoom bag found in the LeBron X. That means more responsiveness, with better court feel. Cushioning and court feel typically have an inverse relationship. As one increases, the other deceases. But thanks to this new system, protection and flexibility increased simultaneously. When combined with an outstanding midfoot shank, the Air Jordan XX8 was simply one of the best playing experiences I’ve ever had. They flex where needed, support where needed, provide responsive cushioning where needed, and have zero break-in time. I can’t think of a performance shoe that’s ever felt as good right out of the box. With the only exception possibly coming from the traction improving over the first few wearings, the shoe was basically as good on my first run as the twentieth.

Other than the aforementioned breathability issues, price, and sizing, the only other negative I found with the Air Jordan XX8 was a potential durability issue. The first two pairs I played in were early sample runs, and I had separation issues with the shroud on both. I noticed some tearing right where the fuse layer met the shroud at the toe, which you can see in detail below.

My third pair was from the actual production run, and even after an extended testing period, I experienced no problems on that pair. It’s very possible that these issues were addressed, and that you will have no problems with retail pairs. I’d also like to see Jordan Brand move at some point to a sleeker last for their Game shoes. But thanks to the widespread appeal of the Jordan Brand name, I have doubts that they’ll ever switch to a more refined last shape, when that could mean it will fit less players.

Kicksology // Air Jordan XX8 Performance Review (4)

The good news is that through innovative fit systems like the one found here, you can still achieve a great fit – it just might take some experimenting with sizing. I eventually found a great fit when I put my orthotics directly over the standard insoles, rather than in place of the standard insoles, which I usually do. That gave me an effect similar to sizing down, and eliminated the slipping I initially felt.

The $250 price of the Air Jordan XX8 will probably be a deterrent to a lot of potential buyers. At one point in time, the $200 Air Jordan XVII seemed impossibly high, and at least it came in a metal briefcase. Calling the XX8 a “deal” would be inaccurate. There are exceptionally good performing shoes available for less than half the price. If you want the best shoe of the season, this is it. If price is no object, or only the best will do, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the XX8 for a second. If you are more sensitive to price, but still care about performance, I’d probably recommend skipping a retro or two, and still looking at these. I liked playing in them that much. I can’t think of another shoe I’ve played in that addressed both performance and comfort this equally. The Air Jordan XX8 isn’t perfect, but if you can find a size that fits, its imperfections are minimal.

GRADE BREAKDOWN:

designer: Tinker Hatfield

colorway tested: Electric Green / White

best for: most players other than larger forwards and centers

key tech: Flight Plate system with heel and forefoot Zoom Air, Carbon Fiber midfoot shank and heel counter, Dynamic Fit inner sleeve

pros: comfort; cushioning; transition; fit; zero break-in time

cons: breathability; durability; sizing

improvements: more breathable outer sleeve, more true sizing

buying advice: As shocking as the looks of the Air Jordan XX8 are, what makes it such a great shoe are refinements on tried and true principles. Zoom Air and a carbon fiber shank have never felt so effective. Excluding the Sport Pack editions of the LeBron X, which no one actually wanted for the Sport Pack integration, the Air Jordan XX8 is the most expensive shoe out this season. And while there are much better choices from a value standpoint, if you want the absolute best, regardless of cost, the XX8 is an easy recommendation. Also, if you are unable to try a pair on before buying, plan on going down at least a half size as a starting point.

Available: Air Jordan XX8

Kicksology // Air Jordan XX8 Performance Review (5)

Tinker Hatfield (left) and Josh Heard (right):

Kicksology // Air Jordan XX8 Performance Review (6)

Kicksology // Air Jordan XX8 Performance Review (7)

Kicksology // Air Jordan XX8 Performance Review (8)

Jordan Retro 14 Performance Review

Jordan Retro 14 Performance Review

Jordan Retro 14 Performance Review | A Game Of Performance Telephone
words & images by Nick DePaula

In 1998, the Air Jordan XIV was top-of-the-line performance. Much like the Ferrari 550 that inspired its look and build, the shoe took every last consideration into consideration. The fit was exacting along both sides of the shoe. The asymmetrical collar was far improved from the variation incorporated a year before it on the XIII. And most of all, it was no-frills performance with as blueprint-worthy a chassis, traction pattern and cushioning setup as you’ll find.

All of that is hugely important, because in 2012, many of those details and construction intricacies are now oversights. While the retail price may have jumped just $10, even though inflation would suggest a $200+ price tag in today’s market, the shoe in its re-retroed form no longer goes through a stringent D1 weartesting program, no longer offers quite the same hug and flex that real full-grain leather and natural suedes of the original will afford, and it no longer performs as a best-in-market sneaker. It’s still a nice playing shoe, but that slide is disappointing and to be expected from nearly all other retroes that the brand is currently releasing.

For that reason alone, while it might be fun to break them out from time to time casually, the Retro 14 left a lot to be desired on the hardwood. For starters, the general shape of the shoe isn’t on par with the original, and there’s a huge drop in overall fit because of it. The shoe is comfortable enough along the sidewall and interior, although the upper’s thick materials are extremely outdated by today’s standards, but the fit is certainly nothing that’ll blow you away. The asymmetrical collar appears to be a bit lower than the original, which isn’t an ideal placement, but it works well enough to provide nice ankle support and collar lockdown. The one thing that is still fairly similar to the original in terms of the upper is the damn bar that extends out from the top of the tongue. It still hurts, too. Unless you wear extremely thick socks, look forward to the edges of the bar rubbing and irritating your foot. Perhaps a rubberized bar instead of using plastic would’ve worked better. Either way, the bar is still annoying.

While the fit is a bit sloppy and largely a letdown, the difference in the shoe’s general shape pales in comparison to the shockingly lower-quality materials. In its day, the XIV used the absolute best full-grain leather on the signature footwear market. It was soft to the touch and buttery smooth. Today’s version features some seriously weak pleather. If you’ve been following along with Retro Jordans for a few years now, suspect quality isn’t really anything new compared to the original shoes that actually took to heart the “quality inspired by the greatest player ever” tagline, but it’s the XII, XIII and XIV where the drop off is most disappointing. Considering that those models could still be taken to the court and perform well if some actual effort were put into their construction, you’re left hoping the brand cared that the on-court legacy of the shoes actually still translates on court. If you happen to have an original pair, a side-by-side and up-close comparison might be a sad sight. With the retail price jumping $10 from the original, the build quality and poor materials are definitely a hard recommendation at that price point. Unfortunately, Retro models are still flying off shelves and worn almost exclusively off court, so perhaps the brand is taking their focus off of performance simply because they can. The time will come that that approach catches up to them.

Because the original was so very good to play in, not all is terrible in the Retro. The ride is still as good as you may remember, keeping your foot seriously low to the ground and offering up some sweet and nimble court feel. The foam wings along the midsole of both sides of the shoe act as a nice harness of sorts to keep you over the footbed on cuts, and the support and traction is definitely a bright spot of the shoe. To go along with the low-to-the-ground feel and stance, the full-herringbone traction pattern works perfectly, gripping nicely on even an average hardwood floor. Don’t even act like you aren’t going to try MJ’s “Last Shot” move in these, either. It’s a must down the stretch of any close pickup game, and luckily the traction and hold is still there for the step-back cross. Of course I tried. Multiple times. Free scouting report, too, you guys: If you’re ever guarding someone wearing “Last Shots” and they’re going for a game-winner, don’t bite the fake. You’re better than that.

Moving back to the actual shoe, another aspect of the tooling that I found to be pretty solid, even by today’s standards, was the cushioning. A full-Phylon midsole, heel Air sole unit and forefoot Zoom Air unit can still do the job. While much else on the shoe might’ve been lost in translation or may now feel dated since its debut in 1998, the cushioning platform is still the preferred setup of most ballers almost 15 years later. The Zoom unit could have a bit more volume to it, but the tradeoff for some exceptional court feel is worth it. The entire system working together, which would include the heel Air bag, midfoot TPU shank and responsive Zoom bag up front, make for a great blend of impact protection, pure cushioning and court feel.

It might not seem like it’s been almost 15 years since Michael last donned a Bulls uni and a pair of Air Jordans on the hardwood at the same time – but it has. Because of the fact that the ’98 version of the XIV slipped a bit on the ’06 Retro version, and then once again now on the 2012 re-issue, the shoe’s performance suffers from that game of telephone accordingly. While a few specs and details of the XIV may still hold up in today’s era of lightweight- and synthetic-driven sneakers, the old fashioned leather and suede body of the shoe, coupled with a seriously flawed and unfaithful reproduction process, means the shoe will fall a bit short of your on-court expectations. There’re far better shoes out there hovering right around the $100 level that offer better fit, lighter weight, actual breathability and much, much more targeted fit and attention to detail. If it’s worth a full $160 of your cash to play in a shoe that might be remembered more for a single legacy-framing jumper than its actual hardwood merits today, that’s your call. I just can’t make that recommendation.

Grade Breakout:

designed by: Tinker Hatfield

best for: Guards and forwards

colorway tested: Black/Varsity Red/Black

worn by: Dwyane Wade, Monta Ellis, Jared Sullinger and others

key tech: Heel Air sole unit, forefoot Zoom Air, herringbone traction pattern, Phylon midsole, foam support chassis, TPU midfoot shank, asymmetrical collar

pros: Great traction and ride; court feel is tremendous; solid cushioning that still is among everyone’s favorite setup today.

cons: Fit is less targeted than original; plays slightly heavy in modern era; poor materials, build and value for price; irritable bar on top of tongue; non-existent breathability.

improvements: Pay more attention to areas of fit and quality in order to preserve what was once a best-in-class performance masterpiece.

buying advice: Take the Retro 14 to the court if you fall under two categories: 1.) You’re simply a nostalgic dude. 2.) You’re a current pro athlete who doesn’t care for his own signature shoe. Otherwise, you can definitely find a better modern sneaker for a better price than $160 that’s lighter, more breathable and more well-built. If court feel is your very favorite thing in a shoe, then they might be worth checking out, too.

Available: Air Jordan Retro 14 Footwear & Apparel

Performance Review: adiZero Rose 2.5

Performance Review: adiZero Rose 2.5

Adidas adiZero Rose 2.5 Performance Review | Dialing Things In For The Home Stretch
words & images // Nick DePaula

There’s nothing that I hate more in sneakers than signature lines that don’t evolve. In theory, as a series moves from season to season, year to year and model to model, there should be a progression of all that is so expertly crafted into it. Better performance, improved storytelling and in some cases, correcting the missteps of the past are all a must.

Derrick Rose’s adiZero Rose 2.5 is the only signature shoe of this year that I thought accomplished that. While other new models on the market took on convoluted modularity stories at the expense of true performance, got a bit fussy in design or took steps backward in fit and comfort, the Rose 2.5 truly took all of the best attributes and traits of DRose’s start-of-season model, the Rose 2, and improved on everything from the ground up. You could argue that the Rose 2 is a better-looking shoe, and you might be right, but where it counts most – on the hardwood – the Rose 2.5 really begins to dial in all of the performance cues that the Rose 2 fell short on.

The very first thing you’ll notice, both by simply looking at the shoe and by trying it on, is that the collar is exceptionally more plush and built up than the Rose 2. While the luxe-driven elastic gore bands along the collar of the 2 looked pretty damn cool and hinted to the best-kept secret Y-3 line’s Kazuhiri, it certainly didn’t offer exacting lockdown for all shapes, sizes and styles of play. The collar is just one of many areas where there’s a huge jump in performance, and the added comfort right away from the memory foam-like fit around your ankle is a great improvement. I thought the Rose 2 laced up just fine, but the gore bands stretched and frayed after just a few weeks of play. The 2.5 should hold up much longer, and the padding and sheer softness of the collar feels awesome to the foot. If you, like Derrick Rose, also wear an ankle brace, you’ll definitely appreciate the more traditional and accommodating closure here, too.

Coupled with that increase in comfort comes some exceptional lockdown. As designer Robbie Fuller explained it, there’s a subtle nod to the brand’s iconic three stripes in the collar design, and there’re three points of lockdown along the throat that’ll really hold you in. You’ll notice two triangles along the sides of both ankles and another along the tongue, and when laced tightly, you’re firmly locked right into place. The shoe’s modified SPRINTWEB quarter panel through the midfoot allows the body of the upper to cinch up and hug the foot well, and with a bolstered and enlarged SPRINTFRAME chassis seeping further up along the heel, there’s lockdown galore. I’m not exactly quite as fast as Derrick Rose, but on cuts and jabs, I was precisely where I wanted to be for every step.

A lot of times in a basketball shoe, impressive midfoot fit and heel lockdown can be practically worthless if the shoe has poor traction. While the Rose 2 took Derrick’s line to a new space for both on-court appeal and off-court versatility, the shoe’s huge backstory had one huge drawback. The volcano-inspired traction pattern that began along the medial side of the heel and flowed into the lateral side of the forefoot never quite cut it. Gone is the storytelling splatter traction pattern for the Rose 2.5, in favor of a fully grooved rubber outsole. Along with the difference in collar comfort, the upgrade in pure traction is something that’s immediately noticeable. It’s not quite as good as the industry-leading Crazy Light, but it’s right up there at the very top. Because the grooves are a bit more shallow than the Crazy Light, you’ll have to swipe a bit more from time to time, but keep the outsole clean and you’re completely set for sudden stops and changes of direction all night long. One of my main complaints on the Rose 2 was its lack of hold, and I loved the traction here.
What made the Crazy Light such a great shoe was, of course, its feathery weight and all-new modernized design, but there was a distinct difference in the way the shoe was actually constructed that I most appreciated. The shoe went from synthetic upper to SPRINTFRAME plate and straight to tooling, and the lack of a more traditional midsole meant you were sitting directly on a slab of, according to Fuller, what he so often calls “premium-sourced foam.” That subtle difference on the Crazy Light resulted in the best out-of-box comfort ever from adidas Basketball. The Rose 2 didn’t follow that same approach and was more firm to start, and thankfully, the 2.5 goes back to the upper-plate-foam construction that made the Crazy Light such a big hit. It’s something you might never be able to immediately notice just by glancing at a shoe, and it certainly will take a far more sophisticated consumer to be able to gather that this setup offers more cushioning and performance than an oft-duping visible technology like Air Max, but it’s greatly welcomed here in the Rose 2.5

Aside from the shoe’s improved cushioning, collar lockdown and traction, something I didn’t care for on the Rose 2.5 was the slightly roomy toe box. I have a pretty standard-width foot, but there’s some extra volume both above the foot and from side to side. If you lace your shoes a bit tighter, you’ll be fine thanks to some sweet heel and midfoot lockdown, but if you like a relaxed fit through the body of the shoe, you might find your forefoot sliding around a bit on cuts.

Another pretty noticeable issue was how slick the top of the shoe’s sockliner was. On top of the added volume in the toe, the insole doesn’t exactly keep your foot in place either. One solution I went to after just the third wearing was replacing the Rose 2.5’s sockliner with the “Crazy Comfort” insole from the Crazy Light. I felt immediately more secure, but that might not be an option for everyone, of course. The 2.5’s volume and slick stock sockliner are the only real issue in the shoe, and a good reason to possibly look into sizing down a half size. Otherwise, I didn’t notcie any hot spots or problems areas of note worth pointing out.

All in all, the Rose 2.5 carries on the quickly emerging Derrick Rose signature line with several great and targeted improvements from his first-half shoe. If you play the point guard position or consider yourself an active player, you should definitely like the great traction, lockdown, court feel and transition. If you have a narrow foot, the shoe might be a bit roomy up front and you might want to look at sizing down a half size. At “just” $110, the Rose 2.5 is a great value at the signature level and also a real durable buy. The slight toe rubber wrap and balanced foam cushioning setup will give the shoe a great lifespan over a full season of use, and unlike the fraying and decaying gore bands found on the Rose 2, the 2.5’s upper and collar foam package are definitely in for the long haul. The Rose 2 had some clear flaws that needed addressing, and it’s impressive that within the same NBA season, the Rose 2.5 is exactly the upgraded model I had in mind.

Grade Breakout & Details:

designed by: Robbie Fuller

best for: guards and forwards

colorway tested: Black / White / Scarlet

key tech: full-length premium-sourced EVA foam midsole, SPRINTWEB midfoot panel, SPRINTFRAME full-length chassis, plush memory foam-like collar padding, targeted grooved traction pattern, miCoach cell technology

pros: outstanding lockdown and support, solid traction, lightweight, outstanding court feel and control, real durable

cons: forefoot is a bit roomy and could hold the foot over the footbed better; miCoach compatibility is inconsequential

improvements: Work on fit from midfoot through the forefoot and tighten volume throughout toe.

buying advice: If you’re after court feel, transition, traction and lockdown, the Rose 2.5 is a great option. With improvements on literally every downside of the Rose 2, the 2.5 offers better hold on hardwood, a more comfortable collar and sheds weight in what is the lightest Rose shoe yet.

Available Now: adidas adiZero Rose 2.5

Performance Review: Jordan CP3.V

Performance Review: Jordan CP3.V

Jordan CP3.V | The Low For Everybody

words // Zac Dubasik
images // Nick DePaula

At first glance, the changes from last year’s CP3.IV to this year’s CP3.V seem minimal. The CP3.IV almost appears like it could have been an earlier sample for the V. And in a way, I guess that’s accurate. This is much more of an evolutionary than revolutionary design. It may not be a major design shift or breakthrough, but the V’s small tweaks have led to improved performance in pretty much every possible area. The IV had potential, but was flawed. The V nailed just about everything.

One of my biggest gripes with the IV was its collar cut. It fell somewhere in that area of not low or high enough, and ended up just being uncomfortable. It didn’t offer the range-of-motion benefits of a low, nor the perceived support benefits of a mid. It kind of just fell in a no-mans land of 5/8ths discomfort. The collar on the V isn’t drastically lower, and unless you hold them next to each other, it may be hard to even see a difference. But the change is huge on the court. The CP3.V offered outstanding range of motion. The collar foam isn’t as secure and perfect as the gold standard – the Kobe line – but when laced tightly, offered excellent lockdown.

The entire Flywire upper provided excellent lockdown, and over 3 ounces in weight reduction compared to last year’s CP3.IV. The shape of its last is more generally accommodating, and less sleek, than that of the best fitting shoes out there, but in turn, it should fit a wider range of players. The only real issue caused was that when laced extremely tight to get the best fit, I had comfort issues with too much lace pressure. The only other negative with the upper was some minor pinching at the flex point, which, thanks to the materials and pattern, was reminiscent of the Hyperdunk 2010’s flex point issue. This one isn’t nearly as much of an issue, but worth noting.

The next area of improvement over the IV was the traction. It’s not that the pattern or materials were bad on the IV, but thanks to the bi-level design, aimed at highlighting the Podulon cushioning system, there just wasn’t enough rubber touching the floor at times. This has been completely corrected with a flat and leveled forefoot outsole on the V, which provided excellent traction in all directions. I felt like I wanted to cut in them – always a sign of confidence in traction.

Cushioning wise, I’m a big fan of Podulon. As far as foam-based cushionings go, it’s probably my favorite. The dual-density based Podulon is extremely smooth, and offers just the right amount of protection, without being too soft. It’s not exactly responsive, but about as close as it gets in a foam. Both the heel and forefoot cushioning provided excellent protection, but also maintained a high level of court feel. Add to that a large TPU midfoot shank, and you’ve got an outstanding tooling that is fast, has excellent transition, and is still very supportive.

The Zoom Kobe IV launched a low-top revolution. It wasn’t the first low-top signature shoe, but it was the first one to be so widely accepted. And if you’ve been paying any attention to the NBA over the past few seasons, you’ve seen players of all shapes and sizes hitting the courts in lows. The CP3.V may not be the fastest and most minimal of its low-top siblings, but I did find it to be the most supportive – and in a good way. For small and fast players, it offers the speed and range of motion that lows are known for. What’s so impressive though is that for larger players, it offers a level of support and security not typically found in a low. The CP3.V is an easy recommendation for all players who favor low-tops, but an especially strong recommendation for larger and stronger players who do.

Grade Breakout:

designed by: Tom Luedecke

best for: Players of all sizes who prefer a low-top

colorway tested: Black / White / Stealth

key tech: TPU midfoot shank, Flywire upper, dual-density Podulon cushioning system, 3/4-length innersleeve

pros: Cushioning, weight, range of motion, stability

cons: Lace pressure, flex point pressure

improvements: Thin and targeted padding on tongue to aid in comfort; more refined last

buying advice: The CP3.V may have the logo of one of the game’s fastest players, but this shoe isn’t exclusively for speedy point guards. The Zoom Kobe IV made it acceptable for players of all positions to start wearing low-tops

Available: Jordan CP3.V

 

Performance Review: Nike Zoom KD IV

Performance Review: Nike Zoom KD IV

words & images // Nick DePaula

For the past two years, Kevin Durant’s signature sneaker has been the best performing shoe available at retail. I really believe that. It’s worth noting, of course, that the “at retail” part is all the more impressive when you factor in the fact that the shoe’s were “just” a mere $88.

At anywhere from $30 to even $70 less than competing signature products, every part about that is tremendous. The shoes held up well, had great traction, cushioning and all of the stuff you’re looking for for the hardwood — and then on top of that, they were also affordable.

So why the big intro about the great performance and relatively low price of the Kevin Durant series up til now? Well, the Zoom KD IV is by its own merit an outstanding shoe on-court, but for the $7 more at retail that Durant’s fourth model jumps to, it’s perhaps a step back in overall performance from the exceptional level of playability that his line has already reached. If you’re a guard looking for a supportive, reliable and cushioned sneaker, the KD IV is a great choice, but if you’re a close follower of the line so far, you might find a few points that let you down.

To get right into it, the shoe’s new Adaptive Fit system, a variation of which we’ve seen over in Nike Running, offers great fit through the midfoot, but is perhaps too narrow for most. The more you pull on the lower two medial lace loops and the adjoining strap system, the more snug the shoe’s midfoot will be, as the dual-pull harness tightens accordingly through the arch. This might create a struggle for people with wide feet to find just the right balance of fit. I have a pretty standard D width foot, but anything wider and you might need to size up for more room through the body of the shoe.

Regardless of how the midfoot fits you, you’ll also notice the arch of the shoe is rather pronounced, a noticeable difference right away from the KD II & III. While the exact same shank is carried over from last year’s model (a nice way to save some money in the constant quest to keep the shoe under $100), the extra midfoot sculpting and stance of the shoe still make for a substantial arch. If you have flat feet, you’ll want to try these on ahead of time.

Just ahead of the shoe’s midfoot, I also noticed quite a bit of irritation and discomfort stemming from the underside of the forefoot lateral fused vent. This is what you might traditionally call a “hot spot.” I tried a few different sock thicknesses over the course of my testing to see if I could build up a buffer of sorts, but nothing seemed to work. The toe box is a bit snug side-to-side to begin with, and the vent underside pressure only compounds the problems up front.

Above: The underside of the forefoot vent is where I experienced the most irritation and rubbing during play.

While the shoe has a few fit and irritation issues, there are quite a few bright spots to touch on as well, but I’ll get to those in a few. One last complaint first! For years now, I’ve sworn by no-show socks. Simply a personal preference, and ideally I’d be playing in an ultra-thin no-show in every shoe. I found the collar of the KD IV to initially also be quite harsh during my testing, and it wasn’t until the fourth or fifth wearings that the chafing and irritation of the collar softened up and went away. After the first night, I was in quite some pain, had visible callouses, and had to switch to some taller socks towards the end of the trial. I’d definitely recommend a thicker quarter cut sock with these. Of course, that might also make the midfoot far too narrow, so try these on first if you can, with thick socks on hand. The underside of the Hyperfuse layered upper and edging of the collar are simply too harsh at first otherwise.

Because I was curious, I even took a night off during the testing and played in my trusty KD IIIs from last year. The collar felt amazing by comparison, and the shoe had no pressure spots. Much of that newfound discomfort can be attributed to the new fused approach. There’s just less padding along the underside in the hopes of shedding some weight.

Now that we have all of the negatives out of the way, let’s turn that frown upside down and take a glance at what I loved about the KD IV. The strap, entirely unique and at first glance rather odd, works great. It’s not useless like a forefoot strap, and not too restrictive like a collar strap either. It’s there for a nice additional layer of lockdown, is fully adjustable and works in tandem with the shoe’s Adaptive Fit arch system. Well done. Will it continue in the KD line and in other shoes? That might be too early to get into, but I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing it in other shoes. This coming from a guy who hates pointless straps. But, it’s not pointless here, so that’s a good thing.

Another great item of the shoe is its transition, as we’ve come to expect from the KD line. There’s a full-length Phylon midsole for a smooth ride and the same propelling TPU midfoot shank from the KD III. Great ride, stance and bounce in the open court.

While the shank and story-telling approach is carried over throughout the outsole, there is one big shift in the shoe’s traction pattern. Gone is the herringbone outsole that we saw in the first three models, as the IV features an integrated thunder bolt pattern. Clearly inspired by his team name — the guy is all about team, afterall — I found the traction to be great. Not screech and squeak inducing like the best herringbone designs, and not quite as the bar-setting KD IIs, but still reliable on marginal courts and outstanding on outstanding courts, as you might expect. I always will vote for herringbone if given an option, but the traction works here. We’ve seen quite a few signature themed patterns fail in recent years, so it was nice to see this tread work nearly as well as the tried and true.

Ever since the KD series began, people have complained about the lack of heel cushioning. Well, the shoes wouldn’t be under $100 if there was heel and forefoot Zoom Air, and that’s really all it comes down to. On top of that, KD himself barely makes contact with the very back of the heel, so a forefoot unit also does more for him. Which I’m thankful for. The forefoot Zoom unit here feels great, and in tandem with the full Phylon midsole, the shoe has a great cushioned ride. It could be better, but that’s what the $140 Zoom Kobe VII is for if you really want both heel & forefoot cushioning.

All in all, the KD IV’s style clearly has taken Durant to a different level in the overall signature shoe landscape, thanks mostly to the awesomely executed Nerf and Weatherman themed versions. On the court though, his line was already *there* in my opinion, and I’m afraid this fourth model is a slight step backwards because of the fit and irritation issues that I had to get off my chest during the first half of the article.

Definitely check them out if you have a standard or narrow foot and like playing in taller, thicker socks. They have a great combination of cushioning, transition, traction, lockdown and support. However, there’s quite a bit of irritation and a troublesome hotspot along the lateral forefoot if you, like me, enjoy playing in no-show or thinner socks. The KD IV is priced exceptionally well at just $95, but be sure and try them on first if you’re interested in making them your next on-court sneaker.

Grade Breakout:

designed by: Leo Chang

best for: shooting guards and small forwards with slashing style of play

colorway tested: Varsity Purple / Orange Blaze / Neo Lime

key tech: Hyperfuse upper construction, Adaptive Fit strap system, full-length Phylon midsole, 6mm forefoot Zoom Air unit

pros: transition, forefoot cushioning, nice lockdown and great value for price

cons: runs fairly narrow through midfoot, forefoot has some hot spots, collar is harsh through first week

improvements: better protection from hot spots in the forefoot, improve fit issues through midfoot and irritation issues along collar.

buying advice: The KD IV, much like the past two models in the Durant signature series, is a great on-court performer with outstanding cushioning, traction and transition. Unfortunately, I liked the II and III better, as the IV has a few fit issues and some hot spots throughout. Check them out if you have a narrow foot and don’t mind wearing thicker socks, but be cautious or try them on first if your sleds are on the wider side. At $95, they’re a great value with durable support and lockdown.

Available Now: Nike Zoom KD IV