Old Shoe Review: Improving (slightly) on the incredible Air Jordan XX9
Why did I end up with a pair of shoes I can't afford? As luck would had it I bought a very nice pair of Nike Air Max Hyperposites for cheap that ended up having a popped air sole (no wonder they didn't sell). I sent them back under Nike's defect return program and got a full-price voucher for Nike.com, allowing me to spend $225 on whatever shoes I wanted. While visiting San Francisco a couple weeks ago I took the time to try on most of the shoes at Niketown and decided that it was worth giving the XX9's a try. It was a toss-up with the Lebron 12's, which had a really cushy heel Zoom unit and awesome side-to-side lockdown but were hard to lace, heavy, and weirdly smushy feeling under the ball of my foot. I thought I would like the new Chris Paul's since I've had a couple pairs of them in the past but the traction seemed pretty poor and the fit was really harsh. The Hyperdunks were my next favorite of all the shoes that were out at the time. The Kobe 9's (all versions) are just like you'd expect; too narrow, perfect at what they do but just as hard to love as Kobe is himself. The KD's are nice but just don't ever feel very supportive side-to-side, they feel more like running shoes to me. I would have loved to try the new Kyrie 1's, but they weren't available yet. So, I took the plunge on the XX9's despite some reservations.
In a nutshell, I don't like shoes I have to worry about…and these shoes left me with a few nagging doubts. Number one was durability. The upper feels incredible, like a supportive sock, but it looks like it might scuff and get ratty really quickly. Also, having seen a couple examples online of the upper tearing or the lace loops coming loose I wondered how much coddling they might need. Also, the "unlocked Zoom" in the forefoot was a big problem in last years XX8's (lots of people had them pop right away). Fit-wise I was a bit leery as well. They were a bit too wide in my normal size 10's and I've had problems with my toes hitting the end of shoes when I go to 9-1/2. I was also worried that the heels wouldn't have the cushion my old knees need. Finally, I was also skeptical that the soft cloth upper would keep my feet stable on hard cuts.
|Still looking sharp, only a couple minor scuffs on the plastic sole cover.|
|Funky heel cushions do a great job of locking in your heel.|
Out of the box the traction was pretty awful, which was one downside. The soles (Which are kindof a smokey clear, not solid black) seemed to be coated in some sort of oil. Despite washing them hard with detergent and a sponge they stayed greasy. I tried a trick I've used in the past of scouring the bottom of the shoe with a Japanese water stone used for sharpening knives. The grit is very fine, but it usually roughens up the sole just enough to really grip. Even this didn't help and the first two possessions of the Christmas tournament I slipped while crossing over and lost the ball.
|After breaking in the traction rocks.|
|Signs of sole wear after a few days of balling|
|Wear on inside ankle.|
|Custom cut piece of ribbon|
|Sewing ribbon onto inside of ankle|
|You can hardly tell it's there, but durability is vastly improved|
One thing about these shoes, and the way they are made, is that the style options are almost limitless. The patterns are actually woven into the upper, not printed on. The patterns and colors are computer controlled and it's possible to weave really high resolution images into the fabric, as you can see from this wild paisley demo pattern that Jordan brand showed at it's unveiling (and which I would love to play in). So…if you don't like the look of this colorway, take a look at something like the Riverwalk colorway (which I wanted but was sold out) or wait for what I assume will be some stunningly cool colorways in the future. I'm actually hoping that eventually these get put on Nike iD and you could upload a digital image of your own and have it woven into the upper. This will eventually happen whether Nike does it or not, the technology is too cool for some shoe company not to do it. If you thought retro's were cool now, wait until these start coming out in retro styles, it's going to be wild!
So, overall, these shoes are incredible. They are comfortable, supportive, and grip really well. They also seem to be surprisingly durable despite being a purely cloth upper. Don't get a pair and immediately think you can play competitively in them though. The soles need to break in before you get good traction or you will embarrass yourself like I did. Are they worth $225? I dunno, I doubt it. You'd have a hard time convincing me that any shoe made by chinese laborers and intended for only a season of use is worth that much unless all the profit goes to pay those poor souls slaving away in sweatshops. Still, they are really comfortable and I hope that the performance woven uppers start trickling down to other Nike shoes, the technology really makes for a perfect shoe.