It’s been awhile since I updated this blog, and even longer since I’ve posted an Old Shoe Review. The reason is that I haven’t changed shoes for awhile, or more honestly, that I haven’t changed models.
Since my last update I’ve broken one pair of Air Jordan XX9’s and am well into wearing out a second pair from the Nike warranty (apparently the lateral sole tears eventually due to the way I play, the same thing is happening again). They truly are the greatest guard shoe ever made though, in my opinion. But, I knew I was going to need a new pair of shoes soon so I have been looking around for other options since the XX9 isn’t going to be available forever and the reviews of the XXX aren’t that great…and they haven’t hit the sale rack yet.
The Jordan Super.Fly line was automatically intriguing since it incorporates the unlocked zoom air and flight plate that makes the XX9 so comfortable and springy. They are also quite a bit cheaper, and you know I’m not one to ever pay full price for a pair of sneakers.
But, the upper on the Super.Fly 4 just wasn’t anything I could love and the lacing system didn’t seem to be very appealing so I never gave them a serious look.
Luckily, we don’t have to settle for the ugly (I think anyway) mesh and foam upper now that the Super.Fly 4 Jacquard has released. Always a fan of wild shoes, I immediately liked this pattern and it caught my eye when it went on clearance at Nike.com.
But, if you look around the internet there are literally no performance reviews of this version of the Super.Fly, even though for all intents and purposes it’s an entirely different shoe. So...now that these shoes are available at good clearance prices all over the internet it’s time for me to change that and let you know how they play.
First though, take a look at what KickGenius has to say about the original version, since they are the best shoe reviewers out there and comparing this new design to the old one is informative.
Having cashed in the change bowl on my dresser at the Coin Star machine and come away with a Nike gift certificate (yes, I cashed in my piggy bank for a pair of shoes!) I put it toward a pair of clearance black and white Super.Fly 4 Jacquard’s hoping that they might hold at least a candle to the XX9. The upper is fabric and the lacing system has been upgraded to fabric loops that look somewhat similar to the XX9 Flight Web lacing system, but tucked classily under the upper rather than on top. Don’t be fooled, this is a VERY different shoe than the XX9.
|The lacing system is really good, but missing one critical lace at the ankle|
Lets start with the upper. The fabric upper is a huge improvement over the foam and mesh version in my opinion, but it isn’t Flight Weave. It’s pretty heavy duty, actually a bit stiff, and multiple layers. It doesn’t conform to your foot the same way and it isn’t anywhere near as lightweight. That isn’t to say it’s bad, it’s just really different. It’s more supportive than the XX9 for sure, so if that’s what you want this is a good shoe. The weave seems very durable as well. I thought the white threads would start to break right away and get frizzy, but they seem to be really strong and durable against abrasion.
I’ve worn these shoes for three hard runs of a couple hours each, plus several hours of shooting and drills. The upper is still pretty stiff and when you cinch down the laces you can really get great lockdown. The laces are missing one critical lace loop at the ankle that would really lock in the heel, so you have to lace them tight to keep your foot from sliding forward. But, it’s not hard to get great lockdown.
The last these shoes are built around is a bit narrow in the forefoot. They aren’t narrow like most of the Kobe’s are (a shoe that is too narrow for me to ever find a comfortable size) but the toe box is narrower than I would like. Perhaps I’ve grown used to the extra room that the XX9 has (I had to size down to 9.5 from 10 in the XX9 so my toes wouldn’t slide around on cuts). But, the lacing system allows you to get the fit where you want it and still lock down your foot. The heel feels great, it doesn’t slip around at all. I wouldn't order a larger size unless you have really wide feet.
|Closeup of the woven, jacquard style fabric|
Now for the lowers which, I hate to break it to you, are not at all like the XX9 either. Yes, it has a somewhat similar unlocked zoom in the forefoot (three separate pads rather than the two in the XX9) and a Flight Plate style shank system but it feels very different. I can actually feel the spring in the forefoot zoom quite a bit more in these shoes than in the XX9, but it’s in a strange place. I feel it on the outside, just behind the ball of my foot. It’s a tiny bit annoying actually, it feels like you have something stuck to the bottom of your shoe. Your brain forgets about it while you are playing, but when you aren’t playing it’s annoying to get used to.
The mid sole in general, including the forefoot zoom, feels more squishy than the XX9. The forefoot doesn’t feel as springy, as if there’s been a tradeoff between energy return (stiffer) and comfort (more give). That’s not all bad. My feet didn’t feel tired at all after playing in these and my heels sometimes feel kindof beaten down after a lot of playing in the XX9’s, especially when I’m tired and I start heel striking more often. They are also quite a bit less "slappy" than the XX9, the heel-toe transition is very smooth.
|The heel counters keep your heel locked in |
and the ankle area is really comfortable
The XX9 is a great shoe if you are on your toes a lot, which you should be in basketball, but the heel padding is the one area that should have been improved. So, it’s nice to have a bit softer foam in the heel of the Super.Fly 4. But, as an experiment I switched to a pair of XX9’s between games and I was stunned at the difference. The XX9 is lighter, with an incredible balance between lock down and support, and the footbed is more sculpted and contours to your foot. But, the biggest difference to me was the traction.
So, since we're talking traction, lets talk about the outsole. I love the clear outsole with the red zoom bags. It looks awesome. I expected the herringbone traction to be really solid since herringbone is usually pretty good. But…the traction is the one part of this shoe that I am really not a fan of.
Like the rest of the sole the traction feels, for want of a better descriptor, kindof squishy. The rubber is really soft, so it sticks to the floor pretty well, but then it’s like it kindof bends and squishes along the floor a bit further than you expect it will. It's like the difference between a rubber eraser and silly putty, if you can imagine what I mean.
|The traction on the Super.Fly 4 is good, but soft|
and fails on really hard cuts
It squeaks really nicely which is usually a good sign, and in most instances traction was great, but it wasn’t like the XX9, where I can put my full weight behind a V-cut at top speed and there’s no slip at all. The XX9 is actually scary that way, it will stop so hard I worry about my ankles because I’ve been making harder cuts at much higher speeds with them, trusting the shoe to hold the floor. Trying that in the Jacquard left my foot skidding across the floor, a missed pass, and me having to put my hand down to keep from tumbling.
But, in the end I think I probably shouldn’t be comparing these shoes to the XX9. Compared to just about any other basketball shoe they are really good, definitely well above average. In every aspect except the most extreme cuts they work really well. I think that the fabric will break in and soften with a bit more playing, which will help the forefoot fit. The lacing is a strong point, it’s far better than the original Super.Fly 4, as is the fabric upper. It also just plain looks awesome with the pattern of the jacquard weave.
If you have a penny jar you want to put toward a pair of shoes, these would be a good pair to get. It’s possible to find them for a really decent price on pretty much any site right now and they are an upgrade from the original version of the Super.Fly 4. That said, ROSS Dress For Less got in two pairs of XX9 in my size last week for $50 each…a "Legend Blue" Carolina bluecolorway and the Year of the Goat colorway. I’m set for basketball shoes for more than a year. Don’t expect too many Old Shoe Reviews for awhile.