Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)
Colorway Tested: Hyper Blue/Volt/Blackened Blue
Of all the Elite 2.0 series models, the KD V Elite was the most different from its base model. It dropped the top, swapped heel Air Max for a caged Zoom Air bag, employed a carbon fiber shank and floating heel counter and worked the performance staple Flywire into the upper. I was excited to try the shoe from both an aesthetic and technology standpoint, and once I got the funds in order I went ahead and picked them up.
What I found was a mixed bag, and I was reminded that premium materials don’t necessarily translate to premium performance.
Fit – 8.5
In the Elite series, Nike typically tried to strip away layers of the upper and get the shoe down to its bare minimum with premium materials. The synthetic upper is reinforced with Kevlar-based Flywire and features a carbon fiber heel counter. The fit is snug through the toebox, midfoot and heel – no complaints there. The heel fit, especially, is absolutely perfect. I was locked it from the get-go, though there’s a definite break-in period (3-4 solid wearings) before I really felt it flex with my foot.
The problem is, it’s just not very comfortable. Stripping down a shoe to its essentials and using high-end textiles is great, but it doesn’t guarantee comfort. I found it feeling sort of harsh and not overly comfortable. The lockdown was great – I felt extremely confident cutting and planting at high speeds – it just wasn’t a comfortable fit, especially when combined with the cushioning (which I’ll get to later).
One other thing that did bother me was the tongue. Nike billed it as an articulated tongue and the padding is adequate but the tongue continually slid off to the lateral side of my foot, which was annoying and made the fit less comfortable overall. The lacing system still worked fine and locked me into place, but the tongue was just bothersome.
Heel-Toe Transition – 8
With the shoe’s high arch, I worried a bit about the transition being clunky and my fears were realized to a certain extent. That caged Zoom bag is sexy and gives the shoe a great silhouette, but it really protrudes from the heel and sits quite a ways off the ground (I don’t know what the heel-toe drop is, but it definitely felt more significant than the Crazyquick or CP3.VI). Because of that, there’s a noticeable slap from the heel strike through the toe-off and that’s just not what I’m looking for in terms of transition.
It’s not necessarily bad – KD runs on his toes and if you do the same you shouldn’t have issues – but it was not as smooth as I like my transition to be. The carbon fiber midfoot shank and rigid chassis did seem to become more fluid after several wearings, but they both combined to make the transition slightly disjointed. Again, planting and cutting was fine but the heel-toe transition just didn’t suit me.
Cushioning – 7.5
I’ve mentioned it in prior reviews, but Finch made an excellent point about the relationship between the midsole flexibility and the cushioning system. How the midsole is constructed has a huge effect on how well the cushioning system responds. The forefoot and heel Zoom bags normally prove to be my favorite cushioning setup, but I felt that the stiff chassis of the KD V Elite hindered the effectiveness of the Zoom.
With a harsh slap from heel to toe rather than a smoother roll, the Zoom bags seem to only deaden the impact without giving you the full responsive feel you’re probably used to. I simply didn’t feel the level of responsiveness I normally do out of a Zoom-Zoom setup, and I have to believe that chassis has something to do with it. It’s not terrible, just not what I’d normally expect from that setup. The cushioning itself is pretty minimal too, so it’s something to keep in mind if you have bad knees or hips that require more impact protection. Court feel is great, but I felt like the Crazyquick offered equally good court feel with better impact protection and the CP3.VI certainly was more comfortable (and still low to the ground).
Traction – 9
Yes, I know it’s not herringbone, but the polygonal pattern used on the KD V Elite still performs pretty well. Stopping and starting at full speed gave me no problems (the best test is a full speed pull up jumper – as if I need an excuse to shoot another one), but the outsole will pick up some dust over time. Tons of personal details are worked into the outsole design which is a nice touch, but I’d rather see those used on an area of the shoe that’s not so fundamentally important to its performance.
Materials/Durability – 10
It’s an Elite shoe, so the materials are top of the line. Carbon fiber everything (midfoot shank and heel counter), caged Zoom air, Kevlar-reinforced Flywire and a high-end durable synthetic upper give the shoe premium materials from top to bottom – even if they’re not used quite as well as I’d like.
Overall, I liked the KD V Elite but it simply fell short of expectations. With the amount of premium materials and hefty price tag, I expected better – especially in terms of cushioning. The fit was excellent and the caged Zoom, carbon fiber shank and chassis made the shoe very supportive, but I still feel like it just didn’t play well despite the impressive package. Because of the high end materials, I feel like the KD V Elite is slightly better than the sum of its parts, but still doesn’t perform to the level I would expect.
It’s staying in the rotation (along with the CP3.VI and Crazyquick) when I go through weekly shooting workouts, but I’m still hooping in the Crazyquick when I roll with the Terminator X squad.