Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)


I picked up the Kobe XI on release day at my local House of Hoops in the Achilles’ Heel colorway. The shoe is gorgeous in person, and I was struck by the very minimal design. Time will tell how they perform but here are a few initial impressions after a shooting session yesterday.

You can find my first impressions along with tons more performance review content over at as well

I went with an 11.5, my normal size in off-court shoes. I started with an 11 but the toebox was pretty cramped both width and length wise – definitely go true to size if you’re thinking about ordering. I’ll get into it more in the full review, but the XI Elite features an improved Flyknit setup with TPU fibers woven into the knit. I’ve been critical of knitted uppers and their ability to support and contain the foot during high intensity basketball games, but it appears to be a step in the right direction.


The shoe feels a lot like the Kobe IX EM in terms of the upper – supportive and more “stiff” than a knit upper in that it does have some structure. This is absolutely a good thing. It’s pretty well padded at the heel but I had some early heel slip as it hasn’t yet molded to my foot.

Heel-Toe Transition
Extremely smooth. It’s a highly flexible shoe – probably too flexible for me – but it makes for a smooth, soft transition.

I have a certain beef with drop-in insoles, and that’s what we get once again with the XI Elite. It’s a pretty substantial block of Lunarlon with a Zoom bag in the heel. It borderline infuriates me that a $200 shoe doesn’t have full Zoom, when that insole is obviously already in production since it’s an option on the ID models. Hell, give me TWO insoles at that price – one with Lunar + Zoom and the other full Zoom.


It’s great as far as step in comfort but I’ve never been a huge fan of Lunar on court. I didn’t like the feedback from the midsole upon first wearings but it does need to be broken in. I should have a better feel after some pickup ball tonight.

The YMCA floor I played on was fairly dirty from high kid use on a Sunday afternoon and traction suffered because of it. On a clean floor, combined with the flexibility of the outsole, I think they’ll be just fine.


The aforementioned Flyknit is excellent – much closer to Engineered Mesh or Fuse that to traditional Flyknit. Still salty about the midsole tech. But the fit and finish is very nice, and it’s a sweet looking shoe. The next week or two will see heavy use out of them and I’m excited to see how it holds up.



7 thoughts on “First Impressions: Kobe XI Elite

  1. Hey, man! Do you think that is the same shape from Kobe IX? I have the IX EM size 8.5 and fits a little tight. Should I go with size 9?

    1. Yeah, not a huge fan of the midsoles. As a guard I like the flexibility, and they are comfortable, but i need more support than that. If it were a traditional midsole it would help too. I didn’t mind hooping in them really but the support and traction are deal breakers especially at $200

  2. At this point it is just pissing into the wind talking about “value” when it comes to the Kobe and Durant lines. Yes, they should have 2-3 insoles like the Air Jordan 2012, yes they should have better materials generally speaking (Kobe X, wtf?) and no they shouldn’t automatically increase in price each season without improvements.

    For me the Elite version is much improved in terms of flexibility and fluidity from the Kobe 9 Elite, which is much closer than the 10 is to this model. Frankly I could not play ball in those, too stiff and rigid, which was odd because I thought the high cut version was decent. These I can play in but they still have some funky points. Right below the collar on both the medial and lateral sides feels awkward to me and the stiff material causes some discomfort in the toe box. I think these took a step back in terms of traction from the 9s and maybe even the 10 in terms of indoor play, though they are better outdoors (especially the EXT models).

    I just got a couple ID pairs that are engineered mesh but I have not tried them out yet. The EM 9s were much better to me than the Elites, much more fluid heel-to-toe transition, better fit and much better overall comfort. They worked much better with the cushioning than the glue-heavy Flyknit did. Personally, I am a fan of drop-in insoles, I liked using my LeBron 11 insoles on the Kobe 9 and now that I have a couple pairs of these I swap the full-length Zoom Air from IDs into the Lunar/Zoom combo ones also.

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