Performance Review: Nike Kobe XI 11 Elite

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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As I wrapped up my testing of the Kobe XI Elite, I have to admit I didn’t feel great about the whole thing. It’s definitely been one of the tougher reviews I’ve done in awhile. I was pretty conflicted about the shoe and how it performed and while I really liked playing in it at times, I always felt like there were things that it could have done better. As I write that, I think that’s theme that will run through the XI as we go.

Fit
As I mentioned in the preview, I went with my normal off-court size of 11.5 rather than my usual 11 in hoop shoes. Things get a little narrow in the toe box and I’d suggest going true to size.

The biggest tech innovation on the Kobe XI Elite is the use of TPU-reinforced Flyknit for the upper, rather than the pure knit weave. You can see the little iridescent strands woven into the upper upon close inspection and you can definitely feel them. This version of Flyknit is much more rigid and structured than any setup I’ve seen before. It works too – the upper containment and support is good, as is lockdown from heel to toe. I didn’t necessarily love the laces and lacing system (really would have liked some paracord laces or something heavy duty) but it’s a small gripe.

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This version of Flyknit feels closer to Fuse than original Flyknit, and that’s not a bad thing on a hoop shoe. I hope they stick with the TPU weave, although I do have my doubts as I’m sure it adds some complexity to the manufacturing process.

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Once the heel molded to my foot more, the collar area became very comfortable; it’s stiff and well-padded in order to lock the heel down and eliminate slippage. Overall, it fits really well and inspires confidence from a low top. I didn’t find any issues with containment, lockdown or stability.

Heel-Toe Transition
Transition is extremely smooth and natural. The outsole and drop in Lunar midsole are flexible – maybe too flexible – but nonetheless make for a very natural footstrike.

Cushioning
I have a feeling this will be the most polarizing aspect of the shoe, so here it goes with my opinion.

First, the shoe is plenty comfortable on foot. Lunar begins as a pretty responsive platform and the Zoom bag in the heel is definitely noticeable and plays a role in impact protection in the footstrike. It’s plenty of midsole for casual wear or if you only hoop intermittently (but then why drop $200).

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Day in and day out, over the course of a 40-minute game, I just don’t think a drop in Lunar midsole is the answer for me. Some folks may be able to tolerate it – I’d like to see what Kobe actually plays in and whether it’s a stock midsole – but it’s just not for me. That slab of Lunarlon (which has a bunch of geometric flex grooves in the forefoot) is basically the only thing between me and the gym floor, and it’s just not enough protection or support over the course of a game.

My complaint here is this: a full Zoom midsole is already and option for NikeID, why not make it THE midsole for your Elite version? I feel like it would make a world of difference to beef up that midsole with a full Zoom bag. And yes, I tried swapping in the LeBron 11 midsole and it did not fit.

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It’s difficult because it is a comfortable shoe and the cushioning overall isn’t bad at all. It’s pretty responsive and definitely stable (two lateral outriggers aid lateral stability also). But I have never found the drop in system to work all that well, especially long term.

Traction
Without a doubt the weakest area is the traction. The outsole is extremely thin and flexible (two things that made the Kobe IX have fantastic traction) and the pattern features a deep flex groove down the middle of the foot surrounded by a multi-directional pattern.

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These things absolutely collected dust and I was constantly wiping and worried about sliding laterally if the courts were even slightly dirty. On a good, clean court it was adequate but not the level I’d expect from a Kobe model.

Materials/Durability
The upper is sturdy and well made, and is sewn into the outsole – similar to the old double lasting technique. I couldn’t find any glue spots or loose strands in the upper, and I the XI holding up pretty well to normal wear and tear. I would hesitate to use them outdoors because of the thin outsole and a traction pattern that is not very deep. I dinged the materials a bit because I would have liked to see full Zoom on a $200 Elite model – especially when the midsole setup already exists.

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Good but almost great is probably how I’d characterize the Kobe XI Elite. With a different midsole and a better traction design, these would have been fantastic. The lockdown, fit, transition and some aspects of the cushioning platform were all very good. The shoes are gorgeous in person too. But unfortunately, these will probably be relegated to casual wear and passed up for the HyperRev 2016 or Lillard 2 next.

kobe_xi_review guide

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19 responses to “Performance Review: Nike Kobe XI 11 Elite

  1. Jake — great review as always

    As far as what Kobe wears — some of the on-court pictures that sites have posted show the translucent bottom of his pairs and it appears to be the stock “free lunar” + zoom heel combo. It does seem surprising — maybe his are cored out to fit an orthotic in or something. Either way, since he probably throws on a new pair per game he’s fine… Completely agree that for $200 or $220 this shoe should have the full zoom insole. Just absurd.

    Looking forward to your thoughts on the Lillard 2, that’s up next for me too.

    • Thanks man – and thanks for the insight. He’s picky about court feel from what I’ve read and he very well could like this combo the best.

      If they hadn’t already made one I probably wouldn’t have complained as much but geez it already exists! I think at this point they’ve refined the modular cushioning setup (whereas the Kobe 7 and AJ 2012 were a little clunky) to where it could be very effective so why not do something like that even?

      I’m ordering the Lillards tomorrow and picking up the HyperRevs tonight – stoked for both.

  2. just wanted to let u know i appreciate the good work…thx for the fine reviews…picked the rose boost 6 but so far i’m kind of feeling better playing the clutchfit drive 1 low…works very well for me, my feet love the shoe, got also the crazy light boost 2015 the strapped version but haven’t played enough with to have an opinion, what you think about hyperquickness 2015, got to pick one but same problem here my shoes rotation is becoming pretty deep and most of times i settle with the best since i’m playing competition…not so sure about hyperrev never got one eager to read your review…and funny a lot of shoes you tested in past i was also an owner of them like hyperdunk 2012 and crazylight adizero…current rotation is cfd1 low,kobe 9 em,lebron 11 low(true story),jordan 29….picked the lillard 1 but sent it back,heel was too much of a problem. Greez from germany

    • Sounds good – thank you for the feedback! The CFD was a great shoe too, although I just played in the high, the cushioning was really good. Probably locks down slightly better than the Rose too.

      I never bought the Hyperquickness 2015, so I can only speak from a try-on in store and what I’ve read about the tech. I don’t think that either shoe will give you great lockdown. The Hyperquickness has an odd asymmetrical tongue and uses Flywire for support – and I generally don’t find that Flywire cables do much good. I didn’t care for the CL Boost 2015 lockdown/containment either, and I’m not sure that having a higher cut would really fix that. I just didn’t find the containment and support from the midfoot down to be very good.

      The thing the HyperQuickness has going for it is the two-bag Zoom setup in heel and forefoot – the tooling is just like the HyperRev 2015 which I found to be very good. The CL Boost obviously has Boost in the heel, but the forefoot cushion is just average.

      The HyperRev 2016 feels great from a cushioning standpoint, and I’ll get some solid court time in this evening with em.

      • Great insight, crazy 2015 was discount sometimes you got to pay lol. I think I’ll pass on Kobe 11 the price tag is not worth the performance. Hyper rev lookwise can’t say is beautiful but performance counts. So far this year only the lillard 2 is on shopping list and of course cfd 1 low, just amazing shoe so gotta to get another one,low>>high. Jordan 30 I am not impressed, I passed the point where I buy names,I want bang for my buckets, so performances over brands. Here in Germany or Europe generally we are really f…xx up, not only we do not get the best colorways but we pay more, LeBron 13 curry 2 and Kobe 11 cost actually same… So if I’m paying much more of course got to be really picky

  3. Pingback: Nike Kobe XI 11 Performance Review | schwollo.com·

  4. Very insightful review, thanks! I’m also a huge fan of the Kobe line and was intrigued about the XI. I play a lot, but I also have a lot of shoes already. In your opinion, if the price were $140-150, would it be worth picking them up? Is there a shoe with a similar feeling cushioning that you can reference, as a comparison to how the XI feels?

    • I think they’re reasonable at the $140 pricepoint. The upper is really nice and for some people, it will be a good enough cushioning platform. I honestly didn’t think it felt a whole lot different than the Kobe 9. It’s a little better as far as impact protection, but it’s still a Lunar slab with a really thin/flexible outsole. If you liked the 9, you’ll probably like these. I actually liked the fit of the 9 but they just didn’t give me enough support – same with these.

      • But don’t you went with 11 on 9s and 11.5 on 11s?
        And do you think that if I put the solid rubber with the Nike ID will performance better than the transulecent?

      • Oh I thought you meant like the lockdown and shape – yeah I went with 11.5s in the XIs, but the fit of the shoe in terms of the upper and the shape feels very similar. I don’t know if it could be any worse than the translucent one. If I were IDing a pair id go with solid rubber. The EM version of these comes with a regular rubber outsole too

      • It’s because I sold my 9 EM size 8.5 because didn’t fit good to play with nike’s elite socks. It was too snug. I could only play with thin socks. So I bought the 10 elite low size 9 and the fit was great.

        Now I want the kobe 11 but I don’t know exactly the better fit for me, cause I saw that these ones has more space on toe box. And I can’t try them because there’s no store selling in my city. It’s really sucks! Hahaha

      • For me, I wear an 11.5 in everyday shoes – it’s my true size. I like wearing an 11 to play in cuz it just fits more snug. For the XIs, I went with the 11.5 because the 11 was too tight. So I guess it’s true to my regular shoe size? That does suck you can’t try em on

    • I have the KD elite one I need to post. I pay for all these out of pocket so I doubt I’m dropping another $200 for the Bron elites anytime soon haha

  5. From the knees down, I have a lot of itis’ and aches and pains. Playing in the Kobe 11 makes some of these pains unbearable after just 1 40 minute game. I have the Bruce Lee 11s. Complete waste, I can hardly use them casually. Your cushioning rankings rank from firm all the way to plush. Kobe 11 leans closer to plush, which leads me to my question. You ranked the kyrie 2s at the firm end. Does this mean they are way worse in terms of cushioning compared to the Kobe 11? Or does that just mean it’s a different feel? Do you think I would experience even more pains in the Kyrie 2s? Thanks

    • No, the slider was designed just so that you know what you’re getting with cushioning. Just means it feels different. Cushioning and comfort is pretty subjective – some people can handle thinner, firm cushioning because it plays lower and most responsive. Others hate it, due to injury etc. I’d avoid the Kyrie’s if the Kobe’s don’t provide enough impact protection. Sounds like a Boost-based shoe would work better

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