Performance Review: Jordan XX9

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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Some have called the Jordan XX9 the most technologically advanced Jordan shoe ever. From the spec sheet alone, they’re probably right. With a completely new woven upper, unlocked Zoom in the forefoot and Flight Plate moderator, the XX9 looks and sounds as good on paper as any shoe.

But, as we’ve seen with models like the KD VI Elite, packing a bunch of tech into one shoe doesn’t equal great on-court performance. The XX9 breaks that mold though, as Jordan Brand has unleashed a performance monster, and natural successor from the XX8.

Fit
The biggest technological innovation in the XX9 was the Flight Weave upper. Designed to provide a custom fit while retaining strength during dynamic movements and giving engineers the ability to weave fibers tighter in high wear areas, it conceptual roots lie in Flyknit and Hyperfuse systems. You’ll find a tighter weave where more support is needed and a more forgiving weave in the rest – not unlike Flyknit. But where Flyknit uppers have a tendency to leave gaps when the shoe flexes, Flight Weave is hugging the foot at all times.

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Flight Weave is miles ahead of both of those textile technologies, and is one of my favorite uppers I’ve tested recently (along with the adidas’ Techfit-based Crazyquick 1 and Under Armour’s Clutchfit Drive). For comparison’s sake, it has more structure than the Crazquick 1 and fits closer to the foot with less shifting while moving around than the Clutchfit Drive upper.

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You can lace the XX9 up super tight from to toebox to ankle, and the fit is impressive. The upper fully hugs the foot and lockdown is vise-like. The internal heel counter provides good heel lockdown and I did not experience any shifting anywhere on the interior.

Heel-Toe Transition
One major outsole change from the XX8 to the XX9 was the skinny bridge connecting the forefoot and heel. The XX8 was a true decoupled outsole – the heel and forefoot were independent parts – and that usually means transition isn’t as smooth. The connector on the XX9 remedies that some, but I wouldn’t consider heel-toe transition to be a strong point for the shoe. It gets better as you break it in naturally, but the large gap between heel and toe plus the slightly higher feel makes the ride less smooth than some other shoes.

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For what it’s worth, I had been playing in the Clutchfits, which are as smooth as it gets, so the difference in transition may be more apparent to me than you.

Cushioning
The XX9 drops the heel Zoom unit and uses standard Phylon. Honestly, it probably plays a little better and more stable this way, though I thought the heel Zoom of the XX8 was just fine. You’ll get good impact protection and a consistent feel in the heel.

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I was a little disappointed in the lack of responsiveness of the forefoot unlocked Zoom. It’s not bad at all, but didn’t seem as bouncy as the XX8. This is because the Zoom bags have been recessed slightly into the midsole, so as to avoid the popping issue that plagued so many pairs of the XX8. The Zoom bags have also been laid horizontally, but I didn’t quite notice the energy return that I did in the XX8.

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Since the Zoom bag extends so far up the forefoot, I felt like there was a little dead zone right at the toe where the top flex point was. It wasn’t anything major, just an odd feel to go from Zoom to straight midsole at that specific flex point.

That is all a little nitpicky though, because the responsiveness is still very good. As far as court feel goes I prefer my shoes to ride a little lower to the ground, and with the Flight Plate/Zoom combo there’s a little more midsole bulk than I’m used to. The upper fits so close to the foot that it feels a little funny to have that substantial of a midsole there. Support is fantastic with the sculpted Flight Plate providing plenty of midfoot structure while still remaining flexible. Overall the cushioning setup is very good, if not great.

Traction
The outsole features anatomical sculpting in the heel and forefoot, and uses a full-lenth vertical wave pattern with some recessed horizontal sipes. The courts I typically play on are usually average to slightly above average in condition and I’ve had no traction issues. I’ll still get the familiar squeak on quick pull-ups.

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Materials/Durability
I had no issues initially with the XX9. I wondered how the woven upper would hold up when getting stepped on and pushed to the limits on court, because it is softer than I had expected. But I’ve put it through several league and general pickup games, gotten stepped on, and have seen no signs of wear. The build itself is high-quality, free of glue marks or loose strands on my pair.

I expected them to hold up for months, until just yesterday when I was playing in a competitive league in central Indiana. As I unlaced after the win, I realized one of the eyelets – which are simple loops that attach to the midsole – ripped out and left me without a proper way to lace them. Back to Nike they go for a voucher.

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With a price tag of $225, I was expecting the Jordan XX9 to blow me away. It’s got the lineage of 28 other shoes riding on it, and is the flagship model for the entire brand. So was I impressed? Yes – the Flight Weave upper is one of the best I’ve played in, and the shoe is great from a comfort and support standpoint.

Was I blown away? By some aspects, yes. I tweeted after my first couple of runs that I was kind of underwhelmed by the XX9 and a lot of that is tied to the lack of responsiveness underneath and average heel-toe transition. But the responsiveness is still above average and the transition improved some with multiple wearings, and I really do like playing in the shoe.

If you have the funds and are a serious hooper, it’s certainly worth a try. I feel like I have undersold it, but I feel that it really is a great shoe – one of the better shoes of the year.

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9/9/13: Today in Performance Kicks

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

“Fire Red” and “Cement” Elephant Air Jordan XX8

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Yes, the price tag put the shoe out of reach for a lot of consumers (including yours truly) but the XX8 was a true performance shoe in a groundbreaking aesthetic package. Tinker and the Nike crew gave us ProPlate Zoom Air and a Flight Plate chassis – both of which appear to be staples going forward. The new Zoom setup reportedly returns 46% more energy in each step (validating what Finch and I have said multiple times that not all Zoom setups are created equal) and the Flight Plate has been used already in the Super.Fly 2, Trunner Dominate and the upcoming Melo M10.

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With all of that said, we’re getting classic colorways hooked up with classic print in this Fire Red and elephant print Jordan XX8. Are they gaudy? Possibly, but I’d certainly rock them (especially the Cement joints) and in my opinion the print and colorways work well on the XX8 canvas. Look for them to drop on September 21.

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via yamaotoko

TGRR Blog: Return of the Revolution

Prose: Finch (@Sir_Stymie)

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While searching for kicks online – an everyday occurrence – I came across some very interesting and exciting information. A pair of shoes that have been on my to-cop list forever, it seems, is finally making its illustrious return from the depths of the Nike vault: the Nike Air Revolution. The Revolution is special to me in a number of ways. At first glance the shoe is everything that I look for aesthetically: high-top, padded ankle support, visible Air Max bubble, speed laces and of course a strap.

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The Revolution was originally released in 1987-1988 and then received retro in 2002, and I am happy to report that the designers at Nike stayed almost completely true to the original design. They did, however, change some minor details including the ankle height, and if history repeats itself Nike will undoubtedly have reduced the amount of padding around the ankle. I expected this and I feel that its doesn’t make a huge difference – it could be worse. I have seen Nike bastardize some of my favorite silhouettes in the past, i.e. this monstrosity, and I am happy they did the right thing (in my humble opinion) and kept it as true as possible.

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It has been well-documented that I have a love for shoes with history and boy does this shoe have some history. It’s a history that will appeal to a wide variety of people as well. As previously stated, the Revolution was originally released in 1988, but what a lot of people don’t know is that the the original silhouette was designed to be the Jordan III. During this time Jordan was going through a contract dispute and almost left Nike (which would have been an utterly catastrophic and changed the very landscape of the sneaker world as we currently know it) because he wanted a creative influence on his shoes’ design. In came Tinker Hatfield, the godfather of innovative sneaker design (including the Air Max 1, Air Jordan III through Air Jordan XV, Nike Huarache and most recently the XX8) This was the first shoe design that was a collaborative project by athlete and designer, and it changed how signature shoes were designed forever.

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Because of the design changes by Tinker and influence of His Airness, the Nike Air Revolution and AJ III look vastly different but they do share an identical sole/midsole equipped with a visible Air bubble . The Revolution could have drifted into the abyss, never to be seen by or released, but Nike released both shoes in the same year and both did quite well. The Air Jordan III went on be one of Jordan’s most well known signatures, and the OG design that came equipped with the Nike Air logo on the back retroed this year in limited quantities and sold out in minutes even with a $200 price tag.

The Revolution, however, has more of a cult following; it’s a grail to some collectors. During its release in the late 1980s the Revolution was worn by Dennis Rodman during the Detroit Pistons title runs of 1989 and 1990 where, ironically enough, they met Jordan’s Bulls in the Conference Finals. The series saw infamous “Jordan Rules” enacted and cemented Isaiah Thomas as an all-time great competitor.

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As you can see you can see I am more than excited about this release. Jake has pronounced it to be my shoe so with that vote of confidence I will embark on the journey to add this historic shoe to my collection. There is no release date yet but there have been rumors of a release later on this summer. Pictures of two colorways have been released: the OG royal blue/white/black and red/white/black. Hopefully, we will also see a release of the OG white/black/silver colorway. Once I can get my hands on these Bad Boys, I’ll hit you guys with another article.