Performance Review: Nike LeBron XI

Prose: Max Smith

lebronXI_3

The latest installment of LeBron series features some of Nike’s latest tech for arguably the game’s best all-around player. The shoe features Armorposite (a lighter and revamped version of Foamposite), a drop-in, full-length Zoom and Lunarlon combo, and Dynamic Flywire.

The shoe has received a ton of scrutiny after LeBron himself barely wore it on court this season, opting for the Soldier 7 the majority of the time. The XI, being narrower/tighter in the toebox than some of his past models, didn’t fit his foot well and has been maligned by some reviewers. However, for my fit, needs and playing style, the XI worked out really well.

Fit

To preface this section, I have a normal width foot and my true size is a 12.5. My pair is a 13 due to a 12.5 being rare and seldom on sale. The fit is a little long in general (even tried a 12), but the width, due to the Armorposite, is fairly narrow to me. I’d definitely recommend trying these on in person if it’s an option.

I feel the pain of people living in rural areas that don’t have shoes like these and are forced to buy online only. Overall, the 13 fits me fine as a half size up and I really have no issues.

lebronXI_5

The lockdown on these is quite good. The collar and lacing system really holds the foot down and works well for me. Also, the shoe really performs well when changing direction. Give the Armorposite some time to mold to your foot – it is stiff at first – but don’t assume it will stretch all that much. It doesn’t allow the shoe to get significantly wider, but it will get more flexible with a little time.

Overall, getting the right size will be key for this model. If you can’t try these on and you’re between two sizes, I’d recommend going with the larger size.

Heel-to-Toe Transition

To be honest, I don’t really notice the transition in these, and that’s a great sign. When you notice yourself transitioning from heel to toe off, that’s when you run into problems. The Lunarlon/Zoom combo does a great job giving springback and cushioning in each and every step.

While the shoe is fairly has a fairly flat midsole with very little curvature, I feel transition is pretty good and shouldn’t be a problem for you in this model.

Cushioning

With no surprise to me, this cushioning setup is probably my favorite setup of all time. The Lunarlon and full-length Zoom combo is perfect for someone who loves to jump like me. The Zoom keeps the shoe responsive, while the Lunarlon provides the impact protection. Takeoffs and landings are near perfectly cushioned, which is rare to find in the market today.

Also, the shoe sits fairly low to the ground and provides excellent stability. Seldom have I used a shoe with such great stability AND cushioning. The responsiveness overall is a bit of a step down from the Lebron X, probably because the Zoom is housed in Lunarlon, but is still very good for me. Cushioning is well-executed and might be the best I’ve ever used and one of the best on the market today – good thing too, when these set you back $200 initially.

Traction

Now this is where the problems lie for me on this model. The traction just doesn’t work very well at first. I believe this occurs due to outsole being flexible, and the Lunar/Zoom insert not being as flexible. There’s not a lot of depth on the traction pattern either, and that causes problems for a lot of different shoes.

lebronXI_1

My advice is to wear these outside a few times to break in the upper and the outsole rubber. I hooped in these lightly one time and the grip improved considerably. To my surprise, the grip gets better as it wears out/gets broken in. I have an older pair with the traction showing a lot of wear, and they have better grip indoors than my newer pair.

Now as the traction wears in, it becomes pretty average to me. It’ll work well on clean courts and decent on dusty floors. The traction is average, but shouldn’t necessarily deter you from the shoe-it’s still a beast.

Materials/Durability

The materials on this shoe are pretty high quality, but still a step down for the luxurious Kobe 9 elite. The Armorposite and Hyperfuse combo is durable and should last a while, but the traction definitely won’t, if used primarily outdoors. Indoors only, the traction will be plenty durable, but be wary of heavy outdoor use.

lebronXI_4

Overall, this is a durable shoe that should suit most players’ needs, while providing excellent cushioning, lockdown, and stability.