The Li-Ning BD Conquer

Introduction

Early this year, our second Li-Ning performance review covered one half of the Defend & Conquer series made for Baron Davis, now of the Cleveland Cavaliers.  The BD Defend excelled in areas of stability and flexibility, all while providing low to the ground court feel.  The second pair in the set – the Conquer – would have a grand introduction, as Li-Ning unveiled the model along with the signing of highly regarded rookie Evan Turner.  Sleek in design, the Conquer sheds the bulky look of the Defend for style and speed.  With this in mind, the distinction in aesthetics would mean very little if the shoe does not maintain the performance standards set by its predecessor.  We put the Li-Ning BD Conquer under the microscope for this performance review.

With a shroud covering, the BD Conquer stands side by side with the BD Defend sharing various technological features, but offering very different performance advantages. The features include the following:

  • Synthetic leather shroud covering with zipper and velcro strap
  • Rippled leather at the toe box
  • Injected Phylon midsole
  • Li-Ning tread and traditional herringbone outsole
  • 3/4 length TPU shank at the mid foot

Aesthetics and Styling

As a tandem, the BD Defend and Conquer share many of the same technological features and construction, including the midsole & outsole, perforated ventilation panel on the medial, as well as the use of a rippled leather section on the toe box.  Aesthetically, the difference between the two is a bit more drastic.  Comparing the set to race cars, the Defend has a look that was built for an off road track, while the Conquer would be made for a complex road course.  Nonetheless, the designers have maintained a sturdy build with the Conquer, shunning the light-weight, less material approach that has been the market trend.

A shroud covering adds style to the BD Conquer

With the laces tucked away behind a shiny leather shroud, the Conquer has a streamlined and precise look from the side.  The shoe is covered in shiny snake skin patent leather, with a softer lighter leather used for the shroud and toe box.  With that covered, the evaluation of the Conquer begins with the bottom half of the shoe.  From the raised Li-Ning herringbone patterned outsole, to the sharp lines of the midsole, the Conquer shares the exact same look and construction on the underside as the BD Defend.  However, the main body of the shoe presents another story.

The upper of the Conquer is made up of three different types of leather.  At the toe area, the first sign of the snake skin patent leather is visible on the toe cap.  Wrapping from the forefoot on each side, the stitched toe cap is reinforced on the big toe area where a white Li-Ning check is carved in.  The remainder of the toe box is made up of a smooth and shiny soft patent leather material, with an accordion like section placed horizontally from the throat line to the middle of the toe box.  Up the middle of the shoe, the leather shroud covers the lacing system and is outfitted with a red zipper with a “BD” branded zipper pull.  The shroud is finished off with a small velcro closing tab, done in the snake skin patent leather.

For the sides, the designers have chosen a symmetrical approach.  With an identical lay out, the base and medial sides have the snake skin patent leather material stitched from the forefoot back to the heel.  On the base side, the mid foot panel is marked with four rows of ventilation holes.  Underneath the holes, a metallic silver material shines.  On the backend, the heel is stamped with a large red and white rubber Li-Ning logo, while the top of the collar has a perforated mesh panel.  Moving to the medial side, the small quarter panel is done with the same material observed on the lateral collar, but without padding.  A bubble Baron Davis Beardman logo adorns the top of the collar, while rows of ventilation holes run diagonally along the heel counter.  Again, the ventilation holes have the silver material peering through.

At the rear, the all rubber heel counter, which is integrated with the midsole, extends half way up the snake skin heel.  In the middle, a hang tag is stitched in place.  Moving to the top, the collar area is marked with soft thick zonal padding on each side.  Although the square shaped  zones are heavily padded, the construction of the shoe holds the collars inward, negating a bulky and wide look.  Unlike the Defend, which was fitted with a soft rubber hang tag on the rear, the Conquer contains a padded Achilles and heel support.  The support begins on the bottom of the heel on the inside and rises with padding.  For the collar lining, a base of leather surrounds the red mesh padding on each side.

Unzipping the shroud, black and white flat laces are revealed.  The hidden lace lace system is made up of a two segment leather eyestay which is punctured with six eyelets split into sections of three.  Sitting under the laces, the tongue is made up of a soft and stretchy synthetic.  At the top of the tongue, the snake skin leather is separated by a leather strip, bearing the “CONQUER” and Li-Ning logos.  The sides of this snake skin panel are marked with the ventilation holes containing the metallic silver backing.  On the back of the tongue lies tag strip with the Conquer shield and four circle graphic.  The final artistic touch makes up the perforated insole.  Like the BD Defend, the heel is marked with the Li-Ning check mark logo along side the Conquer shield.

Comfort and Fit
With the shroud covering and narrow opening left by the collar, the BD Conquer has a snug, but not tight fit, which is in contrast to the relaxed fit of the Defend.  The fit of the Conquer is true to size, with the mid foot area garnering most of the hold.  At the toe area, the toes and forefoot are comfortably in place with little wiggle room.  The leather material and rippled section are thin and nonintrusive.  On the back end, the Achilles and heel support provide comfort down the back of the foot, with room for movement like the front end.  The collar cushioning is nicely padded, retaining the feel of the Defend.  However, with a narrow opening, the Conquer hold the ankles tightly in place.  Highlighting the fit is the lower half feel.  Offsetting a firm foot bed, the shoe sits very close to the ground.  The foot bed starts very low around the toe area, slightly sloping up to a raised heel.  All aspects in place, the final evaluation of comfort and fit ends in the middle.  With the shroud zipped up, a secure feeling is felt.  The shoe has a very sturdy, yet flexible feel.  For added flexibility, the shroud can be zipped down, as shoe maintains a lock down around the mid foot.  In the end, the BD Conquer has a very low profile with a snug fit.

Soft leather combines with snake skin patent leather to hold the foot in place, while keeping flexibilty for deep bends

Performance
Zipping up the shroud and fitting the velcro strip, the Conquer is built to move.  For straight line running, the curvature of the outsole and the low profile are perfect for getting up to speed quickly.  The court feel is evident from the mid foot down, as the foot is extremely close to the ground.  With the rear higher up, the shoe pushes forward, easing the transitions from heel to toe.  Furthermore, getting out of breaks is a breeze, as the responsiveness of the shoe is exceptional.  Although the shoe is by no means light weight, the composition of the materials leads to swift performance.  For landings, the feel is natural.  Because of the low build, the foot lands with consistent cushion, ready to transition to a full sprint.  In all, the Conquer was made for quick and responsive play.

Like the BD Defend, the stability of the Conquer is exceptional.  The designers have constructed the shoe with durability and stability in mind, evident with the materials used and the lack of need for a light weight build.  That said, two areas of the shoe are noticeably felt.  First, the thin leather of the shroud covering & toe box, combined with the accordion like leather on the forefoot are flexible yet sturdy.  Second, the patent leather sides hold the shoe together with a more rigid feel.  The result is a thin flexible middle area that is held together by the rigid sides.  When making hard cuts and abrupt stops, the patent leather on the sides holds the foot in place, with little sliding.  Adding to this, any movements requiring the foot to bend are handled well.  A minor downside is present with lateral movements.  With a bulky collar, a delay in lateral transitions is evident.  Also, because of the stiff sides, awkward foot placings may end with rolling of the foot.  For all this, the protection provided by the sturdy build helps to keep these aspects minor.

Traction for the BD Conquer is handled well with the raised Li-Ning tread.  Those looking for stick to the court traction may be disappointed, but with the foot placed close to the ground, the traction concerns are held to a minimum.  Covered in patent leather with a shroud covering the laces, the ventilation of the shoe is pleasantly efficient.  The four areas of perforation holes are able to vent properly, keeping the foot from overheating.  Overall the ventilation performance is a surprise, considering the fact that the shoe is enclosed all the way around.

Conclusion
In the basketball footwear industry, the scrutiny placed on new companies with high profile athletes is at a maximum.  For those attempting carve themselves a spot in the competitive battlefield, creating high performance products is only the start.  Combining a theme with two signature models, Li-Ning has taken the right approach marketing the pairs with a concept in mind.  Fitting the theme well, the BD Conquer offers amazing court feel and a noticeable performance difference than the BD Defend.  Where the Defend seems built for an all around player, the Conquer centers around players who play at a fast pace.  For quick guards and swingmen, the court feel and stability that the Conquer provides is ideal.  Some might question the longevity of Li-Ning, with the product availability and the popularity of the company still in the early stages.  For now, the Defend and Conquer models show great promise.  Released last month, the BD Conquer can be purchased at the Official Li-Ning USA Online Store.

This shoe is comparable to:

Li-Ning BD Defend
Li-Ning F2 Liftoff