The Air Jordan 2011 Year of the Rabbit

Introduction

Sitting atop the basketball shoe industry, Jordan Brand has what seems to be an unlimited catalog of offerings every year.  From retro releases of the now 25 Air Jordan models to popular fusion models, the company carries their high distinction with great pride.  The star jewel of their line up is the legendary Air Jordan.  Evolving each year, the Air Jordan line is characterized by originality and design, with each successive model carrying very little from the previous years model.  The Air Jordan 2011 is a perfect example of this trend, with the style and technology of the shoe differing dramatically from the Air Jordan 2010.  In place of the radical asymmetrical collar and circular window of the 2010, the 2011 exhibits a more simpler approach, with the design revolving around the interchangeable midsoles.  Nonetheless, the Air Jordan 2011 was released with great fanfare, as 4 choice were available All-Star weekend.  This performance review puts the limited Year of the Rabbit Air Jordan 2011 to the test.

The Air Jordan 2011 offers a simple yet elegant style, giving the option of two distinct midsoles. The features include the following:

  • Upper made of hand-crafted Patina leather
  • Two interchangeable midsoles
  • Rubber elephant patterned outsole
  • Ventilation holes on lateral and medial sides
  • Inner mesh booty

Aesthetics and Styling

In the aesthetic and style department, the Air Jordan 2011 can be broken down into two aspects – the overall design & concept of the shoe, and the packaging & presentation.  For the shoe, over the top features has taken a back seat to simplicity.  The straightforward design of the 2011 can only be matched by the Air Jordan I and II.  The designers have made a point to showcase performance and innovation, packing the shoes with interchangeable midsoles.  With this established, we start with the special packaging.

A special Year of the Rabbit edition pays tribute to Michael Jordan

For the Air Jordan 2011, the experience starts with presentation and packaging.  First off, the Year of the Rabbit pair comes packaged in a large red box.  The box is decorated with a gold intricate Chinese graphic.  Flipping the lid open, the shoes are covered under a special cloth which explains the differences between the two insoles.  The appropriately colored blue and red insoles (for North Carolina and the Chicago Bulls) are placed in distinguishing dust bags at the front.  Each dust bag is marked with jumpman logo and a stylized “E” (Explosive) and “Q” (Quick).  On each insole, a Jordan crest and “BROOKLYN” (the city of birth for Michael Jordan) are printed.  Putting the box aside, we move to the shoe itself.

The perforated Patina leather covers the Air Jordan 2011, wrapping around the shoe from end to end.  A mid top shape is outlined from the side perspective, as the subdued lines of the shoe show the simplicity.  On the underside, the Year of the Rabbit version is fitted with a contoured clear rubber outsole.  A swirling elephant pattern is cut with flex grooves at the toe and heel.  For style, the outsole is riddled with gold speckles and a red jumpman logo in the center.  Above the outsole, the waffle patterned white rubber midsole runs the length of the shoe.  Last, the outsole extends to form a small toe cap, with two vertical dotted rows placed into the rubber.

Patina leather is the highlight of the simple upper.  For the special China release, a Wolf Grey colors the perforated leather.  Wrapping around to the heel, the large leather strip is brushed, creating a two tone look.  The leather is stitched on to the shoe with three lines of gold thread.  On the back end, the heel counter is made up of traditional leather, which also forms the collar and eyestay.  In the middle of each heel, gold jumpman logos are observed.  At the top of the heel a gold and white hang tag sits behind the back of the inner bootie.  Moving to the collar, both sides are marked ventilation mesh, with the thin white leather serving as the reinforcement base.

To keep the Patina leather as the primary focal point, traditional eyelets on the upper have been replaced by white lace hoops placed on the inside.  The loops wrap around the bottom of the shoe, which can be seen with the laces off the shoe.  Gold oval laces go through five loops, as the final two eyelets are punched on the collar.  The laces are finished off with aglets that have a dotted “Jordan” print.  On the inside, a red inner bootie is formed with the mesh tongue.  At the top of the tongue, a leather panel is present with a gold dotted jumpman and “23” embedded on each respective shoe.  For the Year of the Rabbit edition, a gold Jordan crest patch is stitched behind the top of the tongue.   The rest of the tongue combines with the collar padding to form the inner bootie, which extends through the back end.  With cushioning down the center, the tongue is made flexible to ease the changing of insoles.  Finally, the blue and red insoles sit in a rubber casing that matches the white waffle pattern on the outside.  On the underside of this casing, a stiff carbon fiber plate resides at the midfoot, with a jumpman logo and the “E” or “Q” logo cut into each respective heel.

Comfort and Fit

Before fitting into the 2011 version of the Air Jordan, a choice of insoles must be made.  Straight from the box, one of each sole in inserted into each shoe.  A 3/4 Air cushion makes up the “Be Explosive” red sole, while the “Be Quick” blue sole incorporates heel and forefoot Zoom Air cushions.  Once an insole is chosen, the task of inserting each sole inside is next.  Because each insole is surrounded by a rubber midsole, bending the insole is not easy, resulting in some wiggling before each is put in place.  The mesh booty does provide some flex, but it does take a couple of times before interchanging the soles becomes seamless.  With the insoles in place, fitting is roomy.  A little leeway has been left over inside for the interchangeable insoles.  Because of this, going a half size down may be appropriate.  Inside, the foot is housed though the soft inner bootie.  All around, the bootie, which combines with the tongue, covers the top of the foot to the heel and Achilles, running just below the ankles.  The Patina leather sits around the foot with littler pressure, as it feels wafer thin and flexible.  At the collar, the leather and mesh sides come close to the ankles, without touching.  Despite this, lockdown is excellent on the back end.  Ironically, the shoe feels as though it is a low top with a high cut shell around it.  On to the main aspect, the cushioning choices present two ends of the spectrum.  Describing the feel is simple – the red insole is soft and the blue insole is hard.  The difference in feel will be more pronounced when each sole is tried on right after the other.  That established, the cushioned “Be Explosive” sole has a bouncy feel throughout.  In contrast, the “Be Quick” sole is stiff, sitting relatively flat.  A downside of the soles is felt with the rubber midsole.  At times, the edges of the casing can rub up against the foot giving some discomfort.  Nonetheless, the Air Jordan 2011 provides a light and comfortable fit, with excellent lockdown all around.

Interchangeable midsoles come with each pair, with distinct performance and comfort

Performance

Sitting flat on the ground, the Air Jordan 2011 is ready to take off.  Running is light and smooth, as the Patina leather is thin and bends with ease.  The shoe plays fast and is appropriate for guard related moves.  Looking at the play of Dwyane Wade, jabs steps, quick stops, and movements that get the player around the court quick are the natural tendency of the shoe.  Transitions, most notably heel to toe and lateral, are fluid.  Motion is made easier with the outsole flex grooves, keeping the player from getting stuck on the ground.  Moving to the interchangeable midsoles the performance is dependent on the player.  As the shoe is light and plays fast, the player can get up quickly.  For landings, player preference again comes into play.  Those who need more cushioning will find the red insole perfect, and on the other hand, the blue insole will suit those who need a more firm feel to ease into transitions.  In the end, the Air Jordan 2011 fits perfectly for quicker active players.

Assessing the stability, we begin with the inner mesh bootie.  Inline with the fast paced style of play, the bootie holds the foot in tight, as though it were a low top shoe itself.  Providing comfort, the inner bootie is supported by the thin Patina leather shell.  Folding and contorting, the leather upper holds all around, even at the toe box.   After a couple of minutes of play, there are visible signs where the leather has flexed.  Stability performance is noticeable for fast abrupt and awkward foot placings, where the foot puts pressure on the sides.  The dual support of the inner bootie and leather make up the stability that is inline with an explosive style of play.

For traction, the swirly elephant patterned rubber holds up well.  Even on less than ideal conditions, hiccups in footing are rare, especially when coming to quick stops.  Based around the playing style of Dwyane Wade, slashing and transitioning are handled with grip.  A well ventilated upper compliments the positive traction.  With perforation punctures all around the thin Patina leather, air is constantly keeping the foot cool.  Heat is never trapped, which adds to the comfort when in play.

Conclusion

The concept of two interchangeable midsoles is bold and risky.  For Jordan Brand, they would not have it any other way.  Hand-crafted Patina leather aside, the aesthetics of the 2011 gives way for the performance to shine.  Dwyane Wade is the most versatile player in the league, using his explosiveness and quickness on offense and defense.  As the shoe was designed with his style in mind, the insoles give players two distinct court feels.  For guards who need comfort, the 3/4 Air cushioning is perfect.  On the other spectrum, the Zoom Air based insole offers more responsive performance.  Always looking to push the limits in concept and performance, the designers of the latest Air Jordan have done well in creating a shoe with straightforward performance for an active and versatile guard/forward.  The special Year of the Rabbit Air Jordan 2011 box set was released with limited availability this past February.  The more readily available black and red versions of the Air Jordan 2011 can currently be purchased at the Nike Online Store.

This shoe is comparable to:

Nike Zoom Kobe VI
Li-Ning BD Conquer