Converse Pro Leather 2k11

The Converse Pro Leather 2k11

Introduction

Last season, Converse began their quest to regain momentum in the basketball footwear industry with two solid releases in the Sicks and Star Player EVO.  A marketing campaign followed, which centered around commercials featuring one of the most iconic basketball players ever – Julius “Dr, J” Erving.  Going back to their roots, one of the two featured releases for the 2011-2012 season is a remake of a classic Dr. J signature model – the Pro Leather.  With the Defcon, the Pro Leather 2k11 was unveiled during the special launch party last month.  Updated, with the patented Converse Balls (CBT) and CONtain Fit Technologies, the Pro Leather 2k11 follows in the footsteps of similar classics brought back to life to fit into the ever changing sneaker industry (the Adidas Pro Mode 2010l comes to mind).  In our latest Performance Review, the Converse Pro Leather 2k11 is put to the test to see if can stand alongside the performers in the basketball market today.

A remake of the original Dr. J signature shoe, the Converse Pro Leather 2k11 looks to be a staple in the Converse Basketball line up for years to come.  The features include the following:

  • Upper made of thin, light weight mesh and synthetic leather
  • Full length Converse Balls Technology (CBT) cushioning system
  • CONtain Fit Technology
  • Stiff TPU heel counter
  • Rubber outsole with lateral outrigger

Aesthetics and Styling

The simple and classic design of the original Converse Pro Leather followed the iconic All-Star, differing with a all leather upper and an outsole suited to the hardwood.  As a baseline for the 2k11, the aesthetics and design have been appropriately updated, maintaing the clean and simple lines.  Although an all leather upper would have been welcomed, the shoe follows the light weight movement as leather covers only the toe box & eyestay, with mesh making the quarter panels & collar.  In terms of style, the designers have done an excellent job of translating a rather mundane shape, when compared to basketball models today, blending synthetic leather with a contoured midsole and rounded collar for a very athletic look.  In this Performance Review, an the upper is made with a metallic blue synthetic leather for the toe box.

Converse Pro Leather 2k11

The CBT (Converse Ball Technology) joins a leather and mesh upper for the update version of the Converse Pro Leather

Holding the original shape of the Pro Leather, the updates to the 2k11 are evident with the mesh quarter panels and shaper lines through the midsole and flaring outrigger.  Gleaming from front to back, synthetic leather shines on the toe box, while the clear TPU heel counter is observed at the rear.  Beginning with the outsole, the contoured rubber is separated into multiple sections.  Four sections – toe, medial forefoot, center, and U-shaped heel – are separated with two curving rubber grooves.  The CBT balls are molded into the rubber, which have a fine four diagonal rubber pattern covering the balls for traction, while a smooth portion outlines the entire sole.  An outrigger flares on the lateral side, with a “CONVERSE” logo appearing underneath, as the outsole also creeps up a bit on the medial and forms a toe cap at the front.  Similarly, the rear sees the rubber moving up the heel and sides, where another lateral outrigger, with the “CBT” logo, is included for added stability.  A dual layered, contoured midsole finishes off the minimal but solid foundation.

On the upper, the shiny synthetic leather covers the toe box, extending towards the forefoot.  Perforation holes are placed close to the throat line, and follow the shape of the Chevron logo on each side.  A net design is covers the nylon and mesh quarter panels, overlaid with a silver Converse logo on each side.  More support on the side comes in the form of two leather bands extending from the heel to the eyestay.  The “CONtain Fit Technology” logo is printed on the medial support band.

At the rear, a stiff TPU counter covers the entire heel area, extending along the sides.  The Converse star logo is placed in the center, and a nod to the man that made the shoe famous is present on the lateral side where “DR. J” is printed beneath the plastic.  Above the counter, a hang tab is stitched over the leather and mesh sections on the upper onto the Achilles lobe.  For the collar, extra padding is placed on the outside as two circular lobes protrude.  Inside, padding is flat and very light, with a silk synthetic lining.

A leather eyestay is marked with seven vertical slits, which house the heavy duty flat laces.  The tongue is made up of a mesh material, similar to the upper, with a leather patch on top.  Fitted with a hang tag, this patch is stitched on with the “CONVERSE PRO LEATHER 2K11” logo adding branding.  Inside, the CONtain Fit Technology is observed with the tongue stitched to the Achilles support and the two collar eyelets forming a complex inner bootie.  To finish off the Pro Leather 2k11, a plush ORTHOLITE insole, with the Converse logo and Julius Erving signature on the heel, sits above the stiff CBT cushioning system.

Comfort and Fit

Slipping easily into the Pro Leather 2k11, the CONtain Fit inner bootie has a very loose and relaxed feel.  The rounded toe box is very roomy all around, and length wise, moving a half step down would be recommended for a more precise fit.  Lace pressure is felt right at the center, with the very thin sides molding slightly to the foot.  The difference between the leather toe/forefoot area and mesh quarter panels is somewhat noticeable, as the leather has a more tighter feel than the mesh, which can hardly be felt.  With this, the upper does not bear down too much on the foot for a relaxed feel.  Moving to the ankles, the support and protection is very light.  Although rounded padding is placed on the outside of the shoe, the inside padding is flat and light.  Even when laced tightly, the collar and tongue do not grip hard resulting in loose protection.  At the rear, the heel fits nicely into the TPU counter but lockdown is lacking, which is another factor in recommending a half size down in sizing.  This is because Achilles support has very little hold.  Cushioning is stiff, responsive, and minimal.  The ORTHOLITE insole does a good job of keeping some comfort without losing the feel of the CBT which is very prevalent.  Arch support is average, as the foot sits relatively flat and low.  With this, sides of the midsole feel close to the bottom of the foot, almost as though the foot sits on the outsole.  Comfort and fit wise, a relaxed and responsive feel can be expected from the Pro Leather 2k11.

Converse Pro Leather 2k11

Overall, a relaxed fit is felt with the thin upper, while cushioning is on the solid side

Performance

A low profile and great court feel is what first jumps out on the court.  The difference between the thin upper and solid sole is also very prevalent, but does not feel unbalanced.  Weight wise the shoe plays on the light side, and getting up to a sprint is a breeze.  Heel to toe transition is aided by the flexibility of the upper.  The throat line is placed at a favorable spot, making the transition more fluid.  Below, outsole flexibility is stiff at first as the thick grooves need to be worked in.  Performance wise, the shoe looks to cater to a wide variety of players.  Guards will find the flexibility and great lateral support favorable.  Movement and transitions are eased by both the leather and mesh upper.  First, moving laterally, the leather provides a strong but flexible base.  This allows the player to use the lateral outrigger to the full extent, moving laterally on defense or planting the lead foot for a drive or pull up.  Because the leather is thin, the foot can flex and put the outrigger to work, without the feeling that the upper will roll towards the lateral side.  Around the ankles, because of the light support, it almost feels as though the shoe is a low cut.  Quick players who value light ankle support will find the mesh material and light padding do little to hinder movement.  For big men, the responsiveness of the 2k11 is fit for perimeter and post play.  Since the outsole is both low and very solid, working down low or with slight intricate moves on the outside, the player can get a good feel of the court, pressing through the insole on the CBT.  Pushing off and finishing, shows the responsiveness, with landings cushioned evenly.  In the end, performance is highlighted by great flexibility, court feel, and responsiveness.

In the stability department, the 2k11 is hot and cold.  To begin, the leather portions of the upper, mainly around the toe box, provide excellent stability.  Most notably, when moving laterally, the upper does not seem to sag to the side, allowing the outrigger provide stability.  Lateral movement is not only comfortable, but there are rarely any moments where its feels like the foot can roll.  Next, the foundation, with the CBT cushioning system, brings excellent stability.  Like the upper, the mid and outsole are constructed with minimal materials, but are very solid.  What this brings is not only responsiveness and great court feel, but stability.  The outsole is very stiff, and the midsole, along with the CBT are dense to provide great impact support.  On the less than positive side, the lack of heel lockdown results in slippage all around.  The Achilles does slide, as does the foot, especially for fast and aggressive play, much like the Defcon.  And also like the Defcon, this problem does not affect the overall performance.

The solid outsole, with the CBT pattern, brings satisfactory traction.  Because the outsole is on the hard side, traction favors a more heavy footed and methodical player.  Putting pressure on the outsole, traction is felt around the sectionalized areas at the front toe, medial forefoot, and back heel areas.  Working around those areas of the outsole brings together the responsiveness, which is perfect for power forwards working on the outside or in the post.  For quick and abrupt movements, the thick grooves and smooth outline do cause some loss of traction.  This, however, is somewhat offset by the fact that not much material is used for both the mid and outsole, eliminating total loss of footing.  No concerns are observed with ventilation.  The thin upper allows the foot to breath easy, limiting heat and sweat overall.

Conclusion

Reviving a model from the past, the Pro Leather 2k11 is a versatile performer bringing great responsiveness on the court.  Much like the Defcon, the standout feature of the shoe is the CBT which can be compared to the top cushioning systems on the market today.  Most sneaker fans know that Converse is owned by Nike, but from the construction, design, and most importantly, the performance it would be difficult to draw the two brands together.  On the marketing side, Converse Basketball can take a page from Nike, which is easier said than done, with the loyal droves of Nike fans, especially in the United States.  The Pro Leather 2k11, along with the Defcon, is a small start in an attempt to regain some support, but is must be aggressively pursued with promotions throughout the length of the NBA season.  Only time will tell if Converse can compete in the market today.  Released last month, the Pro Leather 2k11 is available now at the Official Converse Online Store.

This shoe is comparable to:

Converse Defcon