Air Jordan 2012 Deluxe - North Carolina

The Air Jordan 2012 Deluxe


The Air Jordan 2011 was released with much hoopla, introducing an interchangeable midsole concept.  Designed with a simple yet luxurious light weight patina leather upper, the 2011 gave the player two options for comfort on the court.  This year, Jordan Brand has taken the concept further adding another midsole option (to bring the total to 3) while offering further customization in the form of two inner sleeves.  The Zoom Kobe VII Supreme offered a similar design and concept earlier this year, but the 2012 version of the Air Jordan has 6 different set ups.  Does the interchangeable midsole design translate to exceptional high performance on the court?  Or does the concept seem more plausible on paper?  Our latest Performance Review takes the 2012 Deluxe version of the legendary Air Jordan series for a test run.

The 26th iteration of the Air Jordan brings a System of Flight, with 3 interchangeable midsoles and two inner sleeves as options for the player.  The features include the following:

  • Upper shell constructed with Flywire technology for light weight performance with nubuck panels for support
  • Two interchangeable inner sleeves – low cut and high cut (with velcro strap)
  • Three interchangeable midsoles (Fly Around, Fly Over, Fly Through)
  • Large sculpted mid foot stability plate
  • Rubber outsole with multi-directional traction pattern

Aesthetics and Styling

Jordan Brand has prided themselves in blending both aesthetics with performance when designing their signature model.  The 2011 opted for a more simple design, aesthetically, with the  focus on the materials used to construct the upper (in this case the patina leather).  This year, the 2012, surprisingly, brings a very standard look.  In the market of sleek and stealth designs, there is really nothing, other than the customary jumpman logo, that distinguishes the Air Jordan from the pack.  Nonetheless, the shoe is made with very nice materials for the upper shell, which includes the nubuck panels as well as the solid and thin plastic upper.  The accessories are also constructed with quality, as the inner-sleeves and midsoles have a nice feel to them right out of the box.  A University Blue and Grey color scheme of the 2012 represents the North Carolina Tar Heels, and is the choice for this Performance Review.

Air Jordan 2012 Deluxe - North Carolina

Continuing the precedent of interchangeable midsoles, the 2012 version of the Air Jordan also features a choice of inner sleeves

Two side profiles of the Air Jordan 2012 reveal a somewhat straightforward look in terms of the basketball landscape today.  The lower cut sleeve flows with the long lines of the shoe, while the high cut sleeve raises up like a tower.  Flywire strands cross through the upper, carrying over to the midsole, while the nubuck panels are stitched on, with holes for design.  A look below shows off a minimal outsole, a kin to the Fly Wade 2.  The rubber portions cover the forefoot and heel, separated by a mid foot plate.  To begin, the large forefoot area is contoured all around with curves on both the lateral and medial sides for more responsiveness.  This portion is outlined with a rock like pattern through the sides and at the toe cap where a “Jump Town” text is molded in.  The main traction area is designed with three horizonal and one curved vertical flex grooves, with two circular sections cut towards the mid foot.  A square and X traction pattern is molded into the rubber in sections to help with court feel.  Moving to the midfoot, the large “FLIGHT CARBON” stability plate has a glossy finish.  The solid plate is sculpted for comfort and finished off with a large white jumpman logo in the center.  Last, the heel area mimics the forefoot with the square and X traction pattern combining with crossing flex grooves.  Completing the foundation is a shiny foam side wall, which has the crossing Flywire strand design throughout.

Because of the interchangeable set up, the upper is merely a thin shell.  The Flywire construction is done with the visible strands supported by a synthetic base.  This is, in turn, covered with a shiny plastic layer which gives body to the shell, and a glimmering effect.  Nubuck panels at the forefoot, sides, and heel offer more stability for the shell, serving to support the toe box, an eyestay for the 7 eyelets & oval laces, and a heel counter.  The panels are designed with a perforation hole pattern (which are for aesthetics over function), while a large jumpman logo brands the shoe on the lateral collar panel.  The inner lining for the shell, around the collar, is a diamond textured synthetic, with no padding at all.

The most prominent aspect of the Air Jordan 2012 comes with inner sleeves and midsoles.  Both inner sleeves house each midsole and are constructed with a mesh material.  A synthetic strip is stitched through the center of each, from the toe through the tongue, and on the back end, forming a hang tag.  The low cut sleeve has the jumpman logo printed on a nubuck patch at the center of the tongue, while the high cut sleeve sees the logo on the velcro strap.  With the absence of padding around the collar, each sleeve is padded through the top of the tongue, and around the ankles.  Finishing off each sleeve is a rubber base, which is marked with the square and X pattern found on the outsole.  Each contoured midsole is equipped with a different cushioning set up.  The green Fly Around houses a Zoom unit at the heel.  The blue Fly Over unit has a heel Air-Sole unit and Zoom at the forefoot, while the orange Fly Through has the Air-sole running from heel to forefoot.  On the underside of the midsole, the cushioning technology is visible and the square and X pattern again makes an appearance through the foam and up the side walls.  With the insoles integrated into the midsoles, the “FLY AROUND/OVER/THROUGH” text is printed alongside a small white jumpman logo.

Comfort and Fit

Before fitting into the Air Jordan 2012, a sleeve and midsole must be chosen (the midsole is inserted into the sleeve).  With the midsole inserted into the sleeve, and the sleeve, in turn, placed in the outer shell, the foot enters through comfortably.  Like a thick and supportive sock, each sleeve fits the foot close and the shoe is true to size.  For those with wide feet, the sleeves may be a bit tighter, due to the bulk of the midsoles.  Comfort wise, the sleeves are excellent.  Laced tightly, the sleeve provides a nice barrier to the stiff upper, with most of the discomforting pressure alleviated and felt down the center.  Because of the sleeve, there is little wiggle room anywhere.  The outer shell does a good job of bringing the fit tight and close, without an overbearing sense.  Ankle support and protection with the low cut sleeve is satisfactory.  The low cut sleeve gives essentially the feel of a low cut shoe as the ankles are exposed and the thin collar  offers virtually no support or protection.  Conversely, the high sleeve is plush and comfortable, with good ankle support and protection.  Besides the added ankle support, the high cut sleeve is more comfortable with added cushioning throughout the ankles, Achilles, and heels.  Furthermore, heel lock down is exceptionally better with this sleeve.  As the main feature of the 2012, the each cushioning choice brings a different feel.  Starting with the “Fly Around” sole, the heel Zoom unit is thick, with a slight bounce, and from the mid foot through the forefoot, the profile is lower than the other two for a more responsive feel.  The “Fly Over” midsole brings the biggest contrast, as the Air-Sole unit in the heel has a pronounced bounciness and thickness compared to the forefoot Zoom unit with has a somewhat spongy feel.  Last, the “Fly Through” midsole in a static positions provides the most comfort.  The full length Air cushioning is felt through the foot, and ends around the forefoot area, which has a lower to the court and responsive feel.  Whatever the cushioning choice is, the sleeve and contours of the midsoles & shell provide good support around the foot.  With a choice of cushioning options for comfort, the Air Jordan 2012 brings a comfortably snug fit.

Air Jordan 2012 Deluxe - North Carolina

A snug and comfortable fit is what the Air Jordan 2012 brings


As one of the more unique shoes on the market, a number of aspects jump out when stepping on to the hardwood.  First, the separate parts of the shoe can be noticeably felt, from the midsole cushioning, to the sleeve and shell.  In a static position, it does feel as though the parts are more separate than whole.  Next, the shell has a plastic and rigid feel from top to bottom.  There is no sense that the shoe will flex easily.  The shape and design of the outsole makes it so the foot does not sit flush and flat on the court, almost as if the player is stepping on the court with cleats.  However, the profile of the shoe is on the low side, more accentuated with the “Fly Around” midsole.  Getting up to a running start is a breeze with the light weight of the shoe.  Either sleeve gives a comfortable feel, but the shoe out of the box is stiff, loosing some fluidity.  When running, the flex point of the stiff upper is right at the throat line, bending nicely.  Once worked in, the shoe is best played (for the outer shell and foundation) hard and fast, while the cushioning serves mainly for comfort.  Movement is aided by the shape and design of the lower have.  Because the shoe is not perfectly rounded, especially at the forefoot and toe area, playing off the forefoot is what the shoe does best.  This is where the “Fly Around” midsole comes into play, as it has the lowest court feel and best responsiveness.  For getting a quick first step or moving laterally, the player can move very well.  Any configuration with the “Fly Around” midsole seems to show of the best performance of the shoe.  The shoe plays at a minimal weight with this insole, perfect for the quick player that charges forward and likes to change directions in stride.  Those looking for more overall comfort with some responsiveness will find the “Fly Through” best.  In this case, the Air-sole unit cushions each step, perfect for the perimeter player that uses slight movements to get a shot off.  For all around comfort the “Fly Over” would be the choice.  The thick heel unit and targeted cushioning at the forefoot is best for players who use quickness in bursts.  When getting up high to finish, pushing off the Zoom unit has a bounce, and wherever the player lands, whether on the forefoot or heel, the cushioning set up is there to provide all the comfort needed.  One of the small drawbacks of the design comes with the feel of the interchangeable midsoles.  The designers have made an upgrade in integration of the midsoles, eliminating the rubbing of the sidewalls against the foot that the Air Jordan 2011 did exhibit.  However, the aspect of the midsole being dragged during play is still evident.  Since the midsole is not set in place, the foot has to hold both the sole and sleeve.  During long court sessions, although the weight is not “heavy,”  there is a sense that the player is carrying the midsole along with each step, mostly evident transitioning from jumps to running full speed.  In the end, this is one small drawback that comes with the design of the shoe.  Great for quick players who play off their forefoot, the Jordan 2012 offers a variety of cushioning options for comfortable play.

Stability is satisfactory for the 2012.  The outer shell is very minimal and stiff, serving mainly to provide a good foundation base for movement and covering for each inner sleeve.  Stability comes best with the high cut sleeve, as is has more padding, security, and better heel lock down.  The lower cut sleeve is best for those who prefer to play in a low cut shoe, showcasing more agility and comfort over stability.  This established, the plastic and Flywire shell is stiff and solid, able to handle and hold for quick stops and being pushed hard, for a guard style of play.  The rubber outsole and foam side wall are also stiff and solid, able to take the rigors of fast play.  Foot stability is the shining aspect of stability performance for the shoe.  Everything from the midsole, to the carbon fiber mid foot plate is solid, and with the inner sleeve holding tight, sliding or awkward foot placements are not a common occurrence.

Perhaps the most highest performing aspect of the Air Jordan 2012 comes in the area of traction.  With cushioning and user options used as the main focus of performance, the design and function of the outsole may be lost in the shuffle.  The outsole is designed with curves and ridges to provide traction in response the position of the foot rather than having a flat base where the bulk of the work falls directly on what pattern is molded into the rubber.  Contours around the forefoot and heel of both the rubber outsole and foam side wall ease the player into different directions.   Grip is sufficient, not sticky, allowing fluid movement for the player.  The shoe can make abrupt stops, but works best in motion and when pushing off hard.  When bending low, moving sideways, or getting off balance, there are times where you can feel the different sections of the traction pattern doing their job.  In all, traction is a bright spot.  Surprisingly, ventilation performance is sufficient.  The inner sleeves and upper are light enough to not encapsulate the foot too much that it chokes off ventilation.  Although the foot is completely covered (almost as if the player is wearing two pairs of socks), whether in the low or high cut sleeve, heat and sweat problems are held to a minimum.


In terms of presentation, packaging, and an attempt to be very creative, there is no basketball sneaker on the market that can come close to the Air Jordan 2012 Deluxe.  As the most popular basketball name in the footwear world, Jordan Brand still holds the Air Jordan line as the pinnacle of innovation and performance, and they have surely created a buzz with the 2012 iteration.  For the swingman and guard type player looking one of the most unique shoes on the market, offering customized cushioning choices, the Air Jordan 2012 Deluxe brings an excellent fit with great traction.  The Air Jordan 2012 brings a lot to the table all around, but high performance wise is surely lacking.  A big assumption with the design is that cushioning is the most important factor in performance.  And although cushioning does play a large part in giving the player comfort, the balance between performance seems to be compromised in this case.  The Air Jordan platform is a showcase for the brand to bring basketball players new innovations and designs, wrapped up with the underlying goal of high performance.  Interchangeable soles offer customization and options, but the fact remains that the cushioning technology used has been around for years.  In this case, concept and design overshadow the need for high performance innovation, leaving the shoe to be catered to fans of Jordan Brand that need the next “must-have” shoe.  The shoe might give options but neither pushes technology or enhances performance.  It will be interesting to see what the company has up their sleeve to out do themselves for the next iteration of the Air Jordan line, and if their performance can keep up with the other brands on the market.  For now, the Air Jordan 2012 Deluxe (and various other configurations) are available now at the Official Nike Online Store.

This shoe is comparable to:

Nike Zoom Kobe VII Supreme System
Jordan CP3 V
Jordan Melo M8
Air Jordan 2011