Li-Ning Villain

The Li-Ning Villain

Introduction

Li-Ning has followed up a somewhat successful first year stepping away from the spotlight.  Perhaps due to the NBA lockout, the basketball line for 2011-2012 had little promotion, picking up steam as the Playoffs began.  Headed by the first Evan Turner signature model – the Turningpoint – this seasons line up also includes the follow up to the Defend/Conquer theme.  Earlier this Spring we took a deep look at the Hero which featured the Li-Ning CushioN™and BounSe™technologies.  A solid performer, the Hero is half of the theme pack for 2011-2012.  This Performance Review puts all pleasantries aside for the Li-Ning Villain.

Part of the Hero/Villain Pack, the Villain is another standout in the Li-Ning basketball catalog for 2011-2012.  The features include the following:

  • Synthetic leather upper
  • Cushioning provided by CushioN™and BounSe™technologies
  • Rubber outsole with raised herringbone traction pattern and mid foot stability plate
  • Inner sleeve and Achilles notch for a precise fit
  • Part of the Hero/Villain theme pack

Aesthetics and Styling

Just like the two high profile Li-Ning performers we have evaluated this year, the Villain makes no apologies aesthetically.  The customary sole has a swift flow, while the design pattern on the leather upper accentuates the the sweeping lines.  An overall aggressive look with a high collar fits the Villain name perfectly.  In terms of technology, the CushioN™and BounSe™are used again for both comfort & responsiveness, while an inner sleeve provides lock down fitting.  As the name suggest, this bold black/grey/purple color scheme has a fierce look for the court.

Li-Ning Villain

Flaring ridges along the upper give a sinister look to the Villain

A side profile of the Villain shows of the swift lines of the shoe.  You can almost picture a circle forming from the sole to the detached collar as the shoe looks bulky, yet flows well.  The patterned leather upper is simple, but again, creates an aggressive effect.  Sharing similar features with the Hero, a segmented outsole is marked with a dual traction pattern.  At the forefoot, a front toe section is separated with a deep vertical groove which runs up the toe cap.  The rubber is molded with a lighting bolt pattern on the lateral, with herringbone making up the medial.  A small Li-Ning logo sits on medial toe cap, with a lighting bolt on the underside.  Next, a wavy horizontal groove leads to the forefoot section.  Again, lighting bolts and herringbone are found on the lateral and medial respectively, with a four dot pattern in between.  The mid foot area sees a deep cavity created first by a groove pattern, where the midsole runs through.  Recessed within this cavity is a mid foot stability plate, cupped in the center with another Li-Ning logo.  The diamond shape is outlined with a rubber portion for added traction.  Last is the sections on the heel, which differs from the forefoot area as lightning bolts are on the medial, and herringbone is on the lateral.  To complete the foundation, a thick Phylon midsole cradles above the rubber sole.  The heel area is thick and raised, with the “CushioN” logo on the lateral and “LN” logo on the medial.  This corrugated part of the midsole is supported with a stiff black plate residing above, which extends around the heel to the mid foot on each side.  Finally, the upper portion of the midsole flows through the heel and around the shoe, with the side walls creeping up slightly for added stability.  The “BounSe” branding is found, hidden on the medial side.

Shiny and scaled leather sections make up the upper for the Villain.  Gleaming up front, a large stitched cap reinforces the toe box.  On top of the toe box, the smooth leather is marked with two vertical rows of four holes.  The shiny black leather continues up the sides, making up the eyestay.  A triangular mesh window breaks up the leather close to the eyelets at the forefoot.  The symmetrical sides are designed with a large leather panel, which has a reptile print.  Ridges/shards circle the upper giving it a sinister style, and the Li-Ning logo is present on each side.

The resemblance to the Hero is prevalent at the heel with a large plastic counter.  Branding comes through with “LI-NING” etched into the lower half and a logo on a black center portion.  Under the counter is a shiny leather support, which forms a hang tab that connects through the Achilles notch on the inside.  The collar rises at a steep angle, and is constructed from the large leather panel from the sides.  A slight detachment gives the collar flexibility, as it is very thin.  Padding comes very light, in the form of two circular portions around the ankles, lined with a smooth synthetic.

Flat black/purple laces find their way through nine eyelets.  A plastic reinforcement for two eyelets is placed where the collar is slightly detached.  At the throat line, a small plastic Li-Ning logo is glued on the mesh tongue.  On the inside, an expansive inner sleeve is formed by the tongue and Achilles notch.  The tongue is finished off with a large leather patch, draping the top.  This patch is has the Li-Ning logo on the top and a thick lace hoop at the center.  To round out the Villain, a high quality EVA insole covers the footbed.  This thick insole is marked with perforations, with a lightning bolt graphic on the heel.

Comfort and Fit

From the leather sides to the inner sleeve, the upper of the shoe stands tall and rigid.  Aided by the hang tab, the foot slides comfortably into the inner sleeve for a true to size fit.  Lace pressure is prevalent around the mesh windows at the forefoot, and the shoe is comfortably snug.  The toe box area has a close fit, with not too much crowding.  Up top, ankle support and protection is sufficient.  The leather collar and tongue are high and stiff, covering the ankles all around.  Comfort comes in the form of the smooth lining and padded lobes, which are just enough to keep the area from having too much discomfort.  In all, ankle support is good, but not too protective or cumbersome.  Heel lock down is a bright spot.  The Achilles is fully support through the notch and the heels slip right in the back end.  There is no movement here, as the fit is very secure.  Below, cushioning is solid and comfortable.  The insole provides the first barrier of comfort over the footbed, which feels thick and very dense.  As the upper hugs the forefoot in place, the sides and inner sleeve do a good job of providing side support to keep the foot from sitting flat.  Arch support is tight and solid.  All in all, the Villain provides a secure, close fit, with a responsive base and just enough comfort.

Li-Ning Villain

Excellent heel lock down solidifies the back end, while the inner sleeve holds snug and close

Performance

The designers at Li-Ning have proven themselves, with all their performers this year, when court feel is evaluated.  Just like the Hero and Turningpoint, the Villain has great court feel – just ready to perform on the court.  The sole is closer to the hardwood than the shoe looks, and getting up to speed is natural.  A full sprint has the foundation working all around, providing comfort through the BounSe™in the sole, and the rounded shape of the outsole just eases heel to toe transition.  Movement forward is fluid and comfortable.  Performance is all about court feel and responsiveness.  The weight of the shoe, like all of the Li-Ning performers this year, is on the heavy side, but this aspect can be overlooked as the shoe has few negative spots.  On offense the shoe is responsive and solid.  Getting around the court is easy, as the shoe pushes the player into action.  The weight and balance is impressive allowing for nimble or aggressive play.  Lateral movement is also great.  Pushing off the foundation springs the player to the sides quickly, and because the shoe has superb court feel, responsiveness and reaction times are heightened.  For jumps, the foundation is both comfortable and consistent.  The sole grips the court and propels the player up, especially around the forefoot.  Spot up shooters will find this as one of the best aspects of the shoe (even though the weight might hold them from springing up quicker and faster).  Landings also have great consistency, bringing comfort and a smooth impact on the court.  Balanced and responsive, the performance of the Villain is exceptionally high.

Stability is a strong aspect of the Villain.  Ankle support and protection is sufficient, and not too cumbersome & tight.  This allows the player to play with more agility and have some support.  However, stability performance is best observed around the foot and through the foundation.  Those who play on the aggressive side will find the inner sleeve and leather set up holding up well.  Pushing the shoe close to the ground on the medial or lateral side, foot stability is evident.  Movement is almost non-existent, and the security felt is very supportive.  The player can go hard and get low in the flow of a movement as the sleeve holds the foot in place, while the leather upper stands true.  Playing in the post, back end stability is excellent.  First, the Achilles notch and counter solidify the heel.  The stiff plate and thick heel not only bring comfort, but a strong base for pushing off on or spinning with great force.  In fact, the foundation is ideal for taking a pounding, whether it be for abrupt stops pushing the sidewalls of the midsole, or taking the up and down brunt when landing.

Traction performance is comfortable.  The main design aspect of the outsole that brings traction is the segmentation of the rubber.  In this instance, the segments of the sole touch the hardwood surface to help push the player to the next movement.  Court feel is very good, and getting a footing in the context of a game feels natural.  In terms of grip, traction is on the smooth side.  The shoe can hold for lateral stops on defense well, and on offense grip is good enough to play at a fast pace.  Overall, there are no big issues when traction is evaluated.  Ventilation, however, is not a strong point for the Villain.  Heat build up will happen, and the only saving grace for any ventilation is the space left from the detachment of the collar which combines with the only open area from the inner sleeve (around the ankles).

Conclusion

There is no mistaking that Li-Ning has one of the best line ups for the 2011-2012 season.  The performance of the Villain is high, and great for those valuing responsiveness, balance, and great court feel for every day use.  This is a performer that many basketball players can find positive aspects about, and is a great team shoe.  The question now is how much steam and effort Li-Ning will have for the US market.  A small catalog featuring 2 strong models, and a signature shoe is great for a true second year, but the company will need to step up their marketing efforts to gain more exposure.  Even though they are unestablished, like Peak, the performance of their shoes should be enough for them to compete in the basketball sneaker market today.  Basketball players who are on the fence about Li-Ning would be wise to give the Villain a try on the court.  Available now at the Official Li-Ning Online Store, the Villain can be found in multiple color schemes.

This shoe is comparable to:

Li-Ning Turningpoint
Li-Ning Hero