Air Jordan XX8 - Tour Yellow

The Air Jordan XX8

Introduction

Shocking the sneaker world, the designers of the Air Jordan have outdone themselves with the XX8.  The 2011 and 2012 versions of the shoe surprised many, but no one was truly expecting what the Brand had in store for fans this year.  The zip up boot is the most daring Air Jordan every produced.  But, these aesthetics come with a performance based thinking.  Light weight, efficient performance screams all over the shoe, from the carbon fiber Flight Plate System & minimal foundation, to the dynamic fit system under the synthetic shroud.  Two weeks ago, we evaluated the shoe from a design and aesthetics point of view in our First Look, leaving the performance aspects for now.  Without further ado, our latest Performance Review takes flight with the most anticipated release of the year in the Air Jordan XX8.

Comfort and Fit

With the stretch sleeve zipped down, the foot slides tightly into the dynamic fit bootie.  Normally, laces slide easily though lace hoops, but for the XX8, the lace hoops have a good grip around the laces to keep them from sliding out of place.  That said, fitting is true to size once the shoe is lace up.  The toe box area has a precise feel with little wiggle room.  As the toes wiggle, the softness of the materials can be felt – very comfortable.  Around the foot, the dynamic fit sleeve holds tight with comfort.  Each lace hoop extends to the base and the pressure around the foot is alleviated by the padding which the bootie brings from the tongue and on the sides.  Moving to the rear, ankle support is, again, very comfortable.  The cut of the inner sleeve is high enough just to cover the ankles, while the tongue finishes the wrap with padding on the front.  More of a soft, padded, and flexible feel, tight security is favored over rigid protection.  Heel lock down is very good in this sense.  Lock down is not the tightest, but there is little movement and the carbon fiber plates on the sides do not bring a sharp or uncomfortable feel.  With the stretch sleeve zipped all the way up, the inner sleeve has a slightly taped up feel (comparable to how a football player tapes up from the bottom of the cleats all the way up the ankles) and is more restrictive than with the sleeve zipped down.  Overall, the stretch sleeve feels like a a compression crew sock over the shoe.  Below, the cushioning is dense and solid with the slight Zoom bounce.  The forefoot area has a pronounced raised feeling while the heels feel slightly raised compared to the mid foot.  Arch support is also pronounced as the Flight Plate System is sculpted to keep the foot from sitting flat.  In the end, the Air Jordan brings a tight, precise fit that is very comfortable from top to bottom.

Air Jordan XX8 - Tour Yellow

Comfortable and light weight, the XX8 has a unique feel, ready to fly on the court

Performance

An initial first step on the court, the player can feel the raised section of the forefoot.  It almost feels as though the shoe is a cleat.  However, the Zoom units in each section have a slightly bouncy, comfortable feeling.  The court profile of the shoe has a naturally high feeling because of the raised portion, but it does feel as though the foot can activate either Zoom unit with soft pressure.  And unlike some of the Zoom based shoes released (ex. Lebron 9, Hyperdisruptor), when pressure is placed on the units, the bags immediately collapsing is not the case.  This brings a good balance between responsiveness and comfort.  Getting up to speed, the design of the sole makes for excellent heel to toe transitions.  The mid foot Flight Plate separates the forefoot and heel so transitions have a natural feel, with the Zoom bounce.  Flexibility of the shoe is great out of the box.  There is no break in time needed because the stretch sleeve and Dynamic Fit System are not rigid and have no areas of impediment to the foot.  The stretch sleeve does come up high, but since it is very thin, it acts more like a sock over a regular basketball shoe than an ankle brace.  And if it is bothersome, the player can simply zip the sleeve down to a desired level.  For performance, the XX8 is quick, fast, and dynamic.  Right out of the gate, the player will want to play off the forefoot.  Just like the Melo M9, the raised portion of the shoe brings both comfort and responsiveness.  At first, the raised area gets some getting used to, but once the player finds a groove, performing quick and fast movements is both responsive and comfortable.  First steps, jabs, and hard sprints show the high performance of the shoe.  The raised portion plays like a pod, giving the player the chance to change directions very quickly all with good balance.  All of these quick actions are performed because of the outsole design and mostly due to the light weight set up.  Running up and down the court is swift, fluid, and comfortable.  It makes the player want to constantly move and push the shoe.  For jumps, the shoe has a bouncy, yet responsive feel.  Appropriate for every context of the game, whether it is a jump shot, skying for a rebound, or a finish at the rim, the foundation has a consistent feel.  The light weight of the shoe gives a more airy and fluid feel, while the Zoom gives a responsive bounce.  Landings, in turn, are taken comfortably with support coming from the Flight Plate System.  There is a whole lot to like about the Air Jordan XX8 as it is just an exceptional and fun performer, that plays fast and fluid.

One area where the XX8 might not be for everyone is with stability.  The light weight and minimal set up almost pigeon holes the shoe for a quick guard/swingman type of player.  Active and power players may find some problems with the Dynamic Fit System.  There is some slight movement for very harsh and heavy steps or movements.  The foot can be felt pushing right through the inner bootie and onto the stretch sleeve which may not bring the support some players may require.  Also, for those who post up or are hard on the heels, the carbon fiber plates on the sides may not be big enough to support the backend.  Awkward heel landings or stomps may result in the player feeling the heels press right above each plate.  The last area of some concern would be with ankle protection.  Although the inner bootie does a goo job of providing some support, in the heat of action, the softness felt is not very protective.  These are some aspects which the shoe sacrifices to be fast and fluid.  Bright spots with stability are the Flight Plate System and carbon fiber plate on the later outrigger.  Beginning with the later, the carbon fiber plate on the side is the only supportive piece for the player when moving laterally.  Surprisingly, the small plate and outrigger do an excellent job of providing hold for lateral stops and jabs.  At the midfoot, the Flight Plate System is bullet proof.  Bringing arch support and a stable feel, the mid foot plate allows for the forefoot and heels to work like pods and also keeps the foot from bending awkwardly.  Deep bends, lateral slides, and off balance landings have the maximum support.  It is almost assured that the foot will not be in a compromised position.  With some faults, stability is not the greatest, but the areas where the shoe does bring some stability, it does in the context of the performance of the shoe.

Air Jordan XX8 - Tour Yellow

Because of the raised portion on the forefoot, the shoe has a somewhat high profile on the court

Traction performance is excellent.  The spiral traction pattern does a great job of providing comfortable grip all around.  As the shoe was made for the dynamic and explosive player, having   grip for quick, fluid movements is imperative.  The shoe is not the stickiest, but is not far behind those that are.  With the thick mid/outsole, traction seems more pressure based.  The player can feel the outsole grooves grip the court when stepping hard, and because of the design, changing directions rarely results in a loss of footing.  And as the midsole/Zoom set up is one that the player does not press through the units, comfort is at a maximum.  All in all, traction performance for the XX8 is just great.  Moving to ventilation, the stretch sleeve brings inherent issues.  Obviously, the foot is completely covered from the bottom of the calves down to the toes.  Heat can be an issue as there are no real outlets for air to vent or pass through.  Wearing thick or double socks does not help with ventilation.  However, all of these aspect become non-issues because the player can simply zip down the sleeve for relief.  In the end, ventilation may only be a concern for players who feel more comfortable with the stretch sleeve zipped all the way up.

Conclusion

The simple and clean look of the Air Jordan XX8 does the job on the hardwood.  A light weight shoe that is fast and comfortable on the court, the XX8 is perfect for guards and swingmen who want a high performance shoe.  Aesthetically, the shoe may be a turn off for those looking for a more conventional look.  If the style of the shoe can be overlooked, there are plenty of positive aspects that the shoe brings.  Compared to the 2012, the XX8 brings more of a balance between style and performance.  In short, the Air Jordan XX8 exemplifies what the Jordan Brand flagship model should represent – pushing the limits, without restrictions, of a basketball shoe from an aesthetic and performance point of view.  The 2012-2013 season for Jordan Brand performance basketball shoes has been spectacular.  The XX8 caps off all the releases and brings more anticipation for the XX9/2014.  The designers have outdone the 3 interchangeable soles of the 2012 on all fronts.  Can they top themselves next year with another balanced and bold performer?  Whatever the case may be, those looking for a light weight, fast, and comfortable shoe can look at the Air Jordan XX8, available now at the Official Nike Online Store.

This shoe is comparable to:

Jordan Melo M9
Jordan CP3.VI