The Li-Ning Way of Wade – Black Lotus Performance Reviews
Dwyane Wade has always been just short of the spotlight in his career, drafted behind Lebron James & Carmelo Anthony, while not looked at, initially, as a franchise changer. 10 years and 3 NBA Championships in, Wade has proven himself as a top player each year and a lock for the Hall of Fame once his career ends. A switch to Li-Ning from Jordan Brand was perhaps the biggest offseason sneaker move when the 2012-2013 season began. Reports of a lucrative deal for Wade may have included a part of the company, but most importantly much wanted creative control over his brand name. And with the announcement, both Li-Ning and Wade wasted no time in introducing what would be the first signature shoe for the 2006 NBA Finals MVP. Limited to the Asia market last season is the subject of this Performance Review – the Li-Ning Way of Wade.
For his introduction to the company, Li-Ning brought the Way of Wade to the Asia market for the 2012-2013 season. The features include the following:
- Upper made of leather and suede for maximum support
- Low profile Bounse midsole for dynamic performance
- Rubber outsole with Wade inspired traction pattern
- Mid foot stability plate
- First Li-Ning Dwyane Wade signature shoe
Aesthetics and Styling
It was a big shock for one of the best in the NBA to leave the most prominent basketball sneaker brand for a newcomer (at least in the United States). Image wise, the move was puzzling because Wade was the perfect athlete for Jordan Brand. But in the end, it is a business and changes are a norm. From an aesthetic standpoint the Way of Wade is more simplistic than bold. Most of the style comes from the upper materials which range from grain to patent leather, to nubuck & suede depending on the model. The upper materials fit the aggressive nature of Wade as well as the Bounse cushioning technology in the foundation. And as a very first signature shoe, themes and logos are littered around the shoe. There were four introductory color schemes released for the Way of Wade, all based around black, white, and red. The choice for this Performance Review is the patent leather based “Warrior” color scheme.
From a side profile this Wade signature shoe has straightforward lines. The tongue rises up high while the collar cut looms just at the mid cut level. A look of support a stability is evident with the patent leather material, protruding bump on the quarter panel, as well as the stitched over layers on around the toe box and collar. For the outsole, the rubber lays contoured and flat – separated into forefoot and heel sections. The forefoot section begins forming a toe cap and extending all the way through the lateral side forming a rounded outrigger. A discreet diamond all-over pattern is molded into the rubber on the side wall. On the sole, the lateral side of the forefoot has four segments running to the mid foot. Each segment has the Dwyane Wade DNA helix traction pattern with horizontal flex grooves cutting through to the outrigger. The medial side sees a large area marked with Wade symbol as a pivot circle. More of the DNA traction pattern is found, which does creep up the side wall. The number “11105” lies under this medial section to finish off the forefoot. At the mid foot, a carbon fiber patterned shiny stability plate cuts through diagonally. The first Li-Ning logo appears in white. At the heel, another number appears towards the lateral side – “91.” The lay out mimics the forefoot with the flex grooves and DNA pattern, but with an opposite set up (the traction pattern extends up the side wall on the lateral side rather than the medial). The major differences is that the DNA pattern is molded thicker. Branding for the heel portion comes in the form of the “LI-NING” font on the back and “ZZDG” on the medial side. A low profile foam midsole sits above the rubber sole and stability plate. This midsole is given style with black speckles. The most interesting aspect about the foundation of the shoe is with the plastic support barrier above the midsole. It runs around the base of the shoe from the toe cap and has a layer of stitching from mid foot to mid foot. Etched into the plastic at the heel are the phrases “HAVING A FORM OF GODLINESS” “BUT DENYING THE POWER THEREOF.”
Panels of suede are stitched atop the patent leather base. The first panel of suede is observed rounding the toe cap. This panel runs from the lateral side ending at the medial forefoot where it extends up to the eyestay. The body of the toe box is simply made up of the shiny leather with three rows of small perforations at the throat line. A simple design is present on each side – both with a raised patch on the quarter panel. The trapezoid patch on each side is marked with perforations.
A large suede patch sits stitched covering the heel counter. Most prominent is a red Li-Ning logo is pasted on the center of this patch. Above the patch sits the raised lobe right below the Achilles notch. This raised lobe has the first “WADE” logo above rows of perforations. The collar has a very slight rise and is made up of the patent leather base that has raised areas just like the quarter panels. Padding on the inside is sufficient while the lining is a textured synthetic.
Heavy duty, high quality rounded laces run through six eyelets on a plastic eyestay. “W” is the theme of the lacing system from the pattern on the laces, to the “W” created at the throat line (which has the “WADE” logo), finished off with the “W” pattern of the eyestay. These are some of the best laces on a basketball shoe on the market today. To support the lacing system is a mesh inner sleeve. The sleeve is stitched on at the throat line and on the inside through the sides, – keeping the tongue in place. There is slight padding for the tongue for comfort. The top of the tongue has a padded, corrugated section. Layered in four rows, this area keeps the tongue rising high. A high quality build is finished off with a high quality PU insole. The insole is lined with a soft synthetic with a Li-Ning logo printed on the heel. On the bottom side of the insole is the most interesting aspect where there are large circular perforations and the Wade oval logo that is found on the heel.
Comfort and Fit
The Way of Wade has a very stiff build all around with the tongue/inner sleeve almost fixed in place. FItting is true to size, but some may want to go a half size down as there is room length wise. Most of the lace pressure is felt at the top of the collar, but discomfort is alleviated by the thick padding on the top of the tongue. The shoe would not be described as the most plush or comfortable shoe on the market, but it is also not uncomfortable. There is sufficient room up front where the toes have ample wiggle room. Moving to the rear, the collar provides nice coverage around the ankles to give a secure feel. The tongue does rise up high but is cupped and not flat to fit nicely right under the shin. Heel lock down is solid. The heels sit right in place, while the height of the back end brings excellent support & protection for the Achilles. On to cushioning, the Bounse technology provides a stiff and responsive base. There is a very slight rise at the heel, but for the most part, the foot feels flat in place. Arch support is not pronounced, but the upper materials do feel very secure and protective. Offering an aggressive fit, the Way of Wade brings a sense of stability with a responsive base.
Ready to tear up the hardwood, the Way of Wade has excellent court feel. The shoe feels very low to the court despite the looks. With the upper holding stiff from the leather and plastic elements, an extended break in time is needed – preferably performed at a fast & hard pace. Once the shoe is broken in the player can get right into it with very solid heel to toe transitions. The shoe is right on the court and it seems as though the player can fully control movement. There are not problems with the outsole flexing, although it is not the most flexible. On the other hand, the upper is very stiff and secure. What is most prevalent are the stitched panels on the collar. From the top of the collar down to the heels, the back end feels locked in place. Luckily, the cut and wrap are not very restrictive which helps the shoe play quicker than the material would suggest. Weight is not light at all, but it does feel very balanced. For performance, the Way of Wade is flat out fast and aggressive. Responsiveness and court feel are the two elements that stand out the most and are most fitting for a shoe meant for Dwyane Wade. The shoe shines when pushed hard for all the abrupt movements – cuts, stop & starts, side steps, changes of directions at high speeds. Getting the responsiveness out of the shoe is easy as the set up of the foundation was meant for explosive play. Whether moving fast down the court, getting into a first step, or simply moving laterally on defense the player always feels in control. Yes there is some comfort lost in terms of cushioning, but the quick response time makes up for this. For jumps, the Bounse technology provides a stiff, but responsive base. Court feel again comes into play as the player has the control when pushing off the foundation. Landings may be a bit hard, but that is expected with this set up. Those looking for a no frills beast of a performer on the court can look no further than the Way of Wade.
Court feel and excellent responsiveness are solidified with great stability. The leather based upper has stitched panels all around for maximum stability. Add this to the plastic eyestay and the shoe can handle the harshest of playing conditions. Starting with ankle support, the collar and tongue are just great. The cut of the collar is just enough to cover the ankles, while the tongue finishes the wrap. Because of the materials used, the ankles have a very secure and protected feel. Jumping and stopping & starting laterally do not tax the ankles as a minimal set up would do. Also the wrap is not restrictive so the player can make those nimble moves in traffic with some speed & quickness. This is a great example of a shoe providing excellent support & protection without limiting quick performance. Next the upper and inner sleeve keep the foot inline. Sliding of the foot is held to a minimum through the sleeve, while the upper does the job of providing the bullet proof protection. Make no mistake about it, the player will not feel this shoe going to failure. Topping off stability is the foundation. The mid foot stability plate keeps the shoe from bending out of place, while the plastic band supporting the midsole brings a solid feel. Heavy footed players and those harsh on the foundation of their shoes will be able to push the foundation to the limit, especially during those long hours on the court. In a time of synthetic, minimal uppers, the Way of Wade opts for maximum stability with the leather construction.
Traction performance for the Way of Wade is excellent. The outsole surface is able to provide the grip needed from abrupt stops for all those fast dashes and cuts. What makes the traction work in this context is the fact that it is not jerky. The two attributes that may contribute to the more fluid traction are the great court feel of the shoe and the fact that the rubber is broken up by the mid foot stability plate. First, the low profile feel gives the player a good sense of control on the court. This leads to better balance, allowing the player to use the responsive base in controlling stops & starts on the fly. The set up makes it so that the rubber will almost automatically provide grip based on the pressure placed, rather than having the traction pattern start to grip when making contact with the court surface. Next the flex grooves and mid foot plate add flexibility to the sole. This helps the rubber not stick in one place. The player can play off the forefoot or heel and find both traction & flexibility with the sole. Ventilation performance is not a strong point for the shoe. The leather upper and inner sleeve do have a choking feel with respect to free air flow. Heat and moisture concerns will all depend on the player.
Li-Ning took a cautious approach this past season by skipping all basketball releases in the US. With Wade as the face of their basketball line, the company is looking to redefine themselves in the US the right way for long lasting success. Fans were given a taste of the Way of Wade with a limited Championship Pack at the beginning of the season and a Houston only All-Star release. But to solidify the Wade line, the company saw fit to take care of the Asia market first and carefully plan a marketing scheme that would make a big impact in America. Nonetheless, the Way of Wade did have exposure through Wade himself during the whole season. The shoe is just an amazing performer on the basketball court that brings excellent court feel, responsiveness, stability, and aggressive play. In terms of construction, the shoe is also top notch. The materials from the laces to the upper and down to the sole just have a high quality feel. Quite simply, the Way of Wade is the best performer of the 2012-2013 season, and we can not say anymore good about the shoe. This is really what was expected of Jordan Brand and Wade the last two seasons. So far two models of the Way of Wade have been released – the original model during the season and the Encore for the playoff run. The start of the 2013-2014 season will mark the 1 year anniversary for the pairing and it will be interesting to see if US fans a taste of both versions of the Way of Wade, or if the company will skip to the Way of Wade 2. Whatever the case may be, the anticipation will be very high. An outstanding performer, the Li-Ning Way of Wade was released last season and is available overseas.
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