Nike Lebron XI

The Nike Lebron XI

Introduction

Lebron James and the Miami Heat completed an exceptional run last season to become back to back champions.  They met all expectations in a year that saw Lebron capture both regular season and Finals MVP awards with the team amassing an impressive 27 game win streak during the journey.  All signs point to a third consecutive Championship as the new season looms in the next coming days.  Lebron has finally answered the critics during his time with the Miami Heat.  He is now in the phase of his career where all that is left for him to do is build on a legacy of greatness.  The same can be said for the Lebron line as it enters into an impressive second decade.  From color schemes to bold designs to limited releases, it has rightfully earned the mantle of the most premium basketball shoe on the market today.  The designers have taken this latest Lebron to the next level in all aspects.  With 2013-2014 just days away, we kick off the regular season with the Nike Lebron XI.

The pinnacle for Nike Basketball, the Lebron series enters into a new decade with the XI.  The features include the following:

  • Upper constructed with Foamposite material, mesh, and Dynamic Flywire for a blend of durability and light weight performance
  • Cushioning provided by a Lunarlon insert housing a full length Zoom unit
  • Minimal rubber outsole with hexagonal traction pattern
  • Mesh tongue with full inner sleeve for a better fit
  • Mid foot stability plate

Aesthetics and Styling

Lebron is one of those rare athletes that has a combination of size, speed, and quickness.  Crafting a shoe for an athlete that needs a blend of light weight performance and stability is the task the designers of the Lebron have each year.  In doing so, the shoes always have a non-traditional design to them, not fitting into a “guard” or “big man” type of shoe.  The X had the bulky look of a big man shoe with exceptional plush cushioning.  For the XI, the designers have started from from scratch.  This shoe looks to be a hybrid.  The sharp and stealth look is equipped with the Foamposite material to give it a solid presence.  It is a more compact shoe compared to the VII, IX, and X, which did have a more bulky build.  And for the first time, the cushioning set up comes in the form of a removable mid/insole featuring both Lunarlon and Zoom cushioning.  As with all Lebrons, the color schemes are a pivotal factor in making the shoe stand out.  The first color scheme released is the choice for this Performance Review – Parachute Gold/Arctic Green-Dark Laden Blue.

Nike Lebron XI

For the first time, Foamposite material makes its way to the Lebron line

Protruding, sharp Foamposite sections give the XI a stealth bomber look.  Without a midsole, the upper of the shoe flows naturally from the sole up.  The strategically placed Foamposite looks like pieces of armor around the shoe.  For the foundation of the shoe, the outsole is broken into two parts.  Each rubber part connects to the Foamposite material on the upper skipping what would normally be a foam midsole.  Hexagon shapes are the theme here.  The forefoot section forms a toe cap with six small points on the front.  On the medial side, some of the hexagonal traction pattern creeps up the side wall while the lateral side has a pronounced outrigger.  This outrigger curves and flattens out to keep the forefoot stable.  The new Lebron James logo is molded into the light green rubber towards the mid foot on the outrigger.  For the main portion of the forefoot, the hexagonal traction pattern covers the rubber.  The middle hexagons have small pointy pieces of rubber in the middle.  A jagged vertical groove runs through the center and has a clear plastic window to reveal the Zoom cushioning.  Lying at the mid foot is a sculpted stability plate.  Shiny, this mid foot plate has a cracked effect with a mock Lebron logo in the center.  Finally, the heel follows in the path of the forefoot with the hexagonal traction pattern and plastic window in the center.

Strategically placed Foamposite shards combine with mesh & nylon for the construction of the XI.  Each Foampoiste piece has a sharp, pointy design and protrudes outward.  First off is the toe cap piece which extends all the way to the medial side right by the stability place.  The piece is marked with a Nike swoosh logo.  Moving towards the lateral side, there is a small matte finished synthetic portion cutting through the toe box before the next panel is reached.  This panel, again, starts on the side of the toe cap, hugs the outrigger, and ends right above the mid foot plate.  It does move up the lateral side to form a semi-bumper and has a cut out for flexibility.  The cut out reveals the Dynamic Flywire underneath.  With the Foamposite material lining the base of the shoe, the quarter panels are outlined with a matte finished synthetic.  To keep the shoe light weight, a thin nylon based material is used around the eyelets.  The upper is finished off with a second Nike swoosh logo made of plastic on the lateral side.

More Foamposite is found at the rear.  There are three pieces which form the protective layers of the heel and collar.  In the center is the smallest triangular piece.  The sides have the shapely portions originating from the outsole rubber.  Both of the collar pieces have small cut outs, again revealing the Dynamic Flywire cables.  There is some asymmetry for the Achilles notch.  The lateral side has more of a cut for better articulation, while the medial is more full and supportive.   Padding is slight but plush and the lining is a silky synthetic complete with a multi-colored all over graphic.

High quality, heavy duty rounded laces pass through Dynamic Flywire strands.  There are seven eyelets cut through the thin synthetic portion of the upper with the red Flywire cables connected on the inside base of the shoe.  The mesh tongue forms a bootie which extends all the way to the heel.  On top of the tongue is a padded patch.  It has the Lebron crown logo in the center with a shard padding design all around.  The top of the patch has a red tab which has the “XI” logo on the front and the back.  Behind the patch is the silky synthetic lining and the colorful all over graphic just like the collar.  Putting the final touches on the XI is the removable mid/insole.  This thick Lunarlon based sole is in all red and is contoured.  The full-length Zoom unit is visible when it is flipped over with the branding molded in on the medial side.  The top of the insole has a soft lining bed with the Lebron James logo in green, on the heel.

Comfort and Fit

This lower cut Lebron with a wide collar opening makes slipping into the shoe easier.  Fitting is a very tight true to size with all the lace pressure felt by the Dynamic Flywire holding tight at the middle of the foot.  The construction naturally leads to a very stiff feel out of the box from front to back.  At the toe box, the Foamposite material is hard around the edges.  Not much wiggle room is found here, and those who have a wider foot may feel slight crowding.  It does feel very precise and fit for aggressive play.  Moving to the back, heel lock down is tight.  The counter and Foamposite again bring a very hard feel, keeping the heels protected and in place.  Up the Achilles, however, the cut of the shoe is low.  The Achilles has room to articulate to help break up the restrictive feel.  This leads to the collar and tongue which provide good coverage around the ankles.  Unlike the upper and heel, the collar/tongue give more comfort than protection.  The materials give more relief as the it is not stiff at all.  Next, cushioning is full and very comfortable.  The Lunarlon insert is dense but cushioned, while the full-length Zoom has the signature bouncy feel.  This may be the best insert Nike has made since the Air Jordan 2011 as it combines density, firmness, and comfort all in one.  For side support, the foot sits somewhat flat.  Help comes with the tight fit from the inner sleeve and Dynamic Flywire to keep the sides pressed up against the upper.  The Lebron XI brings a very hard & protective upper combined with flexible ankle support and a very comfortable cushioning base.

Nike Lebron XI

Despite the stiff Foamposite construction, the XI may be the lightest performing in the series

Performance

Stiff and tight, the fit of the Lebron pushes the foot right down on the cushioning set up for a compact feel.  The Foamposite areas are noticeably felt.  With the minimal outsole court feel is excellent and this may be the lowest Lebron ever made.  Breaking in the upper and insole are a must once the player gets up to speed.  But right out of the box, the shoe shows what kind of performance it will give.  The stealth looks translates 100% in performance.  Running in the shoe is flexible and comfortable.  Because the Foamposite areas are strategically placed, they do not keep the foot from bending.  It feels as though the foot has almost no restrictions.  Heel to toe transitions are very comfortable.  Here, the full-length Zoom brings the soft touch while the Lunarlon housing keeps steps from being sluggish and mushy.  Topping off the flexibility and comfort is the light weight of the shoe.  This may be the lightest Lebron in the series so far.  So, with good flexibility, comfort, and balanced weight, the Lebron XI is fit for the active guard or swingman.  The shoe plays more nimble & fast than slow & plodding.  Since it feels secure around the foot, the player will want to be very active.  The minimal outsole brings the court feel and responsiveness.  With or without the ball the shoe really pushes the player to be fast and quick.  Driving forward, moving quick laterally, and spinning are done with good quickness and flexibility.  The shoe has a very subtle fluidness to it which allows the player to play with no restrictions.  For most of the Foamposite based shoes, there is an adjustment period to see where the player can push and feel the shoe.  That is not the case with the XI as it just feels able to do almost everything very good.  For jumps, the cushioning set up is excellent.  This may be the most versatile insole Nike has created as it is both responsive and comfortable.  Whether the player wants to be explosive off the dribble or simply take a spot up jumper, the blend of responsiveness and cushioning is excellent.  Landings are no surprise as the full length cushioning provides a soft, but responsive touch.  A pleasure to play in, the Lebron XI delivers with light weight, comfortable, all around performance with surprising flexibility & fluidness.

Foamposite constructions leads to very good stability for the Lebron XI.  If there was one small area where the XI would be lacking, it would be with ankle support and protection.  The stealth design leads to a lower cut collar which does not give the normal secure and protective wrap that past Lebron models have had.  But, keeping the ankles flexible was the sacrifice to keep the shoe playing flexible and nimble over playing very stiff.  Stability for the shoe comes with the fit and Foamposite construction.  The inner bootie and Dynamic Flywire are great for keeping the foot in place.  Highlighting stability, however, is the Foamposite.  In this context, the Foamposite does the job of bringing a protective feel without limiting performance.  The two noticeable areas where the Foamposite does come into play are at the toe box and heel.  Up front, the material does not hinder bending.  It gives a solid feel for those rough jabs and protects from toe stubs.  At the rear, the heels are fully protected.  Hard landings on the back end do not jar the heels.  This protection somewhat makes up for the lack of high Achilles support.  And for the sides, the lateral Foamposite shard keeps the foot from rolling.  It also works with the mid foot stability plate which does provide sculpted support for the arch.  All in all, one would just have to observed the aesthetics of the shoe to know how well this Lebron fares with stability.

Traction performance for the XI leans on the side of movement and speed.  Sticky, herringbone based traction has never been what the Lebron line has been about.  The minimal outsole design, broken up into two sections, brings better court feel and a lower profile which allows the player to have more balance and control.  Make no mistake about it, the shoe does favor the heavy footed player to get optimal performance, but since the foundation is so comfortable, it has versatility for various playing styles.  With this, traction is best on the move.  The shoe is great for sudden stops whether for pulls ups or changes in directions.  It does not stop the player in place, but allows the player to be more agile out of movements.  Because the player will be on either the forefoot or heel (or both), the shoe does not have the player stuck in place.  This is very important for the overall balance of the shoe because the upper is very stiff at places.  If traction were a bit more sticky, reaction time and quickness would be adversely affected.  In the end, the minimal sole creates the balance needed for the shoe to have the light weight quickness it may have lacked if a full rubber design was used.  Ventilation performance is good.  Most of the heat relief for the shoe comes from the openings all around and through the low cut collar.  The tight fit may cause some problems for some, but overall, the shoe does not have any major problems as far as ventilation is concerned.

Conclusion

The best player in the world should be at the top of the Basketball performance market.  Michael Jordan set the standard with the Air Jordan, and now Nike has moved on with Lebron James.  Taking the series in a new direction is the XI.  Bold aesthetics and new technological features from the upper to the insole combine for a very solid performer.  Most of the time, the marketing aspects of a shoe do not translate on the court.  This Lebron has been touted as a shoe that is stable, with great cushioning and light weight performance.  In a few words, it delivers – a high quality, well designed shoe where all the design concepts & elements meld perfectly.  It has the plush cushioning with quickness and flexibility despite the fact that the Foamposite upper is rock solid.  Combine this with excellent fit and great court feel – the shoe is amazing.  Those looking a well rounded performer that has almost all the aspects a player would want in a basketball shoe will find plenty of good in the Lebron XI.  Lebron James enters into the new season looking to add to his legacy.  It seems at this point he is chasing the legend of Jordan on and off the court.  He may never reach those heights or garner the respect of being compared to him, but he has definitely set a standard of his own.  Released earlier this month, the Lebron XI stands as the signature shoe for Nike Basketball and is available now at the Official Nike Online Store.

This shoe is comparable to:

Nike Max Hyperposite
Nike Lebron X