It is very possible for you to go to your local gym and see more colorways of LeBron James’ ninth signature shoe instead of any other signature sneaker on the market. In the same manner, this shoe is worn casually just as much. The LeBron 9, Nike’s first shoe to feature both Flywire and Fuse, is obviously a very versatile shoe in terms of wear, but just how good is it on the hardwood? How specifically does the mix of Flywire and Fuse help the wearer on court? Check out our in-depth performance review on the Nike LeBron 9 below.
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Lockdown: The Nike LeBron 9’s lockdown factor is simply amazing and by far its best attribute. When placing your foot in the LeBron 9 and lacing it up, you initially notice a very compact and compressed grip. Even when the shoe is not entirely laced up, you still fill as if your foot is tightly fastened in the LeBron 9. Why does this shoe feature such a clamped down feel on the foot? Nike incorporated bilateral support wings to help shield and stabilize the foot. When lacing these shoes up, the wings, located in the midfoot area, basically fasten your foot inside the shoe and sort of snugly move the ankle back and lock the heel in. It’s almost as if the LeBron 9 features an internal seatbelt for the foot. Also, the midfoot is laced with extremely strong Flywire cables that act as harnesses by squeezing the foot. The locked down factor totally helps with reaction time. No one wants a shoe that drags, causes your foot to slide and/or makes you lose seconds.
Traction: The traction level is not the LeBron 9’s best attribute, but it’s not atrocious either. One section of the outsole I did find helpful was the exposed outrigger. Unlike other sneakers that feature this trait, the Nike LeBron 9’s outrigger, placed on the lateral side, really helps in terms of holding your ground when it comes to stop-and-start moves and/or moving laterally on defense.
Cushioning: LeBron’s ninth signature model ranks high in the cushioning column. The focal point of the cushioning in the Nike LeBron 9 seems to be directed towards absorbing impact and providing the wearer with extreme protection; therefore, this shoe does not feature the soft foot strike and smooth ride that the Nike LeBron 8 and the Nike LeBron 8 V2 possessed. The combination of 180-degree Max Air in the heel and Zoom in the forefoot does not feel as smooth and consistent as the aforementioned full-length Max Air signature sneakers, but as mentioned earlier, this duo of cushioning technologies sponges up impact more than anything else. You can definitely feel the encased infrastructure of the cushioning on returns to the floor whether it’s coming back down from a rebound or contesting a shot. Now, don’t think the LeBron 9 is some hard-shelled basketball shoe that doesn’t have a player-friendly soft side to it. In addition to the combination of 180-degree Max Air in the heel and Zoom in the forefoot, Nike also incorporated a Cushlon midsole, which is a very soft and flexible foam material. It simply adds plushness to this shoe’s cushioning and helps keep the foot comfortable for explosive takeoffs and soft landings.
Responsiveness: In regards to bounce and springiness, I wouldn’t deem the Nike LeBron 9 a super-responsive shoe. As mentioned in the cushioning section, it is more of a impact protected shoe rather than a resilient wear, especially in the heel. Yet, I will say that Zoom in the forefoot of this shoe has a bit of a spring to it, which helps with taking off and/or launching from your first step.
Support: Jason Petrie and the Nike design team did a good job with this shoe in regards to support. One word to described the Nike LeBron 9 is stabilized. The LeBron 9 is by no means a flexible sneaker. It’s actually very stiff throughout its construction, and the composite shank plate adds an extra stiffness and supportive element to this shoe. Depending on the wearer, this may be a positive attribute because it assuredly keeps the shoe stable, but if you’re a player that likes flexibility in a shoe, this may not be for you. As for the ankle support, Nike incorporated Pro Combat sections on the inner sides of the collar, which mold to your foot and help keep the ankle secure and locked in. You can really feel the Pro Combat sections at work when you tie this shoe up tightly and play a few games in them. Your ankle is pretty much immovable.
Breathability: Fuse is usually an extremely breathable material seeing that we have tested a number of Fuse-laced silhouettes that have scored high in this department (Jordan Fly Wade 2, Nike Zoom Hyperfuse, Nike Zoom KD IV), but the Nike LeBron 9 is not as breathable as the previously mentioned sneakers. This has a lot to do with the unmatched clamped down feeling this shoe possesses. Plus, Nike did not incorporate a lot of ventilated areas on this construction. The wearer’s only source for ventilation is the tongue. It wasn’t awful to the point where my foot was sweating profusely after plays in this shoe, but at times my feet felt too clenched at times, and I’m sure some sort of perforations would have helped.
Durability: As mentioned in the Nike Zoom KD IV review, Fuse seems to be the toughest and sturdiest material on Nike’s basketball silhouettes these days. On the Nike LeBron 9, however, the materials seem thicker, which, as stated earlier helps with support but also durability. Fuse has already proven to be as durable as it gets, but the LeBron 9 takes it to another level. It preserved its shape throughout my wears, and I definitely think the LeBron 9 is a great choice for outdoor basketball considering its heavy-duty construction. Nike’s latest Flywire technology, named the 3.0, helps with the durability of this shoe. In the midfoot area, the cables really hug the foot. This shoe can be looked at as more of a performance weapon than a basic basketball shoe. It is that good durability-wise, and is one of, if not the most durable shoe I have tested in a while.
Overall: LeBron James’ ninth signature shoe is a distinct combination of durability, support and lockdown. Creating a shoe for a one-of-a-kind athlete like LeBron James seems tough, considering his blend of speed, power and agility, but the LeBron 9 encompasses attributes that benefit the previously mentioned characteristics. It is easily one of the most locked down shoes I have ever worn. Breathability could have been better with added perforations or some way for air to seep through, but overall this shoe is perfect for the player that relies on athleticism and covets a long-lasting, supportive shoe.
The Nike LeBron 9 is now available at select retailers in various colorways for $170.
Click the next page to see detailed photos of the “Mango” Nike LeBron 9.