“With the ongoing evolution of the game shoe, I encouraged our entire function to push the boundary when it comes to design, technology and performance.” – Tinker Hatfield
Upon arriving at my local gym, I was bombarded with questions like, “Why did you come in here with motorcycle boots on?”, “Where the heck did you get those?”, “Are those out yet?”, among others. Yet, my favorite comments regarding the Air Jordan XX8 truly showed me how one can have such alternating emotions of love and hate for this one-of-a-kind silhouette.
I received nothing but positive comments about the XX8s on my feet during Day 1 of my performance review (shroud down), but the negative comments were vicious on Day 2 (shroud up), including one person who, not recognizing that I had on the exact same shoe 24 hours ago, told me to bring back yesterday’s kicks.
The look of the Air Jordan XX8 is, well, different, and may not be what longtime Jordan enthusiasts are aesthetically?used to, but its package of spiral traction, unmatched cushioning and support, is something we all should?familiarize ourselves with. Check out a full, in-depth performance review of the Air Jordan XX8 below.
Traction: ?Before lacing the XX8 up for the first time, my main focus was to see if the shroud really locked down and secured the foot as advertised. Let’s be honest; the XX8 is the most unique Air Jordan we’ve seen to date and the shroud is undoubtedly the reason why. However, it wasn’t the shroud that initially caught my attention after the first wear. The last attribute you’d think of when gazing at this?peculiar?silhouette is the underlying reason, literally, why I will continue to play in this shoe. The traction pattern on the outsole is one of the best attributes on the Air Jordan XX8. The outsole features a spiral effect on both the heel and forefoot that allows one to have great resistance in any direction possible. No matter which way I maneuvered, whether cutting, jabbing, switching directions or just simply coming to a complete stop on the court, the traction proved to be extremely resistant. This is great for perimeter play because having a multi-directional traction pattern in, well, every direction allows you to recover quickly on defense and switch directions on the drop of a dime.
The rubber on the outsole is pretty durable and bendable as well, so I don’t see the XX8′s traction pattern weakening, and it can definitely be worn on blacktops.
Breathability Going into this review, I didn’t expect the XX8 to be breathable at all seeing that perforations are non-existent to the naked eye when examining this shoe. While it doesn’t alter the performance of the shoe, its breathability factor is probably the weakest element of the XX8. After every wear, there were extreme amounts of dampness around the inner tongue and heel from sweating. Sure, the inner sleeve is mostly comprised of mesh, but outside of the mesh, there are not any perforations and/or slits to allow your foot to breathe. Even after giving the shoes a rest after a few days, I still noticed the dampness around the aforementioned areas. Again, its lack of breathability does not modify the XX8′s performance in any way, shape, form or fashion. No shoe is perfect, and this might just be my picky rant for this shoe, because all in all it’s a performance monster in my opinion.
Cushioning and Responsiveness Did I say traction was the Air Jordan XX8′s best characteristic? Well, it comes second to the cushioning aspect of this shoe. In Day 1 of the review, I found the XX8 to be a little uncomfortable in the forefoot because of the protruding Zoom Air bag, but after playing about 4-5 games on the first day and returning to the gym on the second day, it felt totally different. It’s amazing how different the XX8 feels after that break-in, adjustment period. The Proplate Zoom Air is pretty amazing. Tinker Hatfield and Josh Heard made it to where your foot is placed directly on the zoom unit, so there’s nothing but extreme comfort on the bottom of your foot. It’s as if the Air bag is emptied out, so you’re literally playing on Zoom Air. We all know how comfortable it is to play on Zoom; some of the best shoes, such as the Kobe V feel like you’re playing on air.
Despite being the highest cut Jordan ever, the XX8 plays pretty low to the ground and is cushioned greatly. There is also a pretty large Zoom unit in the heel, which I noticed was ideal for impact protection when I returned to the hardwood from rebounding or contesting a shot, but the forefoot unit is the shocker in regards to cushioning. I’d like to see the protruding, Proplate unit on more performance sneakers moving forward.
I can go on and on about the Proplate Zoom Air in the forefoot, but when talking about XX8′s responsiveness, you have to point out the underlying reason why the Zoom works so well. The Jordan Flight Plate is what allows the shoe to be extremely responsive. It’s really neat to feel how the Zoom units compress when returning to the court from a jump.
Lockdown As I mentioned earlier, this was the element I focused on more than anything before lacing the XX8 up initially. After reviewing it, I will say the lockdown fit is very good. It fits like a glove (no pun intended) and not necessarily because of the shroud. The Dynamic Fit System works much better than the mesh sleeve incorporated on last year’s Air Jordan 2012. Simply put, the lace loops make a world of a difference by literally grasping your foot and pulling it as close as possible to the Jordan Flight Plate. It’s as if the lace loops are centering your foot for the best fit possible. Overall, I thought the XX8 featured great lockdown and provided my foot with a very secure, snug feel.
Support Although the XX8 is Jordan Brand’s highest cut silhouette ever, it doesn’t offer an extreme amount of ankle support no matter how high you wear it (the shroud works like a sock and doesn’t provide any extra ankle support), yet, it’s a really supportive performance shoe everywhere else thanks to the Jordan Flight Plate. One would think that the support on the XX8 is minimal because of its super-flexible and soft shroud, but I found the XX8 to be stringent in the places you need support the most: the arch and the heel. There’s very good torsional support from the flight plate and the heel keeps your foot balanced and locked into place. When changing directions and moving around the court as any other player would, there was not any sliding of the foot in the shoe. I maintained a nice balance throughout my entire wear of the XX8.
Durability The materials incorporated on the Air Jordan XX8 are pretty sturdy. I was skeptical about the shroud and the zipper attribute prior to playing in it because I didn’t have much success with similar shoes in the past. The Nike Zoom Flight ’98 “The Glove” was actually one of the shoes I played in while in junior high, and I remember the zipper busting on my pair. However, as Tinker Hatfield stated in my conversation with him about comparing the two similar philosophies, the XX8 is way more high tech. Instead of the leather shroud used on The Glove, the XX8 uses a surprisingly durable Scholler mesh for the shroud. Despite the shroud being super pliable, it is extremely supportive and doesn’t show any signs of tearing. It actually helps encompass the foot and is the best use of a shroud in my opinion. I took time to unzip and zip the shroud back up continuously to see if it became looser, but it showed no signs of becoming undone.
Much like the Air Jordan 2012, the inner mesh sleeve works pretty well, and I had no problems with that after playing. Overall, I think it’s a pretty long-lasting shoe, and I think that’s what you would want if you’re going to spend $250 for a performance wear.
Overview: In addition to being the highest cut, lightest and most tested Air Jordan model, the Air Jordan XX8 is one of the better performance Jordans I’ve ever played in. If you long for a shoe that grasps your foot and really locks you down, the XX8 is one to consider. Its spiral effect on the traction pattern, cushioning and rich materials make it a performance monster, but the real treat is found in the forefoot Zoom Air Bag. Sure, it’s nowhere close to being the most breathable shoe out there but no shoe is perfect. The $250 price tag is steep, but if it’s in your budget to purchase the XX8, you won’t be disappointed with its performance capabilities.
The Air Jordan XX8 will be?available in Houston only on February 15, 2013, and then nationwide on Saturday, February 16, for $250.
Click page 2 to see close-up, detailed shots of the Air Jordan XX8.