What’s it like, getting my feet into the most technologically advanced shoe available on the market today? What is this thing? Why does it look like something out of the year 2200 A.D? These are the questions I shall try and answer in this week’s edition of Sneaker Sundays, featuring the latest in Nike’s Lebron line of shoes, The Twelve. Seen here in it’s lead ‘NSRL’ colorway, it sparks the usual ‘What colorful shoes!’ reaction from most folks who show up to the blacktop, people completely oblivious to the amount of science that goes into these sneakers. Technologically, this shoe is the equivalent of a microwave oven in the ’40s. Yes. That makes sense because all the shoes you’ve worn thus far were just born from ideas in a designers mind. This shoe however, came from a lab, The Nike Sports Research Lab. Created using data gathered from in-depth analysis of Lebron’s playing style. This is very important because James did not wear the Lebron XI much during the 2013-14 season, and claimed that he wasn’t happy with them. So Nike set out to design a shoe that could support Lebron’s raw power and big jumps, while keeping him safe. Looking at the Cav’s performance in the playoffs so far, and after wearing this shoe, I think they did a pretty good job.
I think for this shoe, it is best to start from the bottom, because that is where much of the innovation lies. Zoom Air technology is not new to basketball shoes, it debuted in the Air Flight 95, in 1995 (Duh). Zoom Air, developed as an evolution of the popular Air Max cushioning system, was designed to give more court feel, faster response times and quicker direction changes as a result. Strong synthetic fibers sandwiched between plastic, absorb impact and add a slight spring to your step when you take off by means of energy return. I feel that Zoom Air works better for smaller, more agile players, so I prefer Zoom Air over Air Max any day. Zoom Air is not new to the Lebron line either, however this is the first time hexagonal Zoom pods have been utilized in a basketball shoe. Instead of having the usual full length Zoom units, individually tuned Zoom pods placed at pressure points in the foot, provide maximum explosiveness and flexibility. The icy full length phylon midsole also has an additional Zoom unit in the heel that takes impacts really well. After playing in these I can say that traction and cushioning are definitely the strong points of the Lebron XII.
The one piece Megafuse upper is just as advanced as the outsole. Megafuse is an evolution of the Hyperfuse upper, using less layers in better materials, reducing weight and improving breathability. Megafuse feels like a cross between Fuse and mesh, and looks brilliant too. The shoe provides plenty of cushion, making your foot feel unrestricted, without giving you a bouncy ride. The Hyperposite wings on the side, stabilize and hold your foot very well, especially during lateral movements like when you are curling around a screen, and I feel that it would be very hard to roll your ankle in these shoes. Dynamic Flywire, the orange threads seen here, provide brilliant lockdown in all areas. Flywire consists of lightweight but durable Vectran fibers placed on the upper that help lockdown and prevent foot slippage, like a suspension bridge, where cables move individually to hold the weight. As you can see in the image, the shoe flexes in the right places.
Aesthetically, this shoe looks amazing, in spite of being made in a lab. Most lab creations tend to be ugly and go evil not long after release (See Cell in DBZ). Every time Nike Lab made an adjustment to the design, the new version of the shoe was 3D printed for testing. Yes. And with the kind of colorways this came out in, you are sure to catch looks without having to talk about the tech. My favorite by far is the ‘Data‘ colorway. Jason Petrie, who designed the last six Lebron shoes, did a great job on this one too.
To sum up, this is an amazing shoe, engineered for explosive play. However, I have only been able to try it out on outdoor courts for lack of indoor ones, and I cannot comment on the durability of the sole in the long run. Clear rubber soles on performance models don’t tend to last long outdoors and I found myself wiping the sole clean after a few minutes of play on more sandy courts. But I guess if you are looking for the kind of performance this shoe offers, there aren’t many other options that you can import. Maybe the KD7 or the Kobe X. An ‘Elite‘ version has already released and that improves upon this shoe further. Here’s to hoping I get my hands on it sometime.
The Nike Lebron XII is available on Jabong.com
Images: Uday Shanker
Model: Arun Joseph