I’ve read all the great reviews about the XX9 so I picked these up during the Nike clearance sale for $124 to see  what all the hype was about.  I will also compare the XX9 to the XX8 SE

King of the Court Shootout
Before I get into the comparison let me give you a sale pitch on a new 2015 Mercedes. 

Introducing the newest, lightest and most technology advances Mercedes, the MB 2015. Here are some features we added:

  • A new material for the frame 

Here is what we took away

  • Replaced the rear air suspension with standard coil overs made for an Accord. You don’t need that anymore
  • Made the air suspension feel more like coil overs but rest assured it is air.
  • Replaced all carbon fiber parts with plastic. Who needs carbon fiber anyways.

Oh and we made the price 50% more than last years model.

and the material is not as durable and susceptible to abrasions and will degrade faster than last years materials. 

Now would anyone in their right mind go for the newer model and not feel like they have been duped ?  You can argue that the new frame is where the increase in cost is coming from but if you believe that I have some ocean front property in Arizona for you. 

PROS: Traction, comfortable sock like upper, breathable, forefoot cushioning , fit

CONS: No Zoom in heel? These are called Air Jordans, not forefoot Air Jordans, containment, tipsy at the heel, upper not durable 

BEST FOR:  lightweight guards, straight runners/non cutters, swag champs 

TRACTION

Traction is great on both the XX8 and XX9 but I think the fatter pattern took away some of the bite. The XX8 has much sharper peaks and deeper grooves made from a slightly more pliable rubber than the XX9.



Verdict: XX8

CUSHIONING

When I read that Jordan Brand decided to take away the heel Zoom Air because it wasn’t really necessary, I thought “is a $225 shoe without Zoom Air necessary? What about cavier and sushi rather than Mac and cheese ? ” This isn’t about necessity, it’s about the luxury of owning the premier basketball shoe.  

Anyways, the new unlocked Zoom set up is more recessed into the sole and turned a quarter turn. This 1) lowers the ride compared to the XX9 2) allows the Zoom to flex more naturally since the  segmentation runs sideways vs lengthwise 3) makes the unlocked Zoom less prone to popping and costing Jb less money for returns. I had a friend of mine bust his XX9 and Superfly 2 air in the span of two weeks and he isn’t even a high flyer (sorry Ben, the truth hurts lol). Luckily, they were both under warranty so he got replacement vouchers. 

Above: The transition is better thanks to the additional rubber between the forefoot and heel. 

I have yet to pop mine but I know it’s just a matter of time.  The thing that irks me is why did JB bother to set up the XX8 the way they did ? Didn’t they weartest the shoes beforehand? What if my shoe pops outside the 2 year window? It isn’t a defect but rather a design flaw imo

Above: almost perfectly flush with the outsole

Below: at least 1 or 2mm more protrusion on the XX8


The new setup feels less unlocked than the XX8 since it is recessed and you’re contacting the floor with the Zoom and outsole all at the same time versus just touching the floor with Zoom only . You can still feel it though but you have to know what to look for. It isn’t worlds away better feeling than regular Zoom like the XX9 but it does feel great nonetheless. 

The foam in the heel feels like Phylon and does its job but to skimp out doesn’t seem like Jordan’s style. I am a heavy heel striker especially when I’m running down the court so I really like to feel that extra bounce on the XX8.

VERDICT: XX8 easily especially in the heel

FIT

The XX9 fits great plain and simple. They eliminated all the deadspace on the shoe to make it as sock like as possible. Look how much smaller the XX9 looks vs the XX8


I went with my normal sz 11 and they fit perfectly, leaving me a finger width between my big toe and the end of the toe box. The heel fit is is fantastic too thanks to the dog bone inside the heel that prevents any slipping.

One thing to note with the flexible upper is that the laces come loose more quickly than normal. When you see a movie and a guy is tied up in rope, how does he get out ? He wiggles and shimmies to loosen the rope and that’s precisely what happened when the upper flexes and moves around the ankle. I’d start the game perfectly tied but it kept loosening up as the game went on.  Not a big deal but just something I noticed.

The XX9 fit very well albeit it had more of a normal shoe fit since the upper isn’t Performance Woven upper and Flightweb or whatever they call it. I had perfect lockdown in the XX9 as well and did not need to size down like some other reviewers stated as I stuck with my size 11. No deadspace or side to side movement to speak up either but the XX9 just fits better.

VERDICT: XX9

SUPPORT and STABILITY

Some shoes have great support and marginals stability while others have exceptional stability but mediocre support.  In my opinion I’d rather have the latter so I don’t have to worry about the support since the stability of the shoe will keep me firmly planted.

The XX9 support comes from its fit and have heel counter.  I am an over pronator and you can see it just by looking at how my laces lean toward the inside of my ankle.  

There is a plastic shank but it does little in keeping my ankle from rolling in whereas the XX8 has a carbon fiber shank plate or flightplate as they call it. 


Above: carbon fiber over plastic any day


As I said earlier I don’t mind a shoe that is stable while sacrificing some support but the XX9 failed my heel test. Sure, upon a perfect landing I won’t sprain my ankle but I’m more concerned with imperfect landings when I have to land on my heel or when I’m pushed mid air. 

See how narrow the XX9 is vs the XX8


In addition the heel counter is a lot more flexible than the XX8



Good ol carbon fiber. Why change a good thing ?

VERDICT: XX8

CONTAINMENT

Every carbon fiber piece on the XX8 was replaced with plastic on the XX9 including the footstay at the forefoot. Couple the woven upper with a more flexible plastic and the net result is below average containment. I could feel my foot coming out of the footbed and feeling the plastic flex on hard cuts. The woven upper is fine but there needs to be either 1) a stiffer footstay 2) higher footstay 3) more coverage along the lateral side , maybe even midfoot to forefoot. 


I did not have this problem with the XX8 although I have had better containment on shoes such as the Rose 5 or Lebron Solder VI. I think if you are lightweight or don’t cut a lot or very hard you wouldn’t notice the containment issue but I definitely do.

VERDICT: XX8

DURABILITY:

This happened after fifteen minutes of shooting around. I thought it was dirt


It is hard to see in the pic but the woven upper already started fraying from a little toe drag…. After fifteen minutes of shooting around. I’ve seen and read about ripped uppers/Lace loops so it doesn’t surprise me but it is still disappointing.  Maybe some kind of reinforcement at the toe box like they make for most hoop shoes ? The golf shoe cousin of the XX9, the TW 15 has reinforcements at high wear/ high stress areas such as the laces and toe box( review coming)



I know JB wanted to showcase the upper but come on..

PRICE: 

AJ XX9 retail: $225

Sale price: $125

AJ XX8 SE retail: $150

Sale price : $79 although I got a steal on Eastbay for $60 after coupon 

In free shoe reviewer world you can just a shoe without taking price into account but I’m buying these myself so I want the most value I can get.

VERDICT: AJ XX8

CONCLUSION

Although I enjoyed the slightly lower ride, ultra comfortable upper and lightweight,the XX9 just didn’t do it for me. It lost some of that bounce, traction, as well as stability  while adding a hefty $75 to the retail price. Is it worth $225? Hell no.Is it worth $125? Maybe depending on what your individual needs are but they aren’t going to make my rotation. Is it better than the XX8? No, but don’t get me wrong, it is a good shoe overall but I can get more value, more Zoom, and more support from the XX8 for a lot less money. 







36 Comment on “Air Jordan XX9 vs XX8 Performance Review 

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