Executive Summary: Hex Zoom cushioning and a soft mesh upper makes the XIV the most comfortable Lebron to date but comfort does not equal great performance. Comfort can’t cover up all the little flaws and annoyances of the XIV.
Cons: traction on dusty floors, overall fit, ineffective lacing system, prone to tipping in the heel, average containment
Best for: Lebron James or cushioning lovers
Sizing: true to size length wise, wide forefoot regulars and narrow footers may be out of luck unless you can size down
Buying Advice: Buy the KD 9 for half the price. Does almost everything as well or better. Wait for sales if you really want them. $120 or less is fair, $90 near the bottom
Half an ounce heavier than the XIII which is surprising based on the materials. I guess more Hex added a little weight.
Similar rubber to last year so the performance on clean floors works well (what doesn’t). However, Nike added little textured holes that are perfectly sized for dust to fill so voila, you get a nice flat dusty surface to constantly wipe.
Adding insult to injury, the XIV has these little nubs like the Soldier X.
These little nubs don’t allow the sole to fully contact the ground like a traditional set up would. Once these little guys wear down, traction should improve but you still have the sticky outsole and tiny holes to deal with.
Cushioning is the highlight of the XIV. Hex Zoom pods are back and they finally got them to feel like I thought the first iteration should have felt in theory.
Aside from the placement, the change from the XIII is mainly the sheer size of each pod. Right when I stepped into the XIV I could tell the ride was higher and more plush from heel to toe than the XIII and XII. Rather than use small Hex Zooms in the forefoot, Nike used two large pods in the forefoot and as well as one large pod in the midfoot. This gave the XIV a consistent “Zoomy” almost full length feel from heel to toe which I really liked.
Also the heel Zoom covers the entire heel instead of just a rectangle like the XIII and XII. This gave the heel more Zoom feel than the previous two models. It is partially caged by the midsole to make it more stable.
These run very true to size. If I tried sizing down my toe would have no space in the toe box. Everyone should stay true to size length wise because the width is generous on the XIV. Regular and narrow footers, you’ll have to pick which is more important to you, better width or having your toes at the front of the toe box. This is a very specific fitting shoe so it’s best to try on or skip it altogether.
The XIV uses a one piece upper similar to the Soldier X/KD 9 which may or may not be good for you depending on your foot. Usually this kind of sock set up works for me albeit with a little bunching but this time it didn’t work for me at all. Movement on cuts inside the shoe, heel slip, you name it I had it.
The main culprit is the lacing system because it just doesn’t want to cinch anything back toward the heel.
I pulled the laces as tight as I could but never got a good secure feel for long. If you look at the lacing set up, the strap is supposed to pull the foot and ankle back but it’s just a lay over strap like the Soldier X so it doesn’t really have enough leverage. The top eyelets near the ankle felt like they were going to break( but thankfully never did) but it just seemed to pull my foot down more than back toward the heel counter. It would have made more sense to add eyelets at the yellow dots to help pull the ankle back and use the strap as insurance like the Lebron V and various other shoes with straps. One “trick” that helped a little was lacing through the top loop seen below. This allows you to cross over the ankle twice. Not perfect but better than knot doing it (get it?)
Since I couldn’t get the laces to pull my heel back perfectly, the heel fit was dependent on the contours of the ankle collar which feels almost exactly the same as the KD 9. The end result was heel slip that was better than the CLB16 but still sad for a shoe cut this high.
Overall, the fit of the XIV isn’t great for me and my feet.
The XIV is composed of mostly mesh and foam with a few synthetic overlays and “leather” in high wear areas according to Nike. This pair appears to have Nubuck. The tongue also has a little patch of nubuck.
I’m not a materials snob so the materials work fine and feel soft but for $175 I expect better. Would Flyknit have made them perform better? Very doubtful, but it’s about perceived value when you’re talking premium prices. These shoes are made for a King, not a pauper so please make me feel like it was money well spent.
Usually I’d say the support comes from the fit and the heel counter but the fit isn’t that great and therefore support isn’t great either. The heel counter is fine but is on the more flexible side like the KD 9. There is a little extra strength added with the external plastic piece that the strap works into but it’s still not nearly as strong and sturdy as what you’ll find on the Curry 3 or Dame 3.
Don’t let the high cut fool you because it’s just and extension of the mesh upper and is very pliable. It doesn’t hug the ankle at all and there is a lot of dead space around the ankle. Nike really should have made this a low top…oh wait they did, it’s called the KD 9.
Not many shoes fail my heel test but the XIV gets a distinct honor of being the first pair to fail in recent memory. Other notable shoes that have failed for me include : Lebron X, Kobe IX, Hyperchase (hyperlive as well).
You can see that the outsole has gotten more narrow and more rounded outsole versus the XIII. Add in the generous width and height of the Zoom in the heel and you get a tippy ride.
Obviously different players have different gaits and needs but having experienced serious ankle sprains in the Lebron X and Kobe IX has taught me and my gait to not wear shoes that are tippy in the heel. If you don’t have issues with tippy shoes, ignore what I just said.
The XIV uses a mesh upper with a synthetic overlay at high pressure areas but no physical barrier. My foot sits exactly even with the top of the midsole. I thought the containment was going to be terrible but it is about average and should be adequate for most players. Usually Lebrons have excellent containment so this is still a bit of a letdown.
I usually don’t comment extensively on pricing but at $175, the Lebron XIV is
Keep in mind these are retail prices so the gap is actually larger until coupons and sales
I really don’t have a problem with the pricing because I understand Nike is a very strong brand that commands a premium. I also get Lebron’s name is worth $30-40 so essentially it’s a $140 dollar shoe (Gotta pay Lebron some how for that lifetime contract). I also don’t expect a $175 shoe to perform twice as well as a $87.50 shoe, that’s just misguided thinking. Is it worth full retail on court though ? No, there are plenty of options below that price point that do things just as well or better. Wait as always with general releases because as I’ve stated before NOTHING SELLS OUT unless it’s a limited supply by design and not by actual demand.
As many of you know, I consider the AJ XIV the greatest performing Air Jordan of all time and I now consider the Lebron XIV one of the most comfortable but under performing Lebrons I’ve ever worn and I’ve played in every pair including the most of the Soldier line as well. Great cushioning and soft materials can only cover flaws to a certain extent. I felt hesitant to jump for boards because of the tippy heel, my foot would move inside the shoe on cuts and my heel would move up and down constantly. A few tiny tweaks here and there really would have made this shoe so much better.
I believe sizing down might have helped but then my toes would have been smushed, I’d still have poor traction on dusty floors, heel instability as well as average containment so no real point for me to try a different size. In my experience, shoes with excellent fit don’t need a perfect size, they work and fit well even a half size to a full size up.
Aside from the performance, the design feels like a rehashed Lebron V ( my second or third favorite Lebron sig to play in) with a KD IX one piece mesh upper.
The whole point of finding the right shoe is not that it makes you a better player because real life isn’t a movie called “Like Mike”. The point is to find a shoe that gives you the confidence to play your game and hopefully your best. The Lebron XIV feels great underfoot and is comfortable but all the little distractions from the fit to the tippy heel just had me thinking too much about the shoe rather than the game.