Is the KD XI an evolution or a step back ? (Pun intended)
For the past four or five years I’ve read and seen people yearning and pleading for real Flyknit, real Primeknit, this upper is too stiff, this mesh is just mesh, oooh this synthetic backing hurts my feet, give us a stretchy Primeknit upper etc…
Well guess what, Nike finally gave KD and the internet jockeys a super soft upper for a socklike feel and all I have to say is you got what you asked for.
Pros: traction when clean, not bad on dusty floors, a very well balanced and fun cushioning set up, stable outsole
Cons: traction bite could be better, needs some wiping on dusty floors, rides a few millimeters higher than previous KD’s, heel lockdown is acceptable after break in but could be better, support is lacking, containment feels like a broken in KD IX or X
Sizing Advice: half size down unless you have super wide foot. Runs slightly long
Best for: lighter guards although everyone will like the cushioning. If you want a sock with a sole, look no further
Buying Advice: wait as always. KD is not MJ so just wait a month or two for price drops and coupons.
16.5 ounces so three ounces heavier than the KD IX Not a big deal to me but hey three ounces is three pounds to some #hitthegym I promise it won’t hit back. The distribution of the weight feels very off-putting at first since most of it is the midsole and below but you do get it in a few runs.
Works fine on clean courts, needs some wiping on dirty courts. On clean courts, the bite isn’t the best because it isn’t the super sticky translucent of the past but on the flip side, it doesn’t pick up as much dust as the sticky translucent. I have no major complaints about the traction since it is above average for a translucent and works adequately well on all surfaces. (At the same time I’m not excited about it either)
React plus Zoom. Yes please
I felt the KD IX and X were a little too squishy for me especially along the lateral side but this set up is a great combo. Imagine if the HD 17 cushioning had a love child with the KD8 full length Zoom set up and this is what you’d get.
Although Nike says they are both caged, the HD17 ribs feel softer to the touch than the KD 11. There is no give when you touch the cage of the KD
If you’re expecting Ultraboost softness you will be disappointed but if you want a set up that feels great underfoot with a nice bounce and without any lag, this is your set up. A thin 6-8 mm Zoom unit with no foam is not enough cushioning by itself so adding React to it just gives it just the right amount of ooomph. I do want to note that these sit about 25-26mm at the forefoot which is about 3 mm higher than the X but it only takes a little time to get used to it.
I think balance is the key to everything, including shoes and this set up is balanced just right.
Want a sock with a sole? Well KD did/does and that’s essentially what you get with the KD 11
I went half a size down with the KD XI not by choice but because I accidentally hit 10.5 on check out. Since it was limited to one pair I stuck with it and I think it’s the right choice for everyone except the widest footers. I had a finger width of space at the toe with a 10.5 and almost a thumbs width with an 11 that I bought a week later to double check sizing. You’d be surprised but you can actually fit more than one size and it isn’t life or death. Hell KD WEARS A FULL SIZE OVER HIS REGULAR SIZE DURING GAMES.
Anyways, comparing the size 11 and size 10.5, I just a had a better, more secure fit with 10.5 than 11 and didn’t experience width discomfort due to my wide feet. If you can’t try on in store, decide if you want comfort or a tighter fit and you can decide from there.
There is a good amount of heel slip to start with the XI mainly due to the placement of the top eyelets and the stiff outsole/cage.
You can clearly see a different in the top eyelet placement. If the XI moved it back a little more lockdown would be better.
Using such a soft upper with a stiff midsole just makes the shoe feel confused. However, if you’re patient, break in the shoe a few hours and allow the midsole to soften and bend, the heel slip dramatically goes down. I prefer more lockdown myself but I didn’t feel my heel moving all over the place like it did initially.
This upper is for the most part very soft with some overlays for strength. It is stretchy around the ankle collar and down the “tongue” but with less stretch around the outer portions.
However, it is not just pure Flyknit as you can see above. There is a thick nylon lining that runs throughout the shoe to give it more strength and support. It’s comfortable and slightly stretchy like a sock just like KD asked. Feels nice and comfortable and premium but does nothing performance wise in my opinion. Well it does but…
Support and Stability
Support comes solely from the fit and too flexible heel counter so support is only kind of there.
Err y’all forget to put piece of plastic in the heel counter Nike?
A typical heel counter, particularly Nike’s usually has a firmer internal heel counter that doesn’t have the flexibility this one has. I tried doing this with KD 7-10 but to no avail. I know a lot of people believe that support comes from the fit but if that were the case you could wear a sock on top of a sole or wear Nike frees and be okay. I believe it’s a combination of fit and firmness around the ankle but every person’s proprioception is different. Had the heel counter been firmer I think containment (see below) would have been better.
Stability is fine even though there isn’t an outrigger. It is the same width as the KD X at the heel and forefoot. No tippiness in the heel and the cage TPU is firm to keep things upright.
I’ve noted or mention before that the KD IX containment got worse over time due to break in and stretching. With the XI, the upper is already stretchy and broken in so you get that same feeling especially on hard cuts or changes of direction. As most of you know I don’t like the feeling with any brand including Brandblack’s JC2, 3, Jordan M12, Lebron XIV XV etc,l…the list goes on and on.
Why is the containment poor in the XI? KD wanted a sock like feel and that’s what he got, simple as that. Nike could have raised the outsole to created a physical barrier but they didn’t. Does that feeling affect my play? No not really but why settle for something I don’t like when I have hundreds of pairs of other shoes.
I wasn’t sure how to approach this review because there are a few things I really like and dislike about the KD XI which are all preferences and aren’t measurable at all. But there is also quantifiable data (ie stats) that show me that feel isn’t real and I’ve been wasting my time reviewing shoes. In other words, I got buckets and played great in these. But at the same time, based on my methodology and “scoring” of these, I really shouldn’t like them all that much. Hell, maybe I all the practice I put in actually paid off? #itainttheshoes
If containment isn’t something that bothers you, you’ll probably love the shoe. If it is something that you weight heavily in your shoe decisions, you will hate the shoe. If it affects how you play in your mind, you’re going to hate the shoe. If you have enough confidence in your ability to play the game itself, the shoe won’t affect anything at all. It won’t affect your shot, your passing or ability to think. If the 2nd best player in the world is playing in this shoe for millions of dollars a full size up from his normal size, you’ll be ok making buckets at a dirty 24 hour fitness. One of my teammates got the exact same pair as mine and he loves loves them so don’t let any review from an influencer actual well..influence your decision. Buy what you want not what someone else says is the “best”.
Overall, I find the KD XI a very attractive shoe that does a nice job bridging the gap between off court style and on court functionality. It has decent traction, excellent balanced cushioning, a pretty good fit after break in and a sock like feel (and support for that matter).
*I mentioned the off court appeal because 90% of consumers don’t buy shoes for their intended use*
Is the KD shoe for me? The KD XI works adequately for me but as you all know I want my shoes to excel at everything and while the KD XI has its strengths, I have plenty of other shoes that far outperform its weaknesses such as containment and support. If you wanted a sock like shoe with great cushioning this is your shoe but if you want a little more of everything like I do, there are better shoes at a lower price point.
Overall rating : third team