Nike, and Jordan Brand, have always been in the business of pushing the envelope for innovation and design, with the release of the 27th edition of the iconic Air Jordan line last month the company continues to ‘zig where the others zag,‘ and have revolutionised basketball sneakers once again. Constantly looking to the future while retaining elements of their vast heritage, the Air Jordan 2012 takes elements of last year’s shoe – which included a two mid-sole modular system – and improves it by featuring two interchangeable inner sleeves and three interchangeable mid-soles for performance customization.
Air Jordan 2012 co-designer and Vice President, Special Projects and Creative Design for NIKE, Inc. Tinker Hatfield says, “Last year’s Air Jordan 2011 began the modular story for the brand with two interchangeable mid-soles, but we took it a step further this year by introducing two interchangeable inner sleeves and three interchangeable mid-soles to help players ‘fly through’, ‘fly over’ or ‘fly around’ their opponents.”
For the player that would like to ‘fly around’ their opponent, the green mid-sole features a Nike Zoom unit in the heel for lightweight and responsive cushioning. The blue ‘fly over’ mid-sole incorporates a Nike Zoom unit in the forefoot and an encapsulated Air Sole unit in the heel for the perfect blend of responsiveness and impact protection. For the player that would like to ‘fly through’ their opponent, the orange mid-sole houses a full-length encapsulated Air Sole unit that provides lightweight cushioning and impact protection for hard landings in the paint.
The Air Jordan 2012 also features two interchangeable inner sleeves, one for the player that needs to be quicker on the court and needs more freedom of motion in the ankle, while the high inner sleeve provides more protection around the foot and advanced ankle support.
Looking to cater to ballers of all descriptions, the 2012 provides six different possible combinations of the inner sleeves and mid-soles. Deciding on my first combination was easy; since my game is predicated on a lot of lateral movement and cuts, I felt that the low-cut booty with the green ‘Fly Around’ mid-sole would be the most appropriate.
It took a few steps to acclimate my foot to the shoe, an initial discomfort was quickly forgotten as the shoe ‘molds to your foot’ because of the carbon fiber plate located on the out-sole of the shoe. After a while it feels as if the shoe is contoured to your foot and movement is far more relaxed. The laces were done up tight, right up to the top eyelet but as I would find out, to give a much more relaxed movement of the ankle, perhaps tying them up to the second-from-top eyelet is sufficient.
Cutting along the baseline and fighting around screens is where the combination of low-booty and ‘Fly Around’ mid-sole excel. The shoe does feel light and the cushioning in the heel can be felt as you push off for that extra bit of explosion, however when running in transition it doesn’t provide the same cushioning at the front of the foot.
Traction was not an issue, but support around the ankle was. The low-cut booty and the thin collar of the medial side of the shoe don’t leave much room for protection. At times the combination made my ankle feel a little ‘loose’ as I was making lateral movements, below the ankle the foot was securely locked down though. In saying that though, it doesn’t feel too much different from playing in the lower cut Kobe sneakers.
The mid-sole cushioning is also locked in tight enough to the inside of the shoe to stop any unnecessary movement.
The most impressive aspect of the 2012 on the first night was the breathability of the booty. Normally after a hard game your socks are often drenched with sweat, not so with the 2012. The mesh lining of the inner-sleeve absorbs most, if not all, of the perspiration leaving your socks dry even after 40 minutes of running up-and-down the floor.
Although I prefer a higher-cut basketball sneaker I wanted to exhaust all the possible low-cut combinations before experimenting further, therefore for my second week in I decided to remain with the low-booty but tried the orange, ‘Fly Through’ component of the mid-soles. To maximize, and mimic, what the mid-soles are actually designed for I looked to play a more attacking game than my usual ‘catch-and-shoot’.
By this time the flex of the shoe had given a little, the upper starting to take the shape of my foot, but the ‘Fly Through’ mid-sole was a little rigid for my liking. The full-length Air Unit did provide all-over cushioning – sprinting the length of the floor is where I felt it the most – it didn’t quite mold to my foot the way the ‘Fly Around’ sole did.
The Air Unit is also experienced when running back on defense, gives you a sense of being lighter on your feet.
With the 2012 it all comes down to a personal preference. Simply, what kind of shoes do you feel more comfortable balling in? That’s why for me the high inner-sleeve with the blue, ‘Fly Over’ mid-sole was the ideal combination.
Immediately a difference between the two inner-sleeves is noticeable. Straight away you feel like you are wearing a high-cut boot. The ankle feels stable thanks to the higher strapping and collar, yet there is a range-of-motion comparable to wearing the low-booty. A common misconception is that a higher cut shoe is, by design, also a ‘heavier’ shoe. Not so with the Jordan 2012, moving up-and-down the court, and side-to-side is just as light on the feet as with the low-sleeve.
The fear of possible ankle injuries from sharp turns and cuts are pushed to the back of your mind knowing you are secure in the boot.
The inner-sleeve mesh/foam feels a little thicker than its low-cut counter-part so people who have a wider foot may feel a little pinching when wearing this, I have a narrow foot which negated that somewhat.
The biggest difference I felt in this combination was in the actual mid-sole. The incorporation of a Nike Zoom unit in the forefoot and an Air Sole unit in the heel is unbelievable. The reaction to it, almost instantaneous. There is more bounce to your step with this. When you elevate for a jump-shot there is an added explosiveness attached to your shot, the landing just as smooth and soft.
Overall the Air Jordan 2012 is one of the best basketball shoes I have played in over the past few years. Switching booties and cushioning ensures most players will find a combination that suits their style of game. Believe me there’s enough to feed the needy.
The $280 price tag may scare some potential buyers away, at the end of the day it comes down to whether you can justify the performance aspect of the shoe with the price but I highly recommend it to anyone, ranging from guards to centers.
* Thanks to Nike/Jordan Brand for providing us with a pair of the Air Jordan 2012
* Shoe tested was the Wolf Grey/Black/Ice Silver/White colorway pictured above