Nike pulled a fast one on consumers by releasing the Nike Kobe 11 Elite, announced there would be no other versions of the Kobe 11, then subsequently released a more affordable option dubbed the Nike Kobe 11 — sans the Elite.

Traction – Inconsistent. That is simply the best way that I can describe the Kobe 11’s traction. They gripped on courts I usually have issues with, and they didn’t grip on courts I normally don’t have issues with. Why? Man, I wish I knew.

What I can tell you is that the flat little nubs along the outsole are dust collectors, and still would be dust collectors if the rubber were solid versus translucent due to the pattern itself, not the rubber. I can also tell you that the weird spine that travels down the middle of the outsole saves the shoe when traction is less than desirable. That section grips when the other section doesn’t. So, the more force that is applied the better that section will bite the floor.

But why exactly does the traction work well on some courts versus other courts…I really wish I had an answer for you. The only thing that I can guess is that the rubber compound used is just more compatible with certain floors/ finishes than others. How will you know which floors the shoes will be compatible with? There is only one way to find out, and you’ll have to buy the shoes in order to do so. Hopefully your local retailer(s) have a good return policy in place — even if the shoe is worn — because this is an unfortunate circumstance. It’s not the worst traction I’ve ever had, it’s just very inconsistent.

Cushion – Much improved from the Kobe 10, the Nike Kobe 12 is very comfortable. This is probably the most comfortable drop-in midsole since the Kobe 7. Comfort as in cushion, let’s not talk about what the Kobe 7’s midsoles did to my feet. The Lunarlon protects against grounded impact while providing excellent court feel and mobility. Their large volume heel Zoom Air unit pretty much does the same thing, but utilizes Air instead of Foam. Now, I will nitpick a bit here. I’m not a fan of the setup that was provided with the shoe, and I haven’t been a fan of this bottom loaded heel Zoom setup since the 7.

Will other midsole setups be available with coming releases? Not sure. As of now, the only place where you can get an additional midsole cushion setup is on NIKEiD. Hopefully they allow the midsoles to be sold separately, or even with other upcoming colorways. But for now…you can only get them on NIKEiD.

My personal choice would be a more consistent cushion setup in terms in fluidity and transition. I always feel as if my heel sinks into the rear of the shoe. For me, that isn’t the best feeling; I’d rather have full Lunarlon or full Zoom Air. Again, both of these setups are available…but at a very high price. Some may really enjoy the combo setup, but for me personally, I don’t enjoy how it feels while playing. Casually, I think it’s great — on-court is another story.

Materials – FlyKnit is used, and it’s almost executed perfectly this time around. It’s not raw FlyKnit. It’s not infused with glue either. They threaded TPU strands — or what I like to call fishing line — throughout the knit. This provides the flexibility that one expects from FlyKnit, but provides a lot of structure and support. There are pros and cons to doing things this way, and the pros outweigh the cons at this point.

The pros: less stretch, more structure thus providing more support, and durability. The cons: you lose the one-to-one fit that FlyKnit usually provides. At least you do in the toe. Midfoot was perfectly fine.

What I would have liked to have seen Nike do with the upper is utilize the TPU strands a bit more strategically. Instead of placing the TPU everywhere, it should have been implemented with more thought — high-wear areas, zones where you’d prefer the material to have less stretch, etc. In doing so, I feel the FlyKnit could have felt more like FlyKnit in certain areas — the toe box for example — yet still offer lateral support upon cuts and changes in direction.

Fit – They fit true to size, but the toe has a bit of unwanted volume. Like I was saying previously in the materials section, the FlyKnit doesn’t fit like FlyKnit. Meaning, you still don’t quite achieve that one-to-one fit that you do in the runners that utilize the same material. I believe this is due to the TPU strands as they act almost like a flexible roll cage.

The strands create the frame of the upper, and if your foot doesn’t quite fill out that frame completely then you might not feel they have that perfect, Kobe 5 level, type of fit. You’d never really notice this issue in the midfoot, but it’s very noticeable in the toe.

Other than that one issue, I personally found the fit to be perfect. The midfoot fits perfectly, and the tongue feels amazing when laced up tightly. No pressure points or hot spots to speak of. And while the shoes are really low cut, they don’t feel like it on-foot. They feel more secure than some mids or highs that are currently on the market. Yeah, I’m looking at you Hyperdunk 2015.

 

Support – Due to the fit and structured Flyknit, they offer quite a bit of support along the upper. The internal heel counter works perfectly, and the shoes sit very low to the ground. So, you always have solid court feel, which aids in your natural ability to stabilize yourself. The outsole is flat and features two prominent outriggers to help keep you from tipping over if you were to lose your balance. If you didn’t know any better you’d never question if these were a low top shoe, or their support.

Overall – I like so much of the Kobe 11, except one very key component. Their traction. It’s just a little too inconsistent for me. Some days it was good, other days…not so much. Kind of like my game. Just a few minor tweaks here and there and they could have been amazing.

I know the Air Jordan XXX has taken a lot of heat for their re-use of tooling — and rightfully so — but if there was one thing on a performance basketball shoe that I’d like to see return is the traction. The Kobe 9 was probably the best traction I’ve ever had. Why not move that over to the next shoe? And the next shoe. And the next shoe. You know? It’s not like they’d be re-using the entire midsole, or upper, or anything that would keep the line from looking the same as the previous models. Just keep the traction. What could be so wrong in doing that? At least until you’ve wear-tested the hell out of another pattern to the point where you absolutely know it’s going to outperform and excel.

Other than that, the shoe was really fun to play in and did everything else nearly perfect. Maybe I trust the FlyKnit a bit more. I mean, if adidas can do it…you know what I’m saying?