Nike LeBron 14 Performance Review

Nike and LeBron James have unveiled the latest in the LeBron line, the Nike LeBron 14. Now, WearTesters gives you our thoughts on the shoe’s on-court performance. The Nike LeBron 14 Performance Review is here.

Traction – For using translucent rubber, the traction on the LeBron 14 wasn’t half bad. Granted, the traction was one of the shoe’s weakest points — but the traction wasn’t horrible. The digi-camo pattern gripped well but there are tiny areas that have been cored out and dust will collect in those areas rather quickly. Keeping them clean is a must if you want to maintain grip on-court.

This rubber compound Nike decided to use is what helped maintain traction in between wiping because it’s fairly soft and a bit tacky. There is some fraying of the rubber in high-wear areas for my foot strikes and movements which reveals a fresh new layer of rubber under it. This is great for always having fresh rubber on-court. Of course, if this fraying were to happen on an adidas model then all hell would break loose — but since this is a Nike shoe we’re going to let it slide completely. Yes, major sarcasm right there.

Fraying of rubber is normal for basketball shoes in today’s era, especially when it comes to translucent rubbers. No, it won’t destroy the rubber on your shoes within a matter of days. That’d be a bit dramatic. However, the pattern itself — coupled with this rubber compound — could have (and should have) been better.

Had the pattern made a bit more sense with its design — like the Nike PG1’s pattern — then these would have been much greater than they were. Again, the traction wasn’t horrible by any means and you’ll receive decent grip out of them. It gets the job done for sure. It just could have been better with perhaps a more simplistic approach.

Cushion – Hex Zoom Air returns, but this time around the units are larger than ever before. The three Hex Zoom units seen above are roughly 14mm thick — that’s a huge Zoom unit. Remember the Melo M8? Yeah, it was awesome. It featured 10mm Zoom units so having 14mm — while not a drastic change — is freaking awesome.

Can you feel the Zoom? Sometimes. Your weight is evenly distributed between each unit, they’re encased in rubber, and they’re bottom loaded, so they don’t compress in the way that you might want them to. However, the protection they provide upon initial impact is great and since the 14mm doesn’t compress much upon foot strikes you’re able to maintain a much quicker response time between movements than you would if you sunk into the cushion. It isn’t a perfect blend of court feel and cushion since you do sit slightly high atop the tooling, but for a larger player it will feel like having a guard shoe on without sacrificing any of the cushion that they may want/need.

The heel Zoom unit is pretty self explanatory. That mofo is HUGE! Same thing applies though. It’s encased in rubber and it’s bottom loaded. It isn’t compressing to the point where you’ll be unstable, just enough to where you can tell your body isn’t taking the brunt of landings.

Side note: I love the flex grooves throughout the outsole. They allow for greater flexibility which is great for someone of my size. I’m far from an NBA-sized athlete and LeBron models have always felt a bit restrictive in terms of fluidity and mobility. They’ve been tweaking this type of setup since the LeBron 12 and this is the best version yet. These truly feel like a guard shoe made for a big man.

Materials – This is where I start to confuse myself when I think too much into it. I like the materials used but I don’t feel that my $175 was justified. Yes, I bought these with my own money, and the shoe is made of foam and mesh overlays. I love the tiny rand of nubuck — some colorways will offer leather — on the toe, but the majority of the shoe is made of materials that I know aren’t costly. Again, I like the materials. I just don’t like having to pay $175 for this type of material. The Zoom Generation Retro retailed for the same price and offered a leather build. This thin foam can’t possibly cost just as much to use.

In terms of actual performance, the foam and mesh build do its job well. It’s flexible and moves well with your foot without feeling overly restrictive. If you played in the Zoom Soldier 10 then it’s the exact same feeling. Some might not enjoy it as it could be too soft/flimsy for them, but I did.

Fit – The LeBron 14 utilizes a one-piece bootie construction comprised of soft/flimsy materials. In order to maintain the best containment while playing in them I’d personally recommend going down 1/2 size. Yes, your toes will be right at the tip of the shoe, but you greatly reduce the risk of dead space. I guarantee you that the last used to shape the one-piece upper isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of last. Every foot shape is different. Going true to size might work out well for wide footers and those with high arches, but for me, going down 1/2 size ensured I received a one-to-one fit.

Lockdown is surprisingly good. The lacing is weird as it relies on Flywire cables to secure your foot for lateral movements, but the strap does a great job containing your midfoot and heel.

Support – There are a couple of traditional support features in place on the LeBron 14 but this is one area that definitely could have been better overall. The internal and external heel counters do their job quit well, but the tooling caused some minor instability issues — mostly when stopping or trying to push off at the lateral forefoot. Its a combination of the materials being a little too soft — the fuse area doesn’t completely stop the forefoot from rolling over the footbed — and the tooling itself.

There is an outrigger but it isn’t big enough, and it’s almost rounded. When your foot pushes the materials to the point to where it begins to roll over the footbed then your momentum and added weight to the area will cause you to tip a bit. I tried not to apply too much force to that area but it isn’t always easy to do.

I would have loved it if my foot say within the midsole a bit. This would have stopped my foot from rolling over the footbed since it would be inside the footbed. I think they should have considered carrying over the jagged exaggerated outrigger they used on the LBJ 12 and 13. Those shoes were pretty wide and while they could slow you down a tiny bit, you had much greater stability in the forefoot area. If those two things could not have been accomplished then an independent toecap would have been very useful — as it was in the Zoom Soldier 3. It would have added depth to the design, it would have brought a premium material element as well if they decided to use nubuck and leather, and it would contain the forefoot upon lateral moves without negatively effecting the mobility of the player.

Overall – The LeBron 14 isn’t perfect, but no shoe is. Impact protection and overall mobility are two really great features of the shoe. Forefoot stability and overall containment upon lateral moves is something that is hopefully addressed with the Elite model. Traction wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t bad either; it’ll get the job done so long as you keep it clean.

If you’re a small player that wants or needs impact protection while still being able to move freely on-court then these should suit you well. If you’re a big man that needs the same thing then they should be an equally good option. I still can’t wrap my head around the $175 price point for a foam shoe, but that has absolutely nothing to do with the shoe’s performance so I’ll let the buyer be the judge when it comes to value per dollar.

I’m reluctant to say this is the best LeBron to-date, but it’s definitely one of the best to-date.

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32 Comments

  1. Great review as usual NW. I always wondered though when you say that you like a one-to-one fit, are you saying for the length and width? I know that for me, I like to have about a thumb width between my big toe and the tip of the shoe when purchasing to allow my foot to expand into the shoe especially after wearing them for a bit. I mean the whole trying on a shoe at the end of the day when your foot has expanded throughout vs. the morning.

    I have a narrow foot by doctor’s explanation but I dealt with crazy foot pain in shoes that fit one-to-one exactly and couldn’t figure out why. It turns out that for some reason, the damaged ligaments from old injuries in my toes needed that extra room to leave me pain free I guess so now all shoes I buy have to have a little space up front.

    1. Depends on the materials on the shoe. Softer materials like this I prefer one-to-one which leaves as little room as possible. Normally that is with my usual size. If there is volume in the shoe when the materials are soft then I’ll go down and hope the materials break-in quickly enough. If I have too much room length wise it will distract me, and it’ll distract me even more if there is volume around my foot as my foot will slide upon cuts and changes of direction. It’s all personal preference though. Some people like a lot of room in their shoes. Some don’t want any room.

      1. Ah ok. That makes sense. I find that with more rigid (fuse based) shoes, the space up front is welcomed but with softer materials, I want there to be just enough room to not feel too tight. Thanks for the response.

  2. I got these in the BHM colourway, I went with my normal 9, there is a bit of dead space so I tried the 8.5, but I couldn’t get my foot in though the opening haha. How did you do it Nightwing? What’s with Nike making all these almost impossible to put on sneakers? What happened to the dream that was the Soldier 8?

  3. Thanks for another great review. Based on your review I will definitely try out a pair eventually – I will just wait until they hit a steep discount since I’m happier with other choices out there right now.

  4. Chris, don’t you think there’s something fishy about this model? LeBron is Nike’s flagship athlete, he’s fresh off a series where he took his game and popularity to another level, and his shoes were released without any fanfare, without a single press release, no storyline to it, no articles justfying the design behind it, nothing. I believe this isn’t the original Lebron 14…just my 2 cents.

    1. Its been reported that the original lebron 14 was scrapped and that’s why these released so late in the season. Normally, Nike releases the lebron sig in the fall or late fall.

    1. How much you can feel it…having it bottom loaded means it sits below something (foam) which obviously is in between your foot and the actual cushion…so you won’t feel the zoom, but it will still do it’s job.

  5. Great review nightwing. When it comes to pricing, I feel like if the overall product performed really well and durable, then its worth it. Those flyweave when they first released those, they marketed those a premium, but in reality, those dont cost much to make, so now we can get those on cheaper models. A lot of products are cheap to make, but its in the research and lab tests that they spend money a lot on.

  6. I don’t get why people don’t double knot in the first place. I mean it’s been how many years/decades of my life have I not wasted retying my shoes? One of my friends always reties their shoes like every 20 minutes. It’s just casual situations, not even basketball. I don’t know how that could be accepted in everyday life.

  7. Great review, loving the action footage to show how the sneaker responds, next to explaining it.

  8. price is because of the lebron branding. Nike will probably add another hex zoom unit and call it “elite”.

  9. I think the KD 9’s Zoom in the heel is 16mm
    Why would anyone get these for 25 bucks more and worse materials

  10. Second best after 10s, just a bit better then 8s because of lighter weight. Look great too.

  11. Not to sound weird, but how much do you weigh NW? I’m a bigger guy and I’m trying to figure out what the zoom feels like. I have lots of foot problems and i need enough cushion to play comfortably. I’m wondering with heavier guys it will compress more than say a guard of your size. Thanks!

    1. It’s a bottom loaded zoom unit encased within a rubber outsole and foam midsole. It’s not going to compress more for you just because you may or may not weigh more than I do. If you require more cushion there are plenty of other options avail from Nike and other brands.

      1. Thanks for the reply! I’ll keep my eyes peeled on this site for a shoe with a better cushion setup.

        1. Adidas Crazy Explosive Boost comes to mind if you don’t mind the ugly appearance of the shoe. To date, in my humble opinion, Boost is the most consistent, durable, and best “feeling” cushioning available on the market.

  12. Nice review; I’ve been reading sneaker reviews since the days of Kicksology.net, and while I still miss that original legendary site, your team at Weartesters has done a great job. This is just my two cents, so don’t take it personally, but I don’t think bottom loaded zoom setups necessarily increases your reaction time compared to zoom bags positioned directly beneath your feet. In both cases the zoom is compressing, so even if your foot is not sinking into the bag per se, the bag is still “sinking” into your foot. There may be an unintended placebo effect though. I think the main advantage of the bottom loaded zoom bag is its ability to allow maximum cushioning to be achieved without compromising flexbility of the sole.

    1. Appreciate it!

      Bottom loaded setups that are out in the open like the LBJ 10 or KD 9 won’t as those units are still able to fully compress. I’m was referring to setups such as the one on the LBJ 14 where the units are not just bottom loaded, but also encased within rubber. The rubber surrounding limits the bags ability to compress thus resulting in greater reaction time — which is mostly a placebo since we’re talking milliseconds, but a millisecond faster is technically faster. Bottom loaded setups like the PG1 are very similar, and setups such as that compress even less due to being housed within rubber and encased within the foam midsole. AJ2010 is the best example of restricted bottom loaded Zoom, but those had top loaded units also.

      1. Hyperdunk 2016 flyknit cushion setup is kind of special, you have a toploaded full length zoom unit that also sits in a cored out air chamber units, making it like “double stacked” zoom setup.

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