Duke4005’s performance review on the Air Jordan 33 is here. Grab some popcorn, it’s another great review.
If anything in this industry makes me feel old, it is the annual release of the Air Jordan signature shoe. Seriously – Jordan 33? My first Jordans were, well, the first Jordans. That’s a long time. But like the Air Jordan itself, age ain’t nothing but a number and 33 years is a long time to learn. Did Jordan Brand make the best AJ yet? Let’s get it…
Nub, nubs, nubs. No real pattern, no story-telling (that I have seen) – it’s just some rubber nubs covering from heel to toe. The pattern isn’t deep and the rubber isn’t exactly hard, so outdoors will probably not be a good idea, especially the translucent colorway. So, now that that question is out of the way, let’s get back inside.
On the regular floor I play at on Mondays and Wednesdays, traction was lacking – seriously. On curls and cuts, my feet would slide out on first steps and trying to plant. On defense though, I was getting good grip and was able to stay in front of my man on lateral moves, so no issues there. In defense of the shoe, I also had this issue in every shoe except the Kobe Protro and LeBron 16 – this floor has no finish and is only swept twice a week, so it ain’t the shoes. Again, only the absolute best shoes stick on this floor, so don’t blame the 33.
On the league floor I play on, which was recently refinished (October), the traction was almost too good. There was no issues anywhere, anytime and my feet were Spider-Verse stuck. On one last floor, another 24 Hour Fitness gym, (that is a little better kept but still has no finish) the traction was solid and screeching. I didn’t have any slips or slides but the motion of stopping just screamed “STOOOPPPPP!!!!” – once I got used to the forefoot. More on the reasons for that next in…
A great big slab of Zoom Air in that forefoot. It’s so big that the outsole had to bubble out (that’s not really the reason for the bubble, I don’t think). The heel is a hex unit and coupled with the forefoot gives a great rebound and response – once the Phylon softens up a little. Yeah, they used a hard, stiff Phylon carrier that would make Kyrie proud but luckily, it does break in after a couple of weeks of consistent wear and begins to operate as ordered. There still isn’t a rebound and respond-feel like we felt in the Jordan XXXI and XXXII, but impact protection is covered almost perfectly and stability in the heel and laterally is near perfect.
Going back to the traction and how the cushioning affected it (told you I would come back), the forefoot Zoom unit protrudes from the outsole like the XXXI, but the curve of the forefoot from the Zoom to the toes is drastic, almost ski-slope steep. This means if you aren’t heavy enough to compress the Zoom, your toes will have a difficult time grabbing the floor – mostly because they won’t touch the floor. Luckily, I am that heavy (weight room baby!!!!) but I still did have some instances where I slipped out. Not all the time, but footwork is key to staying on top of the issue.
Well, no shoe is perfect. The main body of the shoe is a mesh/fuse construction with foam backing against the foot with some synthetic leather at the medial forefoot and around the heel cup. The ankle is heavily padded and solid with a thick padded double tongue. All of this thick padding is completely necessary – without it, the wires and straps would feel like a medieval torture device. As it is, there is a slight pressure from the ankle/heel strap but nothing that will make your feet scream. Actually, for all the complaints about not being “premium” materials and “feeling cheap”, the mesh and synthetics do what they are supposed to do – feel good on-foot and are flexible and form-fitting under the new lacing system.
Ok, let’s talk about the new lacing system. By now, surely you have seen or heard, but in case you haven’t, the laces are gone. They’ve been replaced by a pully-cable-gear system that runs from the midsole, around the ankle and across the forefoot. The concern of the cables was durability – if they break, you are theoretically done (I say theoretically because if you have even a slightly wide foot you don’t need to tighten much to get a great fit). The cord over the top of the foot is pulled up, clicking the system into place. The yellow pull cord loosens the system – but not by much. The thought when we all saw this device was “pull the cord and the panels open up”.. They don’t. You have to loosen the cord, pull the panels open manually and pull the strap under the tongue to get the shoe completely loose and even then, it is still a tight fit.
The ankle strap pulls the ankle completely into the heel and the lockdown in that area is complete and total – you will have NO heel slip or movement if you strap in tight. The midfoot fit is really tight in the arch area and if you have wide feet, you are in trouble – even going up half didn’t help much. It is just a seriously tight, snug fit. Because of that, I would say go true-to-size and try to break them in as quickly as possible.
The Jordan XXXIII is easily the most supportive, structured shoe on the market today from a major brand (there may be some shoe somewhere that is better, but I haven’t seen it, so it doesn’t count). The overlays and panels work with the cables and straps and make the whole body of the shoe wrap around the foot like a brace. The stability in the midsole with the harder Phylon makes landings solid and controlled, but even if you end up slightly off-center, the upper should hold you tight – unless you land on a foot, of course.
On lateral movements, the shoe is completely locked and controlled. The only real issue with stability is the sloping forefoot sole and as soon as you get used to the feeling, you will enjoy the added feel in transition. The midsole feels a little blocky until the Phylon softens up so any added help in transition is welcome. If you miss the days of big man shoe, ankle straps or Ektio, the Jordan XXXIII will quench that craving.
Overall, while I really enjoyed the idea and execution of the cable lacing, the Jordan XXXIII was a little more shoe than I usually like. The cushioning and build scream “POST PLAY” and the shoe does play big. The Jordan XXXII had similar cushioning and traction but played faster and quicker. The cables do work and the fit is great, but the same lockdown and fit could be achieved with regular laces. If you are a fan of the Jordan line, as I am, you should definitely look into a pair, as the cushioning and traction are extremely playable. If you are a big man or don’t like a minimal, quick-feeling shoe, the Jordan XXXIII is perfect. If you like freedom of movement in your ankle and a low-top, running feel, run away.
There are some saying this doesn’t feel like a Jordan shoe – and they are wrong: Jordan signatures were about pushing the envelope, trying new things and trying to make the public take notice. The Jordan XXXIII definitely makes you take notice and whether your opinion if like it or leave it, at least it’s drawing looks. Keep pushing Jordan designers (you know who you are) – we like to try to fly.