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Air Jordan XII Retro Performance Review

A whole bunch of new performance models came out between December-February… now that they’re out of the way. Lets get back to the Air Jordan Project and jump in to the Air Jordan XII. These bad boys were designed by Tinker Hatfield and released back in 1997, and they are still awesome on court performers, even by todays standards. We put multiple retros of the Air Jordan XII in the Best Retro Basketball Shoes list.

Video: Air Jordan XII Full Performance Review

Air Jordan XII

Colorway: Cherry

Release Date: January 1997

Style Code: TBD

Price: $200


Traction – Herringbone is featured in similar fashion to the previous Air Jordan signature – the Air Jordan XI. The phrase, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind as they haven’t changed much so it works relatively the same. I only had one issue where I slipped and that was within the first few hours at the medial ball of the foot… make sure you plant your feet and push off from the base of the shoe – if you are light on your feet – as I was at the time – then the rounded edges of the outsole will serve you no purpose and you will likely slip or lose balance. After I figured out what I was doing wrong, I never had an issue with the traction again.


Cushion – Full length Zoom Air… from heel to toe. The Zoom unit is one continuous air bag and feels amazing! They are comfortable enough wearing casually but you won’t experience what these can truly do until you play in them. I say this all the time but I really do mean it… you gain more appreciation for a shoe after you’ve played in them – when they perform well that is. I already loved the Air Jordan XII based on its looks but that fact that they can handle practically anything you can throw at them made me love them even more.

If you are looking for a hoop shoe that has low profile, responsive cushion then look no further as the Air Jordan XII will meet and possibly exceed your expectations. You will get over their initial clunky feeling after you give yourself some time to adjust but after that you will fall in love with them all over again.


Material – The originals used premium full grain leather and these newer Retro models use a split grain. It’s not as nice as they used to be but when directly comparing the leather here to a split grain that was used on say, the Air Jordan IV White/ Cement Retro… these are leaps and bounds better. Just like the midsole, you will need to break these in a bit in order to start enjoying them. It doesn’t take too long since there is practically zero ventilation so your body’s heat and moisture will speed up the process.


Fit – I felt this Retro fits true to size but the newer ones released in 2012 feel a ½ size big after being broken in. If you double sock or use an additional insole you will be able to solve the sizing issue if you choose not to go down ½ on Jordan Brand’s latest Retro run. If you are looking at something that was released prior to 2012 then I would say go with your regular size.

Midfoot and heel lockdown were great. I never once had an issue after they broke in. As expected with leather based sneakers, the leather will stretch a bit after they’ve been broken in. All you have to do to fix the additional space you’ll receive is tie them tighter – what I call adjusting the laces – and you will be good to go.


Ventilation – There really isn’t any. Some mesh was used on the tongue but it isn’t anything that provides you with air flow. The lack of ventilation will aid you in breaking the shoe in so not all is lost. If you feel that ventilation isn’t an attribute that you look for in a shoe then ignore this section, simple as that. No need to whine about it affecting a shoes score in a negative way as ALL of the shoes tested are graded in ventilation which makes things perfectly fair.


Support – Tanks… the Air Jordan XII are on-court tanks. Arch support is great while the overall fit and lockdown take care of the rest. These can – and have been – be worn by a wide variety of players and positions so the Air Jordan XII has something for everyone.


Overall – These are one of my favorite performers out of the Retro line so far… these and the Air Jordan VIII. Both of which comes as a surprise to me since they are both probably the two models I would look at and think that they aren’t too guard friendly.

If you need a shoe with Retro style, great traction, awesome cushion, good materials, nice fit and plenty of support then the Air Jordan XII will give you what you need. It’s nice to see – and feel – evolution and the Air Jordan XII is just that. The Air Jordan line evolved quite a bit in a short amount of time… that’s pretty incredible… especially seeing as how the Air Jordan XII can outperform some of today’s performance models.


Air Jordan XII Retro First Impression
Air Jordan XII Retro Performance Teaser Pt. 1
Air Jordan XII Retro Performance Teaser Pt. 2

  1. After looking at the score card I could really see why people would whine about the ventilation score. That’s just how shoes were back then.

    1. I dont. Every category for this shoe rates an 8 or above except one which is the ventilation. If you dont need or want ventilation then why are you paying attention to something that you dont need? You are looking at a new car and two are avail. One is $20,000 and the other is $25,000 because it comes with a sun roof… if you dont want or need a sun roof are you going to complain about the difference or just take the info you actually need and move on with the purchase. People like to complain and nitpick about things that are meaningless. If they complain about something as small as a score/ attribute that they dont need then just imagine how they react to real events that come up throughout the day/ week/ month etc. People need to learn to focus on their needs and stop complaining about things that dont even matter to them.

      1. great review … now, i’ve stated the issue (as others have before) more eloquently … I’ll get to the crux of the matter quickly here … the “rankings” … if you didn’t RANK the shoes yet still graded them the same exact way then this wouldn’t be an issue – but since you DO it IS an issue as it skews the rankings and makes them essentially useless. It’s really not our problem … it’s yours. Unless you rework the system it won’t make the complaints go away – keep doing things exactly and just chiding us into ignoring a real flaw in your rankings just won’t work. Fix it or live with the complaints. …. that being said – keep up the good work lol

        1. Cant tell if youre being an ass or not but it sounds like it. Since youve never left a comment on my site before, try explaining your point a bit better because youve made no progress in claiming rankings are useless with ventilation as a category. For as long as there has been performance reviews on sport shoes, there has been a category labeled ventilation. Believe it or not, some people prefer ventilation and nike, reebok and adidas have all exploited that with their new gen sneakers. If you are too ignorant to look past something you dont need then so be it. But if you use your brain a little and look at the attributes YOU NEED them there is no flaw.

          1. I’ve indeed posted before – and I’m simply being critical of your flawed ranking rationale – yet also being complimentary (glad your back to your usual style of video review) … In any case I’ll put your comment about being ignorant to the side – not a fan of E beef. Simply put – your rankings are flawed b/c a superb shoe (with little to no ventilation) could be ranked in the same neighborhood (or even lower) than a mediocre shoe w/ great ventilation – it’s a no brainer as to what the better shoe is but your rankings would tell otherwise. Where there’s smoke there’s fire – I’m not the first to make this case and I certainly won’t be the last – hate to burst your bubble but just b/c you make these great reviews doesn’t make your understanding of these factors greater or more nuanced than the vast majority of us that also love sneakers. And if you can’t wrap your mind around that …

            1. Yeah… Your response pretty much let me know that you were being an ass. I dont E beef with people. Esp people that i dot know or cannot see. A poor performer would not rank anywhere near a high scoring performer bc their ratings in each category would be lower that the high performer. If this shoes traction, cushion, material and support were bad yet had great ventilation, that would not make the shoe rank anywhere near a pair that ranked 8 or above in all categories other than ventilation. Youve still yet to successfully explain your theory and insulting me on top of it isnt helping anything, which leads me to believe that you are just being ignorant. Take it as a diss if you will but if some random person were to read this convo, you sound like the one attempting to start beef.

              If you wish to compliment someone, then do so and move on. Complimenting someone then following it up by insults makes one believe that you are highly arrogant.

              Now, if you were to compare my rankings to school rankings… Then you would see they are not flawed. You receive an A in every class but you receive a D in PE… Your GPA goes down even though you feel that PE will do nothing for you in the real world. Is this a flaw or a childish way to make yourself feel better?

              Look, you can think what you want. Facts are facts and i dont go around talking to other the way you or any other faceless antagonist have towards me. Take it or what it is and just move on as im not the one trying to belittle anyone here.

          2. I wanted to know do you tie these to the very last hole when playing or do u leave one free at the end. Because i read somewhere the laces are short

        2. instead of creating these pointless comments for the rest of us, use your time to add up all the performance scores other than ventilation, and then divide it by 5. BOOM theres your performance score, now stop bitching about it.

          it seems all ppl care about is the overall score, and not the scores that matters to them.

          i am glad that NW has a ventilation score up, cuz im one of those guys who hates to have sweaty feat. Just because the scoring system does not work for you does not mean it does not work for the rest of us

          1. I personally feel that when grading the shoes there should be some leniency towards the ventilation (make it count as .5) because unless it allows for sliding within the shoe, it doesnt really impact the performance. Like this shoe, great shoe, but the lack of ventilation really brought the overall down which makes it a good 7.5/10 shoe which doesnt really make sense…

            1. One of two things can happen. Either people can use the scores as a reference point for comparison purposes and look at the attributes they need (why I have scores in place) or I can stop grading them altogether… people complaining over something that doesn’t affect them doesn’t make sense.

  2. Nice one nightwing2303! Just the way you used to do it! Being yourself is the best way to go. That’s how you became popular anyway…

    1. i clearly said a MEDIOCRE performer … NOT a POOR performer … that makes a huge difference in this argument … in any case i’ve complimented you about 3 times here … you either have a really large ego or just cant take / comprehend criticism … in any case i’m done here … back to enjoying my saturday nite … hope you have a good one too.

      1. Still insulting me… Ive learned that when someone attacks you and claims your are something you arent, its bc its how they see themselves and dislike that fact they are that way and in turn must try and make someone else feel as crappy about themselves as they do. Hope you enjoy your night as well… I dont say this sarcastically.

      2. @NJHC @Nihhtwing2303
        The grading system is meant to measure the OVERALL performance of a hoe. So we can’t do anything about that as Nightwing had come up with a very constructive
        And objective grading system

        I think what we can do here is to have a separate.grading system for a retro.and.modern shoe to.give justice to.the retros

        I hope.i made sense

        1. Hey “NJHC”! If you dont like the rankings you have multiple options… you can review by yourself the shoes and make your own rankings, or you can fuck off of here and look for other shoe-reviewer, but insulting is not an option. Sorry for my bad english, a high five from Spain.
          Respect you nightwing, thanks for ur work again!!!!

          P.S. what a shame I’ve purchased my AJXII before NW reviewed them, so I went with my normal size (12) and I wonder I had gone with an 11.5

      3. if you think that Nightwing’s ranking or scoring system is flawed, then stop coming here and posting nonsense on his site. second, build your own site and implement your own set of standards.

        what is counter-productive are comments such as yours that it’s only purpose is to complain about how NW runs his site. you’re a turd and have no real interest in shoes, because “real” shoe lovers here find NW’s approach useful in purchasing their shoes.

        and because you are so stupid to even not notice nor understand that his ranking system is based on his personal feelings for the shoe yet being objective at the same time what shoe is or what it lacks.

        shoe buyers with common sense understand fully what NW is saying here or what the ranking is all about. idiots don’t, that’s why they complain a lot. you just post here just because you find other idiots share the same lack of comprehension as yours.

      4. try to defend and wash your hands for being a turd. just stop posting if you can’t even apologize. it’s takes a bigger person to even do that, which you are not.

        the only person that needs criticism here is you.

  3. Agree with Nightwing on this one. If you read all of the information provided with the reviews and actually think rather than just trying to look at a ranking or the scorecard, you will know everything that you need to know. Thanks again for everything you do man. It’s appreciated.

    1. some people here act like big shots and that you should take their opinion as they wish. such arrogance.

  4. Thanks Nightwing for the awesome review!!! I’ve always told people that the Jordan 12’s are the best most comfiest Jordan shoes…never had the OG one from 98 but I have two pairs of the 2004’s playoffs and compared to the most recent retro 12’s the 2004’s are wayyyyyy more cushiony and have more padding on the inside. Just an fyi for people looking to purchase some 12’s…but the best Jordan shoes Jordan himself has worn on court.

  5. always loved the feel of a full length zoom air. hope they would incorporate them on newer models this year with a thicker bag. it would be interesting if they make something full length in proplate zoom form or modified thinner part of the zoom bag in the midfoot area.

  6. Hi Nightwing, thank you for the wonderful review, again.

    Fully agree with you that AJ8 and 12 are the best performance model of original air jordans, love playing in both of them at always!

  7. These shoes are classic! Its true NW you do get a higher level of respect for a shoe that looks good and performance good as well. Great review!

  8. Hey NW which year are these or when did this color way come out? I feel like with jordan Brand retros the fit, quality and material keep changing from release to release. I think you mentioned this with the jordan xi. An Example is my Cool Greys are way more comfortable than my space james (even tho I love the Jams Color way).

  9. These site is the best and You are the best snicker reviever. I bought a lot of snickers thanks to You NW, every purchase was after Your review. ‘ve already bought AJ XII “cherry” exactlty the same pair as on you review 😉 and I was waiting far too long for review of AJ XII 😉 and I’m looking forward for review of AJ XIII. All the best from your fan from Poland.

      1. Thanks Mike 40. I have played in my Nubuck Pair from 09 as well. NW is right 12s are Tanks. Takes getting used to again but soild ball shoes.

  10. I told you the ventilation is absolutely horrible… But that’s obviously to be expected. I enjoyed playing in the retro 12’s XIIs more than any other shoe. cushioning and comfort are beyond anything!! Like the XIIIs…when I visibly notice sweat on my feet after 1 hour 2 hours and 3 hours of basketball respect respectively… For the last month… It is somewhat of a factor. I was playing in the Koby 8 socks, Nike 2 layer socks (they are great), nike elites and Air Jordan black and white socks that I bought for both the 12s in the 13s. I just finished a month of playing in the 1997 OG black and white 13s. It is great playing in a 26 year old SHOE!!!! As long as you make sure the glue and everything else is playable. The traction is amazing! but like I said… There was a black streak from sweat on my white Jordan socks from the black and white13s after most days of bball. (Minor) the OG’s both 12 sand 13s are much more plush and use much better materials then both retros. I definitely agree that if you’re going to use these to play basketball…go with the “recent” retros…any retro after 2011 from Jordan Brand. The 26 year old OGs performed 10 tines better than I ever would’ve thought my wildest dreams! the 12s though both OG and retros are better basketball shoe to play in overall besides both 13’s having better traction.I started my month evaluation of the Jordan 23’s XXIIIs in my favorite white/red/black. I’ve been looking forward to playing these ever since 2008!!!! So…the DVD n all came out of the box with shoes yesterday. 2 1/2 hours of ball in them yesterday but, my evaluation is not near done yet. They are definitely a thinner/harder shoe. traction… I’ll reserve that for more play 🙂 no comment. So after this month Jordan Brand 1 through 28 will finally be completed. looking forward to the rest of your1 through 28 reviews and comparing them to what I thought. Amazing to hear the similarities and even some subtle and not so subtle differences in what you thought of each shoe. So far you are around 98 percent in line with what my thoughts were throughout your 23 days of Jordans and beyond to 28. Great Stuff!!!!!!

  11. Oh added…the flexabilty of the 12s and 13s both OG and Retros is virtually non-existant. (This could be a bad and good thing. ..sometimes newer shoes flex too much of the foot…lets say Rose 2.5 or Jordan 28s just to take 2 random split bottom because of outer shank shoes) It came in handy when I played with a broken toe that had 2 broken bones and a severely torn plantar fascia. flexibility is not what I wanted…support and cushion was. Pau…suck it up!

  12. Yo NW…I had a thought yesterday that I put into action today. I pulled the heel-targeted zoom insole that came stock with the 2k9s and put them in my Rising Sun XIIs…When I tell you it was like a completely different beast, it doesn’t even begin to describe it. The insole is plush to begin with, but the double-stacked zoom in the heel took the performance to another level for me… the intrusiveness of the zoom unit being baked into the insole made it a smooth ride without feeling humpy or high off the ground…If you can get your hands on a heel-based zoom insole, I highly recommend the swap everybody!!

    1. Nice! I recommended that a few yrs ago with the original hyperfuse performance review. Nice way to implement cushion – or additional cushion – into any shoe.

  13. I agree these shoes are tanks. At first they fit snug but once you keep wearing them over and over, they fit great. My favorite Js of all time, The Japan XII. Wish they stayed true to the original form, ohhh well.

  14. Sweet, got the same exact cw, same as the XIII that I got. Glad to hear it is a good shoe, mine is a 10 but I normally wear a 10.5, but I think the tight fit feels pretty good and would break in. Thanks for the review!

  15. I stumbled upon your blog a couple days ago and have been hooked. Your blog posts are very informative and appreciate how detail oriented they are.

  16. Not sure if you see comments on these older reviews or not but I’m wondering how these stack up compared to the new CP3 Vii’s and xx8 se? The floor my league plays on can get semi dusty. I’m due for some new shoes after rocking the soldiers vi’s for the past year and I’m thinking about grabbing the taxis to ball in.

  17. just read and watched the review tonight. awesome review NW. i love going back to your vault and seeing all these reviews. it’s just a plethora of useful info. Will try to ball in my 2004 retro playoff 12s tomorrow.

  18. Hey Nightwing,

    I really appreciate the reviews you write up and follow them religiously. How would you compare the responsiveness of the jordan 12 and 13? I have a pair of 12s and the cushion seems to aid me a little bit when I jump, Im wondering if the 13s have the same type of bouncy feel. Hope you get back to me.

    1. The 12’s bounce is greater due to it being full length. The newer 13’s, while still really comfortable, aren’t close to how the 12 feels once broken in. IMO at least.

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