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Making the Nike LeBron 12

As we all know by now, the Nike LeBron 12 was officially unveiled to the public earlier today. While I wasn’t in attendance at the event, my friend Jacques Slade was, and he was kind enough to share with us some great images from behind the scenes. I’ll do my best to break down the LeBron 12 & how they went about creating the shoe from start to finish.

All shoes start off with a designer and an inspiration. Most of the time that inspiration comes from the athlete – for signature models at least – and that is where Jason Petrie and LeBron James fit into things. Everything else about the shoe… came from a lab. The Nike Sports Research Lab to be precise. If I understood everything correctly, this is the first LeBron to be created within the NSRL (Nike Sports Research Lab), but not the first shoe. Maybe it’s just the tech involved – cushion and materials – but I suppose I consider that to be the actual shoe. If you’re having a hard time following my thought process then I apologize… I’m pretty damn tired right now.


Making the Nike LeBron 12 1

You can see here that the tech needed to start somewhere, and that somewhere just so happens to be a foot. Probably LeBron’s foot, since it’s his shoe. While his foot isn’t my foot, or your foot… or anyone else’s foot. This is a good start to see what the foot – in general – needs (I use the term ‘needs’ relatively lightly) when playing the sport of Basketball. While your body is symmetrical, they typically aren’t identical. Maybe you have a toe that’s decided it wants to go left instead of straight… or you broke a small bone in the ball of your right foot… maybe your heel width is slightly different than the other. You get the point. Leather used to be the only way to combat this, leather with a whole lot of break-in time, and now we have mesh/ woven and knitted materials. With the NSRL, they’ve been able to confront a problem with a viable solution. A material that will contain the foot, but do so in a way that it’ll accommodate a variety of foot shapes.

Making the Nike LeBron 12 2

Once they were able to construct a material that is malleable enough to accommodate most foot shapes and sizes… we get down to the pressure mapping aspect. This isn’t new, I first saw this done with the Air Jordan XX. It was then modified in the Air Jordan XX1, those even came with little hexagon shaped pods that were interchangeable for a custom ride, and then modified again in the Air Jordan XX2 & XX3. We’ve also seen this in the form of Podulon & Podulite… but we’ve never seen it done with Zoom Air only. Supposedly, each Zoom unit in this shoe is tuned differently. Maybe there is more PSI in the lateral units for stability while the one sitting beneath the ball of the foot is slightly less for more spring and responsiveness. Can’t forget that giant Zoom unit placed in the heel too… that is a beautiful sight. In addition to the pressure mapped placement of the finely tuned Zoom, there are flex zones between them. I think this will be the game changer within the LeBron line as smaller players, such as myself, have loved and praised the awesome cushion that usually comes with a LeBron shoe, but we tend to loath how restricted we feel while wearing the shoe. Almost to the point to where a smaller player might feel sluggish. If you can supply us with ample impact protection, responsiveness and flexibility… sign me up for a pair pronto.

Making the Nike LeBron 12 3

When all is said and done, you get something that looks like this. It looks like LeBron stomped on a bag of Skittles… taste the rainbow.

Making the Nike LeBron 12 4

Once the tech has been figured out, its time to build. At the Nike Innovation Kitchen there is a massive 3D printer. With this printer, Nike is able to create a new shoe, piece of tech or support on the spot… and then they walk it over to the NSRL and test the freshly printed piece to fine tune everything prior to production. This cuts down costs and most importantly time. I can already hear the screams… “they’re cutting costs and still charging us an arm and a leg?!”. Look, I don’t like paying high prices for anything… but if its something I want and I find it reasonable then I’ll buy it. There are plenty of alternatives that will cost you at least half of the price of these… but you want the new LeBron. I bought a Honda because it was just as efficient as that BMW I wanted… but the BMW just happened to cost an extra $30k. No, I’m not defending anyone… I’m just being logical. If I don’t want to pay a certain price for something, then I wont buy that something… simple as that. Anywho… back to the LeBron 12…

Making the Nike LeBron 12 5

After they’ve fine tuned and tested things with the 3D printed Sample, a production Sample is made. This version is pretty rough and featured more 3D printed panels, this is so they can create and test something quickly… whereas before the 3D printer, they’d have to wait a few weeks for something to be made overseas and then sent back and fourth. This is a much quicker way to turn around a product and it allows you to be much more precise as well. As a sneaker tech nerd… I happen to find it all really freaking cool.

Making the Nike LeBron 12 6

Okay, now we get to the really fun part… the wear test stage. This is a fully constructed model that wear testers (not the kind from this site) get and test certain aspects of the shoe. Traction, cushion, flex, materials, fit etc. The athlete will typically have a pair of these as well to ensure their thoughts are put in place… something I think might’ve been lost in translation during the LeBron 11’s design process. After everything passes the test and is approved… final production begins.

Making the Nike LeBron 12 7

Speaking of the LeBron 11… I don’t think we’ll encounter the same fit problems with this model. We still have Hyperposite, but its contained to just the lateral side and the collar… plus a little on the medial collar. This will add structure and support right where you need it. Mesh is used throughout the rest of the upper along with a new-ish material – something they call MegaFuse. Sounds like something from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. This MegaFuse adds strength and durability, but up to LeBron’s standards. We all know that if LeBron wore a pair of Nike HyperRev’s he’d probably Ginobili the sh*t out of them. So they needed something stronger, again, this is where that NSRL really comes in handy as they’re able to measure force applied and where its applied. Even though the upper is stronger than typical mesh, it’ll still conform around the foot much nicer than any other material previously used on performance footwear… which is perfect for the athlete that wants to play in LeBron’s shoe… but isn’t quite like LeBron when it comes to playing style, size and stature.

Making the Nike LeBron 12 8
An up close look at the mesh and MegaFuse upper on the Nike LeBron 12 courtesy of @sneakerboxclyde

Making the Nike LeBron 12 9Once all is said and done… we have the LeBron 12. Creating something fresh and new that is both stylish (to some) and functional isn’t a simple task, but having the NSRL right next door makes things a little easier. Now all we can do is wait and see how they play for all us common folk. You know, those of us that play on dirty 24 Hr gym floors, outdoor at the park or in the driveway. The one and only thing about the LeBron 12 that concerns me is the traction since it looks pretty darn similar to the KD 6’s pattern, but who knows… maybe they’ll wind up using a super grippy rubber. Everything else featured on the shoe… looks like it’ll be really fun to try out on-court.

Once again, huge thank you to Jacques Slade for the great live coverage of today’s event and for sending these sweet images our way. Make sure to check him out on TodayInSneaks.com.

  1. Wasn’t concerned with getting them, but after seeing this, has certainly raised my interest. Will still wait for a performance review.

    Unlike the Rose 5, I will be pulling the trigger day 1 on those!

  2. or NW could be the new shoe guy on the market. With the proper designs and resources in play and with as much as he knows I dont see why that couldnt happen. Just get someone better than brandblack has to design them. No offense to the brand or owners, but I can ususally find something in any brand that I like aesthetically but those designs they have over there are just aweful..to me any way

  3. Well said nightwing. A lot of people are trashing the design aesthetically but these are built for performance. The X, XI, and now the XII have all brought something new to the performance table and we are all witnessing (no pun intended) new innovative performance attributes for basketball. First the Jordan 29 and now these. Wasn’t sold on the lebrons but now that we get a sense of the build of this shoe, I am really excited to play in these. Keep up the hard work.

    1. I doubt it, the 3d printed ones will all be made of the same plastic used in the printer. The might fit over a foot, but it’d be like wearing a rigid board….or the LeBron X…no lol jk

  4. Another thought, what if on Nike iD they will let you pick each zoom pod to totally customize the ride for an individual order. Be a pretty sweet option. Just a thought

  5. These really intrigue me. Last year you could take one look at the 11s midsole setup and have a pretty good idea of how it would play. This year, I have no idea how the cushion will be, who knows if it will be responsive or mushy, or even non-existent because of the phylon. I’m really excited!

  6. The Foot-mapping definitely isn’t new, as stated by Nightwing. Since it was previously done in the XX-XX3 via Pods. But I like the Tech basis behind the multiple Zoom Air pods on location basis on pressure points on how the foot works. That Big zoom air bag in the heel is promising. We know the cushioning and foot form fitting was key tot he design; The only worry I personally have is the basis of having so many zoom air pods, what is the likeliness of the Zoom Air pods popping? How does it work in terms of flexibility? How is the TRACTION? How is ventilation? How does the material handle over time. From a single game, to 2-4 hour games played in a day, or over a course of a 82-game season. We’ll see. That’s for sure. Great coverage by Jacques Slade aka Kustoo. And great put together by you Nightwing on Weartesters.com

    1. Thanks bro! I think the pods will help disperse pressure evenly, so less chance of the pods popping vs one giant unit in place to take all the impact. We’ve only really had popping issues with Zoom recently with ‘newer’ iterations of the tech. The 360 Max Zoom & Unlocked Zoom have been the only two known to pop that Im aware of, Zoom was always said to be resilient.

      1. Nightwing, so these pods may still pop, Im thinking that they would eventually and make me want to go foam based instead for longevity here. Even though foams bottom out or get flat(thin out) with/in time atleast they dont pop that would make you feel uneven in certain places.

        1. Maybe you didn’t read what I said clearly, but Zoom has never really popped until recently and there have only been 2 types of Zoom known to pop in those recent events. This type of Zoom (hexagon) has been around for years and has never had an issue.

          1. Nightwing, Forgive me for my insolence and ignorance. Im just afraid that these MAY pop as well. I know your knowledge in the field is extensive and they modified or updated these setup which MAY cause these to have the popping problem. No offense meant but again just afraid and a little bit uneducated with all this tech stuff. But good writing here bro keep it out.

            1. lol, I’m not offended… I didn’t make the Zoom. I was just saying that Zoom has never had a consistent history of popping since its inception back in ’95. The only times it has popped has been in the most recent versions of it and they have been modified versions. This is the same Zoom used in the CP3.VII and those never popped, same pod layout as well. Think of it as a bed of nails… you step on one nail and it’ll likely go through your foot. Step on 10 nails at once and you’ll likely stay on top of the nails since they disperse the pressure evenly, less force/ pressure applied to each nail that would have had they been by themselves. The chances of this setup popping is little to none IMO.

          2. alrighty then, its just stuff nowadays that again MAY give you problems in the long run is what im worried about that’s why i wanted to asked you the experts or more knowledgeable, I know your not from Nike or something but you do know the stuff so good to know from someone who has ALOT of experience. With this new knowledge that I have been enlightened with I may now have to consider this as well together with the upcoming CP3.VIII. Again thank you for the knowledge Nightwing.

  7. VERY nice writeup! I do look forward to trying these shoes on. Traction is also my main concern especially since it is translucent. Usually clear soles grab a bunch of dirt and it doesn’t easily wipe off.

  8. We all know that if LeBron wore a pair of Nike HyperRev’s he’d probably Ginobili the sh*t out of them. So much LOL :))))))

  9. The shoe has finally grown on me, but I still can’t get over the ridiculous posite swoosh. I might make a pair on Nike iD if I can get the swoosh to blend into the posite’s color so that it isn’t easily seen. Hopefully they put it on there soon (nikeinc has a release date for everything except the iD option -_-)

  10. I’m excited about these. Tried the XX9s and while they have some nice qualities, the cushioning was quite right. These are cheaper and look like they may work better for me. Can’t wait to try them out.

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