Nike KD 12 Performance Review

After a disappointing 11th edition, the Nike KD 12 makes up for it with an early potential best basketball shoe of 2019 nod. Check out our full thoughts within our Nike KD 12 performance review.


Many cringe when a new basketball shoe from Nike Basketball is unveiled and the only thing seen on each colorway shown is translucent rubber. While it’s not always the case, more often than not, translucent rubber just doesn’t grip the hardwood as nicely or as consistently as solid rubber. However, this time around, the rubber compound used has been nothing short of consistent, despite it being translucent. The KD 12 held its own on every floor I’ve played on, even the ones where everyone else was slipping.

On courts where there are an excessive amount of dust, all I needed to do, when I felt the need to, was wipe the outsole real quick and kept it moving. They gripped my local outdoor courts just as nicely as well, though I would not choose the KD 12 as my primary outdoor shoe unless I bought them way under retail. The outsole is showing signs of wear and tear, with fraying and minor chipping, so I could only imagine how long the outsole would last outdoors with extensive use.

Full-length Zoom Air is in place and it’s in place directly under your foot as it replaces the traditional strobel board.

When you try the shoe on in-store, you may not notice much of anything but once you start moving around in them, you can’t help but feel the air transferring from heel to toe. This is not only Zoom Air done right, but it’s probably my favorite iteration of the cushion and only solidified my stance on Zoom Air being my favorite cushion of all time.

There is a bottom-loaded heel Hex Zoom Air unit that’s located right at the heel’s impact or strike zone. It is nice that it’s there but with the full-length Zoom Air sitting directly under-foot, it’s not incredibly necessary. I felt that the cored out Phylon midsole was a better use of material than the bottom loaded Hex unit. Each cored out section of the foam allows the foam to compress inward as the TPU cage restricts the material from compressing outward. I felt this was a great improvement from last year’s KD 11 that featured a bottom-heavy, full rubber midsole wrap that caged the entire React midsole.

The KD 12 offers just as much impact protection and overall cushion as last year’s KD 11 but they were able to get the tooling a little closer to the ground while doing so. You feel fast and protected all at the same time, exactly what Zoom Air can do when done right.

There is nothing to write home about the KD 12’s materials: Textiles, screen mesh and Fuse, it’s almost like 2011 all over again. On the flip side, while there is nothing to write home about, there is also not much to complain about. Is the material setup premium? Not at all. But it is ready to go right out the box and for players that prefer that type of build, then this will get the job done. It’s also proven to be pretty durable as well as the entire shoe, other than the outsole, looks almost exactly as it did the day I bought them.

The Nike KD 12 fits true to size but a bit snug at the forefoot. It’s not PG 3 snug, but snug nonetheless.

If you’re like me and like a bit of a hug from your footwear, then you should love how these feel. Those that like a little bit of breathing room may find them to be more along the suffocating side. Again, not anywhere near as tight as the PG 3, but still a bit tighter around the foot than something like the KD 11.

Speaking of the KD 11, the lockdown on the KD 12 blows those out of the water. Granted, I felt the lockdown on the KD 11 was atrocious, so perhaps by default, anything would be better in comparison. All I know is that I felt snug and secure when playing in the KD 12 at all times.

The support for the KD 12 is very good. They don’t feature everything I personally like, but overall they were very solid.

Torsional support is solid as most of the midsole is wrapped in the TPU cage — restricting potential over-flexing of the foot. The midsole also cups the heel and the forefoot quite a bit which helps ensure your foot stays on the footbed at all times. Its overall fit and lockdown were great, while the Quad Axial Flywire acted as a finger trap — the more force that was applied to the upper, the greater the upper’s hold on the foot became.

My only complaint, which is just a personal preference, is that I do prefer a slightly wider base. The platform on the KD 12 is reminiscent of a foot. Nothing is overly exaggerated in terms of width under-foot. Some players like that as it allows you to move without much resistance and keeps them feeling fast and nimble. I prefer the exaggerated forefoot as it adds stability while in motion — although it does hinder mobility at times if it’s extra wide (Dame 5), but that is a tradeoff that I am willing to take as I feel it helps me maintain stability when moving around the court and around screens.

I haven’t liked playing in a KD model since the KD 9 and I like the KD 12 even more than those. Fit is solid, materials get the job done, traction is very consistent while the cushion is low and responsive. The Nike KD 12 is just an all-around good shoe that should cater to most players needs.

If you require traction above all else, the KD 12 has you covered. If you hold fit/lockdown over everything, the KD 12 has you covered. If you prefer cushion over everything — the KD 12 has you covered.

If anyone ends up buying a pair for retail, I think that they’ll feel they got their monies worth. If anyone happens to pick up a pair under retail, then I think they’ll feel that they just robbed wherever they bought them from.

The only thing we need now is more colorways to choose from.

16 Comments

  1. Great review as usual. Thank you NW and the whole WT team for continuing to put out quality content with insight.

  2. “The only thing we need now is more colorways to choose from.” And solid rubber outsole, please.

  3. Excellent review. In-depth, concise, and detailed.

    However, I, and probably many other people new to your site, think referencing a different shoe review to explain a concept can be a bit vague. I’d appreciate it if you would insert the hyperlink; that way we’d be able to just click it, lookup the reference, and then go back to reading the rest of the original review rather than go through the process of searching the website and then backtracking.

    Again, excellent review(s) overall. Just a little change I think would improve and clarify your personalized reviews.

    1. That was actually a great suggestion Sam. I’m glad to see that it was well received by NW. This site just keeps getting better.

  4. Great review as always, Chris. You’ve long been the most trusted reviewer on the web for many of us. It’s been fun to watch you and the site evolve.

    Your review solidified the KD 12 as a future purchase for me, but I’m terrified about melting the outsoles. At this point in my life I’m only playing once a week and on a really nice outdoor court down the street from my house, but in about 25 hours of play I’ve absolutely annhilated the outsoles of my WhyNot0.2’s: I can already see the zoom bag on one of them! Did the KD traction seem more durable than the WN0.2? If not, then what’s your best all around, outdoor-safe shoe so far this year? Dame 5?

    1. Thank you, I appreciate it! The Why Not Zer0.2 does feature a soft rubber outsole, but they’re also thin due to the Unlocked setup. The KD 12 is nothing like it so you should be okay. Fraying of the nubs might be the biggest issue you run into with the KD’s.

      1. That’s exactly what I was thinking re: the Zer0.2. The combination of soft compound and unlocked zoom just didn’t leave enough rubber to last for more than a few weeks of outdoor play. After the third time playing in them I could already feel the zoom bag compressing if I pressed against it through the outsole; it was only a matter of time before they melted.

        If you’re interested in seeing a picture of the carnage, look at Post #2397 here:
        https://niketalk.com/threads/new-westbrook-signature-shoe-pic.667718/page-96

        My local HOH manager was kind enough to let me exchange them yesterday for the KD 12’s. As great as the Zer0.2’s were to play in, the KD’s feel even better on foot. Even walking around the house, I can feel the zoom moving back and forth underneath my feet. The only thing I can compare the sensation to, if you remember it, is the original Answer I DMX. I remember sitting in class in high school just shifting my weight back and forth on the balls of my feet so that I could feel the air moving. LOL

  5. I think another reason why price is a bit more of a prevalent topic on this shoe is because of KD himself.

    Had this been a Kobe, more people would be more willing to bite the bullet at $150 off the bat. Player popularity can really led to (irrational?) purchasing decisions. We see this happen with the Dame line, although aesthetic and inevitable Adidas Tent Sale also holds consumers back.

    Another factor for me is the direction of the line. Held off of the KD12 because the recent past KD’s always have that long fit — which is within reason given his feet, his shoes. I can blindly get a Kobe and Kyrie on day one (no pun intended), because there’s a strong possibility those still follow the same signature blueprints that I like.

    Maybe that red pair will be a day one purchase. The reviews that have been out have also given another positive sign: there’s no real fault with the shoe (no bags popping, and fit is serviceable enough).

  6. Thanks a lottt Nightwing and Weartester! Excellent review as always! i’ve been following your advise and buy 2 shoes so far 🙂
    a question though, i have a wide front feet. is it really impossible to wear this KD12? because i had a KD6, it hurts and scratches on the outside of my pinkie finger

    1. The material on the KD12s are much softer than the KD6. I would suggest you try them on. But I think you should be fine.

  7. great review as usual.

    sending them back. they’re quite stiff. the hard plastic toe and the entire length of the base is just too hard.

    Currently play in JCrossover 3’s and/or Crazy Explosive lows.

    May try ANTA KT4 lows. Anything else you may recommend that comes closest to those?

    Many thanks!

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