Elite = Upgrade?
Today we’re going to be doing a performance review on the Kevin Durant’s latest signature model, the Nike KD 9 Elite. This model re-works the Flyknit upper but also brings back the same cushioning (Max Zoom Air) and traction from the original KD 9’s, but is it a performance upgrade? Let’s find out…
Buy the Nike KD 9 Elite – $150
NIKE | FOOT LOCKER
FOLLOW @JAHRONMON ON TWITTER & INSTAGRAM
Traction: The overall traction experience is pretty consistent, despite this colorway using a translucent rubber outsole. It really doesn’t matter what condition the floor you play on is in because the honeycomb pattern that Nike has reused from the original KD 9 is going to keep you covered in all directions. If your floor is extremely dusty all you’ve got to do is wipe a few times and then you’re good to go.
As far as outsole durability goes, the rubber compound Nike uses isn’t very durable and the outsole started to show signs of wear after four or five hours of use. So while these won’t be your first option for outdoor ball, the KD 9 Elite’s traction is a top-tier performer in just about every other situation so if you need some consistency in your life, feel free to pick these up.
Cushion: Here’s another category where Nike didn’t change anything from the original KD 9 — and we’re perfectly okay with that. The full-length articulated Max Zoom Air setup Nike uses here is one of the most versatile cushion setups on the market today because every player of any play style can find something they like about it. Explosiveness? Check. Responsiveness? Check. Court feel? Check. Impact protection? Check. Sure, there may be other cushion setups out there that excel and surpass the KD 9 Elite in each of these categories but the KD 9 might just be the only one that provides an above average experience in all of them.
Materials: This is where the Elite version of the KD 9 starts to switch things up from its original version. Nike re-worked the Flyknit upper to make it a little more true to what we see on popular Nike running models (like the Flyknit Racer) with a more pliable and forgiving knit construction. The midfoot area is where the Flyknit material really starts to come into its own as it’s a fully breathable zone that is as true as Flyknit is going to get. However, the toebox uses a tighter knit and feels a little stiffer than the rest of the upper; but when you compare it to the toebox on the Kobe 9 Elite, the KD 9 Elite feels far superior and quite frankly, a lot more comfortable.
The heel panel also differentiates from the original KD 9’s with a neoprene sock-like construction that is honestly more of an aesthetic look than a performance feature; it’s hard to notice during use and hardly effects the overall feel of the KD 9 Elite.
Fit: At this point in the review you’re probably thinking, “Wow, the KD 9 Elite is perfect, this is just too good to be true”. Yes, it is too good to be true because this is where the KD 9 Elite starts to fall off. Listen carefully as it really is just this simple: if you don’t have a long, narrow foot like Durant himself, you’re going to have some issues with the fit. I had to go down half a size to compensate for the extremely long fit and by doing so the width became uncomfortably narrow. This forced me to loosen up the lacing, but by doing so the support and lockdown were negatively affected.
Overall, I just found the fit to be too specific and not versatile enough to cater to a wide range of foot shapes and sizes, so again, unless you’ve got KD-like feet, you may want to pass on the KD 9 elite.
Support: Because of the KD 9’s fit, I couldnn’t take advantage of the advanced and extensive lacing system that utilizes six Flywire-like cables; they couldn’t do their job properly because I couldn’t lace them up to full strength. As a result, my foot was sliding in every direction within the shoe with minimal effort and I just didn’t feel secure.
The lack of an extended lateral outrigger also caused some problems because my foot would roll over itself on hard cuts and aggressive jab steps — and since the laces weren’t tied up to full strength, my foot would slam into the front of the shoe, forcing me to manually snap my foot back into place after said movements. Had the lacing system gone a little higher in the collar area, maybe the lockdown would have been a little more secure. However, as the KD 9 Elite sits right now the support system is all show and no substance.
Overall: Fit and support are two very important categories and while the KD 9 Elite doesn’t perform well in either category, the rest of the shoe performs like a top tier on-court model. The traction, cushion and materials all bring out the best of Nike’s technology, and the KD 9 Elites best feature is that it’s a shoe that can provide high level performance for all players and play styles. We highly recommend you try these on in-store for yourself to ensure that you get the right fit. We also recommend that if you don’t feel 100% comfortable with how the KD 9 Elite fits, save your money and cop something else; there are a lot of great options out there and fit is just too important to be this much of an afterthought for the average consumer.