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Nike LeBron 15 Performance Review

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After weeks of testing, the Nike LeBron 15 Performance Review is here. 

You Can Find the Nike LeBron 15 Available Now at Eastbay.com

nike lebron 15 performance review traction

Traction was solid for the most part. You can feel the triangle pattern bite and grip the court really well from a linear standpoint. Unfortunately, laterally I can’t say the same. The way the pattern is implemented seems to be straight across the surface. If some portions of the pattern were turned a bit I feel lateral coverage would’ve had that same bite that it offers linearly.

While I did play in a pair (for a very short time) that featured clear soles, the court I had played on was one of the most pristine surfaces I’ve had the pleasure of encountering. To be safe, rather than sorry, I’d opt for solid rubber. I know there are some killer colorways releasing that use translucent rubber that will be more enticing than some of the offerings that use solid rubber, but (there’s always a but) just keep in mind that if my pair with solid rubber didn’t offer as much bite laterally as it could have, imagine what it’d be like on a “normal” surface and the translucent rubber outsole.

I would not recommend playing in the LeBron 15 outdoors. Exposed Air units almost always pop once the outsole grinds down to the cushion’s surface and the rubber used here is soft, so it’ll likely happen sooner rather than later.

nike lebron 15 performance review cushion

Beast mode! If you’re a cushion-above-all-else type of player then you’ll love these. The bounce and feedback felt from the Zoom units is incredible. This isn’t the first time this type of cushion has been utilized in a LeBron model (the last time was the LeBron 10) but articulation is present this time around so overall mobility has greatly increased.

Is the setup perfect? While it’s as close as it’s ever been, it still has some issues. Lateral stability — while a bit better than the LBJ10 due to wrapping the front portion of the Air unit in Phylon — could benefit from the implementation of an actual outrigger. I’m not sure why there isn’t a true outrigger on a shoe that rides on a platform made of Air, but that’s what we’ve got to work with here.

If you’re a linear player, like LeBron, then you shouldn’t have many issues with stability and support. However, if you move laterally often then you’ll likely feel the instability and it’ll hinder your on court performance. It caused me to hesitate instead of moving as I normally would around the court.

I believe the tooling could be the cause of LeBron’s recent ankle issues. While he usually sprints from one end of the floor to the other, there are times when he’ll move laterally. The tippy nature of the LeBron 15s tooling will be loud and clear when someone moves laterally in them — and you can see LeBron’s body jerk a bit to recover.

A wider setup or a larger outrigger could likely resolve the issues I’ve been experiencing. I hope we see something on the LeBron 16 that adds lateral stability while retaining all of the awesomeness that is Max Zoom Air.

nike lebron 15 performance review materials

Battleknit is used here (aka really thick Flyknit) and it feels awesome on-foot. If you were unimpressed with the stiff upper used on the LeBron 13 and the cheap but soft materials used on the LeBron 14, you may find that the material choice on the LeBron 15 offers a happy balance between the two.

Some areas of the knit are thicker than others while high wear areas are glued a bit for durability. Once on-foot I felt comfortable and secure, and if you’ve worn Flyknit hoop shoes before you’ll feel the evolution throughout the years.

nike lebron 15 performance review fit

I went down half size from my true size in the LeBron 15 due to the materials and build of the upper. One piece uppers can be tricky to get just right and I’d rather have them be a little snug than a bit too loose — especially with the tooling setup the way it is. Trying them on in-store is the best option, and make sure to bring your brace or orthotics with you to ensure everything works.

Lockdown was surprisingly nice from heel to toe. While the lacing structure relies solely on Flywire, it did its job rather well. The top “eyelet” or Flywire cable draws the heel into the rear section of the shoe nicely while additional heel padding takes care of the rest.

Once you’re in the LeBron 15 and laced up, especially if you opt for going down half size, you’ll be locked in and ready to go.

nike lebron 15 performance review support

Support in the LeBron 15 is a bit lackluster due to the tooling setup. Traditional support features like a torsional midfoot shank and TPU heel counter are all in place and work well. Hwoever, the midsole and outsole lack a wide enough base and it really hurt the lateral stability and overall support. Again, if you’re a linear player then you should be fine. If you move around laterally then you may have the same experience I had in them.

nike lebron 15 performance review overall

I love pieces of the LeBron 15. Materials and fit are highlights, and the cushion is the best Nike has offered in years. Stability made them a bit concerning for me while on the floor and I never ended up feeling as comfortable as I wanted to be.

If you’re willing to sacrifice lateral stability in lieu of cushion then you’ll enjoy the LeBron 15 immensely. If you’re a low profile player that roams the floor and curls off screens to get an open look at the basket then you may want something a bit different.

nike lebron 15 performance review score

  1. Great review! Thanks for your websites continued contribution to review all these shoes.

    Could you perhaps sometime clarify your terminology (maybe a list on website with links to them in text)? Most of the time I think it becomes clear in the context of the text, but as a non native speaker I struggle sometimes with words like linear and lateral. I expect the counterpart of linear to be rotational, or non-linear. I guess linear to you means forward backward? I also learned the word tooling on this website, which I have taken to mean all from the sole down, is this correct?

    Hopefully I haven’t missed it if the explanations are already there!

    Thanks again,

      1. Thanks! Sorry for the late reply, I was away for work! I enjoy getting some technical language for these reviews, would be great if there was an article solely about the test specifics of weartesters, what they look at and how they call it!

    1. I was like you when I started to read NW’s reviews a while ago. You will learn a lot about those words here bro, I’m from Mexico and didn’t knew a lot of those tech specs before finding Weartesters (well, Kicks on Court back in the day) and thanks to them I really got the best of the sneaker world according to my needs.

    2. May I please ask whether or not all Lebron 15’s have air pockets, because I have a pair that is sealed without the Air-Max bit, so I’m not sure whether it is recommended I play outdoors.

    3. May I please ask whether or not all Lebron 15’s have air pockets because I have a pair that is sealed without the Air-Max bit, so I’m not sure whether it is recommended I play outdoors.

  2. Thanks for the review, a good one, just always.
    About the shoe: it’s a little disappointing that such a well cushioned shoe doesn’t feature a massive outrigger and has lackluster support in general. I’m a post player so I love cushion but NEED stability and support. I guess I’ll have to pass on these bad boys. 🙁

    1. You might try them. They’re not like the Soldier 9s, which are my gold standard for stability and support, but I haven’t been disappointed. 30 day returns with Nike, amiright?

  3. As a big man (6’7″), I concur with just about everything Nightwing had to say. A few notes for bigs in this shoe:

    – Traction was quite good, but as Nightwing noted, I’m not a very lateral player. I did slip once in these shoes moving laterally, but I also hadn’t wiped the things down once in the 15 hours of hoops up to that point. I do wonder about how quickly the traction will wear, as such a small surface area actually touches the floor on each of those triangles. Something to watch out for long term.
    – Cushion was remarkable. Absolutely Hall of Fame. I’m 37, and at this point, avoiding post-hoops soreness is a big part of my evaluation of any shoe. The LeBron 15s lessened the impact on my joints immensely from a pain perspective in the hours after my morning sessions. I don’t mind riding high, especially when it means I never fear giving full extension while protecting the paint. It changed how I played, and for the better.
    – Materials were excellent. I have the KD9 Elites, and the FlyKnit failed to keep my foot secure over the base of the shoe several times. Killed the shoe for me. The LeBrons have done FlyKnit right. Don’t care what they call it. It was effective in function, and looks and feels awesome.
    – Fit is my one beef. I wear 16s. No option to drop a half size. That means that, like the LeBron 13s for me, there’s a bit much space between my toes and the top of the shoe, as well as in the toe box. Fixed this by doubling up on socks (reminds me of 90s high school wearing 2 pairs of Thorlos. Anyone else?). The shoe is unique enough that doubling up on socks is worth it, something I normally would not do.
    – Support was better than expected. I don’t like low tops most of the time. The LeBron 15 does play a bit like a low top, but unlike most, I felt plenty secure with the laces and tech on the shoe. It’s not Hall of Fame support, but I felt more “starting 5” than “6th man”.

    Great review, Nightwing. Excited to see what your resident big man thinks.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. I do feel like there is a definitive lack of big guys who weartest basketball shoes and sometimes I feel like I myself should close that gap and start reviewing them.

      A couple of questions though: how well do you feel like your heel is secured in this shoe?
      Did you have the feeling that your foot moved sideways while boxing out/battling for position in the paint?
      Is there any shoe out there that you would compare the support to?

    2. I do not believe this comment for one second. I smell bullshit coming from Nike inc. It is pretty well known that they have their crew running around to different sites, especially those that are not bought and sold by nike, in an attempt to thwart bad reviews. They even got Steve Miulholland to get back on Sole Collector. So in that comment above, I am calling BULLSHIT.

      1. I responded below, but I would point out that it’s possible to love a shoe and not be a Nike shill. I dig the 15s. And I think Nightwing did too, even though they’re not a shoe for his style of play.

        1. Even more bullshit. As stated by JIM below, LeBron has gone back to the soldier model. So if this shoe was as supportive with enhanced lock down in spite of them being a knit shoe, the sig bearer would be wearing it. It is a good looking shoe, no doubt But for those of us who need support, a serious GROUND UP SHOE, ala LeBron, perhaps Nike should consider making his shoes like they did with the II and III. Other than that, everyone knows that LeBron has had issues with his higher end sig shoes, and if this one flops, being the most expensive in the Nike sig line, Nike flops. Adidas is already kicking their ass in many areas, and their best and brightest are leaving the sinking ship, which leaves Jason Petrie, a dimwit if there ever was one. LeBron needs to surround himself with something better, because what he is currently working with in high end footwear ain’t helping his on court cause. So keep that bullshit hype talk over on Nike Talk, and let the REAL reviewers on WEARTESTERS do their thing with honesty.

          1. Disagreement is possible, especially based on experience. Remind me, when did you try the 15s? Oh, right. Well then.

            To your point about LeBron, I just grabbed some Soldier 11s on sale at the Nike store. Wore them for the first time this morning. I can see why LeBron loves them. Traction is definitely better, and support is better. I don’t move laterally as much as LeBron, so I imagine the traction is a key sticking point for him. But from a soreness perspective, the cushion makes a huge difference for me. Not that the 11s are lacking, the cushion is good. But the 15s are outstanding cushion. For me, as an older guy, I will probably use the 15s on the mornings where I am sore before I even start, and the Soldier 11s and 9s the other days.

    3. Thank you for the review. 53 years old, still playing in 3 different teams weekly, I definitely will buy these shoes when the come to Finland. And most likely two, three pairs for the coming years, because you never know what the next years models will be. 2 pairs of socks was the only cushioning all my junior years…

    4. Just a quick note: I had my first unavoidable, sprain-your-ankle-no-matter-the-shoe moments this morning. Jumping for a rebound in a crowd, I came down on someone’s foot. One of those inversion sprains that hurts badly immediately. Broke my foot on a similar play in high school.

      The shoe gave me some good support. Didn’t have my foot leave the platform of the shoe, despite the high pressure and rather extreme angle my foot was in comparison to my ankle. If that had happened, probably would have been much more serious. As it was, 30 seconds after the sprain, I was running around with a bit of pain, and played about 25 minutes more before we finished for the morning.

      Still, I imagine I will swell up a bit. Might wear a brace for a couple of days while I play. But overall, I think the shoe did its job well in protecting me.

  4. NO! its Battleknit…kidding. If the Lebron 15 lows becomes a shoe with less articulated zoom for a lower profile…we just hit the ultimate lateral shoe for a guard aha.

  5. Thanks, PACMAN84. Great Questions.

    1. Heel security: It’s a slightly more loose feel than I expected while slipping the shoe on. That freaked me out, because I lasted about one game in the Soldier 10s before returning them. My heel went everywhere in that shoe. But on the 15s, if you tie those laces up tight, I found my heel felt much more secure than the Soldier 10s, and much better than KD9s. Even so, it was in the back of my mind the first day playing with the shoe. “If I push off to sprint or jump and come down off balance, will I slip off the base like I did in the KD9s?” It never happened. Now, I don’t think about it too much.

    2. Sideways foot movement battling for boards / position only happened once. I was off balance reaching for a rebound, stepped awkwardly, and expected to fall. But the Battleknit held really well, despite my full weight pressing on the lateral side of the shoe. I felt a slight movement of my foot, but was flat out impressed by the materials, which managed to catch my foot, keep it over the base, and probably save an ankle sprain that would have come in other flyknit shoes materials. I caught my balance, and started trusting the shoe far more. That moment was also the moment I decided I should keep the shoes.

    3. Support comparison – It feels a little bit like the 2016 Crazy Explosive. I love that shoe, but it doesn’t lock me quite as tight as I would prefer. The LeBron 15 has a very similar feel, but the laces give me more confidence in the support on the 15s, since there’s not a traditional tongue, and you get a pretty good idea of how well the laces hold your foot and ankle in place.

      1. Appreciate your skepticism. I am not a Nike employee, contractor, or anything of the sort. I did read “Shoe Dog”. And if Nike offered to pay me for online reviews, I would take it.

        I am a shoe addict of sorts since I started playing 4-6 times a week a year or so ago. I stumbled on weartesters when I was deciding on something besides Kyrie 2s. My shoes before Kyrie 2s were so old, I had no idea how poor the cushion was for a big. (I was wearing some Jordan Team 2s i bought at Nordstrom rack. Heavy!)

        I got addicted. I figured out I could I fuel my addiction on the cheap by buying from Ross, where they have size 16s I can try on in store. I often watch Nightwing and / or Duke’ s review in store before I buy. If you see my shoe list below, most of them are 18 months or older because that’s when they arrive at Ross.

        The LeBron 15s are the most expensive shoe I have ever purchased, with KD9 Elites the 2nd most expensive, and I regret every single day not taking those KD9s back in the return window and getting something else. Besides the Kyries, LeBron 15, and KD9 Elite, all of these were from Ross.

        My shoes:
        2x Soldier 9s
        1x CE 2016
        2x Kyrie 2s (shelved)
        1x LeBron 13
        1x DRose 7
        1x KD9 Elite
        1x Kobe 11 EMI
        1x CP3 (shelved, not very comfortable)
        1x KD Trey5 (shelved, too narrow)

        1. Interesting how everybody perceives shoes differently.
          Yesterday I dug out my old Soldier 9s and when I started to play they felt pretty unstable compared to the D Rose 6. I have to say, both cushion and stability-wise, the D Rose 6 beat pretty much any other shoe out there, in my opinion.

          1. I would love the DRose 6, except they’re too narrow to me. DRose 7 the same. A quarter inch more room would have done the trick, and the cushion almost makes it worth the discomfort.

            And I can see the support being amazing. My heel did feel pretty locked in.

          2. I had the same issue with the Soldier 9 and Rose 5. I got the nikes first and liked them a lot, then got the Rose and stoped using the Soldiers for balling, just took them for casual use (I have the prm blue/grey colorway) but when I tried to play in them again, they felt too high and unstable compared to the Rose 6.

        2. What part of the country you from. Love hearing from big men. Should have my review up as a big man in the Lebron 15 and your input is awesome.

          1. Thanks, man. I live in a suburb of Salt Lake City. One of the best parts of being Mormon in Utah, or even just a baller in Utah: Mormon Churches about every 6 or 7 blocks, and most of them have full high school size courts. Find the right group of guys, and you can run yourself ragged playing ball all the time.

  6. I wouldn’t call myself big in terms of height but my height and play style seems to suggest that I could manage to do post plays. I’m wide bodied and been having weight issues running around 200 lbs which is about 40 lbs over my recommended weight. so cushion for me is a top priority. the Lebron 15s are a marvel to wear for heavy players especially with some limited set of moves and slow movements. traction really is not much of a concern but instability would be something to think about especially with quickness and lateral movements, although lockdown is good. anyways, if there was one thing the Lebron 15 could have been inorder to offset the possible instability concern, they could have made the ankle region more supportive, whether by adding a beautifully designed strap (not the ugly cheapish design on the soldiers and previous Lebrons) or made the Lebron 15’s ankle areas’ supportive hard region sit higher or did something similar like on the Jordan 32s ankle wraps.

    for me personally, despite loving the Lebron 15’s cushion and soft upper, I felt the Jordan 32s better for performance due to the added ankle support and lateral outrigger for security. traction, both seem to have concerns or issues for lateral movements, the Jordan 32s (especially the red mid tops) have a slide/stop jitter on them on dusty courts and the Lebron 15s have a less than ideal traction laterally.
    Cushion, the Lebron 15 has a slightly better comfort and bounce especially on the heel area. but the Jordan 32 is not that far-off. the shoe is comfortable as good as keeping your knees fresh just like the Lebron 15s despite not riding as high as the latter. on the otherhand, the unlocked zoom on the Jordan 32’s forefoot does give you the comfort and quick response that seems to be lacking on the Lebron 15s.

    break-in time is not necessary on the Lebron 15 but the Jordan 32’s (for some people) needed a bit of it for optimal performance. for me, it only took about a game to make them feel really good. for some it might be longer, but then I’m a 200 pounder so that might have played a role on how long the shoe would break-in.

  7. This will probably be the first Nike ball shoe I’ve bought in years. The cushion just sounds too good. I’ve always wanted a super-articulated exposed zoom unit in a shoe, and this fits the bill. The KDs don’t fit my wide foot, but Lebrons should. I’ll just get it a year from now, though, because all Lebrons go to the outlets and there is no way I’m paying that much for a shoe.

    Sounds like this would’ve really benefited from an outrigger, or a rubber piece that goes up the lateral side of the shoe like adidas does in all their boost shoes. Having both could take care of the tipping issue.

  8. Lebron’s been known for not wearing his signature sneakers and prefer wearing soldiers. so I’m not surprised he does that. on the otherhand, I did saw him rolling his ankle on these. but seems to be fine afterwards except for the initial dramatics that he does.

  9. I’ve never had a sizing issue on any Nike shoe in my entire life until the Lebron 15.

    Nike completely blew the sizing on this shoe. For that reason alone I’m going to have to skip it and I’m pissed because when I tried these on the cushion is BANANAS and that’s what I want out of a shoe- cushion that is straight BANANAS!

    I tried an 11 and an 11.5. The 11 was too narrow and crushed my little toe. The 11.5 was too long.

    This has never happened to me before in 20 years of wearing Nikes. I can’t purchase these.

    What a bummer!

  10. I feel like the solution to fit and support would’ve been for a truly dynamic cable system like what Adidas does with the Crazy Explosive. That shoe effectively lets a loose upper work independent of the lacing+support system.

    It’s still weird to me that Nike comes up with Flywire, touts how strong it is, and then bonds it to the upper as a fixed reinforcement measure more often than not.

  11. Can i use it for outdoor?
    I m looking for an outdoor shoe…… with good traction and cushion, not too bulky and mid-low top. … any suggestion

  12. The cushion is the GOAT. I’m 6’3″ 220 and it feels like I’m running on bouncy pillows. Definitely takes a lot of stress of knees, joints and feet. I’m coming from the Curry 1 and the difference b/w this and the Charged cushioning is night and day.

    The 15s can be a little wobbly on lateral movements if you don’t lace up really snug. The problem seems to go away when I pull the laces (particularly the top flywire piece) really tight. I wish there was a little padding under the laces, so that it wouldn’t dig into my foot.

    Otherwise, these shoes are lovely. Before I bought them, I was skeptical about the ankle support, but haven’t had any problems so far. Just make sure you lace up really right. It’ll alleviate a lot of the concerns.

  13. Great review nightwing as usual! My experience with the 15’s have been similar. I’ve had my pair of ashes for a month now and been hooping in them at least 3 times a week. First week, I thought the shoe was doo doo. They were comfy and stylish but other than that I didn’t like anything else about it when I played in them. After a couple weeks, it starts to break in a bit. Now, after a month, here are my opinions. Traction is now very respectable. Even lateral traction gets improved a bit. Compared to when I first got them, the traction went from bench status to all star status. The rubber seems to need some breaking in. Also, cushioning only gets better with each wear. Your foot kind of gets molded with the insole and as a result, gives a snug 1 to 1 fit. I also found that wearing ankle braces (I wear the ASO ankle brace) makes the shoe perform much, much better. For some reason, the lateral protection you get from the ankle braces help the shoe on quick lateral movements. Nightwing mentions that he had a little hesitation on quick lateral moves or stops. With ankle braces, the hesitation was gone. So if you’re hoopin in the 15’s and still feel a little hesitant with lateral/quick movements, try slipping on an ankle brace. Overall, the best Lebron sig i’ve personally played in.

    1. Can’t believe I didn’t see this earlier, but very interesting input. I have 2 ASO braces. I will give them a try with the shoe next week. Thanks for the thought.

  14. Great reviews! Thinking about buying the black/gum cw but I saw several review on youtube say the cushion is diiferent. There is no max air in the forefoot. Anyone got a pair and notice the different?

  15. I’m quite a small guy at only 6 foot and 132 pounds, I’m thinking if buying the 15s as I’m quite an explosive player that exerts a high amount of pressure whilst moving, especially linearly and whilst doing layups and dunks I land heavily on my midfoot. Would I feel any impact protection or responsive? And also how durable is it for casual wear as I might buy two pairs or just double up one, thanks.

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