The Nike LeBron Soldier 11 performance review is here. How do they stack up to last year’s Soldier 10? Only one way to find out.
You can find the Nike LeBron Soldier 11 now at Eastbay.com
Traction – One of the easiest things to get right on a shoe, yet so many seem to get it wrong. While the traction on the Nike LeBron Soldier 11 isn’t bad, it isn’t as good as it should be. It was only bad in one single spot under the ball of the foot. For whatever reason, when I’d plant in that section while changing direction or curling around a screen I’d slip a bit, causing a delay in my movement, which in turn caused me to second guess even making the same move again.
The little slip LBJ had under the ball of his foot is exactly what I keep experiencing in the Soldier 11s. I do not feel the translucent rubber is to blame otherwise I feel the entire outsole would be pretty trash, which it’s not. It’s just that one section where the pattern fails. This is on an NBA floor. Imagine playing on your average court with the same issue. Causes just enough slip to cause hesitation and makes me not trust the shoe completely — overthinking things and such. Otherwise I feel the Soldier 11 is leaps and bounds greater than the Soldier 10. #nightwingknows #weartesters
Initially, I thought it was just that I was too light on my feet, but then I witnessed LeBron slip in the same exact manner I would while he made a move in the Finals. It isn’t a complete slip, it’s more like a very small slip. However, its enough to make you go “whoa, that was a close one” while it happens to you during gameplay.
Will playing in a solid rubber-soled version of the shoe change the performance? I’m not sure. Surprisingly enough, the translucent outsole on the Soldier 11 performed well overall. It was just that single spot on the outsole that wasn’t that great. This might be a case where the pattern has failed in that area rather than blaming it solely on the rubber compound this time around.
Cushion – This is the same cushion setup as last year’s Soldier 10 but the Zoom Air units are implemented much better this time around. The Phylon is still really lightweight and fairly unforgiving, as it was on the Soldier 10, but the Zoom units protrude from the outsole a bit which makes them feel more lively underfoot. You won’t feel a super bouncy sensation but you’ll feel the units compress a bit more than last season’s model.
You can also see from the image above (courtesy of FastPass) that the Zoom Air isn’t packed into place this year; there is some space between the foam carrier and the Zoom bags themselves. This allows them to compress and move a bit more, furthering the traditional Zoom Air feeling that most shoes lack today.
Size wise, the Zoom Air units are pretty damn big (8mm thick in the forefoot and 14mm thick in the heel) which means impact protection is solid overall. In terms of player type, this setup is versatile enough for every player. There is enough court feel for smaller quicker players and plenty of impact protection for larger players. As a smaller guy myself, this year’s Soldier 11 was much more enjoyable from a cushion standpoint than the Soldier 10.
Materials – There are two versions of the Nike LeBron Soldier 11, each coming in at a different price point. If you wanted to keep the price as reasonable as possible then this $130 version of the shoe will do the trick. It features a one-piece mesh build with a ballistic nylon mudguard. This offers the feeling of wearing a knit/woven upper but with a bit more strength.
The premium version of the Soldier 11 replaces the ballistic nylon with a more luxurious nubuck mudguard. This gives a similar feel but adds a little more weight to the equation. However, it’s a great blend of new and old. Leathers and nubucks are used less and less as time goes on so its nice to see a shoe successfully integrate this type of material while keeping the overall build modern. Unfortunately, this premium offering will cost you $10 more because that build retails for $140. Sales and markdowns are a staple in today’s market, thankfully, so if you’re patient enough then you’ll be able to grab the premium version (if that is the one you’d prefer) for less than retail soon enough.
Both options are durable so I wouldn’t let that be a factor in your decision making. The main difference between the two options, other than their price, will be weight. Nylon is the lighter of the two. Personally, weight isn’t a huge issue so either one would work just fine.
Fit – The LeBron Soldier 11 fits true to size. Yes, the one piece build is back, and the shoes are a little hard to get on, but they’re not as difficult as the Soldier 10 — and they fit a bit more securely. Removing the three large straps and replacing them with four smaller straps allows you to isolate each section of the shoe a bit better so you can tighten the upper up where you need. I needed to tighten them up mostly in the forefoot area as they have a bit of volume above the toe. The forefoot strap helped lock down my foot so I was happy it was there, and once the materials are broke in a bit things started to feel secure.
Wide footers, you’ll want to try the shoe on before buying. Unfortunately, one piece builds are not exactly a one size fits all type of thing.
Lockdown on the shoe was good. Better than the Soldier 10 good? Yes. I never ran into issues with the Soldier 10s upper containment, but as stated above, the isolation of each section of the upper from the four straps really worked better than last year’s version.
Support – Another area that has been slightly modified and improved upon since the Soldier 10 is the support. The platform on which the Soldier 11 sits is much nicer because it’s wider than the last model — something that was definitely needed because those protruding Zoom units feel a little wobbly underfoot when you first take them for a spin.
Something I found interesting is that the shoe offers the traditional forefoot outrigger in addition to a midfoot outrigger. With the outsole shaped similarly to an actual foot, coupled with wobbly Zoom units underneath, this additional outrigger helped keep me stable while in motion. Additionally, the midsole sculpt of the Soldier 11 is much better than that of the Soldier 10. The heel and forefoot areas wrap up onto the foot ensuring you remain on top of the footbed; this also diminishes the risk of your foot rolling over the footbed. I wish this was implemented much more than it is in performance basketball footwear.
Basic support features are in place as well. A torsional V-plate at the midfoot is embedded within the midsole at the midfoot and there is a rubber external heel counter for added support at the heel.
Is the shoe’s fit supportive enough without laces being involved? Yes, at least for me. Heavier players might require a bit more for this area but LeBron is a pretty big guy and the straps and overall fit seemed to work for him nicely.
Overall – The Nike LeBron Soldier 11 is a much better shoe than the Soldier 10, overall. While traction could still use a little bit of work, the cushion is immensely better than the last go-around. Suitable for every position on the floor, the LeBron Soldier line has shifted from LBJ’s playoff model of choice to LBJ’s version of the Hyperdunk within his own line of branded footwear.
It’s remarkable that designers were able to create a shoe supportive enough for LeBron yet have it weigh just 13 ounces. That is lighter than most current guard shoes — and lighter than last year’s Soldier 10, while improving upon the fit and support. If the hiccup in the traction is improved with solid rubber versions of the model then I can see these being a great option for players than want a little bit of everything with their on-court shoes. Although, this would probably be a non-issue had Nike just gone simple and used herringbone.
If you were considering grabbing a pair of the Nike LeBron Soldier 11 for your upcoming season or rec league, I hope this performance review helps. We appreciate you tuning in.
Deconstructed Image of the Nike LeBron Soldier 11 via FastPass.cn