Sneakers have come a long way from being an overlooked subculture. These days, we’ve got runners, retros, and even designer models competing for space in what used to be a much smaller market. No matter your taste, you can’t love sneakers without respecting the shoe that started it all – the Air Jordan 1. The basketball sneaker has transcended over three decades now, and although it still looks as hot as ever, the shoe is not the top-shelf performer it was back 1985.
Looking to bring that iconic shoe to the present day, Jordan Brand presents us with the new Air Jordan XXXI – boasting a heritage-inspired silhouette with the basketball tech of 2016. As a basketball sneaker fiend and a personal fan of the Jordan 1, I had to take the Jordan XXXI for a spin.
I’ll be honest- when I first heard the Jordan 31 had a Flyweave upper that somehow faded into synthetic leather, I thought they just were trying to give the shoe a trendy haircut more than providing performance. Lucky for us, the blend of materials feels great.
The Flyweave in the forefoot feels better than what we’ve seen on the XX9 and XXX. It really has has no stretch, offering great support when you’re changing direction, but still maintains plenty of fluidity in the forefoot. A smooth synthetic leather wraps the heel and it feels great, offering more structured lockdown that blends seamlessly with the woven up front.
The upper of the Jordan XXI is lined by a neoprene boot and anatomical pillows around the ankle collar, keeping the basketball sneaker cozy. Cushioning is provided by full-length Zoom Air, activated by a Flightspeed plate. This Flightspeed technology helps further compress the air bag, resulting in a more responsive bounce under foot.
Initially, I was a little underwhelmed by the cushioning. In fact, I thought the Flightspeed felt a little stiff, while also being less responsive than previous iterations. Although the materials on the upper required no break-in, I soon realized the midsole needed a little quality time to warm up to me. After walking around in the Jordan XXXI for a couple of days, I felt the Flightspeed soften up.
The result was a setup that felt incredibly smooth, great on court but still comfortable enough to spend your whole day in. The shoe reminds me a lot of the original Nike HyperRev, as the ride just feels so great in motion that it can be worn casually.
Although the $185 tag might put the Jordan XXXI at the pricier end of the spectrum, it should be noted that the Jumpman kept quality up while pricing it lower than its predecessors.
As a shorter guy that spends most of my game on the floor, I get stepped on. A lot. Even without any fused materials to support the Flyweave wrapped around the forefoot of the shoe, I saw no excessive wear or tear. The dense weave showed to be durable enough to keep up with indoor and outdoor play.
Traction is provided by a translucent rubber outsole. While the grip works both indoors and out as well, the rubber looks to have a shorter lifespan on the asphalt. This is completely functional however as softer rubbers can be your best friend on clean courts, but the properties might be something to keep in mind depending what you plan on doing in the Jordan XXXI.
Looking to embody the Air Jordan 1 with off-court appeal and on-court tech, the Jordan XXXI does a nice job of bringing these concepts to 2016. Flightspeed is low profile, but comfy enough to make into your lazy Sunday rotation. The materials are functional and modern while cleverly paying homage to heritage.
The Air Jordan 1 will always be the timeless grail I have championed since I was a wee internet sneaker noob, and I’m often be the first one to shoo away any attempts to alter or update my beloved. With that said, the Jordan XXXI is a beast in its own right- especially under the hood.
If you go true to size and let the cushion break in, the sneaker might have you jumping from the free throw line before you even change out of your jeans.
If you’re a hooper looking for something smooth both on and off the court, the Jordan XXXI can offer an easy transition between breaking necks and breaking ankles.