LI-NING Pro Competition Shoe Review
- Light and fast feel
- Low to the ground feel
- Durable for its light weight
- Minimal forefoot cushioning not for everyone
LI-NING brings its first high-end performance tennis shoe to the US market with the Pro Competition and makes a respectable debut. Right away our playtesters noticed the out-of-the-box comfort and low-profile design and feel. Once the shoes were taken to the court they continued to impress. They were comfortable and offered a low to the ground ride, with plenty of support, stability and traction. The Pro Competitions provided our playtesters with the confidence they needed to move aggressively on the court. Even with all the performance features, the shoe didn't feel hefty. With enough durability to hold up to elite level players, this shoe earns a strong position among the industry's best all-around performance shoes.
Comfort - Score: 4.2
All our playtesters agreed that the LI-NING Pro Competition was comfortable right out of the box. "With supple uppers and more than adequate cushioning, I was impressed by the comfortable ride of these shoes," offered Chris. "I was able to play in them on the first wear and found the shoes didn't really require much, if any, break-in. Once I had a few hours on them I found the fit to open up a little, but they still were snug enough for me to find a comfortable fit. My feet felt low enough to the ground to feel the court for confident movement, yet there was enough cushioning to protect my feet from the hard courts on tough landings. This was my first experience with a LI-NING shoe, and I came away impressed by the level of comfort it offered."
Once he figured out the sizing strategy that worked for him, this offering impressed Spencer as well. He said, "They run a half-size small, but once I sized up the fit was just right. A soft, pliable upper made for immediate comfort, and the comfort continued into my first hit in them."
Andy found the shoe fit him just right. "These shoes were comfortable right out of the box," he said. "They just seem to fit the foot nicely and are adequately cushioned in all the right areas. They stayed comfortable when making all different types of movements and cuts on the court. The uppers are soft, which allows for them to form fit to the foot nicely."
Jason also found the shoes to be quite comfortable out of the box, but he had some issues with the forefoot cushioning. He noted, "I thought this shoe was pretty comfortable from the initial try-on to the hours out on court. The uppers are made from this mesh and synthetic material that is really quite soft, so there is no pinching at all. The only points I docked were for the lack of cushioning in the forefoot. This is a low-to-the-ground shoe, but I still felt like there could've been a bit more padding. I had a handful of landings where the forefoot felt slappy -- kind of like how a sandal slaps the ground."
Ventilation - Score: 4.2
Not one player on our playtest team had any problems with ventilation, but some were happier than others. Jason found the shoe to have great breathability. He offered, "I had no issues here. The shoes were very breathable and allowed for noticeable ventilation. Playing in the colder winter months, I could really feel the air entering the shoe."
Spencer's feet were also living in a sea of fresh air. He said, "The upper is extremely ventilated. I never experienced any excess heat or lack of breathability."
Although the ventilation was thoroughly enjoyed by some, others had a slight issue with the plastic cage that wraps around the mesh upper. "The ventilation was adequate," said Chris. "While there is a lot of mesh on this shoe, it is covered by a durable and supportive overlay, so the breathability is somewhat limited. That being said, my feet did not get overly heated, but these weren't anything like the ultra vented adidas CC adizero Feather IIs we recently tested."
Andy shared a similar sentiment, saying, "There is sufficient use of mesh all around the upper, giving this shoe the breathability it needs. The rubber cage that wraps around the mesh does inhibit some ventilation, but it's necessary for stability. A strange thing I did find was that after play the shoe retained moisture for a while and stayed sweaty for quite a while. I know this doesn't really affect play a whole lot, but I think it's worth noting that the rubber cage traps in some moisture. With that said, I had no problems with overheating during play in these kicks."
Arch Support - Score: 3.4
Most of the team had little issue with the arch support and found the shoe to offer ample support. Spencer had nothing to worry about on court, saying, "I found the arch support to be just shy of medium but enough for me to not have to think about it."
Chris felt well supported moving all over the court. He said, "While the arch was a tad low for my medium to high arches, the support and comfort in that area was spot on. I could feel the arch more once the shoe broke in and molded to the shape of my feet, but the midfoot shank did its job of protecting my arches during aggressive court movement."
Jason's flatter feet felt the arch at first, but after breaking in the shoe he found the fit to work nicely. He explained, "I could definitely feel the arch at first. It wasn't too painful, but it was discernible. After a few wears the arch wore down and everything was fine."
Andy was the one playtester who had issues with the arch. He offered, "This is where I did have an issue with the shoe. The arch support is not abnormally high or low, but for some reason it just struck my foot in the wrong place and caused me some pain. I played in them a couple of times before I needed to take the insole out and replace it with an aftermarket one. After that the arch support was fine, but in stock form it just didn't fit my foot the way it should."
Foot Support/Stability - Score: 3.9
This shoe has a very soft upper, but most of our playtesters still found more than enough support for aggressive movements on court. Andy was pleasantly surprised with the stability he found in this style of shoe. He said, "For a shoe that feels low profile, I had more than enough support and stability moving all over the court. The rubber cage in the upper (though soft) helped on lateral cuts, and the ankle support felt good as well. I really liked the blend of a low-profile feel and the amount of stability I still got in these shoes."
Jason echoed Andy's opinion, finding more than adequate security while playing. He added, "I was a little skeptical at first because the uppers were so soft, but the shoes proved to be much more stable than I expected. I'm not saying these are Barricade-like or anything, because at times I still felt the shoe warp and give when planting. Once I had my laces cinched up tight the support was really good. My foot stayed put in the shoe and did not slide at all."
Chris found a nice secure fit, even for his narrow feet. He said, "I really liked the supportive fit of this shoe. It was not ultra stiff, but it held my feet well enough that I could play very aggressively without any fears of rolling an ankle or sliding around too much inside the shoes. The fit opened up after a few hours, but I was still able to lace them tightly enough for a very solid level of support. This was one of the few shoes where I didn't feel the need to wear two pairs of socks to find a supportive fit for my narrow feet. I liked the amount of flex the shoes offered and found them to be stable enough while also feeling very fast."
Spencer had a slight issue with the uppers being too soft, as he found his foot sliding around a bit in the shoe, which affected his stability. He thought, "I never experienced anything close to a roll-over or instability, but the soft uppers didn't hold my feet as secure as I would prefer. When I ran forward and had to come to an abrupt stop my toes would jam into the front of the shoe. I also found a similar experience when planting laterally. My feet felt like they were moving inside the shoe, getting 'smashed' against the lateral sides of the shoes. This became more apparent the longer the test went, as the upper loosened up a bit the more I played in them."
Overall Sole Durability - Score: 3.9
The outsole of the Pro Competition held up just fine during the duration of our playtest. Jason found a normal amount of wear, as he said, "The pavTRAC material held up well throughout the playtest. I was about 8-10 hours into the playtest before I started noticing wear and tear. There was nothing out of the ordinary as far as my wear pattern goes; the first areas to go were the medial forefoot and heel."
Chris' initial concern about the outsole was quickly put to ease. He said, "I saw some wear early on that had me worried about the durability of these shoes, but they ended up lasting way better than I expected. I wore these shoes a lot since I really enjoyed playing in them, and they lasted the entire test. I found the durability to be better than the Nike Zoom Vapor 9 Tours and on par with the adidas adizero Feather IIs -- both of which offer a light and fast feel similar to the Pro Competition."
Andy reiterated everyone's feelings about durability. He reported, "After our playtest these shoes showed a normal amount of wear. They don't have extraordinary durability, but they don't lack it, either. All the wear was in the area where I put the most stress, under my big toe. The rubber cage upper also held up to all the sliding I do on the medial side on my shoe."
Rounding out the group's approval was Spencer, who said, "I was happy with the amount of durability this shoe had. I'm not an abuser when it comes to wearing out my shoes, but the shoes showed no signs of premature wear."
Toe Durability - Score: 3.3
Chris was our sole toe dragger in this test, and he managed to test the toe to its fullest. He said, "The upper material around the toe showed plenty of wear. Again, I thought I was going to blow through it, but just like the outsole it managed to hang in there for the duration of the test. It is tough to say where I'm going to go through these shoes first, the outsole or the toe, as both seem to be wearing equally. While these are not as durable in the toe as any Barricade (pick a number 1-7) or something like the Air Court Ballistec 3.3/4.3, they held up just well enough for me."
Traction - Score: 4.0
For the most part, our playtesters liked the level of traction they received from these shoes. Spencer liked the nice blend of not too little but not too much, saying, "The tack on the outsole had a nice balance of stick and give. They weren't so sticky that they would catch on the court or so slick that they would give or slide at the wrong times. These were reliable when changing directions."
Chris had virtually the same opinion. He said, "I liked the level of grip and give from these shoes. I was able to sprint around the court and find enough hook-up from the outsoles on fast starts. When coming to a stop the shoes offered some nice give, which allowed me to stop without fear of rolling an ankle. In other words, I could slide just enough on an aggressive stop to come to a controlled stop, rather than an abrupt stop caused by too much traction."
Only a legendary Chris Edwards drop shot could shake Jason's confidence in the traction of these shoes. Jason offered, "I'm impressed. The modified herringbone tread pattern provided plenty of traction on the TW hard court. Every movement was met with solid footing. I can only recall one time when I tried to go after one of Chris' drop shots and the left shoe slipped a little. Other than that one incident the shoes were great."
Andy was our one playtester who had a bit of trouble with the traction and had some slipping issues when making aggressive moves. He said, "Though the outsole is said to possess an anti-slip compound, I still found some slipping issues in these shoes. Even on our very sticky and course hard court here at TW I found myself slipping when trying to accelerate quickly or making a hard cut back to the middle of the court. The traction wasn't awful, but I had a little more slippage than I normally do."
Weight - Score: 4.1
Even though these shoes wouldn't be considered incredibly lightweight at 15.7 ounces (size 10.5), our team felt they played lighter than they actually were. Andy felt the design of the shoe helped hide any heft the shoe possessed. He offered, "These shoes don't weigh in as one of the lightest shoes we have, but the weight is fairly hidden in the low-profile design. By no means do these shoes feel heavy on court. On the contrary, they are very natural feeling and gave me the illusion of being light and fast."
Jason echoed this sentiment, saying, "For a shoe that weighs in at 15.7 ounces these Pro Competition shoes felt fairly lightweight. The low-to-the-ground feel definitely helped with that."
Chris also thought the shoe felt lighter than it actually was and liked how the weight the shoe did have added to support and stability. He said, "These shoes felt very fast on the court. I thought the weight that was there was the result of a great blend of support, stability and enough flex and feel to allow the shoes to move with my feet. The result was that whatever weight the shoes have was relatively hidden by the feel and performance. Combined with the traction, I felt like I was moving very well in them. I feel this shoe is up there with other shoes that offer a solid blend of speed and support, such as the adiZero Feather IIs and the Asics Gel Resolution 5."
Spencer also had no issues with too much bulk in the shoe. He said, "I liked the weight of these shoes. They were substantial enough for stability yet felt light on my feet."
Overall - Score: 4.0
Chris - "I liked the fit, comfort, traction, support and fast feel."
Spencer - "The comfort."
Jason - "They're very well ventilated and they have solid traction. As a whole, the shoe performed well in every aspect."
Andy - "I liked the 'natural-feeling' fit (aside from my arch issue) and the amount of stability I got from a low-profile shoe. Moving around the court felt very easy and natural."
Chris - "Tough to find a dislike, as I liked everything about these shoes. While I liked the clean styling of my test pair, I would like a much more aggressive cosmetic. I have seen some wild colorways in LI-NING shoes designed for other sports and hope they bring some of that same aggressive color blocking to this shoe."
Spencer - "My feet jamming into the front and sides of the shoes."
Jason - "Not much. The white uppers dirtied easily."
Andy - "I had issue with the way the arch struck my foot, and I also would've liked a little more cushioning in the midsole. Sometimes I felt a little too close to the court, and it would be a little jarring on my feet."
Comparing the Pro Competition to other shoes they've worn, our testers said:
Chris - "I'm reminded of other shoes that do everything well when I wear these shoes. For me, they are up there with the likes of the Gel Resolution 4/5, the Nike Breathe 2K11/12 and the adizero Feather II. The Prince Rebel 2 comes close, but this shoe beats it in the durability department."
Spencer - "The fit and comfort remind me of the Fila Torneo II, which also had immediate comfort and a soft upper."
Jason - "They remind me of a beefier Asics Gel Solution Speed, with better traction."
Andy - "Honestly, I enjoyed this shoe more than I thought I was going to. Once I fixed the arch problem they fit my foot well and provided the stability I need. The 'natural' form fit reminded me a lot of the Lacoste Repel 2, but the LI-NING's are much more comfortable and stable."
Playtester Foot Types:
Chris - Narrow width / Medium arch
Spencer - Medium width / Medium arch
Jason - Wide width / Low arch
Andy - Medium width / Low arch
Review date: February 2013. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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