By Chris Edwards
Nike is known for style, speed and innovative cushioning systems. Sponsor to the world's greatest athletes, Nike has always positioned itself at the cutting edge of design and performance.
With shoes like the Air Max Resolve, and later the Air Max Breathe Free, Nike started to add substance to the mix. All of a sudden we could get a fast, stylish and cutting edge Nike shoe that was designed to last.
Today, Nike continues to push the boundaries of lightweight speed and support with its Vapor line, while the CourtBallistec line focuses more on durability and stability. But what if we want it all? Well, with the Zoom Breathe 2K11 we can have our cake and eat it, too. Offering a light and fast feel combined with durability and stability features, the Zoom Breathe 2K11 borrows performance attributes from both camps.
Today I am wrapping up almost two months of testing the Zoom Breathe 2K11. In an update to the popular 2K10, the 2K11 offers a beefier chassis for a more stability minded ride. The uppers are also redesigned, with larger ports in the DragOnX protective material, yet there's still ample protection for abrasion resistance.
From the first hit I've enjoyed a very comfortable ride in these shoes. I pulled my pair of Zoom Breathe 2K11s straight from the box and wore them comfortably for a two-set match. That's some seriously impressive no break-in comfort.
I liked the level of ventilation I found in the shoes and my feet never got hot. Wearing the shoes both on court and off, breathability was good and the inclusion of lots of mesh in the uppers made the shoes feel soft and supple.
The combination of Zoom Air in the heel and Lunarlon cushioning in the forefoot returns in the Zoom Breathe 2K11. As with the 2K10, this shoe offers plenty of flex up front, allowing for a quick feeling ride. I really liked the feel of the shoes on toe off, and found them to be very fast. Changes of direction felt easy, with the shoes flexing in all of the right places.
I found the shoes to feel a tad more rigid in the chassis compared to the 2K10, which was an improvement for me. After break-in, I felt the stability of the 2K10 dropped off a little. With the Zoom Breathe 2K11 I found a good level of stability for the duration of the test. Also, the uppers did not stretch out as much, and continued to offer a supportive fit for my narrow feet.
The ride was not as low to the ground in the forefoot as I found in the 2K10s, but both comfort and stability seemed improved.
On the outsole there is Nike's XDR rubber compound, which is used on all of their top level tennis shoes. As expected, traction was excellent for the duration of the test. Even now, after many hours of playing in them, the shoes are still gripping the court well. I can push off for a quick start or come to a quick stop without having to worry about sliding.
On the durability front the shoes performed OK. There's no durability guarantee on the Zoom Breathe 2K11 and I've started to put a hole through the outsole of mine. So far I have two months of wear on the shoes, but I have been mixing them in with the other shoes we are testing here, so my on court hour count is in the low 20s.
Overall, I was very impressed with these shoes. They feel more supportive in the uppers and comfort-wise I feel like there is a little bit more shoe between me and the court surface than I found in the 2K10. Like the 2K10, the Zoom Breathe 2K11 does a good job of filling the gap between the Lunar Vapor 8 Tour and the Air Max CourtBallistec 3.3. Whereas the Air Max Courtballistec 3.3 is a very stiff and rigid shoe, the 2K11 brings some Vapor-like flex and speed to its CourtBallistec-like DragOn upper. Best of all, it manages to capture some of the speed of the Vapor line with the support of the CourtBallistec line. Most impressively, it gets there without making any compromises. If we consider this shoe in the middle of Nike's performance shoe line-up, then the middle's a pretty good place to be.