By Andy Gerst
The Zoom Breathe 2K12 fits right in the middle of Nike's shoe line between the speed-oriented Vapor 9 and the stable, durable Air Court Ballistec 4.3. The 2K12s blend a lightweight, low-profile feel with just enough stability and support to keep you feeling confident while moving around the court. I've just wrapped up a month-long playtest of these shoes, and they certainly didn't disappoint! I loved these shoes and would definitely recommend them, as long as durability isn't your primary concern.
The 2K12s were super comfortable right out of the box. I loved how low-profile the shoe was, and it just seemed to grab my foot right away in a perfect fit. Even though it's more of a lightweight speed shoe, it still had great cushioning all around the shoe. When I took them to the court it barely felt like I had a tennis shoe on at all. I felt light and quick; running down balls that I might not normally get to.
For as light and low-profile as this shoe was, I was extremely impressed with how much support and stability I had in them. I was flying around the court, sliding to wide shots, and never felt concerned about rolling an ankle or losing my balance. The ankle support was excellent, and when sliding I felt the Drag-On X technology in the upper provided lots of support. I felt super confident moving around the court in these shoes.
My only concern with stability was the loss of traction when I was stretched out wide to my forehand side. I found myself slipping when pushing off my outside (right) leg trying to recover to the middle. I slipped a lot as I made my aggressive lateral cut back toward the middle. The outsole is a little narrow up toward the ball of my feet, and when I pushed off I found I almost didn't have enough shoe to push off of. I would have liked the outsole to flare out a bit so that when I made that cut I had more surface area on the bottom of the shoe for pushing off.
Another aspect I loved about this shoe was the breathability. The whole top part of the shoe is covered in a breathable mesh, and there is a mesh "window" on the medial side of the shoe for even more ventilation. My feet tend to sweat a lot, but the 2K12s kept me cool and dry. This was another great feature of this shoe that will be appreciated by us heavy sweaters out there!
After putting these shoes to the test for about a month I found the sole durability to be pretty average, though I wasn't expecting this to be a strength of this shoe. It wasn't bad, as it took about two weeks to wear down the tread on the outsole, and a little less than four weeks to put a small hole under my big toe. That's a pretty standard amount of time for me to wear through a shoe. If durability is a huge priority, I would lean more toward the Ballistecs, but these are definitely much more durable than the Vapors.
Another area of my shoes that I often wear down is the upper part of the medial (inside) side of the shoe, due to my excessive sliding habits on hard courts. The durability of the uppers was excellent! I couldn't put a dent in the Drag-On X technology, and I can put a hole in this area of a shoe within a couple days if it isn't durable enough.
I liked this shoe a lot. I loved the comfortable cushioning, low-profile design and near-perfect fit. I really appreciated the amount of ventilation all over the shoe and how well the upper of the shoe held up to my habitual sliding. The only thing that sticks out to me that I would like to see changed is the "flare-out" in the outsole around the ball of my foot. I would have liked a little more surface area to push off of when changing direction laterally.
These shoes brought back memories of the old Breathe Free IIs that I used to wear in college, which I absolutely loved. They are both super comfortable and low-profile, and they make you feel like you're barely wearing a shoe out on the court. Along with their great fit they provide enough stability and support to instill confidence when you're flying around the court. I loved this playtest and loved these shoes!