When it comes to tennis shoes, not just those made by Nike, few can claim the cult-like following of the Nike Max Breathe Free II. The Breathe Free II is a tough act to follow, to say the least. If there's any question about that, just check the customer feedback going back to 2005. It's overwhelmingly positive.
The Zoom Breathe 2K11 looks to carry on the Breathe heritage: a shoe that does it all on court and is comfortable to boot. With the Zoom Breathe 2K11 the ride gets lower to the ground, thanks to the inclusion of Zoom and Lunarlon cushioning versus the Max Air cushioning of the Breathe Free II.
I've just wrapped up my playtest of the Zoom Breathe 2K11, playing about 20 hours in them on hard courts, and I have to say I've been happy every split step of the way.
The first day of the playtest I pulled them out of the box and was on the tennis court no more than 20 minutes later. The Zoom Breathe 2K11 was playable and comfortable straight from the box, but I felt like the shoe was fully broken in with that molded-to-my-foot feel after two hitting sessions, so about two hours on court. I have a wider forefoot, and felt like there was ample room in the toe box. I also have a low arch, and it took about 2 hours for me to feel like the arch supports molded to my feet for support without any discomfort. Of the Nike cushioning systems, I like Zoom Air the most, so I'm happy to see it in the Zoom Breathe 2K11. I was low enough to the ground for a fast ride, but there was enough cushioning for comfort. Pair the Zoom Air in the heel with the Lunarlon in the forefoot, and the shoe felt connected to the court for optimum movement.
Contributing to the comfort was the above average ventilation. The DragOnX cage has large cutouts that allow the shoe to breathe. The Zoom Breathe 2K11 is, after all, in the Breathe line, so I expected this from the shoe.
Moving on the court in the Zoom Breathe 2K11 was a breeze. Not only did I feel connected to the ground, but the traction was also excellent and the shoe flexed in all the right places. I only had one issue, and that was heel slippage. This was easily solved by lacing up the extra eyelet at the top of the lace system near the ankle collar. Once that was done my heel was locked in and I was good to go. Because I have a wider forefoot I tend to ride on top of shoes because the chassis are too narrow. This can cause issues because I'll slide off the top of the midsole, and support is compromised. The 2K11 worked for me, though. I could easily tighten up the mesh uppers for a snug fit, and the shoe rides pretty low to the ground so I felt I had a good support base on the court.
When it came to durability, the Zoom Breathe 2K11 performed OK. After a dozen or so hours of hard court play the outsole started to smooth out. I think I saw the most wear on the tip of my shoe, where I lost a small piece of rubber, and I think that's where my shoes are going to give out first. Unfortunately, there's no durability guarantee. However, the shoe feels light on the foot, and there's some give and take to achieve that lightweight feel.
Overall, I was really impressed with the Zoom Breathe 2K11 and think it is a step forward for the Breathe line. I haven't played in the Breathe Free IIs for some time now, but when I tried on a pair the feel on the foot was similar. The most noticeable difference is that the Zoom Breathe 2K11 sits slightly lower, which for me is a plus. Lower to the ground can mean that little extra bit of speed and confidence. Another bonus, the Zoom Breathe 2K11 comes in a rainbow of colors. This shoe achieves that coveted blend of comfort and on-court performance. Simply put, it does the Breathe line proud.