By Brittany Blalock
It is no surprise that the Nike Max Breathe Free II has been one of the most popular women's tennis shoes over the past few years. In fact, it was my shoe of choice for my high school and college years. Nevertheless, it is the year 2012, and a little change doesn't hurt. Enter the Zoom Breathe 2K12, the latest shoe in the Air Zoom series. I was excited to try out these shoes, and as soon as the box arrived on my desk the shoes were on my feet and I was heading to the court.
So after four weeks of some intense hitting sessions along with some singles and doubles action, I have thoroughly playtested this shoe. And it did not disappoint!
There were some definite head turns as I walked to the court in my new 2K12s in the Volt colorway on the first day of the playtest. Yes, Volt is a very bright color (think neon yellow), and definitely makes a statement on and off the court, which is a plus for me. Right off the bat the shoes felt comfortable and match ready. I did not feel any stiffness, pinching or rubbing. After about two hitting sessions (around two hours total) I felt my feet were right at home, and the cushioning had molded completely around them. I have a narrow width foot and this fit was a tad on the wider side for me. When I tied my laces a little tighter my heel felt perfectly in place while the toe box still had plenty of extra room.
With the great comfort also came great ventilation. There was plenty of mesh on the upper that provided breathability. My feet tend to heat up when I play, especially during the summer months, and the 2K12s passed the test. There is a mesh "window" on the medial side of the shoe that allowed plenty of air circulation to keep my feet cool and dry.
Being an aggressive mover on the court, ankle stability and support are absolute musts for my shoes. I have to say that these are some of the most supportive tennis shoes I've played in (being very similar to the Breathe Free II). The Drag-On X cage technology on the upper gives the support I am looking for without adding too much weight or feeling bulky. Additionally, the low-to-the-ground feel of the shoe, along with the correct placement of the ankle collar, provided plenty of support.
With a supportive and stable shoe the weight is always a concern, and let me tell you I was pleasantly surprised. For being such a supportive shoe the weight was about average, not too light and not too heavy. I felt quick on the court. I could move around with ease without worrying about the weight of my shoes. However, it is definitely not one of the lightest shoes I have ever playtested, but the stability was worth the weight.
The traction was another positive of this shoe for me. I was really able to move aggressively, and the shoe gripped the court very well. I had the confidence to push off forcefully without fear of sliding or rolling over the top of the 2K12s. I had no issues with starting or stopping and did not slip once.
After about 25 hours on the court I saw smoothing underneath my big toe on both shoes, which would make the sole durability about average. However, compared with the lighter shoes I playtested this shoe held up quite well. I was a big fan of the Drag-On X technology for toe durability. I'm a toe dragger, so the toe bumper is very important because it protects my shoes from damage. This toe bumper went up high enough and connected with the Drag-On X technology to offer even more protection. I had zero damage on the toe.
The one issue I had with this shoe was the arch support. The arch support in this shoe didn't match up well with my arches. I have slightly lower than medium arches and the first couple hits on the court I could definitely feel the arch. My inner arches were sore after I played. But by the end of the playtest the arch height had flattened out, making it less of an issue. An easy solution would be to slip in some insoles to correct the support.
Overall, I was really impressed with the Zoom Breathe 2K12. The highlights of the shoe were the ankle support, stability, traction and comfort. The outsole held up to my grueling workouts, and the shoe, while not the lightest, definitely felt quick. I enjoyed the low-to-the-ground feel, and the color, Volt, was the perfect way to stand out from the crowd on the court. If you're not a fan of bright yellow shoes, there is a rainbow of colors to choose from.
With impressive performance and lots of colors to choose from, this shoe will meet the needs of most tennis players.