Photography by: Dustin Newhook

In recent years, Jordan Brand has stepped up their game in the performance department with on-court winners like the Jordan XX8, XX9 and Super.Fly 4’s. So we were pretty excited to get our hands on the Ultra.Fly’s and put them to work and see if they lived up to its counterparts.

The Ultra.Fly derived it’s inspiration from Michael Jordan and his “Black Cat” nickname. Jordan was well known for assessing the flow of the game and in turn striking with purpose when the time was right, particularly during the playoffs. The design of the upper mimics the coat of a spotted leopard, further building upon the theme of the black cat. Developed for the games best two-way players, the Ultra.Fly’s were debuted by Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls earlier this season, one of the most versatile players in the game.
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As we always do, we started from the ground up in our testing to see just how well the traction performed on various court surfaces. Straight out the box, the expectations were heightened as Jordan Brand utilized a “wavy” modified herringbone pattern, with decently sized and spaced sipes that we expected would offer sound traction. Sadly we were disappointed. Don’t get us wrong, the traction on the Ultra.Fly’s were decent, even above average at times. But, and it’s a BIG but, our testers had to keep wiping their outsoles in between plays just to keep going. It seemed like the Ultra.Fly’s picked up dust pretty readily, even on courts that were moderately clean. Which was unfortunate because when the outsoles were clean, they gripped the court surface pretty well; but after a while it became annoying, as the wiping became a constant reminder of how well the grip wasn’t what it should have been on this shoe. To add to the matter, this particular model (and the three initial release models) utilized a translucent rubber compound as the makeup of the outsole. Generally, translucent outsoles don’t perform as well as solid rubber, and the Ultra.Fly’s may have been better served using the latter instead. Fingers crossed that additional colourways use solid rubber to aid in its on-court traction.

TRACTION: 7.0 indoor court, 6.5 dusty indoor/outdoor court

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Moving up onto the midsole, expectations were also high as the Ultra.Fly’s used a bottom loaded articulated forefoot Zoom Air unit, paired with a Phylon midsole and Ortholite insole. Sounds great right? We thought so too, until we got into our second game and realized that something was missing. That something, in a word was “bounce.” With all that the Ultra.Fly’s had within its cushioning arsenal, it severely lacked in responsiveness, it just felt flat underfoot. It was comfortable standing and walking around, but once the pace was picked up, the shoe fell short of any cushioning activation likely due to the combination of a highly dense Phylon midsole, placed on a bottom loaded Zoom Air unit. As a result of the Phylon’s density, it nullified the Zoom Air’s responsive cushioning effects, as our testers could barely feel it underfoot. This setup might be good for a walking shoe, but for a high performance ball sneaker it lacked what was most important. Resulting in lacklustre cushioning, minimal responsiveness and below average court feel.

CUSHIONING: 6.0

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The upper materials and fit, were our testers favourite parts of the Ultra.Fly. As the shoe utilized Kurim©, a highly durable yet flexible polyurethane material, paired with mesh to complete the packaging. The design of the upper, based on the black cat’s on-court characteristics, resulted in the formulation of a cage-like upper that provided flexible structure, which was both lightweight and breathable. Containment was on point, whether moving on a back-cut, or driving through the lane on a Euro Step. No matter the direction, your foot felt contained and locked-in upon the footbed. A note should be made that the laces needed to be tied tightly to provide that locked in feeling. The Ultra.Fly’s fit true to size, on a D-width, that have a slightly wider fit.

UPPER MATERIALS & FIT: 8.5

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Support and stability scored well with the Ultra Fly’s. The full bottom outsole provided a stable platform when going through the full gait cycle, and the internal midfoot shank aided in minimizing any undue torsional rigidity during push offs, and lateral movements. An internal heel counter completed the support package, keeping the heel locked and secured within the shoe.

SUPPORT & STABILITY: 7.5

The Jordan Ultra.Fly’s felt good right out of the box, and the fit throughout was synonymous with what you might find in a higher priced shoe (CDN $170), but that’s where the similarities end.  When you start balling in the Ultra.Fly’s, you’ll quickly notice that the cushioning isn’t quite there, and the traction disappears until your next wipe of the outsole, regardless of court conditions. If you’re a plodding big man, that’s looking for a stable shoe in a lightweight package, this might be the shoe for you. But if speed, court feel, agility, and responsiveness are adjectives that you’d like to ascribe to your sneakers, then the Ultra.Fly shouldn’t near the top of your must-have list.

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