Dare to be different.

It’s a common phrase that’s been used time and time again to inspire individuality. Nike ‘Just Did It’ by challenging norms – even if it came at a price. One of the earliest examples, was in the mid-80s when Nike encouraged a young Michael Jordan to defy the NBA and wear his red and black sneakers that didn’t meet league uniform policy. The penalty at the time was heavy, a cool $5,000 fine every game that MJ wore them. Today, Nike’s defiance has now become part of the lore for this iconic shoe. Fast forward three decades later and Jordan has based the silhouette of their latest release, the Air Jordan XXXI, on the one that started it all. So how does a shoe perform when the past meets the present? We’ve listed our thoughts below:

Traction

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They say it’s best to start with the bad news and work your way up. When it comes to this shoe the traction is definitely the bad news. The Air Jordan XXXI “Banned” we reviewed features a translucent outsole with a minimalist traction pattern, which does not include coverage in the middle of the shoe. The outsole makes sense from an aesthetics standpoint, with the word ‘Banned’ on the bottom, however (as with most translucent soles) leaves a lot to be desired on the basketball court.

TRACTION: 7

Cushioning

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From here on out it gets a lot better. Jordan Brand was able to take the highly popular Zoom cushioning and pair it with FlightSpeed, which gave the shoe excellent court feel, fantastic responsiveness, and great lateral support. What’s more impressive, is that these technologies were assimilated into what was a modified Air Jordan 1 silhouette. The original, innovative and nostalgic designs of the Air Jordan line is why they are at the top of the sneaker mountain, but the ability to weave new technologies into those designs, lends them credibility from a performance standpoint.

CUSHIONING: 9.5

Upper Materials & Fit

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The Air Jordan XXXI upper is comprised of two components – Flyknit in the forefoot and midfoot sections and a beautiful, soft leather in the heel. These two materials are brought together using Flyweave technology. The marriage of these two materials is perfect: The leather is sturdy enough to provide lockdown in the heel without excessive containment of the foot, and the Flyknit in the forefoot allows for more comfort when making quick/sudden moves like jab steps. The shoe is also supported by Flywire technology which facilitates a lot of the multi-directional cuts that are made on the hardwood.

UPPER MATERIALS & FIT: 9.5

Support & Stability

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Support and stability were solid, but unspectacular in the Air Jordan XXXI. Utilizing a similar silhouette to the Air Jordan 1 is great for people with wide feet, as there is plenty of room however it came at the cost of arch support. Adding a well-designed ankle collar to provide extra ankle stability, as well as special padding around the ankle for additional support proved to be effective during weartests. The thin tongue makes it very comfortable at the top of the foot when making quick basketball movements forward. Lastly, the Air Jordan XXXI fits true to size.

SUPPORT & STABILITY: 8

Final Thoughts:

Our scores are always strictly based off performance and as such the Air Jordan XXXI tested slightly lower than others due to traction issues. If you are looking for strictly a performance shoe then there are other pairs, many of which we’ve reviewed, that will provide equal or better performance at a lower price. What shouldn’t be overlooked is the job the Jumpman did taking the silhouette of a shoe from three decades ago and giving it modern technology in order to make it a viable performance sneaker in 2016. Jordan Brand also stayed true to what made them popular in the first place: producing sneakers that perform well on the court, but also look dope off the court, and in the case of the Air Jordan XXXI, they get an A+ for that.

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