It’s hard to imagine that LeBron James is 13 models deep into his signature line, and with the advent of such additions as the Soldier, Elite and Low models, that number increases significantly. Both the XIII and the XIII Elite models have been widely described as one of the better shoes to have been tailored made for LBJ himself. Providing just the right amount of protection, responsive cushioning and mobility, for a dominant athlete his size, built to do all the dirty work, yet rise above the rim if the game called for it.
Nike then drops the LeBron XIII Low, a stripped down model of the earlier edition with the “protective” elements removed catering to a more general athlete. With softer upper materials replacing structured Foamposite and a more forgiving cushioning platform utilized underfoot, the XIII Low was one that we were excited to test out.
The traction pattern and outsole remain unchanged. Our weartest model utilized a translucent outsole with modular pods, each comprised with a linear pattern set in different directions to provide decent traction on various court surfaces. No issues with any movement at varying speeds, which is great despite having the elevated modular Zoom Air Unit pods on the outsole, which give less surface contact. The performance in the traction department for the Lows could’ve been better had they used traditional rubber to make up the outsole, (a non-translucent rubber). In addition, incorporating a traction pattern that either had more sipes to create greater surface area for contact which would help when conditions are less than NBA perfect. This is usually the case with new models, and yet the XIII Low is another example of where they may have tried to change too much in one area, rather than sticking to philosophies that have worked for years.
The cushioning of the LeBron XIII Low takes on a story upon itself, and one that could be described by our weartesters as a love-hate relationship. Looking back on the LeBron XIII, our team loved that the modular cushioning system (especially the 13mm Zoom Air units placed under the heel and 1st metatarsal). And with the replacement of the responsive heel unit to the more cushioned and protective Max Air unit we were ok with that move (some team members even preferred the softer landings with the revised platform). But what we didn’t necessarily like across the board was what felt like a decrease in the forefoot Zoom Air units size/pressure placed within each pod. The responsive Zoom Air Units of the XIII were a shining light for the model, as it provided a responsiveness you could feel underfoot when on your toes in a defensive stance or jumping off for a rebound. In the Lows, it felt like Nike had decreased the size of the forefoot air units, resulting in lackluster responsiveness. You could say that the forefoot cushioning lacked that je ne sais quoi. Yet, as I mentioned, this was a story that is both LOVE and HATE, and as much as we hated the underwhelming forefoot cushioning, the heel cushioning provided soft, stable landings that we appreciated and have come to expect from Max Air heel setups. Both units are paired together and paired off by a TPU midsole resulting in decent transition throughout the gait cycle, regardless of the differences in cushioning performance, we had little-to-no issues with the transition.
Upper Materials and Fit
As we move up the shoe we come to our favourite part. The changes in the upper materials were refreshing to say the least. It was designed for a purpose and performed as intended, providing structure, durability and protection (and for some, maybe a bit too much in those departments). So when we found out that Nike replaced the upper materials with a breathable nylon upper, plus Flywire for structure it was music to our ears. Compared to the standard XIII, the Low model felt lighter, more forgiving and was immediately comfortable upon step-in. Picture putting on a pair of Air Max’s or a pair of casual kicks that you’ll rock on the streets without having fit or support as a priority. Who doesn’t love the feel of your lifestyle shoes when you’re waiting for the bus, or just kicking it with your boys around the city? Sounds good right? Well, it’s all good unless you’re trying to be an on-court performance shoe. The upper materials, we like them because they feel good, but once you start going and moving at a quicker game pace, you’ll soon find out that where the Low’s made up for in comfort, they lack in fit and lockdown. Our team found that midfoot lockdown was subpar on modest to aggressive movements, while heel lockdown was non-existent regardless of the presence of the heel collar and counter. Wheras the two fit factors that may be considered the most important to an athlete at any level of play. Due to the poor fit and lockdown, the causes of concern immediately turn to the increase risk of foot injuries and ankle sprains. We even went to lengths of wearing a level 2 brace and found that the fit still wasn’t up to par. This was definitely surprising, as Nike has scored well in the fit department for many of their low top versions (think any of the KOBE’s, KD 7’s, or 2015 HyperRev’s).
UPPER MATERIALS & FIT: 6.5
Support and Stability
In a word, no. As expected, with a shoe that scores low in the fit department, it’s typically found that a shoe’s support and stability often suffers. The XIII Low was gravely no exception to the rule. Yes it utilized an adaptive lacing system and Flywire for dynamic support. Yes it incorporated a midfoot shank for torsional rigidity. And yes it even came with an external heel counter (mind you, it was made up from an extended TPU midsole tooling that went up the medial and lateral sides of the shoe). With all that, the poor game-level fit of the shoe was what affected the support and stability of this model. If it doesn’t fit right and hold you in, nothing much else matters and midfoot support & stability get thrown out the window.
SUPPORT & STABILITY: 5
On paper, the LeBron XIII Low is a welcome addition. A model that could be for the masses and one that was envisioned for an athlete that valued comfort and mobility, all in a lightweight package. What they forgot to mention was that for a shoe to be considered an on court basketball shoe, the importance of fit, lockdown, support and stability has to supersede all of that to make it a worthwhile pickup for serious use on the hardwood/blacktop. Our suggestion is, if you value your foot health and staying on the court rather than rehabbing off of it, take a pass on the this shoe and opt for the bigger brother initial release or Elite versions instead. But if you’re someone that wants a lifestyle shoe that looks like a basketball shoe, pick up a pair of the LeBron XIII Lows as part of your off-court rotation (only).