Mark is a co-founder and contributor to The Five By 5.
The LeBron 15’s (designed by Nike’s Jason Petrie) are Nike’s newest signature basketball shoe in the LeBron James collection. Per Nike.com, Jason and LeBron collaborated on the design of the shoe with the intent of making the 15’s “…aggressive, stylish and modern, yet classic”.
Men sizes? Yes
Women sizes? Yes
Youth sizes? Yes
The BattleKnit Weave:
The LeBron 15’s are the first Nike shoes to utilize the new Flyknit weave called “BattleKnit”, which was created by Nike’s FlyKnit engineers specifically for LeBron and the LeBron15’s. Nike touts that the new BattleKnit weave is “…an all-in-one package” that improves upon the FlyKnit’s strength, durability and support. This was a smart choice by Nike as the FlyKnit design is predominantly used in running shoes which have much less demand placed on them than basketball shoes. And historically speaking, when Nike has used FlyKnit in basketball shoes, it’s durability and foot/ankle support was often called into question.
On first inspection, the BattleKnit on the LeBron 15’s is clearly a thicker weave than the typical FlyKnit weave. It appears to have multiple layers of the weave stacked on top of one another with a crosshatch type stitching that provides added structural support to the weave as a whole. The thickness and type of weave varies depending on the area of the upper, with the thickest weave types being located at the highest friction areas of the shoe, such as the heel, the lateral edge of the upper and along the toe box. This makes sense, as those are the most common spots for upper degeneration and failure. There also appears to be additional supportive stitching, which runs across the middle and along the lateral portion of the upper, that’s thicker and more prominent than the normal weave stitching. These thicker bands of stitching appear to be anchor points for the weave as a whole, and seem to add more structure and support to the shoe in key areas. This also helps the shoe to keep its form and adds some nice foot and ankle support.
Overall, this idea of bolstering the high friction and failure areas of the shoe through the new BattleKnit weave seems to have been successful. I’ve played roughly 35 to 40 hours worth of full-speed basketball in my pair, and I have yet to see any upper tearing or separation from the sole. In fact, the shoe as a whole seems to fit just as snuggly to my feet and ankles as it did right out of the box (more on this in a minute). In the past, most basketball shoes that I’ve worn have started to lose their snug fit and overall form after 35+ hours of full-speed play, so this really impressed me.
Here's a closeup of the new "BattleKnit" weave:
One might think that the additional thickness and extra stitching of the BattleKnit weave would cause the shoes to feel heavy and cumbersome, but that’s not the case at all. The lightweight design of the original FlyKnit weave is still there with BattleKnit, even with all the additional support.
Another interesting note about the shoes’ design is that the upper is one whole piece of material. This is important, especially in regards to the weight of the shoe, because it means that more than half of the shoe is made up of the lightweight BattleKnit material, not thick heavy plastic or synthetic materials that are commonly used on the uppers of basketball shoes for aesthetic appeal and/or structural support. The use of air pads in the soles also helps to reduce the weight of the shoe, as much of the plastic or synthetic material that would’ve been used there has been replaced by air-filled cushion bags.
Previous renditions of LeBron’s shoes were often really heavy, so the light weight of the 15’s was a really pleasant surprise. They’re by far the lightest LeBron’s I’ve worn since the Nike Air Max LeBron VII’s, and I would say that they feel even lighter than those.
Fit, Comfort & Support:
As I alluded to earlier, another big pro of the BattleKnit weave used on the LeBron 15’s is that it allows the shoes to fit very snugly and comfortably onto your feet and ankles. This is particularly true of the high top sleeve, where the weave is much thinner and stretchier than the rest of the shoe. This slight difference in weave construction allows for the sleeve to fit really snugly around your ankles, which provides a very comfortable sock-like fit. As an added bonus, the two synthetic leather loops, one attached to each side of the sleeve (essentially creating a pseudo tongue and heel counter) make for useful and convenient grip locations to assist in sliding the shoes on and off. This is a small detail, but it’s really nice as the shoes do fit really snug, and can be hard to get on and off (especially off). And even though the high top sleeve is slightly less supportive, it transitions back to the thicker and stronger weave type at the perfect height, which provides adequate ankle and heel support. And this is where the thicker stitching that I mentioned earlier comes back into play again. That thicker band of stitching, combined with the internal support padding that’s sown into the sleeve and heel box, provides plenty of lateral ankle support despite the seemingly “soft” material of the shoe. We know through science-based research that low tops don’t necessarily put you at any greater risk for ankle injuries than high tops (in fact, some research suggests that high tops may actually increase your risk of ankle sprains). But for some, it’s still an important detail that will help them feel like their lateral ankle is supported properly by the shoe. Especially since it feels like you’re wearing a low top with the way the sleeve and heel box fits on your foot and ankle (which is a huge positive for me since I love mid and low top basketball shoes).
The Zoom and Max Air Cushion Combination:
Additionally, the LeBron 15’s are the first Nike basketball shoes to utilize both the “Zoom Air” and “Air Max” airbag cushion pads in the sole of the shoe. This is important for several reasons related to the shoes fit, comfort and support, but let me first explain what the Zoom Air and Air Max cushion pads are, and how they’re different from each other. This will help to better understand the significance of both cushion types being used in the LeBron 15’s.
The “Zoom Air” cushion pads are lightweight airbag cushions that are really thin, with thicker midsole material. The thin cushion pads provide some shock absorption, but because they’re not very thick, they prioritize stability more than shock absorption. This is especially important during quick cuts and multidirectional movements as the thinner cushion pad improves stability by allowing the foot to come closer to the ground. On the other hand, “Air Max” cushion pads feature less midsole material than the Zoom Air cushion pads, and have much thicker (higher volume) airbag cushions that favor shock absorption (when the foot/shoe strike the ground) over stabilization.
Now, back to the LeBron 15’s: the shoes have both types of cushions, with the Zoom Air cushion being near the forefoot, and the Air Max cushions being on the mid-foot and the heel (also known as the heel crash pad). The specific placement of these pads on the LeBron 15’s is important. The forefoot is where people plant and push-off during cuts, sprints, jumping and multidirectional movements, so having the Zoom Air cushion pad located there provides the needed stability for those movements. Likewise, the mid-foot and heel crash pad is where people experience the highest impact forces during walking, running, landing after jumping, etc. So, the added cushioning and shock absorption of the thicker Air Max cushions in those areas of the shoe help to reduce most of the impact forces people experience during those activities.In short, the combination of these cushion pads, and their specific placement on the shoe, provide high-level performance, stability and comfort.
I’ve found this to be true myself, as I feel very comfortable wearing the LeBron 15’s both on and off the court. My only concern is that while the air cushioning provides excellent shock absorption when playing basketball or walking, I worry about the long-term durability of the air cushions. I’ve had Nike shoes with both types of air cushions before, and I’ve found that the cushions have been susceptible to ruptures. I haven’t had any problems yet, but it’s something to keep in mind when considering the shoes long-term durability. Especially if you’re one that places large impact forces on your shoes when playing basketball.
Another big positive of the LeBron 15’s is the traction of the shoe. The shoes utilize a unique tread design that is best described as a diamond pattern with “teeth”. The teeth like treading is arranged in a repeated diamond pattern, with multiple tread “teeth” within each diamond (approximately 3 “teeth” per diamond). It’s a type of treading that I’ve never seen before on any kind of shoe, but it works really well. You can feel the teeth really dig into the court when playing basketball, and provides the necessary grip to start and stop quickly or to make cuts in any direction. I even found that the shoes’ traction remained high when playing on old, dusty courts that usually feel slippery no matter what kind of shoe I’m wearing. In fact, I’d go as far to say that these provide the best on-court traction out of any basketball shoe I’ve ever played in, and I attribute this entirely to the unique tread design. My only gripe with the treading is that with the teeth being so prominent, I’ve discovered that several have already started to break off at the tips. Especially on the toe box and edges of the heel. It hasn’t caused significant loss in traction yet, but it’s a concern for the long-term durability of the shoe. This isn’t as big of a deal if you’re planning on wearing them as a casual shoe, but it’s something to be aware of.
Perhaps my favorite thing about the LeBron 15’s is their unique and modern look that works well both on and off the court. The one piece BattleKnit upper has an extremely unique look to it that stands out amongst other more classically designed shoes with its weave that’s imprinted with scale-like diamond patterns. The sole itself is very simple and clean with the air pad cushions not being overly pronounced like they tend to be in other Nike shoes (particularly ones that utilize the Air Max pads due to their thickness). The heel counter is also very simple, minimal and stylish. It’s not nearly as large other basketball shoe heel counters, especially ones like the Under Armor Curry 3’s or Air Jordan XXXII’s, and that’s something that I like. I feel like large heel counters can add unnecessary weight to the shoe, and often make the shoes look large and blocky. The synthetic leather looped straps that create a pseudo type of tongue and extended heel block are imprinted with the LeBron James collection logo and the Kings’ own signature. They fit right in with the shoes’ stylish and minimalist theme and don’t look cheap like some do on other shoes. The unique tread design, which curls all the way up on the front end of the toe box, also looks very stylish and modern, both from a profile view and when looking at the bottom of the shoe.
Overall, the shoes will definitely draw attention both on and off the court with their unique and clean design. I personally have the “Ashes” colorway’s, but there’s no shortage of unique and stylish colorway options to choose from. My personal favorites (outside of the “Ashes”) include the “Graffiti”, “Pride of Ohio”, “All-Star” and “Wine” colorway's. The “Equality” and “Mowabb” colorway’s are also great, but unfortunately, they’ve only been made available via raffle draws so far.
Photo credit: amazonaws.com, sneakerbardetroit.com and houseofheat.com
Conclusion & Final Rating:
When asked about the LeBron 15’s, the King himself said: “This is my favorite shoe to date…” and I’d have to agree with him. The overall offering of the LeBron 15’s in terms of comfort, performance, stylish modern looks and overall durability easily garners a 5 out of 5 star rating. They’re legitimately in contention for one of my favorite basketball shoes ever.