Likes: The shoe equivalent of an all-court shotmaker who can dazzle in different ways, the Zoom Breathe 2K11 earned high scores from male wear testers. The Zoom Breathe retains the brand's key components—performance features and cutting-edge cosmetics—while reducing the weight and height some of the brand's bulkier shoes exhibit. Weighing in at 14.1 oz. (Nike lists the shoe at 15.7 oz., but models we weighed were 14.1 oz.) this shoe is a full 3.4 oz. lighter than the clunkier Air Max Courtballistec 3.3. Because it's built lower to the ground, it’s also a more maneuverable and stable shoe than some of the swoosh’s recent entries. Lunarlon cushioning in the forefoot and Zoom technology in the heel provide comfort. The shoe lives up to its name with a light, breathable upper and Nike’s lacing system helps secure the foot in place, a feature wear testers noticed when shuffling laterally behind the baseline. Nike is notorious for narrow shoes, but men said the shoe did not feel as tight in the toe box as other Nike shoes. Male wear testers praised the flex point (9), stability (8.9), cushioning (8.6), ventilation (8.4) and rapid break-in time (8.4).
For the first time, Nike has brought performance customization to its tennis line with the Zoom Breathe 2K11, which you can customize on Nike iD (Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych both wore individually customized models of this shoe at the U.S. Open). North American consumers can choose the outsole to suit their surface—hard court, grass or clay—with the appropriate traction pattern. Other performance options include your preferred base and tongue—the "standard" tongue is a more traditional fit, allowing your feet to move a bit; the "bootie" tongue is fully connected to the shoe, won't slide and offers a "glove-like fit"—and toe-drag protection. You also select one or two layers of DragOn protection: if you're a punishing player who pummels shoes, you'd be best served choosing two for increased durability; if your feet sweat and breathability is a priority, select one layer. The customized palette ranges the color spectrum and you can supplant the swoosh with a unique, six-character id (letters, numbers or symbols) on the heel. Customized Zoom Breathe 2K11 shoes retail for $145, which is $45 more than a pair of standard shoes. It typically takes Nike between three and four weeks to build and ship the shoes, but they send periodic email updates on its status.
Dislikes: Long-term durability is our primary concern as some wear testers said the outsole showed signs of wear and tear after a couple of months. If you play exclusively on hard courts, the outsole may degrade quicker and show signs of wear after several weeks. The fact that Nike does not offer a durability guarantee for a performance shoe that carries a $100 price tag is disappointing—in comparison, the New Balance 851 costs $10 less and comes with a one-year outsole limited durability guarantee—and didn't allay doubts wear testers expressed about the shoe’s stamina.
Bottom Line: This shoe breathes performance for players of all skill levels. Nike has created a performance shoe that is lighter, lower to the ground and more comfortable than recent entries, including the Air Max Courtballistec 3.3. Wear testers said this is the most comfortable Nike shoe since the Vapor, and it comes in a flashy cosmetic while offering optional customization. In terms of performance and style, we highly recommend this shoe with a word of warning about the shoe’s staying power: frequent players or larger, aggressive men who tend to punish footwear may find the outsole has a limited lifespan compared to other fall 2011 releases.
Dr. David G. Sharnoff is a podiatrist practicing in Shelton, Conn. He has served as TENNIS’ shoe adviser since 1986 and as a consultant to the WTA since 1989. A graduate of Ohio State, he played on the university’s varsity tennis team for four years and remains an avid, active player.
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The Nike Zoom Breathe 2K11 is a top performer with a durable design that won't weigh you down. Breathable and comfortable, this shoe is equipped with excellent cushioning and ground-gripping traction. Overlays in an open pattern deliver support right wher
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