Likes: Nike delivers a sleek, streamlined performance shoe that will accommodate players of all skill levels. Weighing in at 11.6 oz. (Nike lists the shoe at 12.8 oz., but the models we weighed were 11.6 oz.) this is one of the lightest shoes we tested this fall. 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 Nike Zoom Breathe 2K11 lives up to its name with a light, breathable upper and Nike’s lacing system helps secure the foot in place. Wear testers said the shoe’s flex was one of its best features, scoring the shoe a 9 on flex point.
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 the shoes 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 preferred base and tongue—the "standard" tongue gives 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 a 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 an outsole 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.
While male testers almost universally appreciated the shoe’s fit and comfort, women wear testers did not share the same sentiment. Women scored the shoe’s cushioning a 6.4, which is 2.2 points lower than men rated cushioning. Women wear testers also reported the break-in time lasted longer than men (women scored the shoe a 6.5 on break in time, while men graded it an 8.4 in break-in time). Dr. Sharnoff believes some of the rating disparity is due to the fact more women wore the shoe off court, while male wear testers were more prone to wearing it exclusively on court.
Bottom Line: This shoe breathes performance for players of all skill levels and will work for both power players and quick, agile competitors. Nike has created a performance shoe that is lighter, lower to the ground and more comfortable than recent entries. 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 women 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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