Best Jordans to Play Basketball In: Reviewed

by Purposeful Footwear - Last Updated: February 24, 2019

It doesn’t take a basketball pro to know that great shoes make a great player. Offering much needed support, traction, and comfort, basketball shoes are specifically designed to improve your performance on court. Through the years, lots of different basketball shoe designs have come out in the market, but the ones that do best are those that were worn and used by the greatest legends themselves. So there’s no wondering why the Nike Jordan line of basketball shoes was such a great hit.

Sure, there have been a lot of solid releases under the Jordan line of basketball shoes. But in my opinion, the Air Jordan XX8 SE has to be the very best one when it comes to delivering actual results on the court. This premium built basketball shoe provides some serious performance power that’s guaranteed to boost your game to get you playing like a pro.

Image of the Nike Jordan Men's Air Jordan XX8 Se Sequoia/Volt Ice/Black/Mdm Khk Basketball Shoe 10.5 Men US 

There are lots of reasons why the XX8 SE is my personal performance fave. If you’re wondering what makes it a great pick, this comprehensive performance review should tell you why.

Make and Material

To kick things off, it’s worth checking out the XX8 SE’s make and material. The shoes incorporate a breathable mesh upper. This was used to improve the Jordan’s ventilation. This was done in response to complaints regarding previous models and how they failed to give users the ventilation they expected from the designs.

Image of the Nike Jordan Men's Air Jordan XX8 Se Sequoia/Volt Ice/Black/Mdm Khk Basketball Shoe 10.5 Men US 

The soles are made from high density rubber – a staple for Air Jordan shoes. Needless to say, they’re fantastic on the court, giving you some killer traction and stability. Inside the shoes are some plush cushions and breathable synthetic linings. Both of these make it comfortable, but not quite as comfortable as its XX8 predecessor.

Form and Fit

Let me start off the form and fit section by saying that the XX8 SE is significantly more appealing. Especially when you think about the way the XX8 looked. Nike decided to get rid of the awkward shroud that gave the XX8 its ultra unique aesthetic which received lots of mixed reactions from buyers.

From my end though, switching the shroud with a clean lacing system was a much-deserved upgrade. Not only did this allow the XX8 SE get a major appearance boost, but it also gave the shoes superb support and stability.

Image of the Nike Jordan Men's Air Jordan XX8 Se Sequoia/Volt Ice/Black/Mdm Khk Basketball Shoe 10.5 Men US 

In terms of fit, the XX8 SE runs slightly larger, much like the XX8 before it. So when buying a pair, be sure to get one that’s half a size larger than your actual size. Also, you may not want to bother with the break-in idea, as the however the shoes fit you at the start is how they will fit after years of use. With zero break-in time, it’s always wiser to just get the best fit without considering how things might change later on.

Another thing worth mentioning is the fact that with the XX8 SE, Nike has started using a different, more accommodating last. This simply means that the XX8 SE’s are slightly wider than any other shoes before it. So people with wide feet – rejoice! The SEs promise to give you that more comfortable, ergonomic fit that you’ve probably been looking for with past releases.

Cushion and Comfort

This time around, Nike decided to use some more forgiving synthetics for the insides of the shoes. Generally speaking, the shoes give a much bouncier response compared to others before it, thanks to the new and improved Zoom Air bag design.

Basically, what Nike did with the prototypical Zoom Air bag is they removed any foam or material that went over and around the airbags in past designs. So what users are left with is a bare, unleashed Zoom Air that makes direct contact with the foot.

Image of the Nike Jordan Men's Air Jordan XX8 Se Sequoia/Volt Ice/Black/Mdm Khk Basketball Shoe 10.5 Men US 

This gives unbelievable bounce and responsiveness, which in combination with the outsoles themselves may feel like any basketball players dream. Needless to say, this also makes the XX8 SE very comfortable indeed.

So, with the improved cushioning system, you can actually get the most of the Zoom Air bag technology. With the insoles contouring ever so slightly against the arches and curves of your feet, the shoes are designed to conserve your energy and give you that extra bounce minus the actual physical effort.

Traction and Bite

If there’s one thing that the Jordan XX8 SE could improve on, it would probably have to be traction. Don’t get me wrong – the shoes don’t really do so bad in that department. In fact, they can be pretty aggressive on court once you use them a few times. The only problem really is the initial traction that the shoes provide.

 

Right out of the box, you might feel that the XX8 SE doesn’t really give you a bite that’s at par with the XX8. Despite that, the shoes’ soles do ‘break-in’, or so to speak, once you take them out a few more times. A little wear on the soles gives them more traction. So with time, the shoes can definitely meet previous standards set by the brand itself. Just don’t expect them to perform that way straight out of the packaging.

Once they do achieve optimal traction though, the XX8 SE’s aren’t any different from the XX8. So you can steer the court confidently knowing your SE’s have got your feet firmly planted in the ground with each step.

Breathability and Support

Probably the only thing I think needs improvement is breathability. As I previously mentioned, the Jordan’s have failed in the past when it comes to breathability. Big, bulky, and heavily padded designs make each shoe fail the ventilation test. And although the XX8 SE’s have tried to rectify that problem, they’ve not really done much of a stellar job.

Image of the Jordan Air Jordan Xx8 Se Basketball Men's Shoes Size 10 

If you’ve got particularly sweaty feet, try to make more meticulous sock choices as the SE’s might not be as forgiving as those breathable mesh designs boasted by Under Armour.

In terms of support, I’ve really got no qualms. Despite not having a shroud, the XX8 SE’s feel like they provide better ankle support compared to its predecessor. The design is optimized to prevent inversion and eversion injuries of the ankle, so those high jumps and crossovers shouldn’t be a problem.

Pros of the Nike Jordan XX8 SE

• Improved Zoom Air technology gives the shoes unrivalled bounce and responsiveness.
• Zero break-in time, so you can feel its real comfort and fit straight from the box. This eliminates the need to make rough estimations on how it might loosen or change as time goes on.
• Traction gets better with time, so you can keep using the shoes without worrying about wearing out the treads.
• Lacing system gives greater support than its XX8 predecessor.

Cons of the Nike Jordan XX8 SE

• Straight from the box, traction can be slightly subpar compared to other Jordan designs.
• Breathability still isn’t as great as it could be.
• Sizes run a half size smaller than actual.

3 Other Honorable Mentions

The reason why it’s so hard for fans of the Jordan line to choose an ultimate favorite is because there are so many different options available. So it’s easy to see why some people find it impossible to choose a single design they prefer above the rest.

That said, I do have a few other honorable mentions worth talking about. So if you’re not sold on the XX8 SE being the best Jordan’s performance wise, these three might be a better pick.

Air Jordan 3

As the first Air Jordan to feature the jumping man logo, the Air Jordan 3’s were truly a memorable design. But there’s more to the 3’s than just that. Offering superior traction, durability, and featuring a unique double eyelet lacing system, the Jordan 3s were in a league of their own.

Image of the Nike Men's Air Jordan 3 Retro OG White - 10 D(M) US 

The only issues I’ve had with the 3’s is the cushion system. Of course, the Zoom Air bags were just starting out, so the technology had yet to see the improvement that was incorporated into XX8 SE’s. Nevertheless, the Jordan 3’s were more than just a decent pair of basketball shoes – they were, in my opinion, the first solid performance shoes in the line-up.

Pros of the Air Jordan 3

• Lots of texture throughout the soles gave impressive traction.
• Lacing system was secure and adjustable, making up for the changes that breaking-in could do the fit.
• Great ankle support for preventing injuries on court.

Cons of the Air Jordan 3

• Subpar cushion system gives minimal responsiveness.
• Breathability could use a lot of improvement.

Air Jordan XII

Another Nike Jordan design worth mentioning is the Jordan XII. What gives it a special place on my list is the full-length Zoom Air bag incorporated into each shoe. With the technology lining the entire length of the sole, there’s a lot of improvement with cushioning compared to previous versions of the Jordan.

Image of the  

Unlike other Jordans, the XII’s are true to size, so you won’t have to worry about estimating sizes when making a purchase. They do break-in after a while though, causing them to become a half-size smaller with use.

Traction and support are both strong suits for the Air Jordan XIIs. Much like the XI’s, these shoes feature the herringbone sole pattern that gives them some aggressive grip. The shoe gives superior support around the ankles, making it a great pick for high-intensity games.

Pros of the Air Jordan XII

• Full-length Zoom Air bags give the shoes greater responsiveness compared to older models.
• True to size for accurate size selection when making a purchase.
• Great traction, featuring a highly effective sole tread that gives major bite on the court.
• Ankle support is satisfactory, preventing injuries and giving you a stable stance on most occasions.

Cons of the Jordan XII

• Not the best-looking shoe there is.
• Breathability is – again – non-existent.

Air Jordan 1

How could I get through a list of the best Jordan’s without mentioning the Jordan 1? These shoes remain an iconic design to this day, with most fans of the line-up saying it’s still the best one there is.

When it all comes right down to it, the Air Jordan 1 has pretty much all the aspects of a great basketball shoe. From traction, to comfort, and support, the first ever Jordan proved that Nike was on to one of their best basketball shoe series ever.

Image of the  

Of course, there were some design flaws. With poor ventilation and a pretty much flat insole, the brand failed to think about cushioning and breathability.

Pros of the Jordan 1

• Impressive traction, ideal for everyday, casual games.
• Comfortable fit, with ample padding and soft fabrics.
• Ankle support was superior, ergonomically shaped around the ankles to give users confidence on the court.

Cons of the Jordan 1

• Cushion system was yet to be developed, resulting in a non-responsive insole.
• Did I mention breathability?

The Bottom Line

Considering all the factors that matter, it’s easy to see why the XX8 SE takes the cake as the very best basketball shoe in terms of actual performance. The shoe hits all the right notes, with a few areas for improvement barely affecting its overall quality.

Then again, the Jordan 1, Jordan XII, and Jordan 3 all make great picks as well. It all depends on which one really suits your personal preference as an amateur player.

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