Road to the NBA Finals: LeBron XIII Elite vs. KD 8 Elite Head-to-Head Review

Which sneaker will we see in the Finals?

By //Footwear 

As we’re getting set for the most exciting conference finals match-ups in recent years, the resident superstars from each team are gearing up for their final push towards reaching the NBA Finals. King James, chasing his sixth straight Finals appearance, recently released his LeBron XIII Elite EP sneaker, which offers substantial upgrades from the LeBron XIII released last December. Over in the West, Kevin Durant has also released the Elite version of his most recent shoe the KD 8. These KD 8 Elite EP’s present an over-the-top look with added performance features, which Durant will undoubtedly need in order to get past the defending champs. While we all know the shoe does not make the player, we still wanted to find out who is getting a leg up on the competition in the footwear department, KD or LBJ.

Aesthetics

LeBron XIII Elite
The fifth iteration of LeBron Elite series goes back to the basics in the looks department. Off the bat, doing away with the Posite pods from the XIII silhouette, the shoe has a much cleaner look and feel. On the tongue is an eye-catching lion symbol, which is similar to that of the LeBron VIIIs. Further down on attached tongue is the LeBron James signature. At the toe region is a strip of premium leather, adjacent to it is a fairly large 3M Nike swoosh. Other notable details are the speckled midsole, which ads a nice touch to an otherwise more simple silhouette. The design is rounded off with a strip of carbon fiber material and translucent ice outsoles. Overall, the shoe has a few less outstanding parts, which I’d say actually enhances the aesthetic of the design. The sneaker looks a bit more like a general Nike basketball shoe like that of the Hyperdunk or Hyperfuse lines, rather than a Signature player release. It is definitely less flashy than the regular XIII’s and the last few releases.

KD 8 Elite
Of course we have to mention the most obvious alteration to the shoe, the added compression sock unit at the neck. By itself, the shoe draws obvious comparison to a wrestling boot – commonly worn by WWE superstars and fashionable women. However, in it’s defense, the calf-length compression socks look less obnoxious when on foot, as it simply takes place of the tube sock. The rest of the shoe is very much in line with the aesthetic of previous KD sneakers. A Nike swoosh at the outer edge on a generally clean and minimal design. The front of the shoe is a leather toe with a snakeskin pattern (ode to the Mamba?), the rest of the support pieces add a technical feel to the silhouette and helps deviate from the boot look. At the bottom of the sneaker is a transparent air zoom unit with an icy outsole. From an aesthetic perspective the outsole is the cleanest part of the silhouette.


Fit

LeBron XIII Elite
The most important aspect of fit, is accuracy in sizing. I would say the XIII Elite’s run a bit big. Most notably in the toe box, there is quite a bit of length as well as width wiggle room. I know LeBron’s are made for LeBron-sized players, I have a fairly wide foot and the shoe still has a bit of space horizontally. Sizing aside, the new Kurim cage uppers make up a flexible singular piece that wraps comfortably around the front of the foot and stiffens up at the heel for a supportive fit. The ankle collar is uniquely shaped offering a bit of spacing between foot and ankle, but still manages to provide very supportive and comfortable padding completely around the ankle. Overall, the fit of the shoe feels very secure and supportive. I believe downsizing 1/2 from your typical basketball shoe size, especially for those with narrow feet, will go a long way in providing the right fit.

KD 8 Elite
I can say with confidence, the KD VIII’s are true to size. I can also say with confidence, that it is the most difficult shoe I’ve ever tried to put on. The sock compression presents a struggle unseen by any basketball sneaker in history. However, once you do maneuver your way into the shoe, the rest fits comfortably. Contrary to the LeBron’s, the KD’s were made for guard play and the fit of the shoe expresses that. The foot feels completely locked in once fully inserted, supported by the stiffness of the leather toe and the Kevlar® wings and rear. The shoe truly fits like a glove, be it a very long glove.


Breathability

LeBron XIII Elite
This Elite iteration has proven much more lightweight than the previous Elite models of XII, XI, and so on. The Kurim material with the unrestricted mesh underneath that make up the majority of the shoe are not only light, but breathable. The silhouette is also visibly less complex without the added Posite pieces blocking airflow. Also, as I mentioned previously, the shoe itself does have a bit of space in and around the edges and toe box, which is conducive to breathability.

KD 8 Elite
I found the breathability of the KD VIII Elite’s to be the least desirable aspect of the shoe. A few factors play into the lack of air within the shoe. First is the extended leather front that wraps around the toe and stretches nearly halfway along the banks of the shoe. While we all love the luxury of leather, we can agree it is not the most breathable material. The advantages of this shoe being snug and secure becomes a disadvantage when considering the airflow. The compact nature of the Flywire and Kevlar® combination creates a highly enclosed environment for the foot, ultimately blocking the foot from any outside air.


Cushioning & Traction

LeBron XIII Elite
The wide base of the outsole plays a big part in the balance provided by the sneaker. Like the first XIII release, the six hexagonal pods make up the sole also have divots in several different angles for better traction when going in different directions. The thick zoom unit pods are placed strategically for better transitions and more on-court control. The flexibility of the shoe coupled with the tread of the outsole makes for consistent traction.

KD 8 Elite
The contents of this shoe is impressive, with Flywire technology and Kevlar along the body and a lightweight Phylon midsole, complete with a full-length Nike Zoom Air unit. Looking at the outsole, the first thought that comes to mind is that it looks very clean – icy soul beneath the full zoom air unit is completely flat. While it is visually pleasing, the lack of arch in the design actually makes for an awkward and unnatural foot to floor feeling. The bottom of the KD’s are also quite stiff and lack a bit of flexibility, which does not help the traction of the shoe and a player’s ability to change directions quickly on court.


Durability

LeBron XIII Elite
Overall, this shoe is substantial more flexible and limber than your typical LeBrons. The shoe makeup of the shoe is reminiscent of the LeBron Xs. The Kurim material is feels like it will hold up nicely, but the additional Flywire on the lacing does cause a bit of concern as it is connected directly onto the single-piece upper of the shoe. The large carbon fiber wing offers strong, lightweight support that is built to hold up well over time. Nike has added some notable materials for this Elite model in hopes of enhanced durability.

KD 8 Elite
My favorite part of the shoe is the extended height midsoles at the heel of the shoe. This, coupled with the Kevlar fibers makes for a complete shoe in term of support and durability. The addition of Flywire cables also keeps the shoe feeling strong, yet lightweight. The stiff leather toe also helps keep shape for the sneaker extending high up the sides.


Verdict

While on foot, I really do like the futuristic look of the KD 8 Elite, the addition of the attached sock unit is a bit unnecessary and ultimately detrimental to the clean aesthetic. Meanwhile, the LeBron XIII Elite’s more simplistic visual approach was an upgrade for me from the recent LeBron offerings. As for the fit, being more of a guard myself, the close fit of the KD VIII’s initially jumped out at me. However, when I think about the balance of comfort, support and flexibility the LeBron’s offer to a big man specifically, it’s hard to argue it’s versatility. Now having played in both silhouettes, there is a clear winner for breathability. The LeBron’s enhance airflow while the KD’s restrict it, and as I sit here writing this review with KD on my left foot and LBJ on my right, I can feel the heat coming from my left foot far more than my right. For the cushioning and traction, the contact of the hex units on the court floor for LeBron’s offer far more traction and control, while the KD 8 Elites, though ultimately very comfortable overall, leaves you feeling a bit flatfooted and pick up a fair amount of dust across the surface.

Both Elite models are clear upgrades from initial releases, but I have to give the advantage to King James in this head-to-head.

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Photographer
Kenneth Deng/HYPEBEAST
NikeLeBron JamesKevin DurantNike KD 8Nike LeBron 13Nike LeBron 13 EliteNike KD 8 Elite

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