Here’s something that might’ve taken the crown of the best basketball shoe of 2021 for some people. Presenting you my comprehensive Jordan 36 review where I’ll be putting the shoe through a variety of situations and giving you a detailed report.
I’ll break down the Air Jordan 36’s fit & comfort aspects, on-court performance indoors & outdoors, build quality & value for the $$$, versatility, and ultimately decide if it’s worth getting over the previous releases.
SHOW TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Spec Sheet
- 1-Min Review
- Fit & Comfort
- The Build
- Alternative Options
- Your Thoughts on the AJ 36?
- Jordan 36 Review: The Verdict
I. SPEC SHEET
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II. 1-MIN REVIEW 🕒
In a hurry? Here’s the short version: the 36th iteration of the flagship Air Jordan basketball shoe is looking like a success. It’s easily one of the best recent Air Jordan performance hoop shoes.
But the AJ 36 is as compact as it gets – don’t let the looks fool you. Wide footers should probably stay away from these, and others should try them on in-store if possible.
If not – TTS for narrow/neutral footers and up half a size for slight wide footers.
Traction was solid on all surfaces I’ve hooped on and these should also last outdoors as long as the previous shoes did, if not longer.
The addition of a full-length Zoom Strobel meant the AJ 36 is one of the most well-cushioned shoes in the lineup. The setup is versatile and comfortable but be aware of the forefoot Zoom Air unit that can cause a bit of tippiness while moving.
Support was excellent, and the Leno-Weave build combined jacquard with TPU which resulted in great durability, ventilation, and almost no break-in time but came at a slight cost of comfort.
If you’re non wide-footer, I don’t see how is this not an upgrade over the last few Air Jordan shoes if we’re talking performance.
> The full Jordan 36 review is below
III. FIT & COMFORT
How’s the sizing of the AJ 36? What about comfort? Anything else to know fit-wise?
Narrow, narrow, narrow…
I didn’t realize how compact the fit of the AJ 36s was until I put them on for the first time upon arriving at the mail in a size 10.5 US (half a size up from my usual choice).
It was surprisingly quick & easy to put these on but my jaw dropped once I laced them up and started walking around.
Length-wise, things are all good: I’ve got about a half-inch of space for the toes which I like. But width-wise and height-wise, not so good for my wide & thick feet.
The heel & midfoot portions felt decent albeit still a little tight but the toebox pretty much killed the experience for me.
My pinky toes were being jammed into the sides of the toebox, and the area right above the toes was hurting each time the shoe bent linearly. Not a good look.
Normally, I wouldn’t panic too much since a good portion of shoes break in and ultimately manage to provide at least an acceptable experience for my feet.
But here, the only components that broke in were the cushion, traction, and the midfoot plate. All of which helped the shoe feel more seamless but I just couldn’t break the upper in.
This Leno-Weave stuff they’re using throughout the upper is super minimal but it simply won’t budge. Not a few hours in, not a few days or even weeks.
Perhaps there’s a marginal difference vs. the shoe right out of the box but not enough to where I’d feel comfortable in these.
Bottom line: what you get is what you’ll stay with. Extremely weird to say that about a modern basketball shoe these days but the AJ 36 is here to shake things up.
Prominent wide footers like myself – honestly, skip these (stick with the AJ 34, 35, or check out this list instead). I never reached a point where I could play in the shoe comfortably. Some sessions resulted in numb pinky toes afterward, while others felt a little better but still suboptimal.
If you consider yourself just somewhat of a wide footer or a slight wide footer – my recommendation would be a half size up.
Neutral/narrow footers – true to size will provide the most secure experience for you but expect an extremely snug fit. If you don’t prefer that – a half size up is also an option.
TRYING THESE ON might be a necessity for some with the Air Jordan 36 because you won’t be able to stretch out the shoe’s stubborn upper almost at all.
If you have the ability to check these out in a live store – by any means, do so.
In terms of pure comfort for the feet – decent.
I’m definitely not the ideal hooper to constructively criticize comfort simply because my feet are pretty much incompatible with the shoe. It’s just too tiiiight as much as I wanted to love these.
But there would’ve been bright spots here if I didn’t have such huge feet. There’s adequate padding around the ankle & the tongue is nice and plush which sits next to the foot very comfortably.
The shoe is also really damn light. The Air Jordan line has seriously stepped up here with the last 3 models. Lightweight and Air Jordan didn’t typically appear in the same sentence.
But here, weight reduction is real. These feel quick, explosive, and fun to hoop in because of it.
But going back to the upper which is what wrecked things for me in the first place. Even if I was a normal/narrow footer – I still think this material that wraps around the foot is definitely not a very pleasant one.
It’s light, thin, and minimal, sure. But because of its TPU nature and pretty much zero stretching ability – the sensation of my foot coming in contact with the material upon a movement is a little irritating most of the time.
It just stops your foot in its tracks at all costs which means foot containment is impregnable here but unfortunately, this time it came at a cost of comfort.
I’m sure it’s a decent experience for a more average foot but I wouldn’t put these among the most comfortable basketball sneakers regardless.
How’s the traction on a variety of courts? What about the reliability of the outsoles?
A group of us managed to rent a high school gym and play on a moderate-condition rubberized court. Not genuine hardwood but still not nearly as abrasive as an outdoor surface.
Let’s get it out of the way first – the AJ 36 is an indoor model. You could see this by inspecting the rubber thread of the outsoles which is just around 2 mm tall. Plus, a good portion of the colorways feature translucent outsoles.
But good ol’ herringbone traction pattern makes a return to the 36th sneaker and say what you want about the shoe’s outdoor capabilities – these outsoles will provide brilliant traction while it lasts.
It only took a couple of hours for the rubber to heat up and start moving more fluidly, so traction picked up too.
Accelerations, stops, cuts, jumps – every single movement was covered excellently. Even dirtier sports or areas with moisture didn’t cause any major slip-outs which tends to happen fairly often with a lot of other shoes.
I did wipe the outsoles down occasionally but mostly out of habit since I didn’t feel these required constant babysitting. You put ’em on – you’re good to go. Unless you’re hooping on a pre-war monstrosity of a court.
I still recommend cleaning your outsoles occasionally though. This way you’ll preserve healthy traction for longer on just about any shoe.
Outside, I expected nothing less from the AJ 36 and it’s exactly what I got.
I hooped on asphalt which is an older, more banged-up court but I also took these to a rubberized court which is less abrasive than asphalt but still generates more friction than any indoor surface would.
Both courts – no problems. Grip was even deadlier due to more friction and I could pretty much forget about wiping if I wouldn’t be doing it out of habit.
The rubber court I play on outdoors has a few “dead” spots where the rubber layer is torn off and the layer underneath it is slippery. These were the only areas where I felt a decrease in traction on.
Completely normal though – happens with just about every shoe I try over there.
Now, just because this isn’t an outdoor model at its core doesn’t mean it won’t last a while outdoors.
While the thread of the traction pattern seems shorter than the previous AJ models, the actual rubber compound feels a bit stronger. Nothing crazy but I noticed a difference upon inspecting all three shoes up close.
I stopped playing outdoors with these after about a month of action and stuck to the gym afterward just to preserve this $185 feat. Traction still performs well but some of the areas of the outsole did undergo some damage.
There isn’t much of a dramatic reliability difference between the AJ 34, 35, and this one if I had to give you a practical estimate. It should last a season of outdoor hoops but I’m not sure about more than that.
How much impact absorption & energy return is here? What about midsole stability & ride height?
The Air Jordan 36 features a full-length Zoom Strobel stitched directly underfoot, a large forefoot Zoom Air unit under it and a Phylon midsole to top it all off. Easily my favorite aspect of the shoe.
Nelson from Hoop and Life describes this cushion in a way with which I agree wholeheartedly: it’s almost a hybrid of the AJ 34’s soft & plush setup and the AJ 35’s firmer & more responsive take.
But this shouldn’t have been a surprise since a lot of us now know what a proper Zoom Strobel can do when it runs from heel to toe.
It’s mad comfortable to hoop in but I never sink into it too much as the unit quickly bounces back, creating an explosive sensation upon each movement. It’s every bit of awesome.
Another benefit here is how surprisingly low to the ground I felt despite having this much cushion to work with. No, it’s not on a level of a Kyrie or a Curry shoe but still very responsive nonetheless.
Another thing I immediately noticed (and ESPECIALLY after things broke in) is how explosive and efficient my movements felt.
The additional Zoom unit resides right where my foot pushes off the ground and the 3rd iteration of the Eclipse plate is not only there to provide torsional rigidity but also to act as a propulsion bridge.
Things started off a bit stiff but a couple of sessions quickly broke in the plate as well as the midsole. Definitely a fantastic overall setup that’s both fun and effective to play in.
One thing that I’m sure other hoopers mentioned is the forefoot Zoom Air unit protruding out of the outsole and creating an unstable feeling up at the front when moving around.
I did notice that slight tippy feeling at times (especially when just moving linearly) but for me, it was never to a point where I’d clearly feel a compromise in stability.
I could feel it sometimes and not to say that I prefer it (of course I don’t) but it never got past that phase. I can still hoop effectively. How it’ll work out for you will depend on what kind of player you are.
If you’re heavier, more explosive, and tend to use your athletic traits – chances are you’ll be just as fine as I was because your generated force to the ground will push the Zoom unit to the ground more.
If you’re a light low-profile guard who always plays below the rim and needs the absolute maximum court feel & precision – then you might feel the presence of instability more.
But in that case, I don’t think an Air Jordan model should be your ideal choice in the first place.
Is the shoe supportive & safe to play in? How supportive vs. mobile do they play?
One thing adidas and Jordan brand has in common is that they never fail in making their performance footwear as supportive, secure, and stable as possible.
Minus the forefoot Zoom unit detail, everything simply works in the Air Jordan 36 support-wise.
The shoe features strong TPU internal heel counters for heel & ankle lockdown, midfoot Eclipse plates for torsional rigidity, and a widened forefoot base with midsoles protruding to the sides for further stability.
My foot also sits inside the midsole carrier somewhat, creating a very secure sensation no matter the movement. Plus, there are additional foam sidewalls rising from the midsole up to the upper and keeping the foot in place.
There’s also the so-called 2-loop band system which further pulls down your foot once pressure is applied to the laces.
But the real winner here is probably the upper. It’s pretty incredible how strong it is despite its minimal footprint. There’s simply no chance your foot is coming out of the footbed no matter your style or weight.
Now, for me, it was more of a chore to rule out the fit aspect to be able to subjectively analyze other areas for people that don’t have feet as wide as mine.
If only these would’ve been a bit wider and roomier – I could’ve actually enjoyed everything I’m describing here. While now, it was more of a chore to go through. My feet were getting killed in there.
VII. THE BUILD
What are the upper materials and how do they feel on foot? How’s foot containment? What about durability?
The Air Jordan 36 offers a Leno-Weave upper which is jacquard reinforced with TPU ribbons. The area around the lacing system and the bottom heel portion and the front of the toebox is overlayed with synthetic suede panels.
This colorway also features a synthetic ankle collar that’s padded with foam and lined with a very nice microfiber material.
The midfoot plate that connects the forefoot & heel is made from TPU, and the outsoles are of course purely out of rubber.
Right away, I could really tell how much focus there was on performance rather than anything else. Not comfort, not feeling “one-to-one”. Just pure performance and it shows here.
This jacquard upper is super lightweight but it’s reinforced with TPU. The end result is unrivaled foot containment paired with feeling fast.
Another benefit is breathability. This build doesn’t have any extra layers under Leno-Weave, so I could literally see my socks through the shoes. I think that’s a first for me. Hoops under the sun shouldn’t be a problem with these.
These barely require any break-in time but this also comes at a cost. This TPU-reinforced fabric refuses to stretch. Almost at all.
Because of this, it’s definitely not the most comfortable shoe in the world and you won’t be able to transform the fit if something’s off initially.
My feet happened to not properly fit the shoe as it’s way too narrow for me. Pair that with an upper that doesn’t move at all and the experience turns from uncomfortable to a chore.
Even for those who are luckier with their foot anatomy, you shouldn’t expect an extremely comfortable, soft as butter shoe here. It works, but it’s all about performance here.
Like I often say, it’s almost impossible to determine a shoe’s long-term durability if you’ve only had it for a couple of months yourself.
However, looking at the AJ 36 now and comparing it to the previous two models – this is definitely not a downgrade in the reliability aspect of the build. Don’t get it twisted. It’s probably an upgrade which is insane to say about a fabric-based sneaker.
It’s not just any fabric though. Jacquard by itself is already a strong material that won’t break down on you quickly.
Add TPU ribbon weaving to it and the AJ 36 appears among the most durable modern hoop shoes available today. 2 months of my time with the shoes weren’t enough for any noticeable damage to occur.
The heel pull tab is a little weary, and the toebox (mainly the right shoe) is a bit scratched up due to push-offs and occasional toe drags. But that’s about it. The upper is doing very much alright and it’s not looking to change soon.
Closing out the Jordan 36 review with a recap and final conclusions
The Air Jordan 36 is a successful evolution from all of the previous releases and it shows. It’s a sneaker that has a big budget but all of it is crammed into performance and I LOVE that.
If only the construction of the shoe was a bit roomier, these could’ve replaced the Dame 8 and a few others as one of my main options to hoop in.
If you really want to try out the shoe but you’re a wide footer like I am, I recommend finding a PF version of the shoe that should be built on a wider last.
The AJ 36 offers an extremely secure fit but most of you will be better off trying these in-store if you can. NOT an option for prominent wide footers.
Traction was nothing short of fantastic, even on a slightly dustier floor. These should also last some time outdoors but keep in mind it’s not an outdoor model.
The Zoom Strobel + forefoot Zoom Air did their thing in delivering bounce, impact protection, and responsiveness but some players (especially those that are lighter) might notice the protruding forefoot unit causing some instability.
All-around security is top-notch, while the Leno-Weave build is light but very strong. This is not a luxury type of build or one that’s focused on making your feet feel like they’re being hugged by pillows. Performance is key here.
I really do think it’s a solid upgrade over the AJ 35 since some annoyances like arch pain are fixed, and weight has been further reduced. Movement propulsion is even more aggressive and traction is just as good.
GRAB A PAIR OF THE JORDAN 36 HERE 🛒
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IX. ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS
Not completely sure if the AJ 36 is for you? Here are a few options that feel and play very similar
Since there are one or two details about the AJ 36 that some wearers might not like, I’ve got some additional options for you that will feel similar but should erase certain incompatibilities.
AIR JORDAN XXXVI LOW, $165
If you’re totally fine with the properties of the Air Jordan 36 but prefer things to be a bit more mobile (and save some cash while you’re at it) – check out the low version of the shoe.
Everything’s the same besides the lowered collar and slightly altered upper. The top portion is the same Leno-Weave while the bottom portion now features synthetic leather.
AIR JORDAN XXXIV, $180
The Air Jordan 34 is still my favorite AJ shoe to date. Who knows if it would’ve stayed that way if the AJ 36 would’ve fit me better?
But this one is just a modern classic. These fit wide footers much better, cushion is just as good and a little softer, and support is still excellent.
The upper features more forgiving textiles that might not be as durable as Leno-Weave but easily make it one of the most comfortable basketball shoes I’ve ever worn.
No exaggeration – everything feels so smooth with the AJ 34.
NIKE KD 14, $150
If you’re looking for a very similar feel but can’t afford the $185 price tag – maybe you can afford a $150 one? The KD 14 emerges.
It’s got a similar Zoom Strobel unit running from heel to toe, plus a buttery-smooth Cushlon midsole, and a cozy mesh upper that’s layered for strength but feels better than the AJ 36’s comfort-wise.
The KD 14 is also a surprisingly good option for wide footers. Not because of the internal construction (as these start off narrow too) but due to the stretchy mesh that breaks in.
It’s definitely one of my favorite performance models of the last few years.
X. YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE AJ 36?
It’s time to share your questions, suggestions, and opinions!
This concludes the Jordan 36 review! My appreciation for those who stayed ’till the end – I hope you found the review at least somewhat useful!
The AJ 36 is definitely an interesting release and despite it causing nightmares for my feet, I’m very interested to see what’s next since Jordan always changes a few things up each year.
But I want to hear what you have to say about these. Maybe some of you own a pair of the 36s for longer than I do and could report on their durability? Or maybe you’ve got a question I haven’t answered in the review?
I reply almost immediately on weekdays (minus some exceptions when life happens) and within the same day on weekends.
Leave a comment below and I’ll get to it ASAP!
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XI. JORDAN 36 REVIEW: THE VERDICT
My final scores, main takeaways, and player recommendations
Air Jordan XXXVI$185
- Fits very narrow: wide footers skip these or try a half-size up
- Neutral/narrow footers: go true to size & expect a snug fit
- The midsole, the outsole, and the midfoot plate took a couple of sessions to break in
- The upper doesn't stretch: what you have is what you'll stay with
- Bigger guards, wings
- Athletic/explosive styles
- Heavier players
- Narrow and/or flat footers