Introducing 2020’s epitome of “premium” when it comes to basketball shoes. Hell, for the last who-knows-how-many years in fact. In today’s LeBron 18 review, we’ll break down the King’s latest signature shoe from Nikey.
I’ve been playing in the shoe ever since its launch (rotating several other kicks as well) exclusively outdoors, in the ‘Lakers’ colorway.
I’ll break down the shoe’s fit & comfort aspects, on-court performance, evaluate whether the $200 price tag is justified for the average consumer, and explain why you should absolutely experience how comfy a hoop sneaker can be!
Model: Nike LeBron 18
Weight: 17.98 oz / 510 g. (size 10 US)
Retail Price: $200
Cushion: full-length Zoom Strobel, Max Air heel unit & Cushlon midsole
Best Offer On: Amazon Finish Line
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I. COMFORT & FIT
FIT: NOT BAD AT ALL!
Let’s start with the need-to-know first. I’m a pretty prominent wide footer but having experience with several other LeBron shoes before, the dude always emphasizes a wide and roomy design, both internally and externally.
A particular type of look that not everyone’s going to like but sizing-wise most people will be absolutely a-okay going with their regular size for the LeBron 18. While the inside of the shoe isn’t the widest or roomiest among other LeBron’s, I still didn’t have any major problems with my clown feet by going true to size.
Regular/narrow footers can expect a secure, glove-like fit, yet one that doesn’t restrict or leave 0 space for your foot to breathe in there. For guys who prefer a slightly roomier fit, going up 1/2 of your regular size is also an option. I’ve seen several other people and reviewers going up half a size and preferring that type of fit.
But generally, you shouldn’t have issues going true to size once you give these enough time to mold to your foot shape.
COMFORT: A TASTE OF LUXURY
Well, maybe not a taste but you’ll surely feel the benefits of an expensive flagship signature shoe in these when it comes to all-around comfort.
I’m talkin’ my foot feeling like it’s softly cupped with tons of internal padding, the nice feeling high-quality synthetic upper brings, and that insane cushion setup. We’ll talk about that madness a bit later.
But seriously, this is probably the most comfortable basketball sneaker I’ve ever played in in the last few years. The way it’s built, the way it nicely fits my wide feet and the way rides on the blacktop all come together for a very fun package.
When you’re feeling bored or down about yourself, throw the LeBron 18 on and hit the court. Get a taste of premium. You’ve paid for it.
Am I starting to sound like a salesman? Well if so, two things. One, the LeBron 18 is a ridiculously comfortable shoe and deserves all the praise. Two, let’s not get it twisted though. The shoe does have some little details that could’ve been tweaked so let’s break that down too.
THE TONGUE OF PAIN
You might’ve already heard about this due to other reviewers and people reporting but that tongue is pretty bad. Most of the colorways feature a thin, cheap synthetic tongue that’s pretty uncomfortable and can cause pinching if wearing lower cut socks and/or lacing the shoe up tight.
My ‘Lakers’ colorway features a synthetic suede tongue and while it does a bit more justice to my foot, it’s still something that could’ve been easily avoided.
Not sure if this was to cut costs or just overlooked during the design process but there will be some pinching around your ankle if you lace the shoe up really tight.
For me personally, I’m always wearing high-cut performance socks that are usually thicker too, so that barely was an issue. It’s still something I felt while playing but it’s possible not to pay much attention to it, so not really a dealbreaker there.
Besides the fact that the tongue can cause some pinching, it’s just a very cheaply-made piece of the shoe that’s too thin to be comfortable, it’s all over the place as the tongue doesn’t really stay in place if you skip the top laces or don’t lace ’em up tighter.
I know it might sound like I’m seriously nitpicking here – don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely not a dealbreaker, it’s just that a $200 product shouldn’t be cutting corners like this and it should be held to high standards.
Besides the tongue, the LeBron 18 is extremely comfortable, my foot was mostly secure and contained, I didn’t feel heavy-footed despite the shoe being among the heaviest ones recently. A treat to wear and pretty much perfect comfort & fit if that tongue was simply padded properly or a higher quality material was utilized.
All aspects of the shoe’s traction are very similar to the 17th LeBron performance-wise. Gripping the floor with these likely won’t catch your attention – the bite isn’t the most aggressive but by no means bad either.
It was enough for me personally to not think about it, which is pretty much the borderline where a shoe’s traction gets a pass for me. I was properly held running, stopping and popping off a screen, moving laterally, or taking off for a dunk. No outrageous slips or any other issues that would catch my attention. Just low-key solid traction.
Could you make an argument that it’s a 200 dollar shoe and we should get that top three-level insane traction? Maybe, but I’m not personally complaining when a shoe works performance-wise and doesn’t cause issues.
At least not in the traction/outsole department, as other things could be better utilized with a bigger budget that I’d pay more attention to. Such as the tech itself, materials used, and the way the shoe’s built in general.
A shoe like this isn’t built primarily for outdoor play on rougher surfaces but I thought the shoe did a pretty good job not attracting that much dust into the pattern, so wiping the outsoles wasn’t very much required – an occasional wipe or two out of habit was fine for me.
As far as durability, it’s pretty similar to the LeBron 17 and even though it’s impossible to tell you an exact period the outsoles will hold outdoors, feeling the rubber on these felt a bit stronger compared to the 17th.
I still wouldn’t recommend the LeBon 18 as your primary outdoors shoes though. Some games/shootarounds here and there will be fine!
If a full-length Zoom unit, a heel Max Air unit, and a thick Cushlon midsole don’t sound amazing, I don’t know what is. The LeBron 17’s cushion was already tons of fun – things just got another level up on the 18th.
For those who prefer a quick, low-to-the-ground setup with court feel, you can forget about the LeBron 18’s borderline ridiculous ride it offers.
But despite the setup having A LOT of cushion and providing an elevated ride with no real court feel, I think these guys really nailed it making the setup both tons of fun and efficient performance-wise, not only for huge and explosive individuals like LeBron James himself.
Being an explosive guard that likes to take off to the hoop when possible, I loved every bit of it. You get tons of impact protection (seriously a TON), there’s good foam rebound providing some spring back upon impact, and while the ride is almost pillowy soft, the units don’t over-compress and I didn’t feel slow.
Sure, it’s not the fastest setup as it still feels more soft than springy but the balance is there. I’d imagine it’s pretty damn tough to balance this kind of setup out but I think this is a very good blend of impact protection, comfort, and being able to still feel nimble underfoot.
I think most people would find it pretty addicting and they’d get a good performer as well. And especially for heavier guys at the frontcourt, generally athletic/explosive players or older players – this is a perfect fit.
If you’d like to know how Nikey’s best and likely most expensive cushion setup feels – the LeBron 18 should be at the top of your list.
As some of you know, there’s some concern regarding the shoe’s lateral containment and stability. Being an explosive, drive-first player, I was concerned too and even though it’s not terribly bad, I would want an improvement in this area for the next shoe.
Sure, the overall support was fine – especially with an elevated ride the shoe’s midsole gives you. Sprints, cuts, jumps, stops, and pops felt fine – you won’t have any major restrictions due to the upper based on a knit.
Most of your essential support features are in place: external and internal heel counters, a wide platform to promote stability, a torsional shank plate, flywire cables locking you down when lacing the shoe up.
You also sit within the midsole a bit but that could’ve been tweaked and there are no real outriggers to provide extra lateral protection. For a shoe that has some slight lateral coverage issues, a simple feature like that would’ve been very much welcome.
Foot containment was also mostly good but I would feel some pressure to change my direction quickly if we’re talking lateral movements.
That doesn’t happen all the time for me but the occasional semi-slips out of the footbed is something you don’t want while playing in an elevated sneaker such as this one.
Especially if you’re a shifty guard or a quick spot-up shooter and do lots of quick movements to step around defenders, come off a screen, or create openings without the ball.
Besides this one thing, the rest is completely solid – I wasn’t restricted, felt comfortable, and mostly safe.
But it is something to keep in mind if you’re someone who resembles the mentioned play styles, needs the absolute best security, and can’t afford to feel wonky when quickly moving laterally.
V. BUILD & MATERIALS
The upper continues LeBron’s knit marketing shenanigans – Knitposite 2.0 is used which is a second iteration of Knitposite the previous LeBron 17 started off with.
It’s a knit at its core, though this time we’re seeing lots of glue coated within the upper for durability and structure. You should be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of playing in a knit-based shoe.
The LeBron 18’s upper feels comfy, lightweight (even though the shoe isn’t light as a whole), requires close to zero break-in time, and providing you achieve your desired fit, it should feel like a glove cupping your feet. In a good way, of course.
The drawbacks to this type of upper are, of course, durability, and in this particular case, sub-par lateral containment and almost non-existent ventilation. You’d think that a knit shoe and those little Zoom pods on the tongue would provide great breathability but it’s kind of the opposite here.
If your feet get hot quickly while playing, these won’t help much here. Now, I personally don’t care about ventilation and it’s something I least think about when I’m on the court but for people who take more notice – this knit is backed behind a ton of synthetic coating which pretty much blocks any kind of airflow.
Touching on overall durability – the LeBron 18 is actually a pretty durable shoe and among the toughest knit-based shoes available right now. I still think the LeBron 16 will be a more durable option for outdoors but this one isn’t that far behind.
But the other side of the coin is you’d barely recognize it’s a knit in the first place – all that glue gives some mesh/synthetic vibes to the touch. Performance-wise though, the shoe plays great.
I guess the only drawback in this regard would be for people who prefer genuine, pure knits to play in. I’m not personally mad at this choice though, I think this makes for an occasional outdoor option without taking away the strong suits of this type of material.
You will eventually see some frays, especially in the toebox are since it’s still a knit. Nothing too troublesome though, most of the “damage” will be only cosmetic.
I seriously loved playing in the LeBron 18. I think this type of setup will impress a lot of people and many different players would find it sufficient performance-wise.
It’s a hefty price tag but that’s nothing new when it comes to LeBron’s main signature line. All your flagship tech and features are jam-packed here.
The shoe is a treat for your feet comfort-wise, they will fit most true to size, traction is solid though keep outdoor games to occasional rather than frequent if you don’t want your $200 go down to the rubble quickly.
That cushion setup is INSANE and everyone should get a feel for it and overall support was mostly fine.
The three main things I’m mostly looking forward to getting tweaked are those cheap a** tongues that can cause pinching if wearing thin socks, better consistency in lateral coverage and perhaps slap on a more durable outsole – I mean we are paying 200 bucks.
Overall though – it’s a banger if you can afford it. Looking forward to more advancements and tweaks in the LeBron 19!
Why buy on Amazon or Finish Line? Click to find out!
I’ve been ordering a solid 70%-80% of my hoop shoes from Amazon and can confidently say it’s almost always the most trustworthy and convenient option to buy your shoes.
Yes, it’s great to find the shoe you’re looking for on an original retailer such as Nike or Adidas but the reality is a bit different – a lot of times, especially for shoes older than 1-2 years, it’s a very small chance you’ll find the shoe or better yet find it in your size & color.
You’ll mostly find the latest releases directly from the brand’s store but the period is usually pretty short until they’re out of stock.
This is where Amazon comes in.
Amazon is not strictly one retailer giving you the products, it’s a whole chain of thousands of different sellers, all supplying different products, including basketball shoes. You will mostly find more color and size options on Amazon for your desired shoe than on an original retailer or even a general sporting goods store.
Sure, there will be exceptions where Amazon won’t have a particular shoe but that’s on the rare side.
And the best part is the pricing – you can find older shoes and at times new shoes priced under retail, sometimes at crazy low prices, which is something you’ll never see on Nike.com, adidas.com, and other retailers (except during discounts/sales of course).
To sum things up and give you a generalized idea of why Amazon beats other stores more often than not, I’ve compiled a shortlist of the most notable advantages the massive store chain has over its competitors.
- Usually, higher stock, size & color/edition availability compared to other stores
- Blazing fast shipping times (sometimes delivered the SAME DAY if you’re close to the seller’s stock)
- A good chance to find shoes priced under retail
- Extremely convenient return/refund policies
WHY FINISH LINE?
Finish Line is my usual #3 option to get my basketball shoes from if Amazon currently doesn’t have it and the brand’s retail store (Nike.com, adidas.com, etc.) might be out of stock or doesn’t have my size.
I find them, along with a handful of other sports stores, to bring in new major and also lesser-known releases just as quickly as the main brand retailers, most of the time.
Very similar advantages to manufacturer’s stores here: very quick shipping times (and it’s free), convenient return & refund policies and you’ll never find any shoe priced over retail.
For some reason, Finish Line seems to be good at keeping a healthy stock of products, as there’s always a wide variety of sizing for most mainstream models. Something you can’t say about Nikey, Adidas, AJ, or Under Armour stores.
Of course, there will be exceptions and rare shoes that are hard to find globally won’t magically be available in large quantities here either.
Buying from the store will only be applicable for U.S. residents, so not an option for international users (unless you’re using a third-party service to ship internationally from US stores as I do).
Overall, I consider Finish Line to be the top pick out of the US’s popular sports retailers. Or perhaps I’m a little biased but regardless, I think I’ll be sticking to it for quite some time.
- All shoes priced at retail
- Good stock most of the time
- Fast & free shipping for the U.S
- Convenient refund & return policies
- You can find quite detailed and relevant reviews left by buyers
Still not sure? I’ve made a comprehensive guide and compiled some general tips on where to buy basketball shoes online. Check it HERE!
Alright, that’s a wrap for the LeBron 18 review! I hope you found it useful as always, had an awesome run in these throughout the months! One of the most fun reviews to make lately. The shoe is absolutely among the best in 2020 and it’s one of the best in this “high budget” range.
But if you feel like I’ve missed some stuff that could be important, you’ve got a question, suggestion, or just want to share your own experience,
Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as quick as I can!
Nike LeBron 18$200
Fit & Comfort9.5/10
Value for the Price7.0/10
- Most people should go true to their size
- Go 1/2 a size if you prefer a roomier fit
- Make sure to wear high-cut, thicker socks to prevent the tongue pinching
- An excellent all-around performer, though be aware of lateral coverage inconsistency
- Positions 1-5
- Explosive/athletic players
- Linear-dominant players