Nike AlphaDunk Review: In-Depth Performance Analysis (2020)

So, I’ve been looking over a bunch of reviews, user feedback, and general perception of 2019’s Nike Alphadunk, and all I’m seeing is trashing. A huge bunch of trashing in fact. But I’m still pulling out a Nike Alphadunk review for you!

It seems that most people hated how the supposed replacement of the classic Hyperdunk performed on the court. But for some reason, I’m still seeing quite a large interest in the shoe. So why’s that? Well, this would be the exact and only reason I’ve decided to give this shoe my all and after 5 weeks of testing & playing, let’s find some stuff out.

Is it really that bad? Perhaps there are certain player styles that work better with this shoe? Let’s find out if this is a good buy!

SPEC SHEET

Nike AlphaDunk Review: Side 1

Model: Nike AlphaDunk
Build: High cut mid-top
Weight: 16.5 oz / 468 g. (size 10 US)
Retail Price: $180
Cushion: Forefoot Zoom Air & Phylon midsole
Best Offer On: Amazon

Note on product links: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This means that if a user clicks on a product link and purchases a product, I earn a small commission.


I. COMFORT & FIT

Nike AlphaDunk Review: Top

Okay, so the initial feedback on the shoe’s fit was mostly following a pattern: heavy, bulky, and a little stiff. And I would mostly agree with it.

I’m a wide footer, I still went true to size though as the upper’s a knit by its core, and after 2-3 days of breaking the shoe in, comfort was fine. Mostly.

It’s a very snug fit for us wide footers – regular/narrow footers should find these just right. So, from the sizing standpoint, I think it’s all fine and dandy there.

The problems being with the comfort aspect and just how the shoe feels on foot while playing. I didn’t hate it, the shoe wasn’t super uncomfortable and didn’t present major annoyances of some kind either.

But you know the feeling when you’re playing and you actually think about the shoes you’re wearing? I always praise the shoes which literally make you forget you got something on your feet.

I believe comfort and a distraction-free fit are kings and unfortunately, this was never found in the AlphaDunk for me.

I never felt so uncomfortable or bothered to the point where I’d want to take ’em off mid-game.

Nike AlphaDunk Review: Pair

But what I did feel was just too much stiffness (even after giving the upper a long time to adjust) in the midfoot area that caused step transitions to be kinda rough and flat, as well as the overall bulkiness feeling these gave, constantly reminding me I’ve got a pair of clunky kicks on my feet.

Usually, a shoe’s weight on paper doesn’t really feel like the weight it actually stands at on the court. Well, I could feel all 16.5 ounces the AlphaDunk presented me with.

I get that the shoe might be catered towards bigger and heavier guys (even though it’s nowhere marketed as such) but there are plenty of options out there that offer a much more seamless experience. I just think this is poor design or miscommunication of creation teams not deciding who the shoe really is for.

So, is the AlphaDunk comfortable? Yes, it’s decent. The sizing is also fine. But the heavy & bulky feel this brings you was a major throw-off for me.

I must mention that I’m 6’1 at 171 lbs so I’m sure no big guy. Perhaps the experience would be better for a true forward/center? Maybe.

In theory, bigger should find the shoe more fitting due to more structure and lots of impact protection. Plus, the weight and bulkiness of the shoe would be better distributed and felt less when where talking about a 6’5 forward or 7-footer center.

It’s up to those folks to find that out though. For us mortals though, not the best fit experience.

II. TRACTION

Nike AlphaDunk Review: Outsole

Most people also thrashed the shoe’s traction. For me – it was more of a mixed bag. As for most people, the outsole worked pretty well on a near-perfect condition court that was squeaky clean. Fortunately, I had a chance to play on such a court a couple of times.

The varied performance comes with the addition of less than pristine condition courts – mildly dirty/dusty hardwood, poor-condition 24-hour fitness courts, and outdoor parks.

All the colorways I saw available come in a translucent rubber option. I don’t know how much that affects the iffy traction but they sure as hell could’ve used some good old solid rubber herringbone and forget it.

Instead, we have this circle-shaped pattern in the forefoot and lateral stripes in the midfoot & heel portion of the outsole.

This pattern I think was quite horrible and could’ve easily been avoided if they took the pattern from the Hyperdunk X or just went with herringbone. The grooves of this pattern are very dense, so dust is already an issue – you’re going to have to wipe them constantly or dirtier courts as grip is noticeably affected by dust on these.

To make matters worse, the rubber compound while being relatively tacky, it’s SUPER sticky, and believe it or not, it’s actually tough to push the dust out with a simple wipe. I had to really stop and give a few minutes to scrape out the dust with my fingers to make a difference.

So, sticky rubber + a dense pattern + a translucent outsole? It’s almost like Nikey made a checklist of the main elements that make up for quality traction and went with the total opposites in each element.

I guess I just caught myself thrashing on the shoe just like other users but I gotta state the obvious here. Poor choices in design lead to poor performance. Simple as that.

To sum it up, I think the base traction of the AlphaDunk is decent. Think of it as a 7. But its performance on mid/poor-condition courts is merely a 4. That’s not a winning combination and another throw-off for me.

Looks like things are shaping the way I anticipated… Or do they?

III. CUSHION

Nike AlphaDunk Review: Side 2

But here comes the shoe’s cushion setup – the AlphaDunk’s best weapon, no doubt. We got a forefoot Zoom Air unit and a Phylon midsole for the setup.

At the time of the shoe’s release, this was the largest ever Zoom Air unit in a Nikey shoe (I think the latest LeBron XVIII has a larger one now) and sure feels like one.

It’s soft, bouncy, loads of forefoot impact protection, and a ton of fun to play in. I’m considerably light and I still found the Zoom to be awesome – imagine how it would feel for a big guy!

Due to the large nature of the unit and a thick carrier that encages the midsole, you can forget about court feel here. Not a shoe for quick, low-profile guards.

I’d say the forefoot cushion actually felt slightly slower and mushier than your average Zoom shoe. I was sinking into the unit to an extent on more aggressive landings or jumps. So again, if you’re looking for maximum responsiveness and would like to retain court feel – you should look the other way entirely.

Nike AlphaDunk Review: Midsole

The rest of the midsole is simply Phylon foam which is decent – not the firmest Phylon I’ve experienced but not the best either. There’s still some slight give in the heel, so all-around impact protection is quite nice, especially for bigger guys who post-up, rebound with frequent forefoot-jumps, and stick around in the paint.

However, I feel like step transitions and the smoothness of them is pretty bad. Sure, the cushion setup is nice and a TON of fun to bounce around but due to the stiff nature of the shoe, I think that’s simply not utilized fully.

Once again – a few simple tweaks could’ve propelled the shoe to be noticeably better than what it turned out to be.

But if I said this is a bad cushion setup – I’d be lying. I encourage you to try it if you’re a heavier forward/center. For the rest of us, there are MUCH better options in terms of an effective & versatile setup.

IV. SUPPORT

Nike AlphaDunk Review: Back

The overall support & security was good but not without caveats which were caused by the shoe’s other areas being weak.

There are your regular features for support in place – an aggressive external heel counter, a relatively wide base for a stable foundation, Flywire cables that tighten when the laces are pulled for better lockdown.

The fit itself is solid as I’ve mentioned as well as a structured upper that contains your foot very well. No collapses or feet sliding out of the carrier.

There’s a subtle internal midfoot shank that should¬†promote smoother step transitions but due to the stiffness of the shoe, that’s nowhere to be found.

No lateral outriggers though – would’ve liked them be there for extra lateral protection but the shoe’s base is quite wide to begin with, so that didn’t really cause any issues.

My movements were supported well, I didn’t feel insecure playing in these, so base support is there.

But we’re in 2020 – I think support shouldn’t come at a cost for minimal mobility, a heavy & bulky feel, and just clunkiness.

Big men’s shoes or not – I think this could’ve been avoided. If we’re talking strictly pure support and security – it’s there. If we’re talking the feel in general and how it all flows together – not so much.

V. BUILD & MATERIALS

Nike AlphaDunk Review: Upper

The upper is supposedly “reengineered” Flyknit which is essentially Flyknit with a TPU/Fuse coating for more structure. The back area is synthetic leather.

Despite them being very stiff and rigid to the touch, the upper didn’t feel like a chore. It broke in very quickly and played pretty nicely. I’m not sure about this choice of plasticy Flyknit though.

If you’re putting a $180 price tag, I think a premium material that’s soft & comfortable, yet still durable should be the staple.

Here, we get durability, we get decent comfort but the softness of the upper is nowhere to be found. Pair that with barely any flex and lack of ventilation whatsoever, and we get ourselves a missed opportunity.

Granted, I don’t care much about ventilation or a material being super soft & pleasant to the touch but I do think a $180 price tag should bring some high standards to the table.

Here, we get some promising stuff that works for the most part but it’s really something that shouldn’t be worth all $180.

Take 5 bucks out and we get the $175 Air Jordan 34. That’s the pinnacle of premium and how a $175 shoe should feel & perform.

VI. OVERALL

I think the Nike AlphaDunk is a decent shoe, don’t get me wrong here. It’s got promising tech, durability, and compatibility for big men on their side.

But from practicality & versatility standpoints – this is really a miss in my eyes. The fit is decent, yet feels bulky and stiff. Traction would be good on paper but take it to a dustier court and you’ll be slipping all over the place without frequent wiping.

The cushion is the shoe’s strongest suit but it’s not versatile, support is fine but all that for $180 is just not a good ideal in my book.

Let’s hope the formerly known Hyperdunk line is anything but downhill from now, perhaps an AlphaDunk 2 or an entirely new take on the series will brighten things up.

Let’s wait and see!

THE VERDICT

Nike AlphaDunk Review: Side 1

Comfort Rating: 7.5
Performance Rating: 7
Value for the Price Rating: 6.5
Suitability for Outdoors: Fair
Recommended for: Forwards/centers | heavier players
Overall Rating: 7

RECOMMENDED ALTERNATIVE

AIR JORDAN 34

Nike AlphaDunk Review: AJ 34

For a very similar price point, just get the Air Jordan 34. Talk about premium & utilizing all that expensive tech the right way.

It’s mad comfy and fits like a glove. It’s very secure, yet lightweight and mobile. It’s got amazing cushioning. It’s premium, soft and just a pleasant experience to play in.

No gimmicks, no compromises. Versatility on point and $5 less than the AlphaDunk. One of the best shoes of 2019, I highly recommend it.

Click here to check the full review of the Air Jordan 34


Appreciate for staying with me all the way to the end – I hope you found the review useful! As always, I’m really looking forward to hearing what you have to say about this one. Perhaps you found the AlphaDunk to be good? Or maybe you have a question?

Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as quick as I can!

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