$40 cheaper for a low-cut version of the most FUN basketball shoe there is to date? Sign me up. Here’s an in-depth, 2-month LeBron 18 Low review. I’ll break down The King’s 18th signature shoe from Nike, particularly its low-top variant that launched not long ago.
I’ll analyze the general fit & comfort, on-court performance, value for the price, versatility and break down any key differences between the mid-top and the low-top. Let’s get into it!
Behind the review: tested by a 6’1 two-guard at ~175 lbs, solely outdoors on the blacktop & a synthetic rubber surface. Explosive slasher to the rim, all-around player. Wide footed.
> Want to get familiar with the regular LeBron 18 first? Here’s my review.
Model: Nike LeBron 18 Low
Weight: 15.83 oz / 449 g. (size 10 US)
Retail Price: $160
Cushion: Max Air heel unit & full-length React midsole
Best Offer On: Finish Line
I. FIT & COMFORT
Compared to the regular LeBron 18 on the left, you’d probably think the supposed low-top version seems to have a higher cut than the supposed “mid-top”. Well, that’s almost true. Perhaps Nikey refers to the regular shoe as something other than a low top solely because of that higher heel cut? Who knows.
But let’s talk sizing first.
The LeBron 18 Low definitely fits more compact than its original predecessor. Most people will still be just fine with their true size but expect a snug, almost one-to-one fit. The midfoot & forefoot areas seem a bit more condensed than the original shoe, and I particularly felt the difference while I was still breaking in the shoe.
The toebox looks to be more aggressively sculpted this time, so that’s where most of the difference comes from.
So if you’ve got a normal-sized foot or one on the narrow side and you’d prefer a roomier fit with a bit more space inside, going up half a size is an option.
For wide footers like myself, it’s a bit trickier this time.
I went true to size as I did with the regular LeBron 18 but despite breaking these in and staying patient, some of the areas simply can’t be stretched out to a degree where I’d feel 100% comfortable in there. The forefoot area laterally was no picnic since those blue Fuse overlays just didn’t move as much as I wanted them to.
The midfoot area along the lacing system also felt a little too suffocating but that portion broke in within a week or so.
So for those top-of-the-food-chain wide footers like myself – go up half a size if want the shoe to feel perfect width-wise. You might be left with a little bit of wiggle room length-wise in that case but shouldn’t be anything crazy. You can also go true to size as I did but in that case, prepare to get used to slight discomfort.
The reduced price has to show somewhere, right? The low-top variant of the shoe is still a comfortable basketball sneaker, don’t get me wrong there. However, when stacked against the $200 Knitposite 2.0 setup on the LeBron 18, it’s not much of a battle.
But ONLY if we’re talking pure comfort-wise and the feeling of the material sitting next to your foot while playing, the way it moves with your foot. There’s nothing quite like a buttery-soft, thick knit out there, so the regular shoe gets the win there. However, I’d be lying if I said the low-top is an uncomfortable shoe.
The slightly downgraded setup actually feels lighter now, it’s thinner and feels a bit more minimal while playing. Within about a week of playing, this upper actually wrapped around my foot quite nicely and I never looked back.
There are proper heel pillows as well, which cupped my heel very nicely.
Also, remember the ridiculous tongue on the regular shoe? That’s gone on the low. A thicker tongue that’s padded is used now, so no more digging into your shins. It’s still a little thinner than an average tongue on a sneaker though but nothing to cause any issues for me.
Overall, the low-top shoe isn’t a dose of luxury like the regular version was but it’s still a comfy shoe that produced no issues fit or comfort-wise. If you can look past the cheaper setup – you should be good to go no matter what.
A near-identical traction pattern is used on the LeBron 18 Low and these gripped the surfaces pretty much the same way. Not the craziest bite in the world, so you won’t be having deadly stops on a dusty five-decade court. At least that’s what the people who played with these indoors reported.
For me, outdoors is where all of my action still comes from, and the traction on both a concrete surface and a rubber surface was completely fine. I stopped when I needed to, never felt unconfident to do a movement or aggressively slash to the hoop.
Did a bit of wiping but nothing crazy – an occasional wipe or two every 5-10 minutes is all I needed.
So for those who are planning on hooping inside a gym – I encourage you to check out other reviewers who happened to test these indoors. I heard that they perform just fine as well but dirtier floors can cause a bit of inconsistency.
The same as the regular shoe. Definitely not your #1 choice for long-term outdoor play, and especially for this price. During the two months I’ve played in these outdoors, some of the pattern has peeled off but I can still grip the floor well.
However, it’s only a matter of time before I start playing on an almost entirely naked outsole, and judging the rubber by looks/feel, a naked outsole won’t do too well here due to the fairly soft compound used.
So for occasional play outside or a single season in the park – be my guest. As for banging the blacktop for multiple seasons – you should definitely take a look at my outdoor shoe list instead.
The insanely awesome cushion setup the regular LeBron 18 offered mostly returns to the low-top variant. The same huge Max Air heel unit is here but instead of a full-length Zoom Air Strobel, we’ve got a React midsole now and no more Cushlon as the carrier.
But don’t get it twisted – the LeBron 18 Low offers one of the most fun rides to date despite the changes. Crazy compression at the heel and impact protection for even the heaviest of dudes, while things are a little thinner throughout the rest of the foot.
Still super comfy with each and every step feeling pleasant, along with a bit of forefoot bounce.
The end result is the same in the heel portion and just a tad bit more subdued at the midfoot & forefoot portions. If you’re looking to stay mad comfy but shed a bit of weight and take away some of the midfoot & forefoot compression – the low top does just that.
I always feel two types of ways about this type of setup. I LOVE it when all I want to do is have fun on the court. When it’s game time with 9 other guys looking to take each other’s heads off, I’d simply turn my head to something faster, lower to the ground a bit more balanced.
Not everyone will find this ultra-soft, high-off-the-ground ride suitable for the way they play but I’m sure everyone would appreciate how awesome this feels. For the fellow LeBrons and high-flyers out there, this is a gift for you.
The area where the low-top clearly made improvements over the regular version is security. We still have the usual features you’d see on a basketball sneaker: a large external heel piece for heel & ankle lockdown, a fairly wide platform to ensure stability, and multiple Fuse overlays on the upper for additional structure & containment.
Those Fuse overlays are what I think made the biggest difference. I recall the original LeBron 18 having slight issues with lateral containment, especially for shiftier and/or heavier guys. For the low – I’m sure less-to-no people will face the same issues.
My foot never intended to roll over the footbed and I never had a sense of being unsafe while playing in these. Each time I do a lateral stride such as a quick backdoor cut, I can feel the synthetic pieces holding my foot in place compared to the LeBron 18’s knit that didn’t really have anything to back it.
But of course, there are always factors to take in and think about. Such an elevated platform due to the beefy cushion setup will always feel different than a low-profile guard’s shoe that sticks closer to the ground. Did I feel unstable in these? Mostly not.
Certain awkward landings on the heel where the Max Air unit is felt a little wobbly but never to a point where it would be dangerous or throw me off my game. Just something that happens when you put your weight on a capsule that compresses and quickly pops back up.
But could there be cases where a low-profile guard could feel questionable in such an elevated ride? Sure, if you’re not used to it. But then again, you probably shouldn’t get these if you’re a light, quick low-profile guard that’s built off the word shifty. You should be looking at this list instead.
V. MATERIALS & BUILD
This is where the price drop is mostly reflected. While we still mostly get the same tech specs, the materials used are clearly cheaper and feel that way. Nikey states that this is woven but I hardly see it here. Some sort of screen mesh looks to be used along with a synthetic suede piece for the heel.
As mentioned, there are also several Fuse pieces to back this material up and what greatly improved foot containment over the original release. The lacing system is traditional and the build of the shoe is also a usual lace-and-tongue construction.
As much as I could trash these material choices – I don’t see a reason to. It’s not as premium, sure. It doesn’t quite feel as fantastic as the Knitposite 2.0 felt wrapped around my foot on the LeBron 18, sure. But when it’s game time, there’s simply nothing wrong with this build.
It’s fairly light & thin but has enough structure to last and provide containment, doesn’t take ages to break in, and feels completely fine on foot while playing. Give it 1-2 weeks before judging how the upper feels.
The only gripe I have with this is the price. This is not what we’d usually expect for a $160 sneaker but you gotta remember some things. Not all pricing is consistent even for the same brand, and this looks to be especially true for Nike at the moment. And don’t forget we’re still getting flagship tech specs.
If you’re looking for that true bang for your buck deal – of course you can find cheaper options that perform great and last long. That’s a no-brainer and I DO believe these would be better justified in the $150 range.
But for people who can afford these – there’s nothing bad about the build other than that it lacks premium touches. Plays just fine, breaks in quickly, feels minimal. I’ll take it.
The Nike LeBron 18 Low brings some of the usual flagship specs along with some compromises to produce a more affordable sneaker that still screams LeBron all over it. And I think they achieved that, more or less.
The shoe should fit most guys true to size for a snug fit but wide footers will have to decide between TTS and some discomfort or up 1/2 a size while having some room length-wise. The traction is solid too – no complaints outdoors other than its longevity.
The Max Air & React cushioning is amazing and shows us who’s the king of setups for high-flyers. However, the midfoot & forefoot portions feel a bit more subdued compared to the regular shoe’s full-length Zoom Air Strobel.
Support is where the low-top shined, providing an upgrade over the regular version. The materials are definitely cheaper but that’s where your $40 price drop is coming from. If you can get past the lack of “premium”, you’ll likely have no issues.
Why buy from Finish Line? Here's my take.
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!
That’s it for the LeBron 18 Low review! I hope you found it informative as always! Which one of the versions you’re going with? Have you tried the low-top and feel different about it? Or perhaps you’ve got a question I haven’t answered in the review?
Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as quick as I can!
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Nike LeBron 18 Low$160
Fit & Comfort8.5/10
Value for the Price7.5/10
- True to size is optimal for most
- Wide footers: true to size OR 1/2 size up
- Slightly subdued cushion in the forefoot & midfoot compared to the original
- Improved support & containment over the original
- All positions
- High-flyers, explosive players
- Heavier players
- Those who prefer an elevated ride