$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 fit & comfort, on-court performance, value for the price, versatility and break down any key differences between the mid-top and the low-top since there are some Nikey hasn’t explained. Let’s go!
> If you want to get familiar with the regular LeBron 18 first – here’s my review.
SHOW TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. SPEC SHEET
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GRAB THE LEBRON 18 LOW 🛒
II. 1-MIN REVIEW 🕒
For those short on time: the LeBron 18 Low is an effective upgrade in some areas, while simultaneously offering a slightly cheaper shoe with strategic downgrades that don’t really hinder your performance.
The shoe fits more snug than its original version but most guys will still be good with TTS. As a wide footer, I got away with my usual size as well.
The same outsoles are used, so I got the same level of bite. All good there – though think twice about taking these outdoors too often.
The full-length Zoom Air Strobel was scrapped along with Cushlon. The low-top now features a React midsole along with the retained Max Air unit in the heel. Things feel very similar (BOUNCYYYY) albeit just a bit quicker & lower to the ground.
Security is where the shoe made the clearest improvements – no more lateral containment issues here. Lastly, the upper underwent quality downgrades sporting a ripstop material with a screen mesh layer on top.
I can’t say I felt a huge difference performance-wise, but this is definitely a fairly disappointing setup for a $160 shoe.
> The full review is below
III. FIT & COMFORT
Do they fit true to size or should you go up/down? How comfy are they? Anything else to know?
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 variant 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 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.
Does it consistently grip different surfaces? Is surface condition a factor? How long will the outsoles last?
A near-identical traction pattern is used on the LeBron 18 Low and these gripped the surfaces pretty much the same way as the original shoe did.
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 came 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.
I did a bit of wiping but nothing crazy – an occasional wipe or two every 5-10 minutes was 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.
In terms of the rubber’s longevity, it’s 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 burnt off but I can still grip the surface 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.
How’s the shock absorption and energy return? What about step comfort and stability of the foam?
The insanely awesome cushion setup the regular LeBron 18 offered mostly returns to the low-top variant.
But don’t get it twisted – the LeBron 18 Low still 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 though.
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 LeBron type of physiques and high-flyers out there, this is a gift for you.
How strong is the all-around security? What about stability & foot containment? Any trade-offs as a result?
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.
The front portion of the outsole now protrudes more than it did with the LeBron 18, so technically, proper outriggers are now in place as well.
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 issue.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the front portion of both shoes. It might not look very different from here but those synthetic backings had an impact for sure.
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 from a pick, 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 did feel a little wobbly but never to a point where it would be dangerous or throw me off my game. To give some perspective, a similar occurrence on the Air Zoom BB NXT was more noticeable in comparison.
Here, it’s just something that happens when you put your weight on a capsule that compresses and quickly pops back up without really affecting performance or my rythm.
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.
VII. THE BUILD
What are the materials of the upper & how do they perform? How’s the quality & reliability of the 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 this isn’t your buttery-soft woven. The build mostly consists of a ripstop style woven with a layer of screen mesh on top.
The heel portion is utilizing Fuse that’s backed with neoprene. Speaking of Fuse – there’s a lot of it.
Several pieces of it are all over the upper to back this material up but this is exactly what improved foot containment over the original release.
The lacing system is traditional and the build of the shoe is also a classic lace-and-tongue construction.
PERFORMANCE & QUALITY
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.
Rounding things up: are they well-rounded or player-specific? Is it a good deal among other competitors?
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.
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IX. ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS
Not quite sure on the LeBron 18 Low but looking for similar performance/feel? Take a look at the options below
If you’re looking for a similar-performing sneaker but something that’s more refined and offers better quality materials, you’d definitely want to take a look at the Cosmic Unity.
Partly made out of recycled materials – don’t let that fool you. Those use a fantastic build that lasts and performs well, and the overall performance of the shoe is nothing short of stellar.
Plus, you’re getting top-tier tech and since there’s no signature athlete name attached to it – you’re getting everything for $150 at retail.
For my fellow cash savers out there – let’s save big! If you still want a solid, well-rounded low-top but at a fraction of the price, Nikey’s Precision line is the way to go and the 5th shoe is definitely a solid performer.
It will surely not blow you away with its tech or build quality but it’ll deliver on the critical aspects for just 70 bucks.
And of course, there’s always the regular LeBron 18 if you can afford it.
If you’re not a particularly shifty guard and want even BEEFIER cushion, the mid-top counterpart will suck 200 bucks from you but you’ll get a package that’s hardly topped in the FUN department.
WHICH LEBRON 18 DO YOU PREFER?
Share your thoughts – they’re invaluable to the future reader!
That’s it for the LeBron 18 Low review! I hope you found it informative as always!
Check out the links below that will take you to each of the alternative shoe reviews, the original LeBron 18 review, and also my list of the best basketball shoes in the $200 price range.
Which one of the versions you’re going with though? 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?
Drop a comment below – let’s talk!
X. LEBRON 18 REVIEW: THE VERDICT
My final personal ratings, takeaways, and recommendations
Nike LeBron 18 Low$160
Fit & Comfort8.5/10
Value for the Price7.0/10
- 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
- Positions 1-5
- Heavy and/or athletic players
- Fans of an elevated ride