In person, the Elite Series kicks are impressive but also understated. Black or white and sprinkled with gold, the shoes stay true original intent of the regular model-with a few notable improvements. Of course, a super nice colorway might cause campouts, sellouts and general craziness, but it’s the technology behind these shoes that makes them that much interesting. The changes to the regular model aren’t just aesthetic. Jason Petrie and his team stripped the original shoe down, re-imagined it entirely, and then started from scratch. Learn more about the technology behind the Nike LeBron 9 P.S. after the break.
The first step: better materials. While carbon fiber has become something of a cliche, it’s still an unique material with the two most important properties for athletic shoes: it’s light, and it’s strong. Replacing plastic or glass fiber shanks (the part of the shoe under the arch of your foot) with carbon fiber and throwing carbon fiber on the heel counter (the part that wraps your heel) makes the shoe much lighter and sturdier. Outfitting a shoe with that much carbon fiber is a significant structural improvement.
As for the Kevlar, Nike used incorporated that into its existing Flywire technology. That’s the very thin upper of a shoe that looks like a tight mesh, and supports the foot in key spots. Flywire is typically made with nylon and Vectran fibers, which is sturdy enough for everyday use but not nearly as strong as Kevlar. As Leo Chang and Jason Petrie pointed out, nylon has 30 percent stretch to it while Kevlar has only 1 percent. You can notice the difference immediately; Kevlar-infused Flywire isn’t as flimsy as the original, but it’s still plenty flexible. Nike likes to say that it’s stronger than steel. If Flywire is a suspension bridge, using Kevlar with Flywire is like a modern Calatrava, while its nylon counterpart is a creaky wooden river passage guarded by trolls. The finishing touches? Nike’s Pro Combat-those cushiony pads football players wear-material on the tongue, a special sock liner for better internal traction, and Kevlar shoelaces. Yes. Kevlar shoelaces.