Our verdict

The Nike Cosmic Unity 3 is an investment that will give a lot of returns. We believe that this is the case where a high price tag is absolutely justified. For us, this shoe is an instant top pick in the durability and stability departments. And for sure, it is among the best options for outdoor use that we've seen in a while. If Nike fixes its firm midsole and trims down the weight for the next iteration, we are ready to claim it as THAT SHOE.

Pros

  • Perfect for outdoor courts
  • Outstandingly durable
  • One of the most stable shoes
  • Wide platform
  • Very secure lockdown
  • Reliable traction on all courts
  • Breathable enough
  • Sustainable materials

Cons

  • Firm sole with poor impact protection
  • Heavier than average
  • Break-in needed

Audience verdict

79
Good!
  • Top 14% most popular basketball shoes

Who should buy

Having tested the limits and capacities of the Nike Cosmic Unity 3, we consider it an excellent option for the following:

  • small forwards who need tons of support and stability
  • athletes who mostly play on outdoor courts
  • savvy buyers who are willing to pay more for premium durability

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 review

Who should NOT buy

Having tested the previous version of the Cosmic Unity, we believe that the v3 is a bit of a letdown when it comes to cushioning and weight. If you want a softer and more responsive Zoom Air cushioning, go with the v2. We also found that it is a whopping 2.3 oz (65g) lighter!

Another great alternative, in our opinion, is the Nike KD 15. It is 1.7 oz (48g) lighter, has plusher and bouncier cushioning, and is just as great for outdoor courts.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 lab test

Breathability

When we first saw all those layers of mesh and knit embracing the upper of the Cosmic Unity 3, we instantly thought "Uh-oh, here comes a toaster." And yet, our smoke machine test proved that this Nike shoe found a way to ventilate the interiors.

Based on the amount of smoke passing through the upper, we assessed its breathability with a rating of 3 out of 5.

It is clear from the transparency test below which parts of the upper are responsible for the airflow.

Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 3
Average 2.5
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

The wear resistance of this Nike shoe is INSANE!

In addition to its mesmerizing looks, the embroidered upper of the Cosmic Unity 3 is also impressively strong. It survived our 12-second Dremel test with very minor damage and deserved the highest rating of 5/5. No wonder it is advertised for outdoor use!

Seeing what the same test did to the cheaper Nike Lebron Witness 7 ($115), it becomes clear why the Cosmic Unity 3 is asking for $170.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Toebox durability comparison

Of course, we couldn't help but explore the shoe's upper under our microscope in an attempt to reveal its secret durability formula.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 microscope 1

We can see how multiple layers of woven fabric create several layers of defense on the Nike Cosmic Unity 3. This shoe is ready for some serious wear and tear.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 microscope 2

Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 5
Average 3.8
Compared to 29 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

Back in the heel, the collar padding also showed excellent results in our Dremel test. Pressing the tool against the material for 4 seconds, we saw smaller damage compared to basketball shoes on average.

In this part of the upper, we rated the Cosmic Unity as 3 out of 5.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Heel padding durability result

Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 3
Average 3.6
Compared to 26 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

The shoe's unmatched durability includes the outsole as well.

Measuring the hardness of its rubber with a durometer, we found it to be 86.5 HC. This is harder than 81% of our lab-tested basketball shoes. And in our experience, it takes much longer to wear through hard rubbers.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Outsole hardness

This fact in combination with our playtests allows us to wholeheartedly recommend the Nike Cosmic Unity 3 for outdoor use.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 outsole

Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 86.5 HC
Average 81.8 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
59.5 HC
Outsole hardness
91.0 HC

Outsole thickness

We also use a caliper to check how thick the outsole is. At 3.5 mm, it is not among the thickest we've seen.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Outsole thickness

But we wouldn't be so concerned about that because the nature of the treads on the Cosmic Unity 3 looks very reassuring. Wide and deep, these lugs are not easy to wear off.

Based on all of our findings in the durability department, we can claim this Nike shoe to be one of the best for outdoor use.

Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 3.5 mm
Average 4.0 mm
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
6.9 mm

Weight

Apparently, being a durable shoe has its price.

The Nike Cosmic Unity 3 gained some serious weight compared to its predecessor. It now tips the scales at 15.7 oz (444g) whereas the average of our lab-tested hoop shoes is 13.7 oz (387g).

It feels very substantial underfoot but it seems to be the trade-off for the unmatched wear resistance and overall support.

Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 15.66 oz (444g)
Average 14.22 oz (403g)
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
11.29 oz (320g)
Weight
17.46 oz (495g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

The shoe's cushioning comprises a drop-in midsole that sits on top of an embedded midsole. We measured the combined stack height of these two.

In the heel, our caliper shows 27.9 mm of stack, which is slightly thinner than average but still in the medium range.

Less cushioning typically translates to a better ground feel and we can confirm that the Cosmic Unity 3 feels more grounded.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Heel stack
Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 27.9 mm
Average 30.2 mm
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
25.2 mm
Heel stack
38.4 mm

Forefoot stack

In the forefoot, we measured the stack height at 20.7 mm. It is also considered average for a basketball shoe. It is neither too thin to hurt the ball of the foot not extra cushioned.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Forefoot stack
Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 20.7 mm
Average 21.9 mm
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
18.2 mm
Forefoot stack
29.2 mm

Drop

Calculating the difference between the heel and the forefoot height, we get a drop of 7.2 mm.

This slight elevation of the heel above the toes is right at the average of hoop shoes. We believe that it will suit most players.

Bigger guys and gals, on the other hand, may benefit from a higher drop as it gives more impact protection in the heel. Some shoes like that include the Adidas Dame 8 (10.4 mm).

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Drop
Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 7.2 mm
Average 8.3 mm
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
4.4 mm
Drop
14.8 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

To us, this part of the shoe has become the biggest disappointment.

The cushioning of the Nike Cosmic Unity 3 is a far-far cry from the brand's claim of "cloud-like cushioning." We repeated the durometer measurement several times to make sure we are not biased and yet every time the tool confirmed our experience - this shoe is firm. At 33.3 HA, the Cosmic Unity 3 is about 20% firmer than average. 

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Midsole softness

Because of that, the shoe feels dense (and even thin) and definitely lacks impact protection for our moderate body weight. Unfortunately, it is a downgrade from the second iteration which was 32% softer and felt amply cushioned despite the lower stack height.

Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 33.3 HA
Average 26.0 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
11.0 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
35.9 HA

Insole thickness

Because the shoe comes with a drop-in midsole, there is no insole in the Cosmic Unity 3 per se.

However, if you are wondering, the heel thickness of this component is 14.5 mm.

We are not exactly sure why Nike went with this midsole design. But at least it gives us an opportunity to replace its underwhelming cushioning with something more fun and protective. Not to mention that it gives way to using custom orthotics.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Insole thickness
Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 0.0 mm
Average 4.4 mm
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Insole thickness
8.6 mm

Stability

Lateral stability test

Luckily, the Cosmic Unity 3 comes back strong when it comes to support and stability. This shoe made us feel contained like no other!

The first salute goes out to supportive materials on the upper. All those sturdy woven layers of Flymesh and Flyknit blend together to lock the foot in place. We experienced zero in-shoe movement.

Just look how little stretch (if any) there is in the upper!

Torsional rigidity

Our next shoutout goes to the plastic shank embedded into the midsole. It extends up on both sides, firmly bracing the arch. We haven't seen expanded shanks like that in quite some time.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Shank

This design is responsible for the shoe's increased torsional rigidity. Twisting it is not that easy! On a scale from 1 to 5, where 5 is the stiffest, we rated it as 4.

We consider it an essential stability component of the Nike Cosmic Unity 3.

Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 4
Average 4.5
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

The shoe's heel cup was another pleasant surprise. First of all, it is notably stiffer than most basketball shoes. Giving it a good squeeze, we rated its stiffness as 4 out of 5.

Secondly, the shoe's rear foot is designed in such a way that our heels ended up sitting quite deeply in it. Heel slippage is simply non-existent here.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Heel cup

Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 4
Average 3.6
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

Finally, we cannot leave the shoe's wide base without attention.

Measuring the widest part of the forefoot with a caliper, we found it to be 115.3 mm. This is a little wider than average.

Having a wide landing area, we felt extra confident making sharp direction changes.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 115.3 mm
Average 114.0 mm
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
106.2 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
122.2 mm

Midsole width in the heel

The Cosmic Unity 3 also features a wide heel area. We measured its widest part at 91 mm. A solid average for a hoop shoe.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 91.0 mm
Average 91.3 mm
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
82.4 mm
Midsole width in the heel
105.1 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

Being such a sturdy shoe, the Nike Cosmic Unity 3 loses a bit on the flexibility front.

It doesn't bend very easily on the foot and as our lab test shows, it's not very bendy per se. It took 44N of force to get the shoe to a 90-degree angle, according to our gauge reading. This makes the shoe 5% stiffer than the average. Not critical but noticeable.

We anticipate that the shoe will get more flexible with use but the break-in period is going to take a while.

We felt less maneuverable in the Cosmic Unity 3 but in return, we got smoother heel-to-toe transitions and enhanced stability.

Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 44.0N
Average 40.6N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
29.9N
Stiffness
67.2N

Grip / Traction

The grip is fabulous on the Nike Cosmic Unity 3. We mostly tested the shoe on a rubberized outdoor court and felt very surefooted. But we can readily recommend it for hardwood and concrete surfaces too.

We had to wipe the dust off much less frequently compared to other basketball shoes.

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

We measured the widest part of the shoe's toebox at 105.4 mm. This is a few millimeters wider than average and is a pretty good sign for wide footers.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 105.4 mm
Average 101.0 mm
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
92.6 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
108.2 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

Towards the toes, the toebox goes from being above-average width to simply average. We measured the width at the big toe at 76.7 mm.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Toebox width at the big toe

In our opinion, the Nike Cosmic Unity 3 will accommodate most foot shapes perfectly. Except perhaps the really wide feet. We recommend these players to go a half size or even a full size up because the Cosmic Unity 3 is not available in wide.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 fit

Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 76.7 mm
Average 77.0 mm
Compared to 32 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
71.2 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
85.1 mm

Tongue: gusset type

Surprisingly for its higher-end price point, the Cosmic Unity 3 doesn't have a gusseted tongue.

However, this was never an issue for us as the tongue stayed in place and wrapped around our insteps comfortably.

The tongue is pretty wide and is made of a neoprene-ish material, which apparently makes up a success formula for this Nike shoe.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 None

Comfort

Tongue padding

The shoe's tongue is much thinner than average. At 4.9 mm, it is nearly twice thinner. And yet, it feels fairly well-padded.

We think that more padding in the tongue would be unnecessary as the shoe's upper offers plenty of support and in-shoe comfort as is.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Tongue padding
Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 4.9 mm
Average 9.3 mm
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1.3 mm
Tongue padding
15.1 mm

Heel tab

Because the edge of the shoe's collar is made of a pliable Flyknit material, having a finger loop to assist with putting it on is pretty handy.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Heel tab
Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 Finger loop

Removable insole

Remember that taking the insole out of the Nike Cosmic Unity 3 equates to removing the shoe's cushioning entirely. So you would need to find a thick replacement of at least 12 mm in the heel.

Nike Cosmic Unity 3 Removable insole
Test results
Cosmic Unity 3 Yes

Misc

Sustainable materials

As a final bonus, the Cosmic Unity 3 is claimed to be partially made of responsibly sourced materials. These include recycled post-manufactured and post-consumer waste like yarns, textiles, and plastics.Nike Cosmic Unity 3 laces