Our verdict

The anticipation for Ja Morant's first signature shoe with Nike is pretty much justified. The Nike Ja 1 is a total performer that we recommend for different kinds of players: from guards who appreciate a lot of energy return to heel strikers and bigger men who need good impact protection. It also feels comfortable enough to be worn off the court. You can really maximize the money spent on this hoop shoe.

Pros

  • A true bang for the buck
  • Amazing grip on the court
  • Quite a supportive ride
  • Pretty comfortable wraparound
  • Great plushness around the heel
  • Good forefoot bounce
  • Durable structure
  • True-to-size fit
  • Stylish look

Cons

  • Cheap-feeling materials
  • Still has to be broken in

Audience verdict

88
Great!
  • Top 3% most popular basketball shoes

Who should buy

We think that this signature shoe from Nike is a suitable match for the following:

  • quick guards who want a lot of energy return
  • bigger athletes who benefit a lot from heel plushness
  • players who want shoes that are comfortable and aesthetic enough to be worn off the court
  • athletes who play mostly indoors

Nike Ja 1 review

Who should NOT buy

The Ja 1 from Nike is not for players who like premium materials in their shoes. Even though our lab tests showed that the shoe's upper is highly resistant to abrasion, we must admit that they don't have a premium vibe. High-quality shoe lovers are better off getting the more upscale Nike KD 15.

Ja Morant's first signature shoe is also not for those who want kicks that they can immediately use straight out of the box. Several parts of this shoe, particularly the midsole tooling and the upper, take some time before they unleash their true potential. The Jordan Luka 1 is a better pick for them.

Nike Ja 1 lab test

Breathability

In our lab test, the smoke that we pumped into the shoe escaped through the tongue well. Though the smoke's rising was not as smooth as in the Under Armour Curry 10, the Ja 1 still deserved a solid 3 out of 5 for ventilation. This score still makes it more breathable than many other basketball shoes on record.

Nike Ja 1 (3 out of 5) vs. UA Curry 10 (5 out of 5)

Putting the upper material over the light source quickly revealed that the upper material wasn't as well-ventilated as we hoped. Much of the ventilation for this shoe was through the tongue.

We examined the upper material through the microscope and saw that a tightly woven lining underneath the mesh hampered its ability to "breathe."

Nike Ja 1 microscope

It's very clear in the close-up shot below how the lining effectively closes off the mesh patterns where air could have flowed.

Nike Ja 1 microscope upper

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

Durability

Toebox durability

Toebox durability is where the Nike Ja 1 shone like a gem it is. Not even our high-pressure Dremel-drilling for twelve seconds could poke a hole through it. So hands down, it's a 5 over 5!

For context, take a look at the damage the same amount of pressure placed on the Adidas Harden Stepback 3, which only got a 3 out of 5.

Nike Ja 1 vs Adidas Harden Stepback 3 toebox durability comparison

Nike JA 1 (5 out of 5) vs. Adidas harden Stepback 3 (3 out of 5)

Test results
Ja 1 5
Average 3.8
Compared to 29 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

The durability of the heel counter padding was also another highlight. If only it could laugh, it would have LOLed at our Dremel test! If we could give a score higher than 5 out of 5, we would!

As you can see, four seconds of drilling barely left a dent on the heel counter. 

Nike Ja 1 heel padding durability

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

Outsole hardness

The hardness of the outsole wasn't so bad during our test games. In the lab, our HC durometer showed that it is just around the average in this regard. 

Nike Ja 1 Outsole hardness
Test results
Ja 1 83.1 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 durability

Just like the upper and the heel counter padding, the outsole was also subjected to our standard Dremel drilling to see how abrasion-resistant it is. 

Using a tread gauge, we measured the dent depth at 1.6 mm. This is notably deeper than average, indicating that the material is softer. Using this frequently outdoors might not be such a good idea.

Nike Ja 1 outsole durability test

Test results
Ja 1 1.6 mm
Average 1.0 mm
Compared to 17 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

Our caliper showed that the outsole is only 3.5 mm thick, making it just a tiny bit thinner than average. Coupled with its not-so-impressive durability, we can say that this shoe is best for well-kept indoor hardwood courts.

Nike Ja 1 Outsole thickness
Test results
Ja 1 3.5 mm
Average 4.0 mm
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
6.9 mm

Weight

At only 12.7 ounces or 361.0 grams, the Ja 1 from Nike is truly lighter than the typical basketball shoe. On the court, its lightweight structure allowed us to be speedier and less restricted with our movements.

Nike Ja 1 Weight
Test results
Ja 1 12.73 oz (361g)
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

Immediately upon wearing it, we noticed that the Ja 1 brought us closer to the floor. This allowed us to gain more ground feel and better movement control.

Nike Ja 1 impact protection

Our caliper measurements confirmed our experience. This lab device reported that the Ja 1's heel stack is thinner than usual at 27.5 mm.

Nike Ja 1 Heel stack
Test results
Ja 1 27.5 mm
Average 30.2 mm
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
25.2 mm
Heel stack
38.4 mm

Forefoot stack

The thickness of the forefoot is just around the average at 22.3 mm. What's even more interesting about this part is the Zoom Unit embedded in it.

Nike Ja 1 Forefoot stack

This energizing unit gave us all the propulsion that we needed to drive toward the basket and make our games extra exciting.

Test results
Ja 1 22.3 mm
Average 21.9 mm
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
18.2 mm
Forefoot stack
29.2 mm

Drop

With a drop of only 5.2 mm, this Nike basketball shoe indeed felt flatter than the typical hoop shoe. We appreciated this setup because (1) it made us feel more grounded and (2) it provided just the right blend of impact protection and court feel.

This shoe was perfectly suitable for those among us who have more hybrid playing styles and on-court roles.

Nike Ja 1 Drop
Test results
Ja 1 5.2 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.

With a softness rating of 26.5 HA, the midsole of the Nike Ja 1 does not deviate in a significant way from the average.

Fortunately, its apparent averageness did not result in any negative experience. On the contrary, its midsole setup actually allowed us to enjoy a good balance between cushioning and firmness, which helped greatly with our movements.

Nike Ja 1 Midsole softness
Test results
Ja 1 26.5 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

We attribute the comfortable feeling underfoot to the insole, which we found to be a little thicker than average at 5.0 mm.

Nike Ja 1 Insole thickness
Test results
Ja 1 5.0 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

Even if the materials felt cheap, they never fell short in providing much-needed support. When we moved from side to side, we felt so much response from the sidewalls.

It is important to note that while it was supportive, it never felt restrictive. The upper still afforded us some flexibility to accommodate splays and some inevitable in-motion foot displacements, as can be seen in the video below.

Torsional rigidity

There was practically nothing to complain about when it came to this Nike shoe's torsional resistance. We felt so protected from twists even on awkward angles. Hands down, this shoe truly deserved the perfect 5 it got from us.

Test results
Ja 1 5
Average 4.5
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

What we liked about the heel counter was that it was straight-up stiff. The moment we put the shoe on, we already felt its grasp on the rearfoot. It was secure but not tight.

After giving it a good squeeze in our lab, we gladly give the heel counter a solid 4 out of 5 for stiffness.

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

Midsole width in the forefoot

The shoe felt stable at the forefoot, and we attribute this stability to the wide platform in that area. Using our caliper, we found that the midsole platform is wider than average at 115.4 mm wide at the forefoot.

Nike Ja 1 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Ja 1 115.4 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

Surprisingly, the heel area is A LOT narrower than usual. Fortunately, this did not result in any performance issues. On the contrary, tapering the platform in the heel area quite a bit helped in reducing the weight of the shoe.

Nike Ja 1 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Ja 1 82.4 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

To test for flexibility, we measured how much force is needed to bend the shoe at 90 degrees. We found that the Nike Ja 1 only needed 34.7N, which is 16.4% lower than the amount of force that the typical hoop shoe would need. 

The shoe's quite flexible structure allowed for more natural twists and bends of our feet, effectively comfort and our range of motion.

Test results
Ja 1 34.7N
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

We couldn't find anything to complain about with the grip. It was multidirectional. We were able to stop on a dime whenever needed.

Durability-wise, the outsole is not really for the outdoors; but performance-wise, it could still work well there. If longevity isn't a concern, then this shoe is a beast outdoors as it is indoors!

Nike Ja 1 outsole

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

Compared to the average, the toebox of the Ja 1 from Nike offers a bit more space. Using a caliper, we learned that the toebox opens 103.0 mm at its widest.

Nike Ja 1 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Ja 1 103.0 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

At 75.6 mm, the toebox at the big toe is just as wide as the average. Given that the widest part of the toe box has a bit more space, we are happy that this shoe can indeed accommodate those players with slightly wider feet.

Nike Ja 1 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Ja 1 75.6 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

The Nike Ja 1 has a semi-gusseted tongue, and it truly contributed a lot to the lockdown that we enjoyed while playing in it. We never had to worry about any unnecessary internal slides and shifts.

Nike Ja 1 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Ja 1 Both sides (semi)

Comfort

Tongue padding

The tongue is slightly more padded than average. Our caliper measured its thickness to be 10.4 mm. Because it contains this much material, the top of our feet felt sufficiently protected from lace pressure. 

Nike Ja 1 Tongue padding
Test results
Ja 1 10.4 mm
Average 9.3 mm
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1.3 mm
Tongue padding
15.1 mm

Heel tab

The Ja 1 does not have any heel tab. But there is absolutely no need to worry because this shoe was quite easy to put on and take off even without this extra feature.

Nike Ja 1 Heel tab
Test results
Ja 1 None

Removable insole

The Nike Ja 1 is ready for players who might want to wear custom orthotics during their games. Its insole is removable so that space can be freed up when needed.

Nike Ja 1 Removable insole
Test results
Ja 1 Yes