Our verdict

LeBron shoes create a lot of hype in general, but the 21 is absolutely worth the energy. With Zoom Turbo in the forefoot, a shank in the midfoot, and Zoom Air in the heel, its cushioning system is spot on! We experienced a great mix of bounce and shock absorption, so playing in these hoopers was great fun. Despite being ready to jump, the 21 didn't feel unstable or wobbly, as its substantial structure made us surefooted in every single one of our game tests. Its high-quality materials definitely also made it a quite durable pair and helped us prevent ankle injuries. Just keep in mind that your feet will suffer throughout the long and harsh break-in period these LeBrons need. The shoe's skyrocketed price might hurt your wallet too, but it's definitely worth every penny!

Pros

  • Wonderful performance overall
  • Amazing cushioning technologies
  • Nice bounce and shock absorption
  • High-quality materials
  • Great stability and supportive design
  • Good twist resistance
  • Effective grip
  • Eye-catching style

Cons

  • Not breathable
  • Rough and long break-in period
  • Pricey

Audience verdict

85
Good!

Who should buy

LeBron has bounced back with this wonderful hooper! Don't sleep on it if you're looking for:

  • A model with incredibly good cushioning technologies (Zoom Turbo, Zoom Air).
  • A pair that offers great stability and a supportive design.
  • A hooper that adapts to different playstyles because of its overall wonderful performance.
  • High-quality materials in a super stylish reimagined version.

Nike LeBron 21_002

Who should not buy

We hope your feet are ready for what's coming. First of all, we loved this shoe from head to toe but... this shoe didn't love us that much at the beginning. Its break-in period is painful, and we ended up with blisters and sore Achilles for a while. It was worth it, though, as long as you can endure it, we can assure you this is an amazing pair. If you don't want to know anything about break-in periods (which is totally understandable), you should have a look at the Nike LeBron NXXT GEN, which also has high-quality materials but in a more comfy build.

If you wanna play streetball, we believe it's better to go for the Nike Cosmic Unity 3. Its hard and sturdy rubber outsole is unmatched when it comes to abrasion resistance.

Nike LeBron 21_cutintopieces

Breathability

Just by looking at these LeBrons, we knew they'd prioritise durability. So... what about breathability? Well, let's see!

It looks like we were totally right. Neither LeBron's nor Shaq's shoes would be able to earn a living being yoga instructors. The Reebok Shaq Attaq got a sad 1/5 in our breathability test, and the LB 21? Uh-oh... we're afraid it got the exact same punctuation! Another disappointing 1/5.

As we can see in our light test, only the tongue has some holes, but that was not enough to let our feet breathe during our wear tests.

Nike LeBron 21 Breathability_3

Our microscope confirmed it, look at the material! Even though you might see some round details, those are definitely not pores. This model is built to last, and its upper agrees!

Nike LeBron 21 Breathability_4

Nothing to be found in the close-up either. The material is solid, no pores at all!

Test results
LeBron 21 3
Average 2.4
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

It doesn't really matter if you're a huge basketball fan, if you only watch the NBA from time to time, or if you don't care that much about this sport... we all know who LeBron James is.

This legendary hooper is well-known for his aggressive plays under the rim, so it's only natural that his shoes are ready to match his playstyle.

We knew it right after watching this video. Our Dremel struggled a lot to damage this shoe's upper minimally. The LeBron 21 resisted the attack calmly, and its striking defense earned it a 5/5 in our toebox durability test.

Nike LeBron 21 Toebox durability_2

Look at that! It literally looks like we accidentally bumped our toes, not that a rolling tool at a 5K RPM speed and 3.2N pressure tried to destroy our shoe.

Nike LeBron 21 Toebox durability_3

Here we have the two ends of the durability spectrum. On the left, the Nike LeBron 21 and its magnificent 5/5 in our toebox durability test. On the right, the Nike Precision 6 and its disappointing 1/5 in this same test.

Test results
LeBron 21 5
Average 3.8
Compared to 41 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

After the amazing durability of its toebox, we were wondering if the heel padding would be that much of a fighter too.

With an average score of 3/5, we actually couldn't complain. The heel is the weakest point of every shoe, so we're not that surprised when our Dremel damages it more than the toebox.

Nike LeBron 21 Heel padding durability_3

It didn't look that bad, though. Also, as you can probably guess from the image, there's a considerable amount of padding in that area. We decided to cut the shoe in half to see it better, look:

As we were saying before, we really can't complain! There are far worse results, let us give you an example.

Nike LeBron 21 Heel padding durability_2

This is what the Reebok Answer DMX's heel looked like after our Dremel went all out on it. It scored a 1/5 in our heel padding durability test, we just couldn't give it anything higher!

Test results
LeBron 21 3
Average 3.6
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

At 84.5 HC, the outsole hardness of this LeBron pair is slightly above average.

Nike LeBron 21 Outsole hardness_1

This result promises a good balance between grip and durability, and our wear tests couldn't agree more. Its traction felt quite reliable (we'll talk about it later on) and, regarding durability, all we can do is ask our Dremel!

Test results
LeBron 21 84.5 HC
Average 81.7 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
59.5 HC
Outsole hardness
91.0 HC

Outsole durability

For our outsole durability test, we grabbed our Dremel once again. This time at 10K RPM and 3.2N, the attack of our tool lasted 22 seconds.

If you only watch our video, you might think the Dremel wasn't even touching the outsole, as it's barely moving! This was already telling us that good things were coming... and we were absolutely right.

Nike LeBron 21 Outsole durability_2

A minimal dent of 0.5 mm appeared when we finally put the tool aside. This is notably less deep than average, which clearly indicates the material is hard and resistant. We're loving it, Nike!

Nike LeBron 21_0017

Test results
LeBron 21 0.5 mm
Average 1.0 mm
Compared to 29 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

As the outsole material is pretty hard, this part of the shoe doesn't need to be that thick.

Nike LeBron 21 Outsole thickness_1

At 4.6 mm, our caliper indicated it's still thicker than average. This means the shoe's outsole won't lose its integrity any time soon. Time to hoop until you can no more!

Nike LeBron 21_0010

Test results
LeBron 21 4.6 mm
Average 4.0 mm
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
6.9 mm

Weight

Tougher materials, a thicker outsole, loads of padding... of course this is gonna have an effect on the weight!

Nike LeBron 21 Weight_1

At 14.2 oz/403.0g, this shoe is lighter than the previous iteration, and the materials felt premium on our feet. LeBron is a power forward, and if you've ever seen him on the court, you'll know he's a big guy. He doesn't need to be as fast as a guard in his moves, so his shoe's design didn't really focus on that. Nevertheless, the model we're reviewing is the NEW LeBron 21, which is an updated and lighter version of the original.

Nike LeBron 21_0012

With that being said, its weight didn't stop us from making quick fakes, crossover steps, or dribbles. It was nice for our pick-and-rolls, too! It felt nice on our feet, and we didn't mind some extra oz if that meant we got to use this shoe longer.

Test results
LeBron 21 14.22 oz (403g)
Average 13.90 oz (394g)
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
11.29 oz (320g)
Weight
17.46 oz (495g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

At 26.6 mm, this shoe's heel stack is lower than average. We believe this just because of our caliper said so, as the feeling on our foot was not that one of a low stack regarding cushioning!

Nike LeBron 21 Heel stack_1

We've said multiple times that a tall midsole doesn't mean it's gonna be plush, and vice-versa! In this case, we can clearly see an Air Zoom unit in the heel. We absolutely love this feature, as it helped us with our landings. Its propulsive feeling came hand in hand with a bouncy foam that made us feel like a pro player every time we hooped.

Nike LeBron 21_0016

Test results
LeBron 21 26.6 mm
Average 29.3 mm
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
23.6 mm
Heel stack
38.4 mm

Forefoot stack

At 22.4 mm, the forefoot stack of these LeBrons is pretty close to the average.

Nike LeBron 21 Forefoot stack_1

If you look at the end of the claws of our caliper you can see there's something in between the orange foam and the insole. It's the Zoom Turbo, which made sure we got some extra snappiness every time we took off. For us, this is a perfect setup to do layup drills!

Nike LeBron 21_0020

The snap of this detail allowed us to do our best in our in-n-out moves. As usual, you can see us in this video performing a backdoor cut. It's in slow-mo, but you might be able to realise our forefoot actually comes back stronger once we press it hard against the court.

Test results
LeBron 21 22.4 mm
Average 21.7 mm
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
18.0 mm
Forefoot stack
29.2 mm

Drop

At 4.2 mm, this shoe's drop is pretty low.

Nike LeBron 21 Drop_1

During our wear tests, it felt pretty close to the ground. And thanks to its Air Zoom unit, we also got some nice impact protection. A perfect combo, really!

Nike LeBron 21_009

Test results
LeBron 21 4.2 mm
Average 7.7 mm
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
4.0 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 measure the softness of a shoe's midsole accurately, first we need to cut it in half. Then, when we can access this piece nicely, we press our durometer against it and wait for a result.

Nike LeBron 21 Midsole softness_1

At 26.5 HA, the LeBron 21's midsole has an average softness. It's made of cushlon foam, which we found out to be pretty bouncy during our wear tests.

We really love this feature on basketball shoes, as it helps us when we go for aggressive moves. It was like a good balance for the weight of this shoe.

Even though we've said before that this New/Reimagined iteration is lighter than its original, it's still not one of the lightest basketball shoes out there. If you're a LeBron fan and you want a nimble pair of his, have a look at the Nike LeBron Witness 7. If you don't mind changing brands, then we suggest you have a look at our lightweight basketball shoes catalog.

Test results
LeBron 21 26.5 HA
Average 25.6 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
11.0 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
38.6 HA

Insole thickness

We do love us a nice and thick insole, and the LB 21 knows it well! At 5.7 mm, we felt it was comfortable during our playtests.

Nike LeBron 21 Insole thickness_1

This thick insole + the Zoom Turbo at the forefoot + the Zoom Air at the heel = A fun and snappy ride. This combination made us enjoy every moment we had on the court, as we felt our energy was limitless thanks to the shoe's pop underfoot.

Test results
LeBron 21 5.7 mm
Average 4.5 mm
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Insole thickness
8.6 mm

Stability

Lateral stability test

Following the general features of this model, we definitely expected it to be quite stable. And not only because of that, but also because we're talking about a pair of LeBron shoes after all! The King needs some stability for his crazy plays, and we couldn't wait to see what our feet had to say about this.

As expected, we felt surefooted and well-supported. Our ankles didn't wobble, which is something we really appreciate when we play. Why? Well, because if we feel unstable in our new hoopers, we don't have that much confidence when we're trying to play. Doesn't that happen to you too?

Nevertheless, this model made sure that didn't happen. Our overall experience regarding stability was pretty nice, as we felt safe and sound during our playtests.

Nike LeBron 21_0018

Torsional rigidity

Great stability comes with... great torsional rigidity.

We tried our best to bend the shoe, but it was pretty hard for our thumbs! You can see it in the video, we're clearly struggling. That's why we gave this model a well-deserved 5/5 in our torsional rigidity test, what a toughie!

Nike LeBron 21_007

The only bad thing that comes with a high torsional rigidity is... a break-in period. And let us tell you, this shoe's break-in period? Definitely a killer, we ended up with blisters!

Nike LeBron 21_008

Still, we'd say this is pretty much the only big con we have for this model. The shoe itself is amazing!

Test results
LeBron 21 5
Average 4.5
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

Now let's talk a little bit more about those blisters, shall we?

Just look at how incredibly stiff this LeBron's heel counter is. Oh, my! It doesn't even bend a little bit when we press our thumb against it.

Nike LeBron 21_006

This sure meant some incredibly good lockdown feel, but it also came with a downside: heel rubs. It really hurt our skin, and we ended up with some painful blisters at the end of the day. This model is definitely full of power, but you gotta tame it first!

Test results
LeBron 21 5
Average 3.6
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

A wide platform is a must when we talk about stability, and big players like LeBron (in every sense of the word, though) definitely need it!

Nike LeBron 21 Midsole width in the forefoot_1

At 120.5 mm, this shoe's midsole width in the forefoot is far bigger than average. We wanted to jump in the lab because of the happiness this caliper reading made us feel. In our games, this translated into us being able to land safely. We could push for any rebound, and we were not taken aback even if in the jump ball we were facing a bigger person.

Nike LeBron 21-0021

Test results
LeBron 21 120.5 mm
Average 114.5 mm
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
106.2 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
122.2 mm

Midsole width in the heel

The heel was also a bit wider than average, but nothing too big this time.

Nike LeBron 21 Midsole width in the heel_1

At 91.6 mm, this extra space is something we could only appreciate as the overall feeling in our heel was pretty snug. No heel slippage, no weird heel moves... nothing to worry about!

Test results
LeBron 21 91.6 mm
Average 90.4 mm
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
82.4 mm
Midsole width in the heel
105.1 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

Our previous lab tests indicated this shoe would be stiff, yet our wear tests disagreed. In other words, even though the shoe overall was pretty rigid and the transitions could always be smoother, we didn't actually encounter any problems when we needed to tip-toe in our shot fakes or drop steps.

Nike LeBron 21_0011

When our gauge returned 43.1N, we couldn't even close our mouths. Our feet were totally right. This score is average, but coming from such a rigid shoe... it's just wonderful news!

We really enjoyed the redesign of these LeBrons!

Test results
LeBron 21 43.1N
Average 39.8N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
23.8N
Stiffness
67.2N

Grip / Traction

Talking about traction in basketball shoes is always so exciting! This feature definitely makes a difference, as nobody likes to accidentally slip when they're trying to dribble or go past an opponent.

Nike LeBron 21_004

Its full-length rubber outsole was a wonderful touch to maximise traction. Even though both outsoles picked up quite some dust, we just needed to wipe them clean with our hands for them to be sticky again.

Nike LeBron 21 Lug depth_2

We also enjoyed the multidirectional pattern, as it allowed us to change directions quickly when needed. It's true that a full-length rubber outsole might add some weight to the shoe, but we found it completely worth it.

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

When we measured the toebox width at the widest part, our caliper returned 102.7 mm.

Nike LeBron 21 Toebox width at the widest part_1

It's an average score, and our standard width feet were pretty happy wit it. Nevertheless, we can't recommend this model to wide-feet hoopers, as it might be too snug for their bigger feet.

Nike LeBron 21_0013

We absolutely loved the dual colour of this model. We think it brings a new and original style to an already iconic pair, and the fact that the details of both shoes are on the same tones is just so aesthetically pleasing!

Nike LeBron 21_0022

Test results
LeBron 21 102.7 mm
Average 101.5 mm
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
92.6 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
108.2 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

At 75.7 mm, our caliper agrees this model tappers quite a lot towards the tip.

Nike LeBron 21 Toebox width at the big toe_2

That's why we believe wide-foot hoopaholics won't find this pair comfortable. Their toes might feel cramped, but this isn't something we didn't expect from a Nike shoe, honestly.

Nike LeBron 21_0014

If you're looking for an elite model that adapts to wide feet and you don't mind changing brands, you might enjoy the Adidas Harden Vol 7.

Test results
LeBron 21 75.7 mm
Average 76.7 mm
Compared to 44 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
71.2 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
85.1 mm

Tongue: gusset type

We were pretty surprised when we removed this shoe's laces and faced its non-gusseted tongue.

Nike LeBron 21 Tongue: gusset type_1

This design made sure our feet had no problem getting into the shoe. With its padded interiors, rigid and stable structure, and top eyelets, we didn't feel any less containment. There's also a lace in the middle of the tongue that makes sure it doesn't slip or dance from side to side, which is something we usually find pretty annoying!

Nike LeBron 21_0015

Test results
LeBron 21 None

Comfort

Tongue padding

A thickly padded tongue is the final touch to the overall locked-in feel this shoe offered us.

Nike LeBron 21 Tongue padding_1

At 12.5 mm, our caliper confirmed that we wouldn't get any kind of bite or uncomfortable rub coming from the laces. Our instep was happily welcomed by a plush hug, and we loved it!

Nike LeBron 21_0019

Test results
LeBron 21 12.5 mm
Average 9.5 mm
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1.3 mm
Tongue padding
15.9 mm

Heel tab

There's a colourful pull-tab at the back of this model. In this colorway, it's the blue-ish flap we can see at the top of the heel.

Nike LeBron 21 Heel tab_1

We didn't find it extremely helpful to put on and off the shoe, but we liked the design choice and the aesthetics. Also, let's not forget this pair has a non-gusseted tongue, so sliding our feet into it wasn't hard at all! The shoe offered us a wide and welcoming opening. Thank you, Nike!

Nike LeBron 21_001

Test results
LeBron 21 Pull tab

Removable insole

Just in case you need to use your own orthotics, this LeBron pair has a removable insole.

Nike LeBron 21 Removable insole_1

Honestly, we were pretty happy with how it performed during our playtests. But there'll be no problem if you want to change it, which is always a plus!

Nike LeBron 21_removableinsole_1

As you can see in these pictures, the insoles come in different colours, matching the aesthetic of each shoe. We are OBSESSED!

Test results
LeBron 21 Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

We could see some fading light coming from the translucent Swoosh, but no, this shoe doesn't have any reflective elements.

Nike LeBron 21 Reflective elements_1

It's not made to play streetball after all, so we didn't mind it didn't have any despite it's hefty price tag.

Test results
LeBron 21 No