Our verdict

The Air Jordan XXXVIII became our instant top pick in multiple categories as the shoe kept checking every box in all of our lab and play tests! We found it a perfectly well-rounded hoop shoe that nails every essential feature to help you perform your best on the court. But above all, this Jordan shoe inspires plenty of confidence with its stellar support and stability even during our most forceful lateral cuts. And did we mention that it weighs lighter than the average mid-cut shoe? In a word, this is a rare example of a high-priced basketball shoe that is actually worth every penny, in our opinon.

Pros

  • Unmatched stability and support
  • Extra secure foot containment
  • Outstanding dust-proof grip
  • Excellent impact protection
  • Very grounded platform
  • Light for a mid-top shoe
  • Surprising breathability
  • Top-notch durability

Cons

  • Not for outdoor courts
  • Heel is not as stable as the forefoot

Audience verdict

87
Great!

Who should buy

You can't miss out on the Air Jordan XXXVIII if you are a seasoned player in search of the following:

  • an amazingly stable and supportive basketball shoe that suits various playing styles
  • a cushioned shoe that doesn't mute court feel and feels grounded
  • a mid-cut hoop shoe that feels light, airy, and nonconstricting on the foot
  • a super grippy outsole that is immune to dust

Air Jordan XXXVIII review

Who should NOT buy

There are very few scenarios in which we think the Air Jordan XXXVIII may not work for you.

One of them is frequent outdoor court use. These conditions are likely to destroy this Jordan shoe's traction pattern too fast. Consider the Nike Cosmic Unity 3 among our other top picks for outdoor courts instead.

Air Jordan XXXVIII lab test

Breathability

We rarely come across basketball shoes with highly breathable uppers, especially mid-cut ones. But the Air Jordan XXXVIII is here to change that trend.

The shoe features large and open embroidered sidewalls on both sides of the upper. Paired with large cutouts on the tongue, they keep the interiors very nicely aerated. Our feet experienced a sweet breeze during the entire playtest.

Even though the shoe's toebox is covered in dense suede, we never felt as if breathability was lacking in the Air Jordan XXXVIII.

Thus, we readily gave it a higher-than-average breathability score of 3.

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 3
Average 2.4
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

The Jordan XXXVIII features more reinforced materials in the high-wear areas but leaves the rest of the upper open for breathability and lightness.

Depending on the colorway, you are either getting synthetic leather or synthetic suede as the key toebox material. In this review, we are testing the University Red shoe's fake suede toebox.

Let's see if that synthetic suede is strong enough to protect such a high-wear area as the shoe's toebox...

Of course, it is! We are testing a £200 shoe after all.

The suede got away with a merely cosmetic scratch which is even hard to see in the photo. Twelve seconds of drilling it with sandpaper at a 5K RPM speed did not blow through the material.

Air Jordan XXXVIII Toebox durability test

It is an impressive result that earned the XXXVIII the highest toebox durability score - 5 out of 5!

But that's not all.

Air Jordan XXXVIII flexibility

The shoe's outsole rubber extends up covering the areas prone to toe drags. This helps to prolong the shoe's potential shelf life.

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 5
Average 3.8
Compared to 41 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

The AJ XXXVIII keeps its game strong even on the inner side of the shoe.

Applying the sandpaper tip of our Dremel to the fabric inside the heel counter for 4 seconds, we were satisfied with the result.

The scuffing was so minor that we only subtracted one durability point from it, leaving the shoe's heel lining with a solid score of 4 out of 5.

Air Jordan XXXVIII Heel padding durability test
Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 4
Average 3.6
Compared to 38 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

Don't be misled by the shoe's translucent rubber - it is not the same as gum rubber. And based on our lab tests, it even beats some solid rubbers when it comes to hardness and durability!

Even though rubber hardness does not guarantee higher durability, it certainly makes the shoe's outsole more hard-wearing.

Air Jordan XXXVIII Outsole hardness

Looking at the 87.5 reading on our Shore C durometer, the translucent rubber of this Jordan shoe is harder than 85% of the basketball shoe outsoles we've tested.

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 87.5 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

The outsole continued to impress us with its excellent abrasion resistance in our Dremel test.

This time, we held the tool against the shoe's rubber for 22 seconds and ramped up the speed to 10K RPM. But the material remained steadfast.

Air Jordan XXXVIII Outsole durability test

It looks as though the Dremel only brushed off the dust from the treading. Checking the depth of the indentation with a tread gauge, it turned out to be the same as the average at 0.9 mm.

Does this mean that the Jordan XXXVIII is good for outdoor courts?

Air Jordan XXXVIII outsole design

Well, occasional games should not be a problem but we are worried that with regular outdoor use, its thin herringbone lines will smooth out pretty quickly compromising the grip. The rubber itself is strong but the thin tread lines are not.

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 0.9 mm
Average 1.0 mm
Compared to 29 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

But if you limit the shoe to indoor courts, it will prove to be indestructible with a thick 4.0 mm rubber layer.

Air Jordan XXXVIII Outsole thickness
Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 4.0 mm
Average 4.0 mm
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
6.9 mm

Weight

Trying the Air Jordan XXXVIII for the first time, we were pleasantly surprised with its on-foot weight. Is that really a mid-cut shoe?

Air Jordan XXXVIII Weight

Putting it on a scale returned 13.9 oz (396g) which is on par with the average weight of low-top kicks!

Air Jordan XXXVIII shoe weight

With its open see-through side panes and cut-out heel collar, this version of the Air Jordan feels notably more nimble than its predecessors.

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 13.90 oz (394g)
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

As opposed to the previous editions, the 38 goes for a low-profile cushioning prioritising court feel.

Air Jordan XXXVIII Heel stack

This is clearly reflected in the shoe's heel stack height. Measuring it with our calliper returned a modest reading of 26.3 mm. It is a few millimetres lower than the average but is on par with the Nike LeBron 21 (26.6 mm).

The shoe delivers on promise - we felt very grounded and in control of the movement during the playtest. But at the same time, we never felt as though impact protection was missing either. It is a very well-balanced setup.

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 26.3 mm
Average 29.3 mm
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
23.6 mm
Heel stack
38.4 mm

Forefoot stack

Checking the shoe's forefoot stack, we recorded 21.0 mm of thickness which is just about the same as the average.

Air Jordan XXXVIII Forefoot stack

From our experience, this stack height is very optimal for a mix of court feel and shock absorption. And it proved to be that way in this AJ shoe.

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 21.0 mm
Average 21.7 mm
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
18.0 mm
Forefoot stack
29.2 mm

Drop

Contributing to the shoe's steady and grounded feel is a relatively low heel-to-toe drop. At 5.3 mm, it is a few millimetres lower than average.

Air Jordan XXXVIII Drop

5.3 mm drop of the Air Jordan XXXVIII

In contrast, here is a 10-mm drop on the New Balance TWO WXY v4 (along with the higher heel stack of 31.2 mm). A shoe like this elevates the heel above the toes offering more support to the player's calves and Achilles tendons. It provides notably more impact protection too but minimises contact with the court.

New Balance WXY TWO v4 drop comparison

10 mm drop of the New Balance TWO WXY V4

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 5.3 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.

The Air Jordan XXXVIII features a brand-new cushioning setup with a full-length Cushlon 3.0 foam and a Zoom Air Strobel on top of it.

As a whole, it feels moderately soft and responsive but grounded.

The Cushlon 3.0 is responsible for the shoe's midsole softness showing a pretty low durometer reading of 16.0 HA. It is 60% softer than the average basketball shoe cushioning and has a very comfortable and slightly bouncy nature that doesn't lose its properties when used for extended periods of time.

Air Jordan XXXVIII Midsole softness

The foam is sandwiched between the Zoom Air Strobel, the hard rubber outsole, and the firm carrier foam which kept us well-cushioned but stable at the same time.

We should also note that the XXXVIII's cushioning feels quite consistent from heels to toes because of the full-length units featured in it. The ride felt very smooth and predictable on the court which kept us very surefooted.

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 16.0 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

A nicely padded insole sits between the shoe's firm Zoom Air Strobel and the foot.

Air Jordan XXXVIII Insole thickness

Measuring its thickness with a calliper, we got 4.4 mm in the heel. This is a regular insole padding for a hoop shoe.

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 4.4 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

If you're in search of the most reliable stability in a basketball shoe, you're looking at the right page.

During our playtests, the AJ XXXVIII proved to be unmatched when it came to foot containment. The support came from both the reinforced sole and the sturdy mid-cut upper.

Torsional rigidity

The torsional rigidity of this Jordan shoe is rock-solid. Literally. Trying to twist it with our hands felt like twisting an actual rock!

On a 1-5 scale where 5 is the absolute stiffest, we didn't hesitate to rate the XXXVIII with the maximum 5.

Air Jordan XXXVIII medial side

The large and stiff rubber-and-plastic overlays on both sides of the platform made us feel barricaded inside the XXXVIII. Even though no shoe can guarantee 100% protection from ankle twists, we felt that it would take a lot of effort to buckle our feet in this Jordan.

If you check the bottom of the shoe, you will see that those plastic overlays on the sides also wrap around the sole's forefoot section. They work together with the small black shank (visible through the V-cuts) to provide some of the highest stability levels we've experienced in a basketball shoe.

Air Jordan XXXVIII outsole

The Air Jordan XXXVIII is a must for players who stay on their toes a lot throughout the game. The shoe's most effective stability is concentrated right there under the balls of their feet.

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 5
Average 4.5
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

The shoe's substantial and well-padded collar adds yet another layer of ankle support.

Just look at how little give there is to the heel counter as we push and squeeze it in our manual test. Once again, we confidently rate the Air Jordan XXXVIII with the highest stiffness score - 5 out of 5!

Air Jordan XXXVIII Heel tab

But here is the twist - the shoe's ankle collar doesn't feel bulky or constricting at all! Why? Because its back portion has been cut out to let the dorsiflexion happen freely. We believe that this is a smart response to the never-ending discussion of what collar height is best for basketball shoes.

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 5
Average 3.6
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

We already mentioned that the shoe's stability is primarily centred in the forefoot section. So it's only natural that there is a nice outrigger on the lateral side here.

Air Jordan XXXVIII Midsole width in the forefoot

Our calliper showed a slightly wider-than-average measurement of 115.6 mm in the largest part of the shoe's forefoot.

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 115.6 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 portion of the XXXVIII's platform is not as wide and planted as in most basketball shoes. It feels more like a transition point that encourages the foot to hit the forefoot faster.

Air Jordan XXXVIII Midsole width in the heel

So if your playing style involves a lot of heel-dominant strikes, you should know that this Jordan shoe has a narrower-than-average heel width of 83.4 mm (in the widest part).

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 83.4 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

We discovered that the Air Jordan XXXVIII is very rigid in the areas where it is most needed. But it doesn't lack a touch of flexibility where it makes sense.

Those V-cuts in the forefoot allow the shoe to bend a bit more freely with the toes. This design was inspired by Michael Jordan's turn-around-jumper which requires a fine-tuned balance of stability and give.

Using a force gauge, we recorded that the shoe requires 37.2N to reach a 90-degree bend. This is slightly less than the average (by 10%).

Air Jordan XXXVIII flex

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 37.2N
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

We are not getting tired of listing the strong points of the Air Jordan XXXVIII. This time, it's the shoe's phenomenal gripping capacity!

Squeaky and tacky, it delivered fantastic stopping power during our playtests on both indoor and outdoor courts. It also managed to catch our feet from all the different angles.

Air Jordan XXXVIII traction

And what's truly amazing - the shoe's outsole is dust-proof! We hardly needed any wiping to experience the most secure traction.

Size and fit

Internal length

If you're in search of the most reliable stability in a basketball shoe, you're looking at the right page.

During our playtests, the AJ XXXVIII proved to be unmatched when it came to foot containment. The support came from both the reinforced sole and the sturdy mid-cut upper.

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 268.6 mm

Toebox width at the widest part

The AJ XXXVIII made our medium-width feet feel at home in our regular US size 9.

Air Jordan XXXVIII Toebox width at the widest part

In the widest part of the toebox, our calliper showed a standard reading of 101.8 mm for a US 9 basketball shoe.

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 101.8 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

However, players with wide feet may want to go half-size up because the tapering makes the tip of the toebox narrower than average.

Air Jordan XXXVIII fit

Measuring the shoe's forefoot near the big toe, we got 73.3 mm which is a bit narrower than average.

Air Jordan XXXVIII Toebox width at the big toe

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 73.3 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

The shoe's tongue is fully integrated into the upper creating a very secure foot containment in addition to the supportive collar.

Air Jordan XXXVIII Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII Both sides (full)

Comfort

Tongue padding

About two-thirds of the shoe's tongue are very lightly padded (only a few millimetres of thickness).

Air Jordan XXXVIII Tongue padding

However, it features double padding at the topmost part where the buffer is most needed to prevent lace bites. Here, the tongue thickness exceeds the average by a few millimetres (at 11.9 mm).

Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII 11.9 mm
Average 9.5 mm
Compared to 50 basketball shoes
Number of shoes
1.3 mm
Tongue padding
15.9 mm

Heel tab

There are no finger loops or pull tabs on the shoe's collar. However, its structured nature and lowered heel portion make the on-and-off pretty effortless.

Air Jordan XXXVIII no Heel tab
Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII None

Removable insole

The stock insole is easily removable if you need a custom pair of orthotics for your basketball shoes.

Air Jordan XXXVIII Removable insole
Test results
Air Jordan XXXVIII Yes

Misc

Sustainable materials

According to Nike, the Air Jordan XXXVIII was produced with ethically sourced materials as part of the Move to Zero initiative.

Air Jordan XXXVIII lateral side