J2: Nike Kobe XI (11) EM 'Carpe Diem' Review

It's been awhile since I've written one of these. I'm currently not in basketball shape by anymeans, but I do know footwear. I know footwear inside out. I love shoes after all. So this is my review of the Nike Kobe 11 'Carpe Diem'. My last review was recapping the 'love 'em or hate 'em' Nike Kobe VII System, to which didn't work out for me. The interchangeable cushioning just didn't make the cut for what could have been a new addition to my regular rotation. This tech was the first of it's kind for a Nike Signature. I emphasize Nike because Jordan Brand touched on it with the Air Jordan 22 back in 2007 with interchangeable pods of Zoom Air and Encapsulated Air. And then went up a notch by incorporating that same feature in an entirely removable and interchangeable midsole/insole combo on the Air Jordan 2011 which became the flagship sig for Dwyane Wade.

So with that piece of useless sneaker info I mentioned above, here is the review of the new Nike Kobe 11 'Carpe Diem'.


I knew from the get-go that the 'Carpe Diem' model would be releasing in Engineered Mesh. I'm not totally opposed to this because I love EM, but what I really wanted was Flyknit. Primarily because I have yet to try out Flyknit on a basketball court and I generally liked the look of it better.

Engineered Mesh

Engineered Mesh is robust, durable and provides more than adequate support without going heavy on materials, which adds value in making the shoe as light as possible. EM is woven in a way that creates various sized 'vents'or holes to allow for breath ability. Another perk in using EM as opposed to conventional materials is very little of seams (or lack there of on the Hyperfuse). We all know that chaffing material without breath ability is bad, so the least amount of stitching/seams to scratch or chafe the foot is always a plus. 

Instep View - EM with reinforced areas

The entire upper, except the sock liner is Engineered Mesh that is reinforced in injury prone areas, such as the toe-cap, ankle and heal, leaving room on the lateral, instep and toe-box for air to breeze through. The lacing system is external and even that is reinforced with nylon thread. Having re-enforcement in these high-wear areas rather than building a very durable shoe all around is a good thing. Makes the shoe lighter by saving weight and allows for more freedom of movement.

I enjoyed the breath ability on these. Although it wasn't as apparent wearing Nike Elite socks, I wasn't chafing, nor was I getting overly sweaty or hot. It was a nice experience to ball in something that not only breathes a little, but allows a full range of motion. 


If there is anything that I don't like about the shoe, it would probably be the traction. The outsole is translucent on this model with tiny brick-style patterns on the bottom. I'm not sure what it is, but the traction wasn't there at all times. Many factors can be involved. It could be the translucent compound, the pattern on the bottom or the dusty auxiliary gym flooring (it wasn't hardwood). Either way. the traction wasn't as good as the Kobe 4 'Carpe Diem'. I am comparing the 4 because it also sports the 'Carpe Diem' theme and the translucent outsole. It is also one of the best shoes to ever wear on a basketball court, so I wanted to see how this Kobe fairs up to my favorite pair 7 models prior.

Details on the traction pattern.

A few things could be improved in the traction department without alot of R & D. Taking back to the concept of tire treads and previous models, I have a feeling that herringbone patterns and solid rubber outsoles would make significant improvements to the traction. It's been used for years. Why mess with a good thing? I've also read up on a fair number of reviews prior to purchasing and traction seems to be an issue for most players using the 11 with clear outsoles. I just wanted to see for myself. Of course, the traction wasn't terrible, I've had worse (early model Air Jordans for example), but Nike could have stuck to the basics on this one.


The best part of the shoe is probably the cushioning. Nike went a different route for this model and opted for a full length Lunarlon midsole/insole combo (for simplicity sake, I am going to just call it a midsole from here on out). Again, a feature I didn't really want, but I couldn't complain. I've worn the 2008 Hyperdunk for years and it's always served as a nice and comfy ride as far Lunarlon goes, so putting it in a Kobe again would be just as good.

I have a new found 'respeck' for switchable midsoles
Just the tip....
Full Length Lunarlon
Midsole view

The cushioning was superb and performed exactly how Lunarlon is supposed to perform. The ride is cushy, comfortable and stable. All the attributes a casual ball player like myself would want. Although I didn't feel much on the forefoot, it did well for impact stabilization at the heel and worked decent on transition. That being said, I'm a fan of the Zoom Air set up even more. Zoom Air is more in-line with the competitive player and slasher guard-type game, but me being the stalkier elbow shooter who seldom drives to the basket, I like the Zoom for 'bounciness' and explosive transition response rather than slashing. I could tell I had way less of that with Lunar as it acted more for impact absorption than responsiveness. None the less, the cushioning was great.


They fit true to size. In Nike Basketball, I am regular 8.5 and these were perfect. The sockliner, although very light, could have been beefier around the ankle collar, but that's just me. My feet are also pretty wide, and I had no issues with width fitment as I did with the Kobe 5, which I felt pressure on the shoulders of the feet and would get blisters over time.

Another thing I wanted to point out was the VAST improvement of fitment quality of the interchangeable midsole unit. The interchangeable midsole on the Kobe 7 had side walls (something the Air Jordan 2011-2012 did not have for good reasons), thus would cause great discomfort and blisters from the walls bending and caving in at the forefoot on transition. The Kobe 11 eliminated that flaw entirely by cutting that portion out to allow that area to bend without causing the walls to fold in and 'rub me the wrong way'. Good job, Nike.

Finally! The side wall cut-out!
Free-form foot bending without the rub

The tongue was nice and snug and felt comfortable when I laced them up, but they kept getting untied. Nylon laces suck and are slippery. If they weren't doubled knotted, it would come undone eventually. Overall, other than the lacing issues, the fitment was nice and felt locked down throughout.


The Kobe 11 was trimmed of all its 'fat' to make a sleek, sexy low cut shoe. It almost looks and feels like it wouldn't do much in the support department. However, this soccer cleat looking silhouette does actually the opposite. The support at the ankle was tight and held my ankles in place. However, it was JUST adequate enough to give me that support. As I mentioned, I would have liked the sock liner to be a little bulkier to properly hug my ankles. But that's just me being picky. It obviously did it's job because I didn't even come close to rolling my ankles during play.

Ankle collar could be a bit thicker

The Elite pair wields Flyknit uppers with thin strand TPU threads weaved into it for reinforcement and stability. But the EM instead, rocks a TPU heal cup to cradle the foot in transitions and lateral movements, which provided excellent support as it was both sturdy and flexible when moving around.

Another feature that I loved was the double outrigger support. If you notice the outsole from the side or top view of the shoe, there is a little stub sticking out of the outter shoulder of the foot to make the footprint a bit wider on the bottom to improve support capabilities. This anti-rolling feature is called an 'outrigger'. A simple but crucial piece of 'tech' that was introduced in a number of shoes, namely the Kobe 4 and was brought over to the 5, 6, 7 and barely present on the 8s. The 9s, due to the super high-top Flyknit construction, didn't have it and neither did the 10s.

Nike brought back the outrigger support with an added feature on top - a second outrigger. Due to it's minimalist upper construction, adding the second outrigger on the mid-foot was a clever idea to add stability without adding extra bulk on the upper part of the shoe. So when looking directly at the midsole, it seems the shoe is wider and bulkier than they actually are.


In terms of performance, like the man himself, it's up there as one of the greats. The Kobe 11 presented a modern, sleek and minimalist approach to a well performing piece of art. The shoe it self looked very mature and refined and lacked any sort of extra bulk or fat that you didn't otherwise need.

The weight and fitment were excellent and the cushioning and support were even better. And although lacing and traction had some issues, the Kobe 11 can also sport different options in various colorways as well as Nike iD, which can feature solid rubber oursoles, different cushioning set ups and cotton laces. So in that aspect, I can build or purchase a perfect Kobe 11 just for me with a click of a mouse (and dent in the wallet).

Lastly, the Kobe 11 marked the final signature that the legend would ever wear in his illustrious career, so I was expecting something big from the 'Carpe Diem' model. Seeing as it was one of the flagship colorways on the Kobe 4, I expected this to go out with a bang. Yes, the colorway itself was on-point, but aesthetically speaking, I was a bit disappointed with the lack of lux materials and 'theme' on this shoe. I would have liked something that said 'Carpe Diem' or at the very least give us that same 'Running of the Bulls' logo they had on the 4 to further justify the colorway. To me, it just seemed like a 'Carpe Diem-inspired' colorway rather than the actual 'Seize the Day' model.

L: Kobe 4 'Carpe Diem' R: Kobe 11 'Carpe Diem'

That being said, it was a great shoe. But knowing more of what I have actually wanted in a Kobe 11 - Flyknit, Zoom Air, solid rubber outsoles - I sacrificed all that for a 'Carpe Diem' colorway that didn't quite hit the mark aesthetically. But it isn't an aesthetics review, I just wanted to point out that I could have been much happier with my original choice of the Tinker Hatfield 'Muse Pack' joint instead.

Materials - 8.5/10
Traction - 7/10
Cushioning - 10/10
Fitment - 9.5/10
Support/Stability - 9.5/10

Seize the Day


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