words // Zac Dubasik
It would be fair to say that the Melo line has been a bit inconsistent over the years. That’s not necessarily a negative thing, as much as it is just an observation. Its earliest entries were retro-inspired, before breaking off on its own with the M3. The line has been casual-friendly at times, like the M6, and tech-looking at others, like the M9. It’s also seen pretty much every cushioning setup imaginable.
One thing that has been fairly consistent though is the line’s performance. Regardless of what the shoes have looked like, with very few exceptions, they’ve played tremendously well. My personal favorite had been the M7. But then the M10 came along.
If you’ve seen the Air Jordan XX8 SE and Melo M10 next to each other, you’ve probably noticed they are very similar. Similar to the point you could mistake them for each other. And the reality is, they are that similar, both aesthetically and performance-wise.
For starters, the shoe once again uses the tooling from the Air Jordan XX8. That means you’re getting the same traction, same cushioning setup, same shank, and same transition as the Air Jordan XX8 and SE, and that’s not only a good thing, it’s an amazing thing. It’s simply the best setup available today, and to my feet, the best I’ve ever played in. Sure, there’s something to be said for putting new technology into every new shoe, but until they come up with something better, I’ll never be mad seeing this exact setup.
For full details, check out the XX8 and XX8 SE reviews. But to go back over it briefly, the shoe employs your standard Zoom Air in the forefoot and heel, but then adds Flight Plate technology. Flight Plate acts as a moderator, which engages the entire Air bag, rather than the localizing the pressure, which happened in the past. The combination of the Flight Plate, and coring out the foam around the Zoom bags, allows the cushioning to better engage. This may seem subtle, but the difference can’t be overstated. It’s like an all-new cushioning, and has rendered normal Zoom second-best these days. I actually just played in a full-length Zoom shoe a few days ago, and was disappointed that it didn’t have Flight Plate. The system is just that good.
But not only is the cushioning responsive, the setup allows for outstanding transition and flexibility. The massive shank lets the shoe be as minimal as possible, which provides for outstanding court feel, yet is still supportive. This leads to out-of-the box comfort that’s about as good as it gets for a shoe with the structural support needed for the rigors of basketball.
When I say “about” as good as it gets, that leads us into the differences between the M10, and the XX8 SE – which IS as good as it gets in the instant gratification department. In contrast to the SE, the M10’s upper is built using synthetic leathers, which are a bit more rigid and require a bit more break-in time. That’s not to say it’s an issue. It still felt great from the start. And it was only a matter of a few wearings until the M10 felt every bit as broken in as you’d hope. But since it’s such a similar shoe, it’s one of the few differences worth pointing out, since the SE (and XX8) felt every bit as broken in on the first wearing as the 20th.
The area where the shoes differ the most is found in the collar. The M10 offers a (slightly) higher cut and more plush padding around the ankle. If you are a player that likes a true high-top feel, the M10 is your choice. It’s still extremely mobile, thanks to the flex of the upper combined with the second-to-none tooling. There’s no compromise there. But it also offers the reassurance of a high top around the ankle, and thanks to the thicker upper, offers better abrasion resistance than the XX8 or SE, making it probably a better choice for players spending a lot of time in the post. Cosmetically, the M10 showed wear far quicker than the XX8 or SE, but structurally, they’ve been the most durable.
The heel counter of the M10 is basically the shoe’s signature detail, and offers the biggest contrast to the aesthetics of the SE. From a lockdown perspective though, there was no perceivable change between the Melo graphic, and the split carbon fiber pieces found on the XX8 and SE. It was just as supportive and stable.
The Air Jordan XX8 and SE both ran a solid half-size big, and that mostly holds true with the M10. But with the shoe’s extra padding in the collar, and more structure to the upper, I found that it didn’t run quite as big as the other two. I’d still recommend probably sizing down a half size, but as always, your best bet is to try a pair on.
For a line whose performance has been much more consistent than its aesthetics, the M10 fits in perfectly. It may not “look” like a Melo shoe (it looks like the Air Jordan XX8 SE obviously), but who really cares, when it plays so well. While slightly more expensive than the XX8 SE, $165 is still a very fair price, and you do get a little bit more for extra money, by way of the more plush playing experience.
Overall, the M10 is a fantastic shoe, and an easy recommendation. The differences between it, and the SE, are small, but enough that it will just come down to your own personal preferences. If you like a shoe with a higher cut, there’s no better choice this season.
Grade Breakout //
best for: most players who like a higher cut
colorway tested: Dark Powder Blue/Team Orange/Black/White
key tech: Flight Plate system incorporating Zoom Air, Carbon Fiber midfoot shank and heel counter, Dynamic Fit
pros: comfort; cushioning; transition; fit
improvements: Fit more true to size
buying advice: The Melo M10 offers a slightly more plush and premium take on the Air Jordan XX8 SE. They’re both equally fantastic, but which one is right for you will come down to personal preference. For the $15 extra, you get a slightly higher cut, synthetic leather upper, and more padded collar. If you want the feel of a true high top, this is the shoe to go with. The sizing runs a bit big, but not quite as bad as the XX8 and SE, which is probably due to the extra padding. Like those shoes, this is an easy recommendation, offering the best cushioning available today.