KICKZ Performance Review: New Balance KAWHI

Photo by Albi Quito (2021)

Ever since New Balance got back into the performance shoe game, I was pretty keen on giving the OMN1S a test run. Back then however, I didn’t quite get the chance to do so. Having the opportunity to have a closer look at the KAWHI 🖐 now, is something that I have definitely been looking forward to. So here it is, let me share my thoughts on Kawhi LEONARD’s first official signature shoe with New Balance (or ever 🤷‍♂️).


The KAWHIs come with a pretty basic basketball silhouette. Nothing too fancy, but not too boring as well. What gives them somewhat of an edge are the available colorways. For my part, I actually quite dig this “Jolly Rancher” colorway. However, a recent poll on my IG Story suggests that this is up for debate. The voters had mixed feelings about these 🤣. But rest assured, there are a couple of other color options including plain, monochrome variations, if that’s your thing 🤷‍♂️. While the color selection compared to other signature lines is not as big, there should still be a variation for everyone. From a technical standpoint, New Balance created a 437 g performer, which is a bit on the heavier side.


The materials are okay. Mostly textiles and fuse, which get the job done without any compromises. An interesting added detail is the embroidery on the sides. Not only does the pattern add to the shoe’s look, it feels like it also gives the midfoot more rigidity and stability. So with that said, I want to point out that the material selection is built around offering good stability, support and durability. This one does not distinguish itself with extraordinary lightweight materials but features rather sturdy textiles that can feel a bit stiff or inflexible at times. Be prepared to give it some break-in time! Another point that can be argued about is the feel in general. Looking at the price class these are in, a more premium approach wouldn’t have hurt.


The KAWHI uses an interesting traction pattern that looks a little bit like a maze. It uses a mix of narrow and wide groves that grip the floor well and deliver very solid traction. The almost usual issues with translucent outsoles also apply to this model. It just keeps drawing dust and you will need to wipe. Depending on the cleanliness of your court, you may even have to do it constantly. Apart from that, the shoe is ready to go and gives you good grip. For those who are looking to take these out onto the blacktop, the rubber compound feels durable enough to last a while.


The cushioning is really nice. New Balance’s FuelCell offers quite a good amount of bounce in the forefoot and also caters to those looking for court feel. When it comes to the heel, impact protection is solid but definitely feels firmer than the rest of the setup because of the caging around the midsole. This particular part could have been a bit softer in my opinion but overall, the whole setup is nice and feels comfortable.


Having been told about the need to go down half a size with the OMN1S, I pretty much took a gamble on these by going true to size as I did not have any references when it came to New Balances up to that point. I was quite lucky in doing so, as these felt pretty snug initially. In combination with the rather inflexible materials described above, don’t expect them to stretch out too much. Wide footers should definitely try these on before buying or should consider going up half a size. Beyond that, the KAWHIs have a little dead space in the toe box. But that’s not too bad as these fit quite well in general.


This is definitely the strongest aspect 💪 of this shoe and the snug fit mentioned in the section above pretty much lays the foundation for this as it keeps you locked in and prevents you from sliding off the footbed. Additionally, I have never felt unstable playing in these and was generally left with a pretty secure impression. The mid cut silhouette also offers some feedback around the ankles, which I personally miss in many of today’s models. 

Bottom Line

Board man gets paid! And with a price tag of EUR 160,- the board man DEFINITELY gets paid. But let’s have a look beyond that. The KAWHI will outshine most of its competitors when it comes to support and offers pretty solid traction while doing that. A defender’s dream? Maybe. But definitely two key aspects that two-way players and lockdown defenders will value a lot. Sure, the materials could have been a bit nicer at this price but what concerns me more is the weight. I definitely would have liked them to be a bit lighter and I would understand, if this is a factor that keeps you away from them. But be assured, that this is a solid performer nonetheless and definitely has its perks, if you bring the willingness to break them in properly! Don’t underestimate the shoe’s durability as well. These should last a while.


Any questions about the KAWHIs? Just ask! Find me on Instagram & Twitter under @ONEtothe2 or comment below!

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