Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)
Before this year, the Venomenon line of the Kobe Bryant signature shoe collection was relatively unknown amongst American hoopers in the states. An Asia-only release since 2011 (much like LeBron’s Ambassador models), the Venomenon typically features a heavy-duty (sometimes XDR) outsole for outdoor use and a durable Fuse or synthetic upper. It’s the more industrial sibling compared to the Kobe signature line.
This year, the fourth Venomenon model finally saw a U.S. release, and I was excited to test out a shoe that’s typically only been available overseas or off eBay. I was also looking forward to hooping in a low top once again – my preferred type of peformance shoe – and I had high hopes for the shoe in general given the generally positive feedback I’d found online.
It turns out that my hopes for this shoe were realized, and I came out with a very well-rounded low top that will stay in the on-court rotation for the near future.
The upper is comprised of a synthetic Fuse material/Flywire combination and is coupled with a carbon fiber heel counter to make up the majority of the upper key upper technology. 6 eyelets take care of the lacing setup.
To me the fit was good on all fronts, yet not quite great. The shoe fits naturally in the toes with little to no pinching in the toe box. I went with my normal 11.5 and they fit nice and snug. The Fuse upper will take a little time to break in and become flexible in order to move and crease with the foot, and I noticed some interior slippage my first couple times wearing them. The slippage remained a slight issue for me, and I believe it’s because the upper just isn’t that flexible like a thinner, softer synthetic or leather would be (I felt the same way about the CP3.VI).
Also, the heel counter is fairly thin and not super rigid, which allows for a little bit of slippage in the heel. It’s not unnerving and I still felt comfortable with it, but I couldn’t quite get perfect lockdown on high speed moves (like pull-ups in transition).
Transition is very smooth, aided by Zoom forefoot cushioning and a TPU shank under the midfoot. The shank isn’t overly rigid if support is a main concern of yours, but it does give good flexibility. There’s no slap from heel to toe, and I have no real complaints.
The tech specs include a Zoom Air bag up front that spans the width of the forefoot(slightly larger than the traditional Kobe met bag, I might add) encased in an injected Phylon midsole. The Zoom bag is high quality and plays low to the ground and responsive. The heel feels fairly firm (the whole midsole itself is pretty firm overall) but maintains court feel and stability.
The Venomenon is excellent laterally thanks to the low-profile midsole. In terms of the outsole, the rubber compound is slighly more firm than a normal outsole (it is NOT XDR in the purple/volt colorway I tested though). This affects traction more than cushioning, but it’s worth a mention as the outsole will just feel slightly more firm when you try it out.
I mentioned the TPU shank earlier in the article, and it’s really not a rigid, supportive shank in my opinion. It has a few cutout areas underfoot and provides a nice fit – you can feel some support just by slipping it on – but my arches have been a little sore after the last few wearings and the shank may be the culprit.
All in all, I was a fan of the cushioning setup. It tends to feel like a firm tennis court shoe and left a little to be desired from a straight comfort standpoint, but it was still very good. The biggest improvement would simply have been a beefier midfoot shank.
Nike’s Blade traction pattern is geared for outdoor courts but it works perfectly well on indoor ones too. You’ll get that reassuring stop and squeak, and both linear and lateral traction are solid thanks to the deep-grooved, multi-directional pattern. The hardness of the rubber needs to be broken in a little at first though, so on the first wearing it might not quite feel perfect yet.
I had been interested to try the Blade pattern after seeing it on the H.A.M. Low this summer and I was pleasantly surpised with it.
For $120, you get Fuse, Flywire, a decent Zoom bag, a special traction pattern and a quality outsole/midsole combination. Some would say that the materials aren’t quite as “premium” as the main Kobe line, but I like this tech combination pretty well.
Overall, the Venomenon is good in terms of value and I have no concerns about the longterm durability here. I came away impressed with the build and quality from day 1.
For a model making its U.S. debut, I was pleased with how the Venomenon performed. If you’re looking for a low that won’t break the bank, the Venomenon is a great choice in a market that doesn’t currently feature many low tops. It’s a well-rounded shoe – good, not great on all fronts – but I think it’s a good, durable choice for a guard.