Performance Deals: Jordan CP3.VII

This is the first post of this nature on the site, I believe, and something I plan to continue. I love getting great performance kicks at great prices.

The first performance deal is the Men’s Jordan CP3.VII (blue camo) at Finishline for 109.99 – 50%= $55!

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Check your local Finishline and share your comments below.

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(Brought mine out to the court instantly)

 

 

Performance Review: Under Armour Micro G Charge Volt Low

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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There are plenty of reasons why you probably haven’t hooped in the Under Armour Charge Volt Low before. The first is, well, they’re not in stores anywhere. Under Armour didn’t get these to major retailers (at least not that I’ve seen) thus keeping the shoe largely out of the public eye. Besides that, any promotional material UA did on a major scale revolved around the Anatomix Spawn – and even that shoe barely registered with consumers.

But, I was curious about the Charge Volt Low for a couple of reasons. I was primarily interested in the construction of the shoe, built with a HeatGear one-piece, bootie-like upper with a synthetic overlay wrapping roughly 3/4 of your foot. (The mid top version, by the way, is even more unique with a tall lace-up sleeve in sort of a slimmed down version of last year’s Charge BB disaster.) I also wanted to see how the shoe played underfoot with a familiar Micro G midsole, wider base, and large TPU shank – very similar tooling to the Charge BB.

With promotion absent and almost no on-court presence, the Charge Volt Low went under the radar. Our job at TGRR is to review as many shoes as we can regardless of how popular they may be, so I’m excited to present a shoe you may not have seen or played in.

Fit
I mentioned before that the shoe has a fairly wide base, so it’s a solid option for those of you that need more room in the midfoot/toebox area. Despite my narrow foot, I still felt comfortable with the fit of the upper because of the HeatGear bootie that adapts to most foot sizes. If you’ve tried on or bought any of the Charge running shoes, it’s going to feel a lot like that. In fact, the construction of the upper is pretty similar to the original Charge runner.

The bootie is well-padded across the top of the foot and around the collar/heel area, making for a comfortable initial fit. The shoe feels a lot like a trainer when you put on for the first time. When laced up, the synthetic piece that wraps most of the upper provides decent lockdown but I still found some slippage. It was especially noticeable in the heel area, where you won’t find a sturdy heel counter like the Spawn had. The midsole does wrap up around the heel nicely, mitigating the slippage on the interior to a certain extent.

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On hard cuts or moving laterally on the defensive end, there’s some movement all over the shoe. Part of that can be attributed to the wider base and my foot shape, but it’s just difficult to get a completely secure fit with the way the Charge Volt is constructed.

The eyelet closest to the toe and then the 3rd eyelet up are stitched directly to the inner bootie. This feels like a snug fit because you can feel it pull the material tighter, but the bootie is so stretchy that it loses its support on any kind of movement made at moderate speed. The synthetic overlay makes for a comfortable and unique construction, but simply doesn’t provide enough support.

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Overall the fit is decent (this will become a common theme) but it’s nowhere near as secure as other lows I’ve tested.

Heel-Toe Transition
The transition through the footstrike might be the most disappointing area of the Charge Volt Low. When you wear a shoe on court, it should feel like one smooth motion from heel to toe when you take a step. With the Charge Volt Low, there is a distinct heel strike and then toe strike – a two-piece movement that you can both hear and feel. In my opinion, this is due to the large TPU shank that gives you fantastic support, but makes for a firm and clunky heel-toe transition. It also simply felt heavier on court overall due to the poor transition.

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Cushioning
Micro G might be the best on-court foam compound on the market today (we’ll see how adidas’ Boost challenges this later this year) and it’s the one constant that makes the Charge Volt Low a viable option. Court feel is excellent and stability is pretty great too. If you value court feel and stability, you’ll love the wide base and low to the ground midsole. This is especially important in a low top, because there’s less shoe to give you support in the event of an ankle rollover. Ankle support comes from the heel fit and stability (the heel fit is a little sloppy) but the Charge Volt Low inspires confidence because of the low and wide midsole.

Responsiveness is another issue. Normally, Micro G is a very responsive cushioning system – I threw on my Anatomix to hoop in outside and was amazed at how bouncy they felt even on concrete. I played in the Anatomix pretty consistently for several months in between other reviews, and they still felt great.

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Because of the large TPU shank and two-piece footstrike, I think some of Micro G’s responsiveness is sapped. Rather than rolling smoothly from heel to toe and pushing off the foam with each step, the foam spends a lot more time absorbing the harsher impact of the toe strike rather than helping propel you forward. Obviously no cushioning setup is going to really “propel” you, but the best technologies make it more effortless to move in.

Traction
The Charge Volt Low features a few small herringbone pods, but is primarily a dimpled, harder rubber outsole. The traction is below average on a court with any kind of dust because there’s too much surface area touching the floor on the dimpled portions. The grooves aren’t especially deep, and neither area the pseudo flex grooves. On good floors, the traction markedly improves but is nothing special. The lesson, as always: more herringbone.

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Materials/Durability
I feel like some players will be concerned especially with the toebox area, constructed entirely of the HeatGear bootie with some toe overlays fused on. After repeated use, I could see how a heavier player or an explosive type of slasher getting a blowout on the side of the foot simply from the lack of support/containment. I’m always a little leery of the bootie construction in areas where you need a lot of lateral support.

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Micro G will hold up well underfoot and the general construction isn’t bad. The synthetic piece is stitched on fairly heavily and the padding on the interior of the shoe is awesome. In my personal opinion, the shiny synthetic looks a little plastic-y on the colorway I have – though I can’t speak for all over the models.

This turned into a pretty intensive review because a lot of pieces of this shoe required some explanation. There was good and bad with every aspect, and it led to a fairly mediocre on-court shoe overall. If you value support and have a wider foot, definitely add these to your list of options. I think for a guard/wing and a wide-footer, you’d like the way the shoe fits.

Unfortunately, the sloppy fit of the upper, below average traction and clunky transition really drags the shoe down. It’s not a bad shoe, and once it hits the outlets or the deep clearance rack go ahead and try them out. Just don’t make them your first option unless you need a wide shoe. In addition, the fact that it’s nearly impossible to try these on in store is enough to make me not recommend them.

Let us know what you think in the comments, especially if you’ve seen these in store anywhere.

underarmour_chargevoltlow_review_guide

Performance Review Head to Head: The Crazyquicks

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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I recently posted my adidas Crazyquick 2 performance review, and given my lukewarm feelings toward the shoe I thought I’d make a comparison to the original Crazyquick that I hold near and dear to my heart. Hopefully, this will reveal the differences between the two and perhaps encourage you to try the second version even if you weren’t a fan of the first one.

Fit
This is the major difference I found between the two models. I loved the original Crazyquick because it fit like a glove. A one-piece, full Techfit compression upper combined with an extended Sprintframe provided complete lockdown and 1:1 fit. At the same time, I know a lot of folks felt like the Techfit construction didn’t provide enough lateral containment and that the Sprintframe was far too narrow. That simply comes down to the type of foot you have and how tight you like your shoes to be. For me, with a narrow foot and requiring a super snug fit so that I can change direction quickly, that shoe was perfect. It’s probably the best fitting shoe I’ve played in – 1A and 1B along with the Kobe VI.

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The Crazyquick 2 went away from the pure Techfit build and used synthetic overlays in a similar pattern to what you’ll see on the Rose 4.5. There was more volume in the upper and the Sprintframe wasn’t as extended as the first model – both positive steps for those of you that felt the first was too narrow. The containment is there, but the fit was not 1:1 for me and the Crazyquick 2 played more like your average shoe than something completely different like the original Crazyquick.

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Both shoes ran about a 1/2 size long so I would definitely go down from your normal size if you are planning to order them.

Heel-Toe Transition
These shoes are built to be flexibile, smooth and responsive, making the heel-toe process effortless. Easily the smoothest shoes from heel strike to toe off out there. The outsole zones are setup perfectly as well, providing you the stable, natural feel you’ll love.

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Cushioning
The original Crazyquick took heat for its perceived lack of cushioning, but if you’re buying these shoes to hoop in you’re not going to be looking for as much of a luxurious, plush feel. In order to be the flexible, stable, responsive and quick shoe that it is designed to be, you’re going to give up that soft cushioning. In return you get great court feel, stability and responsiveness in any direction. Because of how it played underfoot and how you were locked into the footbed, the original Crazyquick became an extension of your foot.

The Crazyquick 2 is largely the same setup, but perhaps slightly softer in the ball of the foot. I mentioned in the review that it feels like a slightly softer density foam was used in that area, and still didn’t affect the court feel at all. I don’t have any kind of heel-toe drop data, but it did feel like the original played slightly lower to the ground – though that’s all relative compared to other shoes on the market and the Crazyquick 2 will give you unrivaled court feel and stability. From the rear view, it does look like the original Crazyquick plays slightly lower at the heel.

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I think as far as pure impact protection and softness goes, the Crazyquick 2 is slightly better – so those of you that didn’t like the firm feel of the original might want to give its successor a try.

Traction
Absolutely perfect on both. Deep, grooved herringbone takes over the entire outsole and the different zones provide stop-on-a-dime traction in any direction.

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Materials/Durability
The nod goes to the Crazyquick 2 in this category, simply because the upper is a little more sturdy thanks to the overlays. The original model probably lent itself to some blowouts in the forefoot area, because the Techfit upper may not have given heavier or more explosive players enough containment on hard lateral cuts. I didn’t have any problems with it, and the way in which the three stripes were used to provide support on the original version was enough for me.

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Both midsoles and outsoles used high quality foam and rubber, and I didn’t experience a breakdown in the compounds on the original Crazyquick until after very heavy use.

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Bottom line, the original Crazyquick was built for quick slashers and guards desiring maximum flexibility and court feel. It featured a glove-like fit, a responsive midsole and excellent traction.

The Crazyquick 2 was built with the same player in mind, but should also work better for a wider range of players and foot sizes. The fit, for me, wasn’t quite as snug and that soured me on it (probably because I loved the first one so much). I relly like the Crazyquick 2, but it didn’t meet the standards set by the original Crazyquick or even the Rose 4.5. But even if you weren’t a fan of the first Crazyquick, I’d still try on the second and see if the changes adidas made are enough for you to give them a shot on court.

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First Impressions: Nike KD 7

Prose: Max Smith

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The next installment of Kevin Durant’s signature line will debut June 28. It features Engineered Mesh, a Hyperposite heel, and both 180 visible Zoom in the heel and an embedded Zoom unit in the forefoot. Also, Nike brought back the popular midfoot strap from earlier models much to my personal liking. Retail will be $150 USD.

I am extremely excited to hoop in these and am planning to buy these upon release. The traction reminds me of the excellent performing Kobe 9 traction (elite review coming soon) and the shoe overall reminds me of a mixture of the KD 4 and 6 with a splash of the LeBron 11 thrown in (expect a review and the two latter shoes as well).

Take a look at the gallery below and be sure to leave a comment.

*Pictures courtesy of @tbishop8 and @peezy57 on Instagram and also niketalk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance Review: adidas Crazyquick 2

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)
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If you’ve visited this site before and read some reviews, you probably know that my favorite shoe of 2013 was the adidas Crazyquick. The shoe debuted a new outsole/midsole platform featuring 17 “quick zones” designed to give you traction, stability and responsiveness in any direction. The shoe was engineered perfectly, and allowed you to move freely and quickly without sacrificing support.

The upper was also redesigned, with a bootie-like Techfit construction that locked the foot in. The Sprintframe heel counter ensured no heel slippage. The shoe became an extension of the foot, and that’s the ultimate goal when we’re looking at a performance hoop shoe.

Alas, the Crazyquick wasn’t for everyone. The trade-off for the flexibility, stability and unmatched court feel was a very firm (necessary) cushioning platform. The shoe also ran very narrow, giving wide or even normal footers some issues. Others felt that the Techfit upper didn’t offer enough support or containment (I personally had none of these issues, but I understand that plenty of people could and did).

With the second installment of the Crazyquick line, adidas took steps to remedy those issues. The result is a shoe that will probably work for a wider variety of people…but fell short of my own expectations.

Fit
First things first – go down a half-size to get the proper fit with the Crazyquick 2. It definitely runs long and I’ve had this backed up by several different people.

Despite how great the outsole was, the upper and overall fit is what ultimately made the original Crazyquick my favorite. The comfort of the Techfit upper and glove-like fit combined with the flexibility of the outsole and midsole to marry the shoe to the foot.

The Crazyquick 2 ditches the pure Techfit upper (it says Techfit on the tongue but is nothing like last year’s) and uses synthetic overlays on top of the Techfit base. These overlays are similar to what you’ll see on the Rose 4.5, just more independent and with a more flexible base.

The upper is still extremely flexible – though not quite as free as the first model – but also should provide you with better containment and support. I felt like it flexed a little weird in the toe box, where the overlays got in the way and created extra volume in there.

The Sprintframe heel counter has also been reduced in size, and many people will see this as a welcome change. For me, I didn’t get the same heel lockdown as the first shoe, but it’s still solid. Adidas also made excellent use of branding again, using the three stripes to provide support to the heel area. Collar padding was also beefed up and is very comfortable.

I have a hunch that a lot of folks will like the fit better with the 2 since it’s so much more accommodating. But for me, the first Crazyquick fit so well that you almost forgot it was there, and the 2 doesn’t quite reach that level.

Heel-Toe Transition
The Puremotion outsole/midsole with quick zones is a dream. The smoothest shoe from heel strike to toe-off that you’ll find. You’ll feel very low to the ground and stable at all times.

Cushioning
This was the area that led to the love/hate nature of the first Crazyquick, and I think that the overall feel has softened up slightly. You’re still going to get perfect court feel, stability and responsiveness thanks to the midsole/outsole build, but I think you’ll also get a little better impact protection as well.

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If you look at the bottom of the shoe, you’ll see a darker portion that basically encompasses the ball of the foot and big toe area. I think this portion is a slightly softer density foam, designed to provide better impact protection in the areas that take the most beating. It’s a concept shared by the CP3 line, which uses dual density Podulon in order to provide more responsiveness and impact protection in key spots.

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The sculpture or shape of the midsole remains pretty much the same, if not slightly beefed up in the heel/midfoot areas, from the first to the second model, and you’ll feel some extra support on the lateral side especially.

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It’s not going to be pillowy underfoot like the HyperRev but it’s been improved from last year from the standpoint of sheer impact protection. Overall, it’s fantastic once again in terms of how it makes the shoe function.

Traction
The outsole features herringbone, and lots of it. Like last year, the grooves are deep and the flexible zones give you responsive traction on any movement you make – lateral or linear. The flex grooves are well-placed and allow you to move freely with great traction.

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Materials/Durability
I’ve found no issues to speak of so far. Last year’s model showed some wear on the toes and could have used a little more reinforcement on the toebox, but that should be remedied with the overlays used here. I think the use of the overlays will allow the 2 to hold up better than the first model overall.

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The insole is high-quality, and the Puremotion midsole should hold up without much bottoming out. That’s one of the advantages of adidas’ cushioning platforms – while not as soft as other brands, they’re usually fairly responsive and don’t seem to bottom out as much.

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I’m afraid for me personally, this shoe was cursed by its predecessor. I loved the first so much and really didn’t want to see anything changed with it that the Crazyquick 2 was almost bound to disappoint me. That said, I do believe it’s a good shoe and I still enjoyed playing in it.

It was still damn near perfect underfoot and even had improved impact protection compared to the last model. The shoe is designed to allow you to play as quick as possible, and that goal is certainly achieved.

Would I have liked the full Techfit and a more snug Sprintframe? Definitely, but the Crazyquick 2 still deserves to be in the discussion when you’re looking at your next performance shoe.

adidas_crazyquick2_review_guide

Performance Review: Jordan Melo M10

Prose: Max Smith

Though it might be hard to believe, we’re already at Carmelo Anthony’s 10th signature shoe for Jordan Brand. His models have generally been good on-court options, especially the M8 and M9, even if they haven’t been as commercially successful as other athletes’ signature shoes.

The M10 borrows heavily from the Jordan XX8 SE, using the same tooling underfoot and Dynamic Fit lacing system. Where it differs, however, is in the materials used throughout the upper and that’s something that ultimately sets it apart from many shoes on the market right now.

Fit
The M10 has a slightly wider forefoot than the average shoe, but I didn’t feel any slipping or lack of containment, and the same can be said for the midfoot. The Dynamic Fit system combined with the carbon fiber shank underneath makes for a secure midfoot. Dynamic Fit, if you’ve read our prior review on the XX8 SE, is basically a combination of straps that tie directly to the midsole. When laced up, these straps wrap the foot and provide excellent lockdown.

Heel lockdown is a premium feature in this model as well. There are two Achilles’ notches in the interior of each shoe that really help your foot stay in place.

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A major difference between the M10 and XX8 SE (besides the slightly higher cut of the M10) is that the M10 uses heavy-duty synthetics for the upper. Despite this, the flexibility is definitely above average. Your foot really isn’t hindered at all and carbon fiber shank keeps excessive torque off your foot. However, this personally wasn’t adequate for me. I need a shoe with a little more rigidity, but overall I liked the flexibility.

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The overall fit is better and more secure than most. The synthetic leather is premium and feels excellent on foot. I’d recommend going a half size down as these run big for me, but try to try a pair on first because no two feet are exactly the same.

Heel-Toe Transition
Heel to toe transition is probably the best I’ve experienced in a sneaker. The optimal flexibility and decoupled heel and forefoot (the heel and forefoot are two independent pieces) make for a seamless ride.

Sometimes a decoupled midsole (like the KD V Elite for example) can make for a slappy and inconsistent gait, but the combination of the Flight Plate, Zoom bag setup, and softer outsole allow for near perfect transition.

Cushioning
Cushioning was absolutely great. The unlocked Zoom in the forefoot was pretty sweet and I loved hooping in them. Heel cushioning is also very good. As with the XX8 SE, this is probably the best cushioning setup on the market.

Court feel and stability are pretty good as well. I had zero issues with stability and the court feel was quite good also. Again, you’ll occasionally find a decoupled midsole to be a bit unstable, but the midsole is so well-engineered that you shouldn’t have any issues here. Arch support is definitely lacking in this shoe in that the midfoot of the shoe doesn’t necessarily hit your arch, but it wasn’t a deal breaker for me. The carbon fiber plate should give you enough rigidity and support.

The M10 is one of the best on the market in terms of responsiveness. After playing in a Flight Plate-based shoe with the unlocked Zoom bag, normal Zoom setups will not feel the same.

Bottom line, the cushioning setup featuring the large, cored out Zoom and Flight Plate is hands down one of the best on the market – whether it’s the XX8, XX8 SE, or M10.

Traction
Best traction I’ve used short of the Kobe 9 Elite (review coming soon). You shouldn’t have issues even on dusty courts. Lace ‘em up and you’re good to go.

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Materials/Durability
Like I said before, materials are premium. The M10 features some of the highest quality synthetics on the market, and Jordan Brand should be commended for packing quality materials into its athletes’ sigs. The CP3.VII and M10 both rate very highly in the materials department.

It’s simply a very comfortable sneaker too. I loved the synthetic leather and the neoprene inner booty. From the sole and up, I loved the comfort.

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The M10 doesn’t have any real signs of wear and tear, but be aware that synthetic leather will scuff so be prepared for some if you hoop in these regularly. Because of the quality of materials, this a good long term option. They should last a while and be a solid performer.

*Sidenote: Some people (including Sittler) have experienced the Zoom bag popping in this type of cushioning setup, but I personally did not. Nike has a great program for defective shoes so your purchase will be protected regardless of where you purchased them if your Zoom bag does blow out.

If you’re looking for premium materials, cushioning, and fit, look no further than the M10. It’s without a doubt one of the top shoes we’ve tested at TGRR this year.

Melo_M10_review_guide

 

Performance Review: Peak TP1

Prose: Max Smith

Ed. note: We’d like to introduce Max Smith to TGRR. Finch and I hooped with him at Ball State and found him to be a fellow sneakerhead and hooper that spent a lot of time in the gym. He’s played in tons of different models and will help us bring you guys more content here at TGRR. He knows his stuff too, as you’ll soon find out with his Peak TP1 Performance Review.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Peak brand, let’s run through a brief history. Peak was founded in China in 1989, and is one of the leading footwear brands in Asia with over 6,000 stores in China alone. As the brand grew, Peak found its way to the NBA in 2005 by signing a stadium sponsorship deal with the Houston Rockets and signing then-Rocket Shane Battier to its first endorsement deal.

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Since then, Peak has increased its U.S. presence with launch of peaksportsusa.com in 2011 and found its way onto the feet of players such as Kyle Lowry, Gordon Hayward, and JaVale McGee. Its most recognizable athlete though, is the Spurs’ Tony Parker, who got his own signature shoe this season: The PeakTP1.

If you’ve never seen a Peak shoe in person before, you’re not alone – so I’ll try to break it down for you as much as possible.

Fit
The upper of the TP1 is synthetic leather, like most shoes on the market, with strategic ventilated areas throughout – similar to Nike’s Hyperfuse or adidas’ SprintWeb technologies.  The toe and midfoot fit is a little looser than most shoes on the market, but that’s more indicative of how narrow lasts run nowadays than any knock on the TP1. Containment over the footbed is pretty good, and I didn’t feel any major sliding when I’d change direction.

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My foot is average in width and there was enough extra room to just make it comfortable – the shoe should accommodate most foot shapes. With ample eyelets that run up the entire length of the upper, heel lockdown was quite good when laced up tightly. There is plenty of interior heel padding as well and your heel shouldn’t be going anywhere.

If I could compare it to a more mainstream shoe, the fit felt similar to the adidas Rose 3. If you are a narrow-footer or want a really snug fit, go a half-size down but if you’re unsure go with your true size. Again, it’s difficult to find Peak in physical stores so you’ll likely have to take a chance on sizing.

Heel-Toe Transition
The transition is smooth given the GradientDuo foam midsole (more on this later) and flexible forefoot zone. Foam midsoles typically lend themselves to smoother transition (rather than midsoles with an Air unit or other inserted technology) because of the consistency of the material. I am naturally a midfoot striker so I rarely come down on my heels, and the TP1 was smooth through each step.

One thing I would change is the weight of the midsole. It felt significantly heavier than the upper and was noticeable while playing, though I can’t knock it too much.

Cushioning
I mentioned GradientDuo before, and it proved to be the perfect mix between soft and firm. The forefoot was a little firmer than the heel, but it was designed that way as they utilize the GradientDuo technology. There are pods in the heel, ball of the foot, and in the big toe that are slightly firmer than other sections in order to improve responsiveness. This way of designing the cushioning is similar to what you’ll find with Podulon in the CP3.VI and VII models – think of GradientDuo as a firmer version of Podulon.

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The court feel was excellent as the midsole is thin and flexible, and as a result the stability was also on point. I never experienced any instability during my runs with the shoe – again thanks to a solid midsole setup and a slight lateral outrigger.

The shoe lacked the responsiveness of a Micro G or Zoom Air, but the foam was adequate with the targeted zones of firmer cushioning. As far as support goes, I didn’t really feel anything extra but with the basic midfoot shank in place you should have enough there.

Traction
The forefoot traction is excellent. The shoe employs a lot of herringbone (always a good thing) and the clear portion of the outsole sticks especially well, providing the traditional squeak even on dusty courts. Heel traction isn’t as big of a deal and again, I’m a midfoot striker, but the pattern on the heel is similar to Nike’s Blade setup.

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Materials/Durability
Being a relatively unknown brand and an overseas-based one at that, a lot of consumers are going to be interested in the materials used throughout the shoe. I’m happy to report that the materials feel very good overall. The synthetic fuse material feels nice overall and the synthetic leather panels feel great.

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Some portions of the sole on the heel are showing signs of the traction peeling, but this seems like something that was glued on the outer teal portions to increase longevity. None of the actual traction has worn down at all. I’m also getting some wear on my left toe, but keep in mind that I drag my left toe way too much. The shoe still seems extremely durable overall.

At a retail of $120-$130, you really are getting good bang for your buck.

Now, the question is where to find them. The “Fiesta” colorway is listed on peaksportsusa.com but only in sizes up to 10.5. I purchased mine through eBay seller 94feetofgreatness, who is officially licensed to sell from PEAK. PEAK’s U.S. website currently lists two physical stores in the States – one in Melrose, CA and the other in Culver City, CA – so our West Coast readers may be able to shed some light on the situation out there.

Peak TP1 Review Guide

First Impressions: Nike Zoom LeBron Soldier 8

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

Got a surprise email from Max this afternoon with a few snapshots of the upcoming Zoom LeBron Soldier 8. The hallmarks of the popular team line of LeBron’s signature have been a durable upper with some sort of integrated (and typically very useful) strap and a fully cushioned Zoom unit underfoot. For the money, the Soldier models are typically some of the best shoes on the entire market.

The 8 looks to fall right in line with other Soldiers, featuring a strap wrapping from the medial to lateral side, a Hyperfuse/Flywire upper, an aggressive outsole (a little DT 96-ish, no?) wrapping up around the lateral forefoot, and most likely a quality Zoom unit inside.

One interesting design element is a zipper on the medial side of the ankle collar, perhaps to allow ease of access when putting the shoe on. You can also see that the strap is attached basically by two shoestring-like strands. We don’t have current release info for the Soldier 8 yet and there isn’t a ton known about the shoe at the moment, but be on the lookout for a TGRR report when they do drop.

The pair is a sample size 9, but doesn’t have a sample tag so we’re likely looking at the production version. Check out Max’s pics below.

 

 

 

Performance Review Head to Head: The Low Tops

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

One of the most frequent questions we get goes something like this: “Which shoe has better cushioning, shoe A, shoe B or shoe C?”

It’s a valid question as you’re trying to decide on a performance hoops shoe in a market full of them, and it’s nice to have some sort of benchmark to compare each shoe to. Thus, we’ve decide to create head-to-head, comparison reviews of shoes that we’ve reviewed on this site. We’ll group shoes together differently over time as we create more of these and get the format figured out.

For the inaugural head-to-head performance review, I’ll take a look at three popular low tops currently on the market and let you decide which works best for you.

The Matchup
Nike Kobe 9 EM Low vs. Nike Zoom Kobe Venomenon 4 vs. Jordan CP3.VII

The Kobe 9 EM Low is the low top, Engineered Mesh-based version of Kobe’s ninth signature shoe, and carries with it a decent amount of hype thanks to the initial “Bruce Lee” colorway and the fact that the 9 was a highly anticipated release. The Venomenon is the little brother, the takedown model of the Kobe line, and is billed as a durable, if more crude version of the souped up signature. The CP3.VII is designed for the game’s top point guard, and boasts several unique features including a Zoom-based Podulite cushioning system.

Fit

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The Kobe 9 EM Low is probably going to give you the most snug fit, especially through the midfoot and heel. The Engineered Mesh upper is used in varying levels of thickness, and gives you a nice, custom fit when laced up tightly. The heel fit, with the midsole wrapping up around the side of the foot, is excellent as well. The overall lockdown is similar to the Kobe VI – that is, it’s nearly perfect. I did go down a half-size to an 11 because I have a narrow foot and I value a tight fit, but I would probably stick to your true size. The last is fairly narrow, especially under the midfoot.
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The Zoom Kobe Venomenon 4 features a no-frills Hyperfuse/Flywire upper that is sturdy and durable, but doesn’t offer the complete lockdown of the Kobe 9. The type of Fuse used on the Venomenon isn’t able to flex and conform to the foot like Engineered mesh, and it’s designed to be a little thicker and battle-ready for outdoor surfaces. This is not to say the fit is bad – because it is still good – but it doesn’t meet the high standards of the Kobe 9.
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The CP3.VII is a great all around shoe (we’ll get into its brighter points later) but I did not love the fit. I believe this is because the shoe just did suit my foot shape – the toebox was too roomy for me and I couldn’t get full heel lockdown. It features Dynamic Flywire, which has little to no impact on the fit in this shoe, but the high quality synthetics are a great touch. I do know that it has been a favorite of many so definitely do not write it off if you’re in the market for a low top. The materials are top notch and the shoe is extremely comfortable from the fit down to the cushioning.
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Heel-Toe Transition

The Kobe 9 EM Low features a beefy drop-in Lunarlon midsole, and the outsole is one of the most flexible, pliable designs I’ve ever seen. I believe it’s because the outsole is relatively thin, allowing it to flex easily and in concert with the midsole. A drop in midsole with an outsole that was too stiff would create serious issues. The transition is excellent overall from heel strike to toe off.
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The Venomenon 4 is solid from heel to toe, featuring a firm Phylon midsole and forefoot Zoom unit. The midsole also employs a small TPU shank – something the Kobe 9 does not have. The midsole is designed to withstand a pounding and doesn’t offer the plush, flexible feel of the 9 nor the pillowy cushioning of the CP3.VII. Thus, while the transition is fairly smooth, it’s not the most comfortable ride you’ll get.
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The CP3.VII uses a dual density midsole setup known as Podulon, with the added bonus of Zoom met bag. The result is a bouncy, soft, transition that’s more comfortable than either of the Kobe models. While I didn’t get the same court feel as the other two, it’s very smooth from heel to toe.
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Cushioning

The heel-toe transition portion delved into this a bit, but the Kobe 9 uses a drop in Lunarlon midsole. I would rather not have a modular midsole system, but this one is probably the best version I’ve used. It’s very soft, and offers the traditional consistent feel underfoot. It’s a thick midsole but still offers good court feel and what I consider to be average responsiveness. There is a noticeable lack of support, and I dealt with sore arches each time I played in the 9. No hooper wants to have sore arches, so if you feel like you need any support at all, the flatness of the Lunarlon and lack of a TPU support shank may steer you away.
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The Venomenon uses a forefoot Zoom bag that provides average responsiveness. The shoe plays very low to the ground, and stability on all cuts was excellent. As I mentioned before, it’s a firmer midsole the either of the other models so some may be turned off by the more Spartan feel. As you’ll get with mid-priced Nike models, the overall ride and Zoom quality isn’t necessarily top of the line – whether it’s due to quality of materials or not as innovative engineering. I hooped in the Venomenon again today when I left my Crazyquick 2s in the car, and I was reminded again of the firm midsole and unimpressive responsiveness.
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The CP3.VII was a joy underfoot, providing a simultaneously soft, responsive, and stable ride. The Podulite dual density setup is improved from the VI (especially in the heel), and the midsole is very responsive with the addition of a noticeable Zoom unit. The midsole is a little chunky, but is flexible and I didn’t have any stability issues in games (though if you like to feel super low to the ground, the CP3.VII might feel a little odd). The thicker midsole combined with a large TPU plate made the support stand out as well. It’s simply one of the most comfortable performance shoes you can play in, and it’s now a regular go-to off court for me.
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Traction


Despite a soft outsole, the Kobe 9 provided some of the best traction I’ve had on a basketball shoe. It has a wavy, sort of anatomical pattern and I think the flexibility helps the traction tremendously. The flex allows the ridges to grab the floor, even on a poor YMCA court that I first tested them on.
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The Venomenon 4 used Nike’s Blade traction pattern (though it was NOT an XDR outsole) that is designed to hold up on outdoor courts. It was great inside as well, providing stop-on-a-dime traction each time. It probably wasn’t quite as good as the 9 on dusty floors, but both are neck and neck. I would say that long-term, I’d give the nod to the Venomenon if you’re deciding between the Kobe models.
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The CP3.VII featured deep herringbone pods in the forefoot and proved to be great on all floors. It’s a rather aggressive traction pattern, and gets the job done. Along with the Kobe 9 and Venomenon, you won’t have to worry about the traction with any of these shoes.
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Materials/Durability

This is purely speculative but of the three I think the 9 is a little more “delicate” than the Venomenon or CP3.VII. I don’t see the mesh or the flexible, soft outsole holding up quite as well as the other two. Scuffing, while it doesn’t affect performance, is pretty noticeable on the “Bruce Lee” model.
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The Venomenon 4 is built to be an indoor/outdoor shoe, so it’s built pretty sturdy. From the always-durable Hyperfuse upper to the firm midsole, I don’t expect much breakdown in materials even if you put them through several months of games/workouts.
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The CP3.VII had the highest quality of build in my opinion. From the details like the TecTuff toe drag protection to a heavier, tacky synthetic for the upper and deep outsole grooves, the CP3.VII was well built in every way. Combined with the quality midsole that included a responsive Zoom bag, the CP3.VII was the best of the three when it came to material quality, durability and performance.
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With the shoes laid out side by side, now it’s up to you. In my opinion, the Kobe 9 and CP3.VII are neck and neck. The Kobe 9 had the better fit and played lower to the ground, but the cushioning, responsiveness, support and material quality of the CP3.VII stood out. The Venomenon wasn’t as nice as the other two in any of the aspects, but it’s still a good, durable all around shoe that I keep in the truck in case I need a backup pair.

 

 

Performance Review: Kobe IX EM Low

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to cop the Kobe IX Elite, I managed to snag a pair of the Engineered Mesh-constructed Kobe IX EM Low. The low version not only dropped the height considerably and used Engineered Mesh rather than Flyknit, but also swapped out the carbon fiber pieces for solid rubber. The drop-in Lunarlon midsole remained the same. I picked up the “Bruce Lee” iteration which, in my opinion, is a gorgeous summer colorway whether you end up rocking these on court tonight.

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While I hadn’t hooped in a Kobe model extensively (besides the previously reviewed Venomenon 4) since the Kobe VI, which I bought two pairs of, I was pumped to see if the IX harkened back to the V and VI I loved so much. In my opinion, the VII was too clunky and the modular midsole/collar system was kind of a failure, and the VIII just didn’t have enough midsole for me. With that in mind, I laced up the IX and got to work.

Fit
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The first thing you’ll notice is a ridiculously snug fit when you lace the IX up tight. It immediately reminded me of my personal experience in the V and VI, which fit so snug over the forefoot and midsole that it hurt your feet for the first couple wearings until the upper loosened up and broke in. The IX was very similar in that respect, providing complete lockdown from heel to toe. The outsole/midsole wraps up around the heel – an awesome design aspect that provides a ton of performance value. There was no slippage to speak of, even with a very narrow foot like I have.

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Engineered Mesh is basically mesh with structure. In and of itself it provides solid lockdown without much give on cuts and changes of direction. You’ll notice it’s slightly thicker in the toebox before moving into more traditional-feeling mesh where you see the perforations or cut outs. It’s paired with Dynamic Flywire, which doesn’t necessarily add much to the support and fit in this case, but nonetheless it’s excellent overall. I would say that the IX is right there with the Kobe VI as the best fitting low top I’ve played in.

You’ll also probably be curious about the raised portions of the insole, designed to keep the foot from sliding on the footbed during play. It feels weird to the hand, but normal on foot and I didn’t have any slippage issues on the insole.

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I did go with an 11, a half-size down from my true size of 11.5, but didn’t feel overly cramped in the toebox. Normal to wide footers may want to stick with their traditional size though, as the last of the shoe wraps in fairly tightly underneath the midfoot.

Heel-Toe Transition
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The Kobe IX was very smooth from heel strike to toe off. Aided by a pliable (but thick) Lunarlon midsole and the most flexible outsole rubber I’ve ever seen, the IX will allow you to move, plant and cut naturally and smoothly.

Cushioning
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Now we’ve come to the crucial part of this review. On one hand the Lunarlon midsole is very comfortable, with a fairly plush feel upon first wearing. Some folks love Lunarlon, and I’ll admit that this iteration – in the drop-in format – was very comfortable on foot and I preferred it over some other Lunarlon-based cushioning systems. But given the drop-in midsole and an outsole that you can literally flex and press a thumb into with little effort, there was a fairly obvious lack of support. There’s no shank to aid stability, the Lunarlon midsole is fairly flat, and while the cushioning feels nice at first I did notice the hard impacts as the games wore on.

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You do play very low to the ground and I didn’t have any rollover concerns – key in a low cut shoe. Court feel, like it is with most Kobes, is very good.

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Responsiveness was average, and I think Lunarlon is behind Micro G and Zoom cushioning systems. It’s not bad and shouldn’t hold you back at all, but it’s nothing exceptional.
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Traction
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Court grip was nothing short of amazing. The traction pattern mimics the foot shape and looks a little like a topographical map in terms of design. But I found immediate stops and starts, change of direction, the reassuring squeak – the IX is great in all categories. The outsole is extremely flexible and the rubber compound is fairly soft so I’d be a little worried about longevity – though it’s not a major concern.

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Materials/Durability
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I don’t have too many major concerns besides the outsole, which is so flexible to the touch that it threw me off initially. You can push hard with one of your fingers on the outsole and see it flex on that point. I just don’t know how well it holds up under heavy wear, but I haven’t experienced any issues so far.

The upper is reinforced along the vamp, providing extra durability in key areas as well. If you’re concerned about looks, these do scuff incredibly easy – partially due to the colorway – but any game activity is likely going to result in serious scuffing of the toebox.

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Overall, I loved the way the Kobe IX felt on foot in terms of fit. It was a 1:1 type fit throughout the upper, nearly as good as the Kobe VI – one of the hallmarks in terms of fit and the best fitting low top I’ve ever owned. The traction was also on point, but the flimsy midsole and outsole presented some problems for me in terms of support. For a guard or wing really wanting a low top, this needs to be one you try on. While the lack of support turned me off, the rest of the shoe performs well and I believe it’s one of the better low tops I’ve tested in the last year and a half.

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Compared to some of the recent shoes I’ve tested, I’d personally place it behind the Rose 4.5 and CP3.VII but ahead of the Venomenon, as the Rose 4.5 provides a low-to-the-ground, super snug fit but also gives you better support and similar traction performance. The IX fits better and is softer cushioning-wise than the Venomenon, and is simply a more plush shoe overall.