Performance Review: Jordan CP3.VIII

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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I’ve reviewed the last two shoes in Chris Paul’s Jordan Brand signature line and generally found them to be good but not great overall. Being a point guard myself, I’m always excited to try out the shoe built for one of the game’s premier PGs, but something seems to be lacking in each model.

The stiff Fuse upper of the VI compromised the fit for me and I wasn’t able to get full lockdown – unsettling in a lowtop. The VII had fantastic cushioning with the Zoom-based Podulon system and the materials were rugged, but again the shoe didn’t fit me properly. I had a hard time with the VII especially, because there were a lot of aspects I really, really liked about it and to this day I wear them all the time off-court. In both cases though, I thought that the material choice and build of the upper really hampered the overall fit of the shoes.

The CP3.VIII sees the introduction of a full length TPU frame and targeted Lunar/Zoom cushioning combo. Once again the shoe sounds great on paper, and this time delivers as a very good all around performer.

Fit
The toebox is fairly tight, and I went with an 11.5 – even with a narrow foot I would not recommend going down a half size at all. I found the lockdown to be excellent for a couple of different reasons. First, the shoe used mesh/woven panels on both the medial and lateral portions of the upper – very similar to Engineered Mesh. Whereas the Fuse and other synthetics of the last two models kept me from getting a truly snug fit, the slight change in materials really helps the shoe fit more naturally on the foot.

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You’ll still get Fuse in the toebox and vamp areas, bringing with it stiffness and great durability. I didn’t find any hotspots or weird creasing with this combination upper. The other aspect contributing to the great fit is the full length TPU frame. Acting as the external heel counter and then sculpted all the way down the shoe, it provides heel lockdown and lateral stability for the quickest cuts. I wondered about the rigidity of it going in, but after a few wearings it began to feel more natural and three weeks in it simply feels great to be locked in.

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My only gripe is with the dynamic lacing system, as the laces run through little lace straps embedded in the upper. These straps don’t hold the laces when you try to lace them tightly from the toe up, so it’s difficult to get them laced as tightly as I want.

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Heel-Toe Transition
With a fairly firm midsole, the TPU frame, and a harder, less flexible rubber outsole, the transition isn’t really the shoe’s strongest point. I found it to be a little slappy through the first four or five wearings – I noticed distinct heel and toe strikes – but it admittedly became more natural as I broke them in. It’s designed to be a more firm, responsive midsole and is also pretty supportive, so the transition gets sacrificed some here.

Cushioning
As mentioned before, the stability is excellent in part due to that full TPU frame. But the shoe also plays very firm and low to the ground, making the shoe ideal for quick changes of direction. It’s not plush comfort by any means, but the Lunar foam directly under the heel is a nice addition and you get a large Zoom bag in the forefoot. Court feel is simply ideal.

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Responsiveness is good if not great. The Zoom bag is large and seems to be thick and bouncy (not all Zoom setups are created equal) but the extra firm midsole and slightly clunky linear transition saps some of the responsiveness here. It’s still good, and plays low enough and stable enough that you probably won’t notice too many issues in the responsiveness department.

Traction
I had an issue with traction initially because I felt like the wavy pods picked up way too much dust for my liking, and I was constantly swiping through the first couple of wearings. The outsole is also a pretty firm rubber compound, and those typically take longer to break in as well. But after a few intense sessions, the rubber broke in a little and I barely noticed any slippage. There are portions of the outsole that hold too much dust because there’s too much of a flat surface and not enough grooves, so a dusty court may give you some trouble – but that’s the case with most shoes anyway.

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Materials/Durability
The CP3 line is typically built with tough, durable materials and the VIII follows that trend. It’s kind of a no frills type of shoe, and there aren’t a lot of areas I can see excessive wear building up. The outsole is pretty tough, though probably not setup for outdoor play, and the toebox features plenty of Fuse overlays. The woven portion is a tight weave and the build in general is very good. The only issue that could crop up would be with the lace loops (I had ones like these break on my XX9s) but so far, so good there.

The CP3.VIII is without question my favorite Chris Paul signature of the last three years and it’s just a really good all-around lowtop. The fit is fantastic and the shoe plays low to the ground with good responsiveness; it nails the big areas needed for a good lowtop. A slightly different traction layout would be nice and it’s not as smooth from heel-toe as the other shoes I’d been playing in (it does improve considerably once broken in though). Surprisingly, it’s a sleeper favorite of mine and I’ll keep them around for when I feel like hooping in a pair of lows.

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 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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Kobe_9_EM_Low_Court Feel
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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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Jordancp3vii_Court Feel
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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: Jordan CP3.VII

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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Back when I reviewed the Jordan CP3.VI, I lamented that most of the shoes in Chris Paul’s signature line were pretty good on court, just not great in any one aspect. Something always held the shoes back from being elite performance models – in the case of the CP3.VI it was its inability to provide sufficient lockdown from heel to toe. Unfortunately, even though I really like a lot of aspects of the shoe, the CP3.VII falls victim to a similar problem.

I struggled worse with this review than any other because there was so much that was great about the shoe, but it didn’t exactly work for me. Even though it personally didn’t suit my playing needs I will wholeheartedly recommend the CP3.VII as a performance model.

Fit
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For me, the fit of the shoe is weighed more heavily than any other aspects and that’s the reason I didn’t really enjoy playing in the shoe as much as I have others this year (including the Crazyquick and Anatomix Spawn). Again, I will stress that this is a personal opinion, but the last (shape of the outsole) just didn’t fit my foot right and I wasn’t able to get the type of lockdown I look for. To me, lockdown = confidence when I’m playing. If a shoe fits me right, I won’t even notice that it’s there and I have complete confidence making cuts, changing direction or stopping on a dime.

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In the CP3.VII, I always felt that my foot wasn’t fully secure. My toes were kind of cramped in the toebox (laterally, that is), I felt a bit of an unnatural flex in the toebox as well, and the Achilles notch continued to hamper the heel fit. While the lacing system and Dynamic Flywire integration was adequate, I never felt fully locked in through the midfoot either. This was all probably due to the shape of my foot and for you, the fit may be just fine; it just didn’t suit me.

Other than that, I felt like the shoe was built slightly wider than some others I’d tested (I have a pretty narrow foot) so it might fit a broader variety of players. The upper was comfortable and inner bootie was extremely plush – one of the best interiors I’ve tested. While I probably won’t add the CP3.VII into my hooping rotation, it’s definitely sticking around as an off the court go-to shoe.

Heel-Toe Transition
Jordancp3vii_Transition
Transition was smooth from heel to toe, aided by a multilevel outsole and large midfoot shank. The implementation of Podulite in the midsole gave the shoe a nice, natural ride through the footstrike. No complaints in this department.

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Cushioning
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Jordancp3vii_Court Feel
Jordancp3vii_Responsiveness
The CP3 line has long used a Podulon cushioning setup, which is basically a dual density cushioning system that places responsive foam pillars at strategic points throughout the footstrike. It’s a responsive and bouncy cushioning platform that’s relatively stable, although you won’t feel quite as low to the ground as a Lunarlon or Zoom Air systems. The CP3.VII debuted Podulite, which uses a forefoot Zoom Air unit under the ball of the foot which added even more responsiveness.

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Bottom line, this shoe is ridiculously comfortable. The Podulite is bouncy and plush, and simply feels great on court. A Phylon midsole houses the aforementioned external TPU shank provides plenty of midfoot support. I didn’t give it a 10/10 simply because I personally like a little more court feel, but this cushioning platform is excellent.

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Traction
Jordancp3vii_Traction
Traction is also top notch, as it was on last year’s CP3.VI. Deep herringbone is used throughout and you’ll get that reassuring squeak on quick stops. It is a multilevel outsole with raised portions along the lateral side of the outsole that do an excellent job providing traction laterally.

Materials/Durability
Jordancp3vii_Materials-Durability
In the black/red colorway I tested out, synthetics were used throughout the upper. The midfoot portion reminds me a lot of the makeup of the Air Jordan 2010 Outdoor – which was quietly one of the better shoes I’ve ever played in. It’s a relatively tough and durable upper, and should hold up well. TecTuff is used on the toe wrap on the medial side, as CP3 tends to drag his toe when he changes direction – it’s an intelligent addition to the shoe and beefs up the durability on that end. All in all, the CP3.VII feels and plays like one of the more well-made shoes I’ve tested this year.

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Once again, I want to reiterate that I think the CP3.VII is a great performance shoe and it’s certainly one of the most comfortable I’ve played in in a long time. It featured the best balance of court feel and impact protection that I’ve tested in a long time – I loved the cushioning.

It doesn’t suit me on-court because I value fit so much and I simply couldn’t get the right lockdown out of the shoe – but I still recommend it to most players. Definitely try it on in store before you buy if you go the online route, but for a guard/swingman type that likes the feel of a lowtop I think the CP3.VII is one of the best options out there.

Performance Review: Jordan CP3.VI

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

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Weight: 12.3 oz
Size Tested: 11
Colorway: Metallic Silver/Black/Challenge Red/Tour Yellow

If there’s an overarching theme with Chris Paul’s signature Jordan line, it’s that the shoes are typically solid but leave something to be desired. You’ll always get reliable traction, Podulon cushioning (starting with the CP3.III) and a reinforced toe to protect against toe drag, but something about each of his past signatures has been missing from a performance standpoint.

The original CP3 featured a visible Air unit and details that became a staple of the line – “61xty” was printed on the heel and paying homage to Paul’s late grandfather has been a design element on each successive shoe. It came in at a $115 price point and the nubuck upper was a nice touch, but the shoe wasn’t ready to compete with the top performance models.

The CP3.II was a gorgeous, sleek silhouette but the rigid midsole piece, high arch and oddly placed flex point under the forefoot really hindered heel-toe transition and overall comfort. The CP3.III introduced Podulon cushioning but had a stiff upper that compromised the fit and flexibility.

The IV featured Zoom Air in the heel, Podulon in the forefoot and a Fuse-like midfoot panel, but the performance reviews revealed a bottom-heavy feel thanks to a thick midsole. The CP3.V, to me, was way too stiff through the upper. The Fuse material and synthetics used were durable but just weren’t conducive to the great fit and flexibility that I prefer.

With the CP3.VI, Jordan Brand got it right, and the shoe is an absolute joy to play in.

Fit
I again went a half-size down in order to get a more snug fit from the start (I actually played a couple hours of pickup ball in an 11.5 but returned them for an 11 the next day). The last used for the midsole and outsole isn’t overly narrow and should accommodate a most players. The Fuse-based upper fits snug and the inner bootie also aids in the overall fit. The lockdown is very good, perhaps not quite as snug as the Hyperdunk Lows I was playing in, but the overall package of the last, midsole, Fuse upper and inner bootie is solid. The shoe is very stable through the heel and I have no security issues planting or cutting at full-speed, even on dirty courts.

The Achilles pad is a nice touch in terms of comfort, but compromises the fit.
The Achilles pad is a nice touch in terms of comfort, but compromises the fit.

I do have a slight issue with how the shoes lace up, though. For whatever reason – I believe because of the stiff nature of the Fuse upper – I can’t get the fit to stay super snug when I tighten the laces of the bottom eyelets. I’ll tighten through the first couple of eyelets, but when I release to move to the next set the bottom laces loosen up noticeably. Most probably won’t be as picky as I am, because the shoes do lace up tightly. It’s just not quite next-level lockdown like the Kobe VI or Hyperdunk Lows. A staple of the CP3 line is the Achilles pad, which improves comfort but also (in my opinion) leaves a little bit to be desired in terms of fit because it prevents the heel and Achilles from being completely flush with the heel of the shoe. It’s a personal thing, but also something to pay attention to when you try them on.

In short, the fit is very good overall but does leave a little bit to be desired in a couple of small areas.

Heel-Toe Transition
The transition is, to put it simply, perfect. The shoe glides smoothly through the footstrike, thanks to a low-profile Phylon midsole, but is not as stiff as prior models. The visible TPU shank provides plenty of stability too, and sets it apart from a slightly more stripped down shoe like the Hyperdunk. The Fuse upper also has notches along the eyestay and isn’t as thick as last year’s CP3.V. I’d compare the Fuse upper to that of the Melo M8, just in a lower profile. It also became more and more flexible (without sharp creasing) through the first few wearings – something that prior CP3 models haven’t done.

Notice the recessed groove down the center of the shoe, giving it a split-toe feel and aiding in transition and flexibility.
Notice the recessed groove down the center of the shoe, giving it a split-toe feel and aiding in transition and flexibility.

The outsole also features several lateral flex grooves – two on the forefoot and four modified grooves on the heel. These combine with a recessed section running down the middle of the shoe, almost giving it a very subtle split-toe feel and really accentuating the push off of the medial toe.

Cushioning
The Podulon system is used extremely well in the CP3.VI. The outsole gives a visual representation of where Podulon is used – underneath the ball of the foot and along the big toe – and there’s a noticeable but pleasant difference in the cushioning across the footbed. I feel like the Podulon unit is more firm/responsive and it definitely aids when pushing off to change direction and get to top speed (it would be extremely helpful if you, ya know, have a semblance of a first step but I’m more of the crafty type…). The heel cushioning seems slightly concave and your foot will probably feel like it sits low in the shoe – I loved the way I felt in it but others may find it slightly strange.

A nice shot of the Podulon section and flex grooves.
A nice shot of the Podulon section and flex grooves.

The court feel is also excellent, but so far hasn’t seemed to sacrifice cushioning in order to maintain that feel. While the Hyperdunk Lows bottomed out slightly after a solid month of playing, the Cp3.VI cushioning setup seems to strike a balance between compression/deflection and keeping me a low to the ground. Being a Zoom lover, I had been skeptical of Podulon in the past but the CP3.VI gets it right.

Traction
The traction on the CP3.VI ranks among the all-time greats for me (the Zoom BBII and this shoe are 1 and 1A in my opinion). There are a couple of reasons for this. First, herringbone. Herringbone on herringbone on herringbone. The entire outsole is covered with it and the grooves are especially deep on this traction pattern. I’ve hooped in the shoes for two weeks and both courts that I’ve played on have been below average in terms of cleanliness, but the traction has still been impeccable.

The deep herringbone pattern and flex grooves make for excellent court grip.
The deep herringbone pattern and flex grooves make for excellent court grip.

The second reason for the excellent traction are those flex grooves I mentioned in the transition section. The flexibility and resulting floor contact are awesome and that really aids in traction. With the lateral and vertical flex grooves, it creates an outsole with a bunch of uniquely shaped pods that are tuned (via those recessed grooves and the deep herringbone pattern) to provide great traction. Having the right points of the shoe on the floor and engaging traction whenever you demand it is a huge asset in terms of performance.

Materials/Durability
Like most Fuse-based shoes, you’re going to get great durability out of the upper. It may be a little stiff at first and lack slightly in the fit department, but it will not break down on you. The inner bootie is plush – no tissue paper tongue here – and the shoe comes with three pairs of laces should you tear through a pair (or if you’re just a fashionista). I also mentioned the toe wrap in the opening section of this review and it’s back in its familiar place, extending the rubber outsole on to the toe of the shoe for enhanced durability and protection against toe drag.

You can see the extra rubber wrapping around the medial side - a design element straight from CP3 himself.
You can see the extra rubber wrapping around the medial side – a design element straight from CP3 himself.

To conclude, I am a huge fan of the CP3.VI. The traction, cushioning and heel-toe transition are all very good. The outsole is one of the most finely tuned and engineered setups that I’ve played in. The flexibility through the upper is solid and the fit – especially going a half-size down which I would wholeheartedly recommend – is good. The Podulon system has been employed perfectly, and is one of the best non-Zoom cushioning setups I’ve used along with the adidas TS Supernatural Creator.

Were there a couple of issues? Yes. The fit in the heel thanks to that Achilles pad could be a little tighter (but again, with a half-size down and two pairs of socks I personally didn’t have an issue with it) and I can’t quite get the full lockdown I love when lacing the shoes up.

Bottom line, if you’re a guard or a wing that likes the feel of the low, the CP3.VI should be one of the first shoes you try on. I recommend going a half-size down to get the best possible fit, but you’ll love the traction, smooth transition and cushioning setup. Some colorways are also starting to go on sale, making the CP3.VI a perfect cop if you’re on a budget and looking for a shoe that will carry you through your offseason workouts and open gym runs.

Overall Score: 46/50 x 2 = 92/100

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TGRR Blog: State of the Industry, Part I: Jordan Brand

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

We’re fresh off of All-Star weekend, where superstars young and old had a spotlight shone upon them for a couple of fleeting days. The old guard – Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, among others – shared the attention with the new guard led by James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Paul George and Jrue Holiday. Beyond the weekend itself, even rookies like Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis have announced their arrival over the first half of the season.

Sneaker companies and their respective kicks played a role during All-Star weekend too. Nike went all out with the Area 72 theme and dropped a massive amount of models. Jordan Brand released the much-anticipated XX8, which garnered more attention than any other single model. Under Armour was well-represented on the booth scene, showing off all their PEs and adidas is the NBA’s official sponsor.

Those companies also took advantage of the increased attention and launched marketing campaigns and unveiled new technology in the days and weeks surrounding the All-Star festivities. Nike went with the aforementioned Area 72 campaign and Jordan Brand was represented with the XX8 Days of Flight countdown that culminated with the brand’s most technologically advanced shoe ever. Adidas recently unveiled new Boost cushioning and Blade midsole, while Under Armour continued to push its Spine technology. Reebok even got into it on the Classics side, announcing the return of Shaquille O’Neal and his Shaq Attaq and Shaqnosis signatures.

For all the marketing and technology, those brands still rely on the performance of those products while on the feet of their athletes – and vice versa. With some of those players nearing the end of their playing days and others such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant already entrenched as the new breed of superstar, it’s time to take a look at the future of those sneaker companies. They’ll need both superior products and the right athletes wearing those products in order to be successful in a hypercompetitive market.

We’ll do this in several different installments, brand by brand, and the first company we’ll take a look at is Jordan Brand.

Jordan Brand
Overview
JB is a little hard to break down because of the sheer amount of retro and lifestyle basketball models compared to the relatively few true performance hoops models. It’s also in the process of integrating signature athletes Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook – and possibly signature shoes – after parting ways with Dwyane Wade. The launch of the next Jordan signature shoe, the XX8, was a polarizing event thanks to its looks (an eight-inch high zip-up shroud) and price tag (a staggering $250).

Market Share (U.S. Basketball Shoe market): 58% – via @MattSOS

Latest Performance Models
Jordan XX8
Jordan Melo M9 (Carmelo Anthony signature)
Jordan CP3 VI (Chris Paul signature)
Jordan Super.Fly Mid and Low
Jordan Aero Mania

Technology
JB and Nike set the standard for performance technology, and Jordan Brand has all the money, research and development resources it needs at its disposal. The XX8 is the pinnacle of the sneaker world in terms of innovation and technology (and price) – no surprise coming from the mind of the Godfather, Tinker Hatfield. The shoe features a reinvented Zoom Air (cushioning system made up of tensile fibers in a pressurized bag that compress upon impact then expand back outward giving a responsive and bouncy ride) bag, dubbed ProPlate Zoom, that puts the cushioning unit directly in contact with the foot. JB also developed a carbon fiber Flight Plate, a super light and super strong chassis for the shoe that helps the Zoom bag make flush contact with the foot, resulting in increased responsiveness. The heel counter is also made of carbon fiber, while the stretch synthetic shroud is made using premium Swiss textiles. The inner bootie features a Dynamic Fit system, with the lacing directly attached to the midfoot for a snug fit. All of this leads to hefty price tag, but you get what you pay for: no other shoe on the market features this kind of technology.

Air-Jordan-XX8-Tech-Sheet

Other performance models haven’t shied away from using the technology at its disposal either. The Melo M9 is the lightest Melo shoe ever made and packs a ton of technology into the package. The most striking tech is the Flywire-based Dynamic Fit straps that wrap around the upper of the shoe and provide a tight fit. The M9 uses maximum volume Zoom Air units in the heel and forefoot, and a full-length TPU cage for a stable fit. It’s a shoe perfectly tailored to a player like Melo.

Jordan-Melo-M9-Tech-Sheet

Chris Paul’s CP3 VI once again uses Podulon cushioning – a staple of the CP3 line – and a one-piece Hyperfuse upper stitched together at the heel. The shoe is 20% lighter than his last shoe, and the Fuse material provides better fit and durability. The Podulon material is highlighted on the outsole of the shoe, and is concentrated across the forefoot and along the medial (big toe) half of the foot for extra responsiveness when planting and pushing off.

The Super.Fly has been a popular model because it’s playable for a variety of different players and features a comfortable Lunarlon forefoot, Zoom unit in the heel and Phylon midsole. The Aero Mania is a recent release seen most often on the feet of Blake Griffin and features a Flywire-based upper and forefoot Zoom unit.

Top Athletes
Carmelo Anthony
Chris Paul
Russell Westbrook
Blake Griffin
Ray Allen
Joe Johnson

Jordan Brand boasts two established superstars in Anthony and Paul and two up and coming faces of the brand in Westbrook and Griffin. It’s not hard to see where JB is going with this strategy, as Westbrook and Griffin are two of the most exciting and explosive players in the league. Both could warrant signature shoes in the future – especially Griffin – and the fashion-forward Westbrook has been leading the XX8 charge by becoming the athlete chosen to first rock the shoe on court. Allen has long been the recipient of some of the best Player Edition colorways, and Johnson is just another productive, big name in a big market.

Future Outlook
We’ve already talked about how the brand is positioned with two of the most exciting individual athletes in the league signed to JB contracts. Melo and Paul will carry the signature shoe line for several years, with Melo approaching his tenth signature model next year. The XX8 was a statement in terms of fashion and performance for the brand and it set the bar high in terms of expectations for that signature numbered line.

It will be important for Jordan Brand to continue to innovate, but it will be interesting to see if the numbered line becomes a top-of-the-line, technologically advanced product every year. In order for that to happen, the shoes may have to stay in the upper echelon of the market’s price range, attainable only for those elite athletes or simply hoopers with no regard for budget.

The Melo and CP3 line should occupy a price range just below the top, while perhaps the Super.Fly (the Super.Fly 2 was debuted by Griffin during All-Star weekend) and Aero- lines will be even slightly more affordable while providing exceptional technology.

The retro craze will always fuel the brand and there are so many models to be taken advantage of that I don’t foresee it slowing down anytime soon. But on the performance side of things, look for Jordan Brand to continue to be leader in innovation and technology thanks to some of the best minds in design, while pushing forward with Griffin and Westbrook joining Melo and Paul as the faces of the brand.