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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I reviewed nine different models this year and my Shoe of the Year pick basically came down to two choices: the adidas Crazyquick and the Under Armour Micro G Anatomix Spawn. After much deliberation, my shoe of the year is the Crazyquick. It was really a brutal decision for me, not only because I loved both shoes, but because I understand that the Crazyquick isn’t for everybody. I’ll do my best to convey why I loved the Crazyquick so much and also why there were a couple other shoes I felt like could be considered top choices for many people.
Like I said, the Crazyquick suited my needs perfectly. Not everyone loved it and not everyone could wear it because of how narrow it was and the lack of plush cushioning. But the shoe needed to be flexible, low to the ground and responsive – and the cushioning setup allowed it to be just that. Techfit was a dream to play in and the upper fit as snug and as comfortably as any shoe I’ve ever played in. I’ve been through it before, but the shoe just performs exactly like it was intended to and I have yet to find a better overall guard shoe.
I ultimately came to the decision in this way (and I think it’s a good thought process when deciding what to hoop in when you have multiple options): if you were playing in a championship game, and you had to choose the shoe that allowed you to be most confident and play your best, which shoe would you choose? For me, it was the adidas Crazyquick.
I loved the Anatomix Spawn almost equally as much, even though it wasn’t quite as guard-specific. Where it wasn’t as light and flexible as the Crazyquick, the midfoot support and cushioning were just awesome. The TPU frame underneath was an awesome innovation and provided tons of support while allowing the shoe to still be light and flexible. When I’m not reviewing a new shoe, I switch back and forth hooping in both the Crazyquick and Anatomix Spawn.
I also definitely enjoyed playing in the Jordan XX8 SE and CP3.VII. The XX8 SE had an incredible cushioning setup – the Zoom Air units were utilized perfectly and provided a ton of responsiveness. Unfortunately, those bags blew out within in two weeks so there was a definite caveat in that shoe. The CP3.VII was extremely well-cushioned, and felt great underfoot. It didn’t fit my foot that well personally, but I’ve heard tons of good feedback about the shoe and I would not hesitate to recommend it.
We’ve had over 66,000 hits on the site this year and are carrying a lot of momentum into 2014. Thanks to all who’ve checked out the site, commented and spread the word about our small operation. We’re looking to get more consistent with our reviews this year, as Finch and I both have finally settled into solid jobs, and it’s my personal goal to double the amount of reviews in 2014.
Keep an eye out for a Jordan Super.Fly 2 review in the near future, as well as ones on the Nike Zoom HyperRev, Zoom Crusader, and adidas D Howard 4. Happy New Year from TGRR.
With the end of 2013 quickly approaching, I thought we’d take a quick look back at every shoe we’ve reviewed here at TGRR. With Finch and I both wrapping up our college days and entering the real world, this site has been a great creative outlet and a way to keep both of us in the shoe game. It helped me get my first real job and kept me writing and editing.
Finch and I both also still play a lot of competitive ball (our latest league championship was won just two weeks ago) and we’re always looking for the best performance products. Focusing on how a shoe really performs – not just the colorways or hype that it gets – is something that gets lost in the sneaker community at times. At TGRR, we try to keep on-court performance at the forefront.
Hyperdunk 2012 Low
Reviewer: Sittler Pros: Fit and lockdown; plays smooth and low to the ground; lightweight Cons: Traction could be better; midsole/cushioning breaks down too quickly; not enough impact protection Verdict: A nice alternative to the midcut Hyperdunk, the Hyperdunk Low gives you great fit and court feel. But the cushioning wore out much too quickly for my taste and I felt the lack of impact protection in my knees and hips after just a couple months of wearings.
Nike Zoom Hyperdisruptor Reviewer: Finch Pros: Heel lockdown; lightweight; traction; plush Zoom cushioning
Cons: Midsole is too flexible, creating various issues; outsole separated from shoe after a couple of weeks
Verdict: A lightweight shoe that’s nice to play in initially, but the flimsy midsole hurts performance in a variety of ways. The Zoom bags aren’t as responsive as they should be, there’s not enough structure or rigidity through the heel-toe transition, and there’s simply a lack of support due to the soft midsole and no shank. Plenty of durability concerns. Also probably overpriced at $130.
Jordan CP3.VI Reviewer: Sittler Pros: Podulon cushioning has been refined and improved; traction is top-notch; smooth transition and low to the ground feel Cons: Upper a little stiff, leading to fit being not quite snug; Achilles pad is comfortable but tough to get full heel lockdown Verdict: The CP3.VI is an elite guard shoe. It featured some of the best traction and cushioning of any shoe I’ve tested and the whole shoe just played well. I wasn’t a fan of the fit – I couldn’t get a glove-like, snug fit with the Fuse upper being kind of stiff – but I do have a narrow foot and that may be more a reflection of my own needs than the shoe itself. If the shoe fit me better through the midfoot and heel, I really would have loved it. It’s an extremely comfortable shoe as far as cushioning goes, and it was immediately added to the off-court rotation.
Nike Air Way Up
Reviewer: Finch Pros: Ankle, tongue and heel padding; supportive midsole Cons: Poor transition; traction doesn’t meet modern standards; bulkier shoe than most of today’s models Verdict: It’s probably better served as an off-court shoe, but it was still fun to see how a 90s retro compares today. The leather build and interior padding were great from a quality standpoint, but the shoe just doesn’t play like the current options out there.
adidas Crazyquick Reviewer: Sittler Pros: Flexible and low to the ground; excellent traction and lateral stability; fit is the best of any shoe I’ve ever had Cons: Midsole doesn’t have a ton of support (it’s not built for that); runs very narrow – good for me, bad for a lot of folks Verdict: The Crazyquick is shoe 1b for me this year. I absolutely loved it. I’ve never worn a shoe that played so low to the ground and allowed for such quick changes of direction. The shoe actually gave me confidence, in the sense that I knew I could play and move exactly like I needed to with it on my feet. The fit, with a Techfit upper and extended Sprintframe, was like a glove.
Nike KD V Elite Reviewer: Sittler Pros: Snug fit from heel to toe; quality materials used throughout Cons: Stiff and rigid midsole; cushioning neither soft nor responsive; traction not as good as most I tested Verdict: The KD V Elite was the one Elite model I was most excited to try out this year (because it differed so much from the base shoe) and I was wholly disappointed. While I loved the lockdown and support from the premium upper materials (including plenty of carbon fiber), the transition was poor thanks to a very stiff chassis. The cushioning was overly firm – from the outsole to the midsole, it just wasn’t an enjoyable setup underfoot.
Nike Hyperdunk 2013 Reviewer: Sittler Pros: Excellent fit, flexible with great lockdown; overall comfort Cons: Midsole support leaves some to be desired; Lunarlon cushioning Verdict: The Hyperdunk 2013 will probably the shoe you see on court more than any other this year, and for good reason. It’s a great all-around performer that will fit a variety of player types. It’s good – but not great – in a lot of areas, with the most glaring being a lack of support in the midsole. A more substantial shank would have been a huge bonus. But the fit and lockdown are great, and it’s a shoe I’d recommend.
Nike Zoom Hyperquickness
Reviewer: Finch Pros: Zoom cushioning setup; traction is excellent; overall value at $105 Cons: Fuse upper is a little stiff, doesn’t hug the foot; Fuse isn’t quite as high quality as other models Verdict: At $105, the Hyperquickness is a good value for budget-conscious hoopers. You’re not going to get an overly refined shoe from a fit standpoint, but the cushioning and traction are solid and the Hyperfuse upper is plenty durable.
Under Armour Micro G Anatomix Spawn
Reviewer: Sittler Pros: Midfoot support system is excellent; Micro G cushioning is responsive as ever; lockdown is perfect Cons: Traction pattern is not deep enough and is poor on even slightly dirty courts Verdict: Along with the Crazyquick, this is shoe 1a for me. The fit and lockdown are as good as any shoe on the market. Micro G cushioning doesn’t get enough respect, and it proves to be both responsive and stable in the Anatomix Spawn. The midfoot TPU frame is one of the coolest support systems I’ve seen and it actually works too. A great overall shoe that will probably be ignored by too many people.
adidas Adizero Crazy Light 3
Reviewer: Sittler Pros: Extremely light; plays low to the ground Cons: Cushioning is firm and a little slappy; lacing system and fit are sloppy; midsole is barely there Verdict: The Crazy Light 3 is, in fact, light. But that’s just about all the benefit I could glean from the shoe. The cushioning is fairly responsive considering how thin it is, but it just doesn’t offer much impact protection or general comfort/support. I could never really get true lockdown thanks to a poorly designed lacing system (needs more eyelets) and the upper itself felt too thin and cheap.
Reviewer: Sittler Pros: Excellent use of materials; cushioning provides both impact protection and responsiveness; traction is very good Cons: Couldn’t get perfect lockdown; shape of the footbed didn’t personally suit me Verdict: The CP3.VII is undeniably a great on court option – but it didn’t fit me all that well. Each aspect of the shoe was very good, even excellent, except for the fit and that is too crucial for me to ignore. Make sure you try them on first before ordering, but you’ll get great cushioning, traction and quality from the CP3.VII.
Jordan XX8 SE
Reviewer: Sittler Pros: Midfoot support with Flight Plate chassis; heel fit and overall fit; Proplate Zoom setup is awesome Cons: Lack of customization with 5 eyelets in the lacing system; Zoom bag blew out within 10 wearings Verdict: I loved everything about the shoe until the Zoom bag blew out. Normally, it could be chalked up to a freak occurrence but I’ve seen a pair of regular XX8s – with same cushioning/midsole setup – have the same issue. Both shoes had a huge bulge develop along the vertical line in the forefoot Zoom bags. Other than that, the shoe was awesome. The Zoom setup was super responsive, carbon fiber was used strategically and effectively; it was simply a great performer on-court.
Moving forward, we have a couple of reviews on deck. Finch will be supplying us with a Jordan Super.Fly2 review in the near future, and is excited to cop the Nike Zoom Crusader for his next review. I’ll be copping Kyrie Irving’s Zoom HyperRev (as soon as my voucher comes back from Nike for my XX8 SEs that blew out) and reviewing them next. The HyperRev is certainly a unique silhouette, but I’m interested to see how much support will come from a Phylite midsole (with a full-length Zoom bag). We’re looking forward to a new year and a plethora of new shoes to review here at TGRR.
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.
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.
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 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.
Cushioning 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.
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.
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 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.
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.