Performance Review: Jordan CP3.V

Performance Review: Jordan CP3.V

Jordan CP3.V | The Low For Everybody

words // Zac Dubasik
images // Nick DePaula

At first glance, the changes from last year’s CP3.IV to this year’s CP3.V seem minimal. The CP3.IV almost appears like it could have been an earlier sample for the V. And in a way, I guess that’s accurate. This is much more of an evolutionary than revolutionary design. It may not be a major design shift or breakthrough, but the V’s small tweaks have led to improved performance in pretty much every possible area. The IV had potential, but was flawed. The V nailed just about everything.

One of my biggest gripes with the IV was its collar cut. It fell somewhere in that area of not low or high enough, and ended up just being uncomfortable. It didn’t offer the range-of-motion benefits of a low, nor the perceived support benefits of a mid. It kind of just fell in a no-mans land of 5/8ths discomfort. The collar on the V isn’t drastically lower, and unless you hold them next to each other, it may be hard to even see a difference. But the change is huge on the court. The CP3.V offered outstanding range of motion. The collar foam isn’t as secure and perfect as the gold standard – the Kobe line – but when laced tightly, offered excellent lockdown.

The entire Flywire upper provided excellent lockdown, and over 3 ounces in weight reduction compared to last year’s CP3.IV. The shape of its last is more generally accommodating, and less sleek, than that of the best fitting shoes out there, but in turn, it should fit a wider range of players. The only real issue caused was that when laced extremely tight to get the best fit, I had comfort issues with too much lace pressure. The only other negative with the upper was some minor pinching at the flex point, which, thanks to the materials and pattern, was reminiscent of the Hyperdunk 2010’s flex point issue. This one isn’t nearly as much of an issue, but worth noting.

The next area of improvement over the IV was the traction. It’s not that the pattern or materials were bad on the IV, but thanks to the bi-level design, aimed at highlighting the Podulon cushioning system, there just wasn’t enough rubber touching the floor at times. This has been completely corrected with a flat and leveled forefoot outsole on the V, which provided excellent traction in all directions. I felt like I wanted to cut in them – always a sign of confidence in traction.

Cushioning wise, I’m a big fan of Podulon. As far as foam-based cushionings go, it’s probably my favorite. The dual-density based Podulon is extremely smooth, and offers just the right amount of protection, without being too soft. It’s not exactly responsive, but about as close as it gets in a foam. Both the heel and forefoot cushioning provided excellent protection, but also maintained a high level of court feel. Add to that a large TPU midfoot shank, and you’ve got an outstanding tooling that is fast, has excellent transition, and is still very supportive.

The Zoom Kobe IV launched a low-top revolution. It wasn’t the first low-top signature shoe, but it was the first one to be so widely accepted. And if you’ve been paying any attention to the NBA over the past few seasons, you’ve seen players of all shapes and sizes hitting the courts in lows. The CP3.V may not be the fastest and most minimal of its low-top siblings, but I did find it to be the most supportive – and in a good way. For small and fast players, it offers the speed and range of motion that lows are known for. What’s so impressive though is that for larger players, it offers a level of support and security not typically found in a low. The CP3.V is an easy recommendation for all players who favor low-tops, but an especially strong recommendation for larger and stronger players who do.

Grade Breakout:

designed by: Tom Luedecke

best for: Players of all sizes who prefer a low-top

colorway tested: Black / White / Stealth

key tech: TPU midfoot shank, Flywire upper, dual-density Podulon cushioning system, 3/4-length innersleeve

pros: Cushioning, weight, range of motion, stability

cons: Lace pressure, flex point pressure

improvements: Thin and targeted padding on tongue to aid in comfort; more refined last

buying advice: The CP3.V may have the logo of one of the game’s fastest players, but this shoe isn’t exclusively for speedy point guards. The Zoom Kobe IV made it acceptable for players of all positions to start wearing low-tops

Available: Jordan CP3.V

 

Performance Review: Nike Zoom KD IV

Performance Review: Nike Zoom KD IV

words & images // Nick DePaula

For the past two years, Kevin Durant’s signature sneaker has been the best performing shoe available at retail. I really believe that. It’s worth noting, of course, that the “at retail” part is all the more impressive when you factor in the fact that the shoe’s were “just” a mere $88.

At anywhere from $30 to even $70 less than competing signature products, every part about that is tremendous. The shoes held up well, had great traction, cushioning and all of the stuff you’re looking for for the hardwood — and then on top of that, they were also affordable.

So why the big intro about the great performance and relatively low price of the Kevin Durant series up til now? Well, the Zoom KD IV is by its own merit an outstanding shoe on-court, but for the $7 more at retail that Durant’s fourth model jumps to, it’s perhaps a step back in overall performance from the exceptional level of playability that his line has already reached. If you’re a guard looking for a supportive, reliable and cushioned sneaker, the KD IV is a great choice, but if you’re a close follower of the line so far, you might find a few points that let you down.

To get right into it, the shoe’s new Adaptive Fit system, a variation of which we’ve seen over in Nike Running, offers great fit through the midfoot, but is perhaps too narrow for most. The more you pull on the lower two medial lace loops and the adjoining strap system, the more snug the shoe’s midfoot will be, as the dual-pull harness tightens accordingly through the arch. This might create a struggle for people with wide feet to find just the right balance of fit. I have a pretty standard D width foot, but anything wider and you might need to size up for more room through the body of the shoe.

Regardless of how the midfoot fits you, you’ll also notice the arch of the shoe is rather pronounced, a noticeable difference right away from the KD II & III. While the exact same shank is carried over from last year’s model (a nice way to save some money in the constant quest to keep the shoe under $100), the extra midfoot sculpting and stance of the shoe still make for a substantial arch. If you have flat feet, you’ll want to try these on ahead of time.

Just ahead of the shoe’s midfoot, I also noticed quite a bit of irritation and discomfort stemming from the underside of the forefoot lateral fused vent. This is what you might traditionally call a “hot spot.” I tried a few different sock thicknesses over the course of my testing to see if I could build up a buffer of sorts, but nothing seemed to work. The toe box is a bit snug side-to-side to begin with, and the vent underside pressure only compounds the problems up front.

Above: The underside of the forefoot vent is where I experienced the most irritation and rubbing during play.

While the shoe has a few fit and irritation issues, there are quite a few bright spots to touch on as well, but I’ll get to those in a few. One last complaint first! For years now, I’ve sworn by no-show socks. Simply a personal preference, and ideally I’d be playing in an ultra-thin no-show in every shoe. I found the collar of the KD IV to initially also be quite harsh during my testing, and it wasn’t until the fourth or fifth wearings that the chafing and irritation of the collar softened up and went away. After the first night, I was in quite some pain, had visible callouses, and had to switch to some taller socks towards the end of the trial. I’d definitely recommend a thicker quarter cut sock with these. Of course, that might also make the midfoot far too narrow, so try these on first if you can, with thick socks on hand. The underside of the Hyperfuse layered upper and edging of the collar are simply too harsh at first otherwise.

Because I was curious, I even took a night off during the testing and played in my trusty KD IIIs from last year. The collar felt amazing by comparison, and the shoe had no pressure spots. Much of that newfound discomfort can be attributed to the new fused approach. There’s just less padding along the underside in the hopes of shedding some weight.

Now that we have all of the negatives out of the way, let’s turn that frown upside down and take a glance at what I loved about the KD IV. The strap, entirely unique and at first glance rather odd, works great. It’s not useless like a forefoot strap, and not too restrictive like a collar strap either. It’s there for a nice additional layer of lockdown, is fully adjustable and works in tandem with the shoe’s Adaptive Fit arch system. Well done. Will it continue in the KD line and in other shoes? That might be too early to get into, but I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing it in other shoes. This coming from a guy who hates pointless straps. But, it’s not pointless here, so that’s a good thing.

Another great item of the shoe is its transition, as we’ve come to expect from the KD line. There’s a full-length Phylon midsole for a smooth ride and the same propelling TPU midfoot shank from the KD III. Great ride, stance and bounce in the open court.

While the shank and story-telling approach is carried over throughout the outsole, there is one big shift in the shoe’s traction pattern. Gone is the herringbone outsole that we saw in the first three models, as the IV features an integrated thunder bolt pattern. Clearly inspired by his team name — the guy is all about team, afterall — I found the traction to be great. Not screech and squeak inducing like the best herringbone designs, and not quite as the bar-setting KD IIs, but still reliable on marginal courts and outstanding on outstanding courts, as you might expect. I always will vote for herringbone if given an option, but the traction works here. We’ve seen quite a few signature themed patterns fail in recent years, so it was nice to see this tread work nearly as well as the tried and true.

Ever since the KD series began, people have complained about the lack of heel cushioning. Well, the shoes wouldn’t be under $100 if there was heel and forefoot Zoom Air, and that’s really all it comes down to. On top of that, KD himself barely makes contact with the very back of the heel, so a forefoot unit also does more for him. Which I’m thankful for. The forefoot Zoom unit here feels great, and in tandem with the full Phylon midsole, the shoe has a great cushioned ride. It could be better, but that’s what the $140 Zoom Kobe VII is for if you really want both heel & forefoot cushioning.

All in all, the KD IV’s style clearly has taken Durant to a different level in the overall signature shoe landscape, thanks mostly to the awesomely executed Nerf and Weatherman themed versions. On the court though, his line was already *there* in my opinion, and I’m afraid this fourth model is a slight step backwards because of the fit and irritation issues that I had to get off my chest during the first half of the article.

Definitely check them out if you have a standard or narrow foot and like playing in taller, thicker socks. They have a great combination of cushioning, transition, traction, lockdown and support. However, there’s quite a bit of irritation and a troublesome hotspot along the lateral forefoot if you, like me, enjoy playing in no-show or thinner socks. The KD IV is priced exceptionally well at just $95, but be sure and try them on first if you’re interested in making them your next on-court sneaker.

Grade Breakout:

designed by: Leo Chang

best for: shooting guards and small forwards with slashing style of play

colorway tested: Varsity Purple / Orange Blaze / Neo Lime

key tech: Hyperfuse upper construction, Adaptive Fit strap system, full-length Phylon midsole, 6mm forefoot Zoom Air unit

pros: transition, forefoot cushioning, nice lockdown and great value for price

cons: runs fairly narrow through midfoot, forefoot has some hot spots, collar is harsh through first week

improvements: better protection from hot spots in the forefoot, improve fit issues through midfoot and irritation issues along collar.

buying advice: The KD IV, much like the past two models in the Durant signature series, is a great on-court performer with outstanding cushioning, traction and transition. Unfortunately, I liked the II and III better, as the IV has a few fit issues and some hot spots throughout. Check them out if you have a narrow foot and don’t mind wearing thicker socks, but be cautious or try them on first if your sleds are on the wider side. At $95, they’re a great value with durable support and lockdown.

Available Now: Nike Zoom KD IV

Performance Review: Nike Lunar HyperGamer

Performance Review: Nike Lunar HyperGamer

words & images Zac Dubasik

If you played in the early shoes to utilize Lunar Foam, such as the first Hyperdunk and Zoom Kobe IV, the thought of a Lunar basketball shoe may be unsettling, from a durability standpoint. While those shoes are both pushing “classic” status for many fans today, the biggest complaint of both, performance wise, was the borderline disposability of their forefoot Lunar Foam cushioning. A noticeable breakdown of cushioning started after the first couple wearings. The fact that foam breaks down is just something inherent to the material. Pretty much any foam will break down over time. But the speed in which that original Lunar Foam became dead was just unacceptable.

So, if you are skeptical at the thought of a Hyperfuse 2011-esque model, utilizing Lunar-based cushioning, it’s understandable. The good news though is that those original shoes to utilize Lunar Foam used a small drop-in forefoot pod, while the Lunar Gamer utilizes a much larger full-length unit. Nike has also since re-engineered the resilient foam compound since the last time we saw it, which was in 2009 with the Hyperize. Throughout my few weeks of Lunar Gamer wearings, to my surprise, the breakdown was minimal. Is it better than any other foam, such as Phylon? That’s the real question. With durability concerns fading, the biggest question is just how good is a full-length Lunar-based cushioning compared to, say, Phylon?

From a weight perspective, Lunarlon is clearly a step above Phylon. According to Nike, it’s 30% lighter. And in an era of hoops shoes being defined by going as light as possible, the ability to cut that much weight out of a midsole is a clear win. Interestingly though, the overall shoe is heavier than the Hyperfuse 2011, which uses Phylon. As far as how it feels, the difference is very perceivable. The Lunar Gamer feels higher off the ground, but is much softer than the Hyperfuse. The good news is that despite its higher stance, the compromise to court feel is minimal. It’s definitely not as good as the Hyperfuse when it comes to court feel, but the Lunar Gamer makes up for it in the cushioning department. I’d say it falls somewhere in between Max Air, which I feel offers a firm feel and too much compromise to court feel, and the aforementioned Zoom Air and Phylon midsole of the Hyperfuse.

Another positive aspect of the Lunar Gamer’s tooling is the TPU support shank, which is much more substantial than that found in the Hyperfuse 2011. The overall transition is very smooth, yet supportive at the same time. One criticism of the tooling, which doesn’t necessarily affect performance, is the finishing where it meets the outsole. Part of this is probably inherent to the material of the upper, but regardless, it looks pretty shabby on a $110 shoe. For the price, I’d like to see a bit more attention to detail and quality. The last element of note on the tooling is the outsole. When I first saw the traction pattern, I had great expectations based on the sheer volume of herringbone. Upon further inspection, you’ll find varying widths and flex points built in by modifying the height of the tread, without actually breaking the pattern. Thanks to those high expectations, I was actually a little let down once I got it on court. My first run in them was pretty unremarkable. Not bad at all – good even – but not the epic level of stickiness and hold I had hoped for. Over the next couple of wearings, however, it got better and better. It never quite reached that top level, but the full herringbone pattern is still great.

Moving to the shoe’s upper, you find a look, feel and construction similar to that of the Hyperfuse line. There is much more of that outermost layer of material than the more open panel construction seen in other models though. While large mesh windows break through the upper of the Hyperfuse in several splashes, there is far less ventilation in the Lunar Gamer. Other than the tongue, the only perfs are found in the Swoosh itself on the lateral side, and in the midfoot panel surrounding the Swoosh on the medial side. While that’s not great to start with, it gets even worse when you take into account the partial-sleeve tongue construction covers at least two-thirds of those perforations from the inside, minimizing their usefulness.

The zonal padded tongue itself is very similar to the Hyperfuse though, and outstanding. It is a concept that almost any performance shoe could benefit from. If there’s one thing that always bothers me on a shoe, it’s having too much lace pressure. The way this shoe combats that issue is through the use of targeting the exact points where the laces cross, and fusing additional padding between the layers of the tongue. This allows the tongue to be paper thin throughout the rest of its length, which aids both weight and fit, but doesn’t compromise protection. It’s basically a benchmark for me when it comes to performance hoops.

Stylistically, there are some slight differences in the collars of the Hyperfuse 2011 and Lunar Gamer, but they have very similar fits. Heel lockdown isn’t the best ever, but when fully laced, was solid and dependable. And as with other Fuse-based uppers, I felt locked tightly over the footbed on cuts. My biggest issue with the upper – which I found much more troublesome than the lack of breathability, was the shoe’s flexpoint. Thanks to the thick synthetics, and lack of segmentation, I had constant discomfort with the flex. It wasn’t a deal breaker, and I’m sure different foot structures will have different experiences, but it made for a less pleasant playing experience than I would have liked.

There’s no doubt that the Lunar Gamer shares many similarities to the Hyperfuse 2011, but it does have enough unique traits to warrant a separate model. If you are a player looking for more cushioning than the Hyperfuse offers, the Lunar Gamer provides a nice balance of support and impact protection. If you want maximum cushioning, definitely look towards a Max Air-based shoe. For maximum responsiveness, look for a heel and forefoot Zoom Air-based shoe like the Zoom Hyperdunk 2011. If you feel Max Air is too much of a compromise when it comes to court feel and transition though, the Lunar Gamer offers a great middle ground. It’s not without its issues, but for players looking for that mid-level of cushioning, in a durable team package, the Lunar Gamer is a very good shoe worth checking out.

best for: players of most positions looking for more maximum cushioning

colorway tested: White / Varsity Red / Black

key tech: Lunarlon cushioning; Fuse construction

pros: transition; durability; traction

cons: unnatural flex point; lack of breathability; finishing quality

improvements: alter pattern of upper to create more natural (and less painful) flex point; more perfs in upper for better breathability

buying advice: As good as Zoom Air is, foam-based cushioning offers a viable alternative. Flex-point issues hurt the shoe’s comfort, but not enough to overlook the positives of the cushioning, traction and transition. For players looking for a durable team shoe, the Lunar Gamer is definitely worth a look.

Available now: Nike Lunar HyperGamer

Performance Review: Jordan Phase 23 Hoops

Performance Review: Jordan Phase 23 Hoops

words & images // Zac Dubasik

The first time I saw the Jordan Phase 23, two things immediately came to mind. One, was that its design placed an emphasis on casual appeal. And two, was that the heel view looked shockingly similar to the Zoom LeBron VI (which, not surprisingly, was also a shoe that was strong on casual appeal). With modern constructions and sleek lasts now beginning to dominate the hoops world, the Phase 23 appeared dated from the word “go.”

Upon further inspection though, the Phase 23 revealed some decidedly non-casual traits. For starters, herringbone wrapping up the medial side of the midsole isn’t a necessity when looking good in the streets. Also, the “dog bone”-shaped collar molding provides a level of lockdown above and beyond the rigors of most off-court situations. Was the Phase 23 Hoops really a performance monster in disguise?

Performance Review: Jordan Phase 23 Hoops - Heel

In a word, no. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a very capable shoe. Starting with the positives, these Jordan shoes have excellent cushioning. Its full-length encapsulated Air bag, embedded in a full-length Phylon midsole, are smooth and protective. You don’t get the response of a Zoom bag, but you do get a great balance of impact protection and court feel. Rounding out the shoe’s excellent tooling is an outsole which has been given a healthy allotment of herringbone. The Phase 23 Hoops gripped both clean and dusty floors – so much in fact that I found myself wanting to make cuts that I normally don’t. Smaller and faster guards will probably find that the Phase 23 is too much shoe, but for bigger players looking for that nice mix of speed and protection, it plays quick.

Moving to the upper, the aforementioned dog-bone molding in the collar is efficient, as always, at stabilizing the heel. What prevents the shoe from having even better ankle support though is the lack of refinement in the tongue, and the rest of the collar. When fully laced, the tongue and collar get in each other’s ways, resulting in both comfort and fit issues. There’s just too much tongue. The TPU wings add an additional layer of support to the ankle area, and when combined with the excessive tongue material, contribute to a restrictive collar. Even with the collar dip in the heel, I felt range of motion suffered. If you are used to a low-top, this will be an issue. But if you are a player that favors highs, this might be a positive.

Performance Review: Jordan Phase 23 Hoops - Ankle

When I said that one of my first reactions to the Phase 23 was that it was casual-friendly, the forefoot strap was one of the reasons. I found it to be largely unnecessary, and didn’t add much, if any, more support. The rand however, which the strap is connected to, wraps the entire forefoot, and continues all the way back to the TPU tabs, and did provide extra durability and stability. Even with the shoe’s rock-solid traction, I didn’t feel any slip over the footbed when cutting.

Breathability-wise, the Phase 23 appears to have some things going for it. There are plenty of perforations through the midfoot and collar. But like in many shoes, those perforations don’t do much good if they are backed by materials lacking breathability. That said, breathability is average and acceptable. And at the end of the day, a hoops shoe with great breathability will be just about as soaked when you are done playing as one with bad breathability.

Not every baller wants the most boundary-pushing sneaker out there. There are plenty of players that still care as much about (their interpretation of) looking good than having the latest technological innovations. And because of that, there’s a place for shoes like the Phase 23. It would never be the first shoe I’d reach for to hoop in, but was actually pretty good once it broke in. I like to think of it as a casual shoe with some subtle, yet important modern performance traits, more than a performance shoe with casual appeal.

best for: Casual ballers who find the shoe’s looks appealing, but also want modern performance touches

colorway tested: Stealth/ Black/ Light Graphite/ White

key tech: Full-length encapsulated Air, Phylon midsole, TPU wings on ankle, forefoot strap

pros: smooth transition (especially after the first few wearings), outstanding traction, cushioning

cons: tongue and collar in each other’s ways, plays heavy

improvements: refine shape and construction of tongue and collar to work in unison

buying advice: For serious ballers, there are much better choices out there – including many from Jordan Brand. But if you like the casual appeal of the Phase 23, and want a shoe that still has modern performance attributes, it’s a playable and solid choice.

Available now: Jordan Phase 23 Hoops

Performance Review: Jordan Phase 23 Hoops - Front

Performance Review: Jordan Phase 23 Hoops - Sole

Performance Review: Jordan Phase 23 Hoops - Side

Performance Revisited: Nike Air Max CB 34

Performance Revisited: Nike Air Max CB 34

Performance Review Revisited: Nike Air Max CB 34

words & images // Nick Engvall

Performance basketball shoes have come a long way in the last 2-3 decades. From relatively no cushioning in the early ’80s, with solid rubber being the only thing between you and the hardwood, to relatively no weight in 2011 with a wide variety of superb cushioning options to choose from. So with all of the choices for tested and proven technologies, do we always see players in the NBA opting to wear retro models? Perhaps a better question is how do these retro models actually perform against today’s standards of lightweight and superior cushioning?

For some models, like the Nike Air Go LWP, they were so far ahead of their time that they still remain a competent performance choice in retro form. For others, we’d like to take a closer look. In the same manner that we take a look at current models in our Performance Reviews, today we take a look at one of the performance aspects and back-story of a returning retro model, the Nike Air Max CB 34, in a new series called Performance Revisited.

In the early to mid-nineties, Charles Barkley was a beast on the boards. Earning himself the nickname the “Round Mound of Rebound” due to his abilities on the court, and also, due to his less than conventional body type. After being awarded the NBA Most Valuable Player award in 1993, Nike took Barkley’s footwear to the next level. Charles’ signature sneaker line was one of the early adopters of Air Max2 technology, arriving in the 1994 release, the Air Max2 CB. The follow up to that design was the Air Max2 CB 34 that Barkley not only featured the same cushioning, but also helped establish Sir Charles’ place in the memories of sneakerheads for years to come.

Today’s version of the Air Max2 CB 34 may not be cutting edge technology, but after playing it a few times, aside from my own personal preference to play in a lighter more agile basketball shoe, I think it would be perfectly suited for Charles to make a return in. After all his requirements would probably remain similar, stability and cushioning able to support his oversized frame being the priority.

Performance Review Revisited: Nike Air Max CB 34

The Nike Air Max2 CB 34 has some slight changes, most notable being the change from full-grain leather to synthetic leather used throughout the upper. Despite the switch, the quality is solid for a synthetic, it still does what it needs to, and it serves as a placeholder for one of the most memorable details of the embossed ‘CB34’ throughout the side panel nicely.

Cushioning may not be the same, as full-length Air Max shoes of today like the line of LeBron shoes, however the Air Max2 and Phylon midsole combination does a great job still to this day. In my opinion, the rubber surround of the design actually feels more stable, and more responsive than a full-length Air unit without the exoskeleton-like support. The trade-off is obviously weight. Barkley’s shoes might be just as deserving of the Round Mound of Rebound nickname compared to similar designs of today that weigh nearly half as much.

One of the most noticeable aspects of the CB 34 compared to today’s basketball shoes is the traction. Now, taking into account that Charles wasn’t exactly a quick mover, I can understand that it probably wasn’t much of a thought back when this shoe was originally designed. The reinforced and rugged toebox on the other hand, probably withstands battles in the paint better than many of today’s designs, appropriate considering the amount of time Barkley spent scrapping for rebounds.

Performance Review Revisited: Nike Air Max CB 34 Toebox

Overall, revisiting the performance aspects of the Air Max2 CB 34, it would probably land somewhere in the middle of the pack compared to today’s performance shoes. It’s two biggest shortcomings, being heavy and having less than desired traction, ironically are things that most of us probably associate with Charles Barkley and his style of play. What is impressive about the Air Max2 CB 34 is what it led to. The development of the Air Max2 cushioning system is the roots of today’s full length Max Air cushioning systems found in shoes like the LeBron 8 and Air Max 360 BB. Out-dated performance hasn’t stopped all players in the league from lacing up a pair of retro models though. Whether we’ll see this pop up randomly on an edition of Sneaker Watch will remain to be seen, I guess the same could be said for the NBA season at this point.
Performance Review Revisited: Nike Air Max CB 34 Performance Review Revisited: Nike Air Max CB 34 TonguePerformance Review Revisited: Nike Air Max CB 34