When it comes to signature footwear in recent time, no one’s line has evolved less than Chris Paul’s.
That’s actually a great thing.
Since the CP3.IV, each model has followed along a similar blueprint of attributes. Whether it’s the 5/8th collar cut with the heel collar padding insert, the herringbone-based and podular outsole configuration, medial-wrapping traction or grab-and-go easy lacing system, the last five models have pretty much been a steady progression. On this latest edition, designer Justin Taylor expertly created the shoe with that blueprint in mind.
From CP’s perspective, he loves what he plays in, and his needs as a change-of-pace floor general haven’t changed in that time either. So, as a result, his sneakers have featured small tweaks and updates along the way. It’s much like how Porsche designs its 911 model. It’s already a top-of-the-line performance monster, so each release is routinely more evolution than revolution.
While his line has certainly garnered less hype and attention than Kobe’s, Paul’s signatures have been right there along the way, offering up a supportive and quick guard-ready shoe with great traction and cushioning through the years.
CP’s latest model, the CP3.VIII AE, just so happens to be my very favorite. Here’s why…..
With the AE being an even more micro-evolution within season, as a playoff edition of the CP3.VIII, the big shift here is a move to a mesh composite upper instead of the synthetic seen on the regular 8, along with a switch from the TPU midfoot cradle to a more traditional Phylon-based midsole platform. As a result, this shoe is much more flexible and comfortable right out of the box, and literally requires no break-in time.
Because the shoe sits so low and the heel and midfoot fit is so sharp and targeted, the support is outstanding throughout. Whether I was cutting on drives or over-aggressively throwing up wild step-back jumpers, I never once worried that I’d be sliding atop the footbed or not have enough support. If you’re an active guard or wing, the support is seriously impressive.
While some sneakers recently have featured marquee cushioning in the heel and less attention up front, the CP line has been getting it right for years. The heel features a simple dual-density foam that is soft enough yet stable, while the forefoot thankfully features the world’s most responsive cushioning in Zoom Air.
Some CP models in the past have incorporated a smaller “met” Zoom bag that only covers the medial side of the forefoot, but the 8 AE here features a full wide 10 mm Zoom bag that gives you the awesomely bouncy and responsive Zoom feel that players have come to love. The cushioning is definitely one of the shoe’s many highlights, and if you’re after low-to-the-ground comfort, this might be the key attribute of the shoe that makes it your next pick.
The outsole is incredibly detailed, probably way more than is necessary since a basic full herringbone pattern works great too, but unlike some patterns that layer in extra details, the CP’s configuration doesn’t sacrifice traction for a second. I already mentioned the cushioning being a major highlight for the shoe, but the traction is equally great. On both sides of the ball and in any direction, the shoe grips the court exceptionally well, even at my suspect 24 Hour Fitness court. There’s helpings of herringbone everywhere you need, and the traction also never worsened over the course of the two months I’ve been getting runs in. Once again, no surprise, herringbone does the job.
Everyone is familiar with Flywire, one of the great modern marketing gimmicks of our time, and while this shoe’s setup has been dubbed “Flight Web” for marketing reasons, in all honesty I think it’s one of the best fit and lockdown systems currently on the market. There’s a series of five doubled eyelets that also double as a web of strands that extend down to the sides of the footbed – and it works great. When you lace the shoe up, you can feel the eyelets each engaging on the sides of your feet, and the ensuing fit and feel throughout the shoe is secure, without any pressure points.
It’s a great design feature and something I really hope to see continued and incorporated into other models from the brand. Flywire in its current form features floating strands that are laced through, and the Air Jordan XX9 included singular eyelets that extended on down to the footbed, but the Flight Web here works better than all because of the way in which the strands cross over eachother and also flex in tandem with the mesh composite upper.
Another aspect of the lockdown that was great was the collar height, which is a smidgen above a low cut, but also more protective. The shoe’s tongue is actually a full sleeve implementation, giving a nice seamless-esque feel on the underside and then an engulfing feel from a fit and lockdown perspective.
Thanks in part to the shoe’s lowish cut and mesh-based upper, the AE feels well balanced and lightweight after a full night of pickup runs. It’s a quick playing shoe and much of that can be attributed to the great combination of the flexible upper and the shoe’s awesome heel-to-toe transition. All of that makes for a light feeling sneaker. Once again, positives to be said for each category.
While people can rightfully complain about the value and price of Retro Jordans, on the performance side, for years the brand has done a really nice job of making sneakers that don’t compromise durability or support for the sake of weight, and that hold up well over time. Throughout my time in the CP3.VIII AE, the shoe didn’t diminish in cushioning, traction or support, and held together nicely. It’s a resilient hoop shoe that can take a beating, and should bode well over the course of a season for players of all sizes.
When I walked into my local Foot Locker on a random Friday earlier this Spring, I was dead set on picking up a pair of the Kyrie 1s as my next hoop shoe. I had a friend with me that suggested I try on the newest CP playoff sneaker too, and sure enough, I was immediately at the register forking over $130 for these instead.
From a fit and stance standpoint, even without any kind of in-store weartest at my disposal, I was super impressed right from the jump. Ever since that first night of actually playing in them, I couldn’t have been happier.
Anyone that plays a guard position (or considers themselves to play a guard position, like me) will absolutely love these. The combination of support, lockdown, cushioning and traction is what you hope for in a hoop shoe, and the mesh composite upper and sleeve tongue made for an enjoyable playing experience and a quick and flexible ride.
I can’t give these any more praise at this point, and truly can’t really even come up with any downsides or negatives. Could the heel feature a Zoom Air unit too? Sure, but that’s just being greedy at this point.
While the line hasn’t been as radical or “innovative” by the signature standards of today’s market, we’ve learned that innovation (and a higher price) doesn’t always mean an upgrade in performance. Sometimes, it’s small tweaks here and there to an already established and successful performance series that make for a great playing sneaker, which is exactly what the CP3.VIII AE is. Well done, JB.