Monday, June 1st, 2009 at 9:06 am  |  27 responses

The Ultimate Outdoor Sneaker

Three hybrids bring longevity back to the outdoor sneaker game.

by Chris O’Leary

It’s confession time:

I haven’t played ball on an outdoor court in two full years. It’s not that I’m not playing ball. It’s just that every time I’ve hit the court, it’s been on the hardwood.

It’s times like this that make me start to think I have an actual problem when it comes to sneakers. The main thing that has kept me off of the asphalt is that I don’t want to dirty/scuff/rip/wear out my favorite sneakers. And I know (from the heavily worn but still pristine looking 11-year-old Jordan XIII’s in my room) that if I wear my sneaks indoors only that they can last forever.

I wasn’t always like this. I used to be the first kid out on the courts of my neighborhood the second some dry concrete started to poke its way through the spring thaw. Growing up in a place that allows for six months of outdoor ball if you were lucky, and where open gym was a concept only on winter Sundays at the local Y, you jumped on the outdoor game as soon as you could. The summers would claim a sneaker from me every year: Reebok Pumps in 93 and 94; Shaq Attaq II’s in 95: Air Max CW’s in 96 and Air DVST8′s in 97. Later, when my collection started to swell and I had some disposable income, I revisited a concept that my grade-school teachers invoked on us from Day 1: Indoor and outdoor shoes.

The plan seemed flawless. I’d keep my favorite shoes clean in the gym all year and every spring I could find a store with a clearance sale and buy a cheap pair of shoes for the outdoor season with the intention of running them into the ground. And for a while, this plan was flawless. I bought a pair of Nike Zoom Turbine’s on Ebay for 50 bucks; I found a discounted pair of low-cut black and red And 1 Tai-Chi’s. As Kobe fell from my graces year-by-year, I started breaking out his adidas equipment top-10 2000′s. The Kobe’s were tragically lost in a basement flood a few years later.

Then I got greedy. In the last few years, the sneakers have gotten nicer. The soles of some of my favorite shoes are like pieces of art unto themselves. Other sneakers are too light, too nice. I used to be able to look at a pair and know: I’ll use these this summer. That knowledge, the stick-to-it-iveness of my plan has gone out the window. The thought of wearing my sneaks outdoors has only conjured images of Rick James on Eddie Murphy’s couch. Somehow I’ve become, for lack of a better term…a sneaker priss.

That is, until this summer.

Believe it or not (if you live up in these parts it’s not a tough sell), we just got our first real taste of summer this past weekend. And still, despite not having set foot on an outdoor court for a game in all this time, the urge to hit the courts in the warm weather was there. While my secondary urge followed, telling myself I didn’t have the footwear to do it, I looked down in front of me and next to my gym Nike Zoom Phenombag sat the shoe that Brandon Roy wore throughout this season: Nike’s Zoom Phenom.

The Phenom is a hybrid of two classic sneakers from Nike, in the Air Max CW (Nike calls it the Air Max Sensation today) and the Ndestrukt, a shoe made for the outdoor game back in the mid-90s. The Phenom follows the now year-old Sharkley—which is a hybrid of the Ndestrukt and Charles Barkley’s CB34′s. It’s now sandwiched between the Sharkley and a new release—the terribly named Zoom Sharkalaid, which is a cross with the Ndestrukt and Nike’s Air Raid…and the Sharkley in its namesake.

Before you cast judgement on the hybrid concept or the strange naming methods, consider this: All three of these shoes have the Ndestrukt soles on them. Like I said, the Ndestrukt was built for the outdoor game (so Dennis Rodman wore them indoors) and prided itself on its longevity on the blacktop. With two of the three shoes having been on store shelves for a considerable amount of time, they’re the perfect pickup for an outdoor shoe.

I’ve worn the Phenom for almost two months now indoors and come away from it completely amped to play outdoor ball in them. Take a look at the sole of the shoe on any of the three models. It’s big, solid and durable. While I can’t speak for the Sharkley or the soon-to-be-released Sharkalaid (I can’t believe that’s its real name), I can say that the Phenom manages to take what looks to be a big, clunky sole and makes it work with a lightweight upper that doesn’t weigh you down on the court. The Zoom Air in the shoe does a nice job of keeping things light and providing comfort as well.

This is an exciting time. Spring has stumbled into town a month and a half late, everything is turning green and for the first time in a long time, I’m not worried about destroying a pair of kicks that I love on the blacktop. If I can find a court that has chain meshes I might be pulling overnighters this summer.

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  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    The Zoom Phenoms are nice, Chris. Deron began wearing ‘em as well this year, and that’s how I was introduced to the sneaker.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/fear/ Freedom Fries

    Wow! Those look hot – thanks for the tip

  • http://thesportsdiaryonline.blogspot.com Roy

    Man, those kicks are dope! I can’t for those to drop here in the Philippines. :D

  • RedRum

    I have not played outdoors for 10 years now, since I blew my right ACL…

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky

    Don’t play outside? Don’t talk to me ’till you do.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    I bought a pair of women’s Huarache 08s (wmns 11, mens 9.5) at Marshall’s for $30, and they’re my go-to outdoor shoes. They’re just white with black, it’s not like anyone can tell that they’re technically women’s. And if they die before the end of the summer, so be it.

  • http://www.lebronsucks.com nate the great

    outside i wear those triple shock Vince Carter’s.
    i roll my ankles a lot. so i got ankle insuriance if you know what that means ;) .
    i actually bought my VC’s out of a suburu when i was working, they were probably fake but i loved em’ =].

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    ahh, the memories. Last fall, as i moved from europe to asia, i cleared out my b-ball kicks. I had gathered some gems over the last 19+ years of balling and lo & behold, i still had the original ndestrukt in beige/black in fantastic condition in there. When i invited buddies over for my “clearance sale”, i really had a tough time parting with 3 shoes: the Ndestrukt (1st shoe i ever wrote anything on), the original grey shox bb4 with the black tongue, and my black/red AJ XIII’s. The one i was glad to lose? Pristine Hyperflights in electric blue. All shoes were game worn, but my friends gobbled my collection up like it was X-Mas. Right now, i’m balling outdoors in my blk/red iguodala Shox Testify’s. The Phenom’s grown on me after i initially hated it, nice colours available. Still think it looks too much like the holy grail though: the AJ XI.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    indoor, my shoe of choice has been the HD, for months now, but my trusted Shox columns are what keep me safe while balling outside. I alternate the Shox Testify with the one’s Mcdyess & Kenyon were wearing all season, the shox slam.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    I’ll probably try a pair of Sharkleys when I can get a pair cheap. Which is anytime, I guess—Foot Action has the white and grey pair for $50, and the black/yellow pair is in Finishline clearance for the same amount.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Russ? Did you get around to trying out one of the protegé models, like you planned to? How were they to ball in?

  • ancarr02

    Was considering really buying these kicks when they were first released but didnt, so now im going to cop them.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com BETCATS

    this said hybrids, so i got to speak on a somewhat related topic: Fusions have KILLED Jordan brand. Not only do 99.9% look hideous, they also give counterfeiters a ripe ground of fusing together parts and making ‘new, unreleased fusions for $34.99, Western Union payment only’. That sh!t pisses me off.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    I bought a pair of the A3H Proteges, and when I went to lace them up for the first time, one of the lace loops broke. Meant to just punch a hole in the shoe and re-lace them that way, but after wearing them around the house and experiencing the “cushioning,” I decided I wasn’t ready to try them on the court. Old knees. I’ve just been switching between the Huarache 08s and the Zoom MVPs.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Oh yeah, and I bought a pair of the University Blue AJ9 Fusions because JR Smith wore them in a game against the Hornets. I’m such a sucker sometimes.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Justin Walsh

    buying the zoom phenoms.

  • Heals

    Always outdoors, always in a pair of all black Nikes with a white swoosh (huarache, vis air tb, etc.)…

  • Heals

    Oh yeah can’t forget the McDavid runner/jumper’s knee straps; they have saved my knees over the years

  • sam

    i got the sharkleys and theyre great outdoors

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Amen to that Heals. Mcdavid kneestraps AND Hexpad tights (thank you so much Mr. Wade) have been lifesavers. Russ, we are all suckers for them shoes!

  • andrew

    The zoom MVPs are tight… I love those, though as nails, and comfy, although the cushioning isn’t up to the HD level… Huarache 09 is a good one too…

  • e

    anyone ball in the 2009 blazers yet?

  • thesubwayconnection

    Once I’m done rehabbing, you’re going to have to let me know where you’re playing, Chris. And yeah, I believe you about the summer. This city’s seasons are: Winter, Summer, Fall. In that order. And they’re proportionally like that, too.

  • Seven Duece

    How are the Zoom MVP’s? I just bought a pair on eBay last night for $50. I wanted some orange shoes to match my Suns Alternate shorts (yeah, sometimes I color coordinate haha) and they looked good. Plus, Nash’s shoes usually are comfy with good traction. Anyone remember the Motion’s that never made it to the states? I’d love a pair of those.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Blinguo

    Click the header for Chris’ blog here Seven Deuce, for the links to a review he did on the Nash MVP’s not that long ago. The Sharkley’s are (still being) made in tons of colors so the prices will def. go down to reasonable levels retail while flooding outlets later, but even with such a great historical Nike outdoor shoe outsole, they have way too many in clear plastic/rubber which won’t be good outdoors. Jordan Brand made their Esterno built for outdoor play but it also has plastic pieces in that outsole which won’t last a week on bumpy gravel/blacktops. Nike also retroed the Air Raid in simple white or black not that long back, like those paintings in the Cosby intros, “peace motif”, and they were outdoor shoes way back when. Don’t know if the retros are only for around the town wearing or if they hold up though.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Blinguo

    Heh, Jordan brand also stays never releasing the Powder Blue 9 as a retro, only as a 9.5 and Fusion Force 1. Damn tease and profit margins on almosts but not really the real deal Holyfield. Wonder if any NBA’ers wore the P.Blue 9.5 in game? (Pietrus stayed wearing the black red even with “Golden Gate Orange” Warriors unis)

  • Diablo23

    The Zoom Phenoms look like the Air Jordan XI’s. still clean just like the XI’s though