From the time Jason Kidd of my hometown Mavericks left Nike for peak, I was intrigued. I had only seen the Peak “simulations” of Nike shoes on the Chinese website, and for Kidd, he of the Zoom Flight 95 and Zoom Flight 5, two classic guard shoes, to leave Nike/JB and wear Peak? Unheard of, but there must be something going on. So when I saw the lineup of NBA players signing on in the last couple of years, and especially Tony Parker signing on, I was officially on board. But enough jaw-jacking, let’s get to it…
MATERIALS – Fuse, fuse, and more fuse. It’s here to stay and almost redundant to say, but the upper is a fully fused with some synthetic overlays. Peak calls it Hot-Melt, but it is a rubberized fuse. It is not as thin as last year’s but it is still flexible due to the mesh cutouts and the lacing system. The synthetic leather overlays on the toe and the heel will improve durability and adds a layer of texture to the design and should help on those toe drags as you Euro-step your way through the lane. It does add a little weight and honestly could have been completely deleted with no impact. The ankle area is lined with a thick padding for that hug-an-ankle feel, and the tongue is partially open-cell mesh for ventilation. All in all, pretty typical and nothing Earth-shattering, but a very nice package for Mr. Parker.
FIT – Here we go – my one problem with the shoe, and it really shouldn’t be. I wear a 10.5. In EVERYTHING, almost. I have received 4 shoes from Peak, and they always send me… 11’s. No idea why, but that is my burden. Still, length-wise they are good – about a finger width between my big toe and the end of the shoe, just like I like. The heel is completely locked in due to the ankle collar cut and the lacing – all the way to the top. The midfoot is perfect – the notches in the lace system allow the shoe to flex and mold right with your ankle for mobility. The forefoot is ROOMY. Again, could be the bigger size, but the front lace bubbles up when I pull tight. Makes me look like I am wearing Dad’s shoes, but eventually I got locked in. Stay TTS and you should be good.
CUSHIONING – This is the real. Gradient Dual is a foam-based, triple-density system not unlike Zoom pods in Phylon housing, like the CP3.VIII. However, the Dual is NOT bouncy responsive like Zoom – rather, it is absorbing and dispersing, like adiPrene or Asics Gel. There is the white area which is just regular polyurethane, the red, which is a softer compound, and the blue, which is denser for better push-off and response. Again, not that feedback happens much, but the denser material does allow the foot to push solid and cut quicker – no loss of time. Not the lowest riding, but not the highest either – very KD-like in court feel. Landings were well balanced and solid so I never feared the off-balance ankle roll off a rebound. And from start to finish (about 4 weeks and 12 court wears) the Gradient Dual felt the same all the way through. But wait folks, that’s not all…
Look at this beast. That’s an insole. No cheaping out there. Thick foam, ridges and textures for foot support and lockdown, and a cool mapping of the Dual as it sits underfoot. The insole didn’t break down AT ALL and provided another level of cush and comfort most don’t now. Big props to Peak for adding these in.
TRACTION – Probably my favorite aspect of the shoe. Herringbone everything with a middle-of-the-road rubber durometer makes for a happy, sticky, Duke. It mattered not where I played, on what I played, or how slippery I thought it would be, if there was not visible dust on the floor I was Flytrap. Spidey couldn’t see how sticky I be. Sorry – just came out. The pattern is wide-set so grabbing dust may happen, but it wipes off quick. Outdoors, you should be good for a couple of months as the tread is fairly deep as well. I am SERIOUSLY intrigued by the lowtop version that just came out with the outdoor specific tread, so hopefully I can pull those soon.
I’ll throw transition on here as well. Due to the generous forefoot fit, transition was a little slappy. Not like the first generation Under Armour shoes, but not as smooth as I like. Again, the right size and I KNOW the feeling would improve. Even so, the cushioning system and the tread being uniform made the ride smooth while running straight on. Some movement in the forefoot drug my response laterally back a bit, but don’t worry – just size right.
SUPPORT – With the Hot-Melt upper and the fantastic lacing, the shoe is like an AA sponsor already. Factor in the midfoot shank, here called simply enough the Foothold, and you are supported. The heel cup is a beautiful structure – one of the best I have ever seen – but it is a flexible plastic that doesn’t exactly hold rigid, but gives just enough to keep you up on all but the nastiest of sideways bounces. It still feels fast without bulking up the shoe, but if you land awkward it ain’t helping much. No flex at all underfoot, and the forefoot features one of the HUGEST outriggers ever. Look at it – if you roll that, it is time to consider water aerobics instead of basketball (don’t flame me over that joke- I am sure water aerobics is very strenuous). Finally, the shoe feels solid without feeling too solid. Got it?
OVERALL – Although Peak didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, the last three years have seen an uprising in their products and reputation, at least in the U.S. No longer thought of as a second-tier performance line, their shoes are able to sit in the pantheon with any other brand. The Tp9 series, especially, seem tailor-made for guards who don’t need the lightest but want a cushioned, solid, stable shoe to push off and land on. The TP9.2 is simply an evolution, but closer to the Lighting than last year’s model. If you need solid cushioning, lockdown fit, durability, and traction, look no further. If you are looking for a swoosh, get the blinders off.