I have always been a huge fan of the Penny signature line; as a matter of fact, it’s my second favorite line of all-time. When the Penny III was originally released in 1997, it’s price tag was a bit outside of my budget, but it was a shoe that I was was intrigued by both aesthetically and from a potential performance standpoint. Once I was able to acquire a pair, it was a shoe I wanted to get on the court and see if the Penny III is still a capable performer despite being 19 years old.
The Penny III is integrated into an 3/4 inner bootie extends to the bottom of the lacing system. The very smooth purple portion of the inner only extends to the second of the upper lace hoops. The remaining portion of the bootie is composed of a more closed mesh, while not as smooth, does not have any areas that have the potential to cause discomfort. The Penny III’s fit is fairly solid; the shoe’s upper works well with three-quarter bootie and lacing system. I can say I never experienced my foot moving around within the Penny III, and that is a good thing.
The upper is a leather one with a foamposite wing on the lateral side and the same material on the medial side that acts as a guard rail. Even with the presence of foamposite, the break in time was not that extensive. The shoe did not start off stiff but on my third wearing, I felt like I hit a groove with the upper as it really started to flex well. Continuing on the flexibility front, to further aid in this aspect, the upper has flex grooves in the key areas of foot flexion, even the lateral foamposite wing has a groove to aid with flex. These design features really allowed the Penny III to be a much better ally with my foot as I moved. I never got the feeling that the shoe was working against me as I moved on the basketball court. This was amazing in 1997 and is still very good today.
The Penny III’s fit is more than sound. As previously noted, the upper and inner bootie work very well together, and this symbiotic relationship also extends to the fit. I found the elastic bands that traverse the top of the instep at the mid foot are there just for show; they play a role in the Penny III’s ability to provide a high level of fit and once I laced the shoe up, the fit was even better. The inner also played a role in aiding with the fit, as not only the padding provided comfort but it also assisted in holding my foot in place, particularly at the heel. Taking that further, the heel fit is splendid; there was no heel slip in this shoe. The Penny III has a solid internal heel counter that really ensured my heel stayed in place. The overall fit with the III was quite solid and I did not experience unwanted foot movement in the Penny III.
Another ancillary fit related note on the Penny III: if you need a shoe to throw on in a hurry, this will not be the shoe to reach for. This is a well-fitting shoe however, the inner bootie will slide down underneath your foot, particularly at the heel. You will have to utilize the pull tabs both at the top of the tongue and at the heel in order to get the shoe on. Even doing that, at times it took longer than I am accustomed to actually get them on my feet. This in no way is a performance detraction, but it an issue that I felt I should clue you in on.
Speaking on the stability of the Air Penny III, it was a stable shoe. Though it is without outriggers or some of the anti-inversion features so commonly seen on modern basketball shoes, it never showed a propensity for wanting to tip over. As stated in the section on fit, the Penny III has good heel and midfoot fit, and these are two areas that are critical for a high level of stability.
The cushioning for the Air Penny III is handled by a heel Air Max bag and forefoot Zoom Air unit encased within a Phylon midsole. The midsole did start off a bit on the hard side, particularly in the forefoot, but after four or five wearings the it did “break in”and became softer underfoot. After the break in period, the cushioning, or at least the perceptible feeling of its presence, improved markedly, particularly in the forefoot. In terms of cushioning feel, it ,m .was not the best, however that did not impact the Penny III’s ability to provide cushioning that answered the bell quite well throughout the course of my review of these shoes.
Moving down to the outsole, it is composed of solid rubber that is arranged in four areas of concentric, irregular shapes that span the entirety of the sole. It is a stiff rubber that never softened any in the course of my wearings, so it could be suitable for the rigors of outdoor hoops. The stiffness, while lends highly to tit durability , did not allow the outsole to grip the floor as well as I would have liked. If the surface you play on is rather clean, the traction will be solid. However if where you ball, is more on the dusty side, be aware the outsole picks up dust as if it were a swiffer and that further exacerbated the slight traction issue. Additionally you will spend a lot of time wiping the outsoles off.I would highly recommend looking into picking up a traction board to help with this issue. The dust issue combined with the inflexibility of the rubber, are the primary reasons that the traction of the Penny III was not quite up to snuff.
The Penny III, though still nearly 20 years old, it still brings a fit that will keep your foot in place, support in the places where it is needed, and this is encompassed within a stable package that keeps your foot upright. The cushioning, all though not as responsive as some of the shoes out today, still gets the job done. Though the traction is slightly lagging, it is still not bad enough to be a deal breaker. The Penny III is not without it’s flaw but it’s performance and design is one that has, for the most part, stood the test of time.