adidas Harden Vol 1 Performance Review – Duke4005

HUGE. That was the first thought of everyone when we saw the contract adidas offered James Harden. Huge on two fronts — the dollar amount, of course, and the fact that a Nike athlete, seemingly on the way to his signature shoe any day, would leave the Swoosh for the Three Stripes. Yes, money had a lot to do with it, but it showed one thing: adidas was a player in a major way. Now the question was, “What will he wear?” After a year of building hype for the Beard, we get our answer: the Harden Vol 1. But was it worth the wait? Let’s ride…

harden 1 traction duke

TRACTION – Yeah, the Harden Vol 1 is good. Almost great. Based on pressure mapping of his foot during Harden’s many stutter steps and toe drags, the pattern centers on a circular point under the ball of the foot and spreads out from there. I don’t play like Harden, with step backs and stutter steps — I’m more of the crossover, two dribbles and get to the hole or pull up — so for my game, it never failed, except when the dust mop magically disappeared.

On clean courts and those first steps after wiping, the pattern works as well as anything else out there, and better than most. The problem is that the pattern is thin so dust sticks early and stays late, filling up the shallow pattern. (To be fair, the only shoe that didn’t slip on this floor when it was dusty was the Under Armour Longshot, with the Curry 2 traction pattern). It isn’t the softest compound either, but it is extremely tacky, so when dust sticks it affects the shoe more than any I have tested lately. Again, when on clean courts or after a good wipe, it sticks magically.

Outdoors? Nope. The pattern is too thin and once it wears off, well, Boost has terrible traction and durability.

harden 1 cushion duke

CUSHIONING – Boost with court feel? Yes, please. The Harden Vol 1 has the lowest ride of any full-length Boost shoe and you can tell, but not in a bad way. The midsole isn’t bouncy like the Crazy Explosive or CrazyLight 2016, but it still absorbs and responds like Boost should.

The TPU cage around the lateral side and heel are what keep the midsole stiff, and this is by design. adidas first tried this with the UltraBoost ST, caging the midsole on the medial heel for a support system. This TPU kept the Boost from expanding out and being uncontrollable. It also stabilized the response of the foam for quicker recovery. The same concept is used here. Say an athlete jab steps on the outside of the foot (and shoe). The Boost would push out past the midsole lines, leading the shoe to roll over laterally, causing instability and rolled ankles. Cage it, the Boost is allowed to absorb but then push up into the foot, not out, cutting lag time and recovery for the next step. Yeah, it isn’t PureBoost bouncy, but you will appreciate the stability on hard cuts and your joints still get Boost cushioning — you just may not know it. 

harden 1 materials duke

MATERIALS – Keeping with that adidas tradition, the materials you get depend on the colorway you purchase. We have seen Primeknit and suede toe on the ‘I’mma Be A Star’; we got a Jacquard upper and an elastic toe on the ‘Xeno’ colorway. This is the ‘Pioneer’ colorway, and it features a Jacquard upper with a seriously nice white leather toecap. I love leather, no secret, and this is the good stuff. If other brands used this, premium pricing would make sense. Some have said the toecap needs a couple of wears to break in and feel natural, but mine were good for me right out of the box. Yeah, it wrinkles and scuffs, but that builds character, in you and your shoes — it shows the work you put in.

The midfoot and heel use a soft Jacquard that, honestly, feels as good as Primeknit (in this model). Soft and already broken in, the materials should be durable enough for a season of play (normal play). The tongue and heel areas are heavily padded, at least around the top, and work well to lock the heel in solid, unlike the CrazyLight 2016. Fused areas around the lace holes keep prevent ripping and work to keep the round laces from sliding back and loosening the sneaker. I say “work” because they have to, but round laces don’t like staying tied. Maybe, switch those out. 

harden 1 fit duke

FIT – There are many theories around the message boards and comment sections about the fit of the Harden Vol 1, and it is adidas’ fault. One shoe fits small, the other one long, and they are the same size. The Harden Vol 1 fit me perfectly true to size, but half size down is perfect if you need that one-to-one soccer fit (some said they went a full size down — no way).

The toebox is wide and squared so you may not want the extra room for foot splay (your toes spread when you land). However, when playing there is no movement in the forefoot even with the extra space — just lace tight. The midfoot is locked in, and the Harden Vol 1 is narrowed through that area. Coupled with the way-high arch, it keeps your foot where it should be. Heel lockdown was the main worry, as it is in almost all lows, but as mentioned above, the heel is heavily padded (especially around the collar) and the heel is solid. The burrito tongue wrap locks down and back, pushing your heel into the counter for extra non-slippage. 

harden 1 support duke

SUPPORT – Let’s start with the most pressing matter: the arch support. It is high and presses under your foot, but not in a bad way, just an extreme way. It took a couple of wears to get used to, because I have a slight pronation (meaning my ankles turn in and my feet flatten out when running). If you have normal feet you may never notice, but just be aware. adidas has had great midfoot support for years, ever since the Torsion Bar system, and the Rose 7, Explosive, and CLB2016 are all great in that area. Now, the Harden has joined them. 

The forefoot doesn’t have a designed and defined outrigger but the base is wider than the upper and fairly flat so stability in that area is a no-brainer. Couple that with the caged Boost and lateral steps and cuts become solid. The heel is also wider than the upper, so jumps that start well but don’t end that way are covered as well. The Boost is caged there to keep the midsole from teetering or bottoming out — even more help. 

Transition was a surprise, because the Harden Vol 1 is heavy and feels clunky in-hand. The full-length Boost keeps heel-to-toe smooth and the arch makes you want to stay on your toes. With the great traction — when the floor is at least semi-clean — the shoe just flows and moves with your motion like it was built for it. Oh, wait, it was. 

harden 1 overall duke

OVERALL – The Harden Vol 1 has been a hit since the first pictures, based on looks alone. Polarizing, different, obnoxious, different — all exactly what Harden and team Three Stripes was going for. That toecap says it all.

If you are a guard, or forward, or big man who doesn’t mind lows, you will enjoy this shoe. Fit, cushion, traction, and support are all nice for anyone unless you just feel like you need a super-light shoe (you don’t). For running gunners, stutter steppers, and jump shooters, the Harden Vol 1 may be the best shoe on the market for everyone. The traction could use a little more bite, but it works — and that is severe nitpicking. If you can find a pair, grab them now before he wins MVP and you can’t find them anywhere. Just keep killing it, adidas. 

WATCH NOW


27 Comments

  1. Thanks Duke! On these hit sale prices I am definitely getting a pair. I was hesitant at first because of my experience with inconsistent Boost in the Rose 6, but after trying the Harden on in store, the Boost still had bounce in the forefoot (surprisingly) and especially in the heel. I didn’t think it would have as much bounce as it did because everyone says it is so firm, but it feel great to me.

    The Crazy Explosive, on the other hand, never had bounce in the forefoot when I tried them on (and I tried 2 pairs). This, combined with the Rose 6 got too firm in the forefoot and bottomed out after a month of play, has kept me so scared to try Boost. Even when they feel great to start, I’m scared of bottoming them out…

    1. I wonder if that is an experience others share. My main basketball shoes for more than a year now are the Adidas DR6 Primeknit and the boost feels like on the first day. I can say the same about the Adidas’ running shoes I own (Supernova and Ultra Boost). In fact, the reason I like boost is that it seems to never wear out but maintain its springy-ness no matter how long you use it.
      -pac

      1. I’ve been playing in the Rose 6 and the Crazy Ex extensively for the past year and a half or so(and the CLB 16 to a lesser extent), and the boost wore down a bit but never to the point wear it bottomed out like a lunarlon. Not even close. The impact protection is still very good; I just played 3 days in a row with the Rose and my knees feel like they could go another day. I don’t know if I just got good boost stock or if I’m light(155 lbs), but my boost had lasted very well.

          1. Yeah, I have a Supernova Sequence thats been run into the ground, rained on, and basically been through hell. Wore it for some yardwork, and the boost is still nice, and it isn’t even that thick on this shoe.

    2. Not sure if it is because I am in Canada but I had similar experiences. The Harden felt softer in store at least compared to the CLB and the forefoot of the DR7. When buying the DR6 a while ago – I also found the newer colourways were quite firm compared to the PK version I bought – and even with the PK the forefoot firmed up after using it for a month or so. I ended up buying a fake zoom insole off ebay to put under the DR6 Pk insole which help soften up the forefoot some. Lastly with the Crazy Explosive I have tried on two different pairs and the first was more plush in the forefoot and the second was more firm. The only Nike that I tried with this type of inconsistent feel was the Hyperdunk FK – I found some at the outlet and the size 11.5 felt noticeable softer than a size 11.

      1. Yes, I only use my Rose 6 for outdoor work or just going places. I have literally had 4 pairs of that shoe and the Boost was different on all of them. 2 of them the Boost was firm, and out of those 2 the Boost never got softer (while the other pair started off softer, but got softer, then firmed up). My Primeknit Rose 6 was perfect, but I had to send them back unfortunately because they were a tad to small to play in. That’s when I got the colorway I have now (the Black/Scarlet Red Home colorway), which sucks. If I could’ve held onto the Primeknit ones then I would agree with everyone else that that is the best cushioned basketball shoe I’ve ever worn and would still be playing in those today.

        As it stand, I’m playing in the JC3 (which also got a Hall Of Fame badge last year) and I’m loving those just as much (not AS good as Boost, but close enough).

  2. I’ve been playing in the 13 below zero’s for about 3 weeks now and I absolutely love them! I went a half size down (which I never do because I’m OCD about getting my true size and I always order online lol) and they’re perfect. I also had a problem with the laces at first but it was a super easy fix with a double knot. haven’t had had any problems since.
    I highly recommend these to anyone that’s on the fence about them. I cant wait for the Gila monsters!

  3. I play on some really dusty floors and I’m sliding like crazy in my KD9s. Would these be an improvement? Also considering grabbing a pair of solid outsole Kobe 11 elites since they can be had for ~$100 now.

    1. Probably not, as the kd9 feels about the same toe as the Harden. I actually like the kd9 more. What colorway has you sliding?

    2. I have the same question lol – I have the mic drop KD9 and they don’t have much bite when the floor is dusty when in comparison my D Rose 6 PK (which need some wiping but overall work fine on the dirty floors). I also have the white KD9 with the gum bottoms and I find that they stick better.

      1. Yeah, completely agree on rubber making the difference. I have the USA, royals, and bird of paradise and they all have solid rubber and stick great. The gold medal colorway has the translucent and on anything remotely dusty it slides and slips. Go for solid if you can find it.

        1. If the traction was better I think I would buy – but I pretty much always play on dirty floors so I just don’t feel right without top end traction. Maybe if they go on sale one day I might buy because I like the fit and look so much. Also Duke – would you know for the Harden’s if the translucent bottoms are worse when it comes to dust?

          1. In the past, adidas translucent has been great. Wears quicker, but still sticks fine. Not like nike/JB that seem hard and slick.

  4. Great review Bryan and fantastic sneakers. I have been playing in those for a while and they are in my rotation along with the D Rose 7! I am a happy man…well almost…Only downside: I ball 70% of the times outdoors…Unfortunately a shoe with harden vol 1 or Rose attributes with traction that actually works outdoors (without wearing down in 1 month) still doesn’t exist 🙁 Any thoughts or suggestions?

    1. The Rose 6 (Alternate Away CW) with solid outsoles are my go-to outdoor shoes now..really durable outsole (i couldn’t believe it) but still with great cushion and impact protection. My legs love them.. no aches/pain after every game.

    2. Have you tried the CLBoost 2016? That continental outsole should be good for you and cushioning feels like the rose 7.

      1. I will have to try with the CL PK. I tried the regular one going half size down and my heel didn’t feel locked in at all. Thanks!

  5. My half-size down pair makes me wish I went full-size down. Feel like the heel runs wide and doesn’t really have a “cupping” feel that the Rose and CE have. Only thing really holding me in is the laces. If there was anything in the heel doing work, I’d say it was the padding more than counter.

    Otherwise, it’s a really comfortable shoe. By design it’s great. It’s just the geometry which can be a miss for narrow footers, namely if you landed an oversized pair.

    1. Heavy for a low, but I don’t know the exact weight. The play light because of the boost and smooth transition though.

  6. nice to see they hooked one of my favorite players to watch in the Beard with a good performing, dope looking shoe. But I’m ballin’ on a budget, and will wait for them to go on sale w/ the right colorway. But man, there are too many shoes I want to try out right now that it’s too hard to choose one. Already got the KD9, but want to try the Crazy Explosive(Plus the Low is coming up) , CLB PK, Dame 3, Rose 7, Rare Metals,… need to get to the states to hit up some outlets and get a few of them. (nothing goes on sale in Japan, and the prices are outrageous, plus I don’t have a store within 100 miles where I can try on basketball shoes in Germany which I am now)

  7. Hi i was wondering if the xeno colorway would be good for outdoors. I’m a small pg that does a lot of toe drags and was wondering if they would be good if not what do you suggest

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