adidas switched things up a little bit with the Harden Vol 4, James Harden’s 4th signature shoe. Were the changes worth while? Find out in our performance review.
Herringbone was used on the Harden Vol 3, and most of us loved it. No frills. No gimmicks. No data driven patterns. Just traction that worked. With the Vol 4 adidas went back to the way things were, with a pattern that doesn’t look like it’ll play well, but surprised us once we took them for a spin.
Despite the pattern being flat and unimpressive looking, I rarely found myself having issues. If dust became a major concern a quick wipe and I was quickly back to playing without even thinking about traction.
When a pattern/rubber compound works as well as this you end up with a bit more confidence as you know the foundation of the shoe won’t fail you. That’s pretty much how I felt with the Harden Vol 4. I didn’t really have to worry. On really bad floors I just wiped every-so-often and I was on my way.
Traction on the Harden Vol. 4 is crazy. It’s great. It’s CR-R-REAT (no?)! On only one court did I ever have to wipe. Even so, each time I returned to that court the need to wipe was less frequent and all it took was a light stroke to get that Red Nose-hanging-off-a-tire-swing bite I was accustomed to on every other floor.
The rubber is super tacky, especially in the forefoot where the pattern becomes more compact and covers more ground. It may even be strong enough to handle outdoors fairly well, but all I know for sure is indoors, this is one of the better tractions I’ve experienced in the smaller selection of shoes I’ve played in this year. Again, CREAT.
Boost is missing from the Harden line for the very first time, and I will admit I did miss it a bit.
I felt the Harden Vol 3 had the best implementation of Boost as it sat low to the ground while still providing a bit of impact protection. When I heard Lightstrike was replacing the Boost cushion I was excited. I loved Lightstrike in the N3XT L3V3L, but here I felt it was a bit too soft.
Stability was never compromised as you sit just as low to the ground as you would in the Vol 3, but the Lightstrike on the N3XT L3V3L was a little thicker and had a bit more density to it. It gave off a lighter feeling Bounce whereas the Lightstrike in the Harden Vol 4 just feels… soft. It wound up causing some leg pains as I’ve been ramping up my days on-court since the calf tear. I don’t have these same pains when I play in my Air Jordan 34, LeBron 17, or ANTA KT5, so it has left me with the conclusion that this implementation of Lightstrike just isn’t for me.
I was nervous about Lightstrike after my experience in the adidas Streetball, but after some testing overlap in the Harden Vol. 4, I’m now all in with the foam – when implemented correctly.
Maybe its because I’ve played some models by adidas that used Bounce to take court feel to a whole new level, but the Lightstrike in the Harden Vol. 4 felt leaps and bounds better than most foams I’ve experienced, despite having an extremely thin layout itself. I’m not sure what was different, but I even felt well protected against impact in the 4 while recovering from outdoor play in the Streetball – a pair that did nothing for my triple-decade knees.
If you like Bounce, this feels like an even lighter version of it while still carrying some properties of Boost. Even better – and maybe it’s just me – the cushion feels better underfoot the longer I wear. I’m talking feel good at the beginning of a session, feel great by the end of a session, then start all over the next time. Big fan of this, I am.
There looks to be two different styles of build with the Harden Vol 4. One features a lightweight mesh build with premium overlays. Meanwhile, the other features a Primeknit build with synthetic TPU overlays.
The pair I’ve been wearing uses the Primeknit build and they still look brand-new despite wearing them for the past few weeks on-court. Break-in time with most of the upper is quick and painless, but there is this section where the elastic band sits atop the midfoot that still hasn’t quite broken-in and I’m not sure if it ever will.
This elastic band is on both versions of the shoe, so keep that in mind. If you wanted something that was a bit more breathable then I’d recommend going with the mesh build with premium overlays. However, both versions will perform the same.
No nice, raw materials in this colorway. I guess there’s nothing to complain about when a pair slips through the cracks early, and honestly the Primeknit upper and synthetic overlays of the colorway tested worked extremely well for me personally.
The fuse is thin, flexible and does its job to protect the knit from high wear while the upper wraps and flexes nicely with the foot. The synthetic leather panels and heavily stitched areas that reinforce the lacing system have no negative impact on comfort. The elastic midfoot band, while tight at first, did eventually break in to a comfortable level while barely needing laces for lockdown in the area.
I’m still interested in testing the mesh and suede builds arriving, and I believe there may even be some full leather builds down the line but for now, I’m happy with performance of this Harden’s materials.
I went true to size, and have for all of the Harden models I’ve worn. The only one where I felt they fit a bit big were the Harden Vol 1.
Going TTS worked out perfectly for me and I have no real complaints about the fit other than the elastic band area. The first time I wore them I had to take them off due to foot cramps. Since that initial run it’s gotten better, but they still feel as if they’re brand-new each time I lace them up.
Lockdown I felt was very good. Much like the previous versions of the Harden Signature line. If you have a wide foot and wind up going up half a size then you may encounter some heel lockdown issues, but if the shoe fits you the way they should then you shouldn’t have any problems. There is even the external cage with alternate lacing holes just in case you need to experiment a bit to achieve the lockdown you prefer.
True to size was perfectly fine for me, but I can’t speak for wide-footers. Maybe there is some hope since I have a higher instep which didn’t take so well to the suffocating midfoot band initially but eventually found a sweet spot of comfort. I just say prepare to ask for two sizes if you get the chance to try on, because that band is seriously snug.
Midfoot lockdown is exceptionally good of course, but if I were to nitpick I’d prefer the first set of lace-loops start a little bit further towards the forefoot. Luckily movement up front was not an issue, so that is just a preference. Near flawless otherwise.
Other than the traction, the support is the one aspect of the shoe where I feel they’ve really found their groove.
From the low profile tooling, to the FYW (Feet You Wear) styled setup and the way they blend it all together. The entire shoe works in synergy with itself in all aspects. The midsole really cradles the foot, the lacing keeps you locked-in at all times. Standard features like the heel counter and torsional plate all work well.
I know low tops get a bad wrap in terms of support, which is unfortunate as some of the more supportive basketball shoes every made have been lows.
All the little things make the Harden Vol. 4 good for support. You sit low to the ground over a wide base with portions caging you in and acting as outriggers. The customizable lacing panels and elastic also help keep the foot in place always while a strong plastic counter and sculpting keeps the heel in place as well. adidas has been killing it with support for most of its signatures and team shoes, and these are no exception.
I love everything about the Harden Vol 4 except for two things. First, the cushion didn’t work well for me this time around. Second, that elastic band has really been a pain in my ass… or foot. Strangely enough as I love a nice snug/secure fit, but this thing felt like it was strangling my feet half the time.
However, despite my personal issues with those two areas, everything else really worked well. Lockdown and stability are two major wins while the traction was a huge plus. If you’ve enjoyed the last three Harden models then you’ll likely like the Vol 4 as well. Wide footers may want to try them on first because the elastic band, but otherwise these will suit the needs of those looking for something lightweight, supportive and comfortable.
The Harden Vol. 4 is fast, controlled, and has been a personal joy to play in. I do think it may be a hit or miss for some, but from my personal experience it has been a top performer.
I typically prefer more of a cushioned feel over court feel, but I feel the Harden Vol. 4 gives enough of the former and even more of the latter, and that’s something I would love to see in a lot more shoes going forward. The Beard’s step-back is going to be serious in the Harden Vol. 4, but hopefully if you try then you won’t feel any steps back in the signature line. I didn’t.