Under Armour has revamped its Drive line with a new look but is the absence of its favorable ClutchFit technology for better or worse?
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Traction: Under Armour doesn’t mess around here; it has used what has been proven to work for years and that would be full-length herringbone. Not only did UA use a tried and true formula, it made the tread thick and deep so it’ll last longer (shout out to all our outdoor ballers). Also, dust has less of a chance of getting caught in between the grooves since the pattern is spaced out very nicely.
The rubber compound could’ve been a little tackier but that didn’t keep these from working on virtually every floor condition you can think of. However, since they’re not as tacky as something like the Kobe 9s I did have to wipe every now and then when the floor was in less than ideal conditions.
It’s also worth mentioning that the outsole started to separate from the midsole. If you take a look at the 4:07 mark in the video above, you’ll see the outsole separation. I didn’t notice this during use but honestly, I’m not surprised by the wear and tear since I easily put about 50 hours of playing time in these. If you’re looking for something that’ll last you an entire season, these might not be for you.
Cushion: Under Armour could’ve and should’ve used full-length MicroG, but instead it only used it in the heel — that’s the equivalent of having a really nice crossover but no jumper.
We’re assuming that the forefoot is just straight EVA foam which could be worse but when compared to the MicroG in the heel, it’s obsolete. It can feel dead at times but the silver lining is that you’re going to get a real responsive ride that is very low to the ground — those guards who don’t really get up in the air are really going to like how quick the forefoot feels. However, more explosive players are going to wish there was more impact protection and bounce, kind of like the Micro G section in the heel.
I don’t know why UA didn’t just put Micro G full-length. The good news is that I never felt sore at the end if my runs so the while the cushion could’ve been a lot better, what we do get isn’t bad at all.
Materials: It looks like ClutchFit is going extinct on the hardwood because Under Armour decided to replace it in the Drive line with what it calls a lightweight and breathable textile upper. It’s basically a woven mesh material that doesn’t really stretch but at the same time isn’t very stiff or uncomfortable, it’s kind of just there. The materials aren’t terrible but they aren’t amazing either. However, the neoprene-like padding in the medial forefoot and collar area was very comfortable.
The downside of the materials is that they don’t really conform to your foot for a snug one-to-one fit. There’s quite a bit of dead space in the toebox area and no matter how tight I laced them up, the materials just did not snap to my foot the way they should. Under Armour also says that the upper is breathable but trust me, it isn’t. It isn’t really a big deal, they’re not a hot box by any means, but they will start to smell pretty bad after just a couple of uses.
Fit: Wide-footers listen up, you should seriously consider putting these on your radar because a wide fit like this doesn’t come around very often.
Like I said in the materials section, there was a ton of dead space towards the front of the shoe and while the length and overall fit of the Drive 4 was true to size, I just couldn’t get the materials to snap to the front of my foot the way I wanted them to. The midfoot area was snug and responsive just as long as I tied the laces up nice and tight. Moreover, the back end of the shoe, towards the heel area, also provided a less than ideal fit. It isn’t as bad as the forefoot but there was definitely some wiggle room that couldn’t be eliminated.
There was also some stabbing in this area on hard cuts and drives where the heel cup would go under my ankle and pinch against my foot. When this happened, it was not comfortable whatsoever and one night in particular, there was nothing I could do to avoid it. Oddly enough, after that one night, the problem didn’t really come back to me so i’m not sure if I broke these in or I just got used to it, but when it did happen, it was pretty annoying. If you’re a side to side mover who does a lot of v-cuts and goes from baseline to baseline, you might also experience this issue, but the problem did eventually go away.
Support: Despite the loose fit, the Drive 4 does a solid job keeping you on your feet thanks to its wide fit that in turn provides a wide base. That wide platform in the forefoot, coupled with the low to the ground cushioning, made for a very responsive and stable ride that is going to favor quick guards or anyone who doesn’t really get off of the ground.
The heel cup also did a pretty good job with lateral stability but like I said, it did cut into my ankle a few times so perhaps it does too good of a job. The lacing system is another star feature in the Drive 4’s support system because it does a very good job at keeping your foot in place — it just doesn’t do a good job snapping the materials to your foot but this is more of a weird feel than a knock on its actual performance.
You’re not going to get top tier performance in this category for the Drive 4 but you will get everything you need to keep you on your feet during play. (You’re going to get a different experience depending on how it fits.) If you can fill in a lot of the dead space that these have, the support will be above average; if you can’t fill in those dead spaces, internal slipping may be an issue.
Overall: Look, as much as we want a sneaker that costs $115 and provides top tier performance, it just isn’t that common. The Drive 4 is about what you would expect from a sneaker at this price. There are some good things it does (traction) and then there are some things that need work (fit and materials).
Sure, the outsole separation is pretty bad but the good news is that it didn’t affect my play on the court. Also, the wide fit could be viewed as a positive since wide-footers are always saying that shoe companies don’t provide enough wide-footer friendly models. For better or worse, Under Armour gave you guys what you wanted — even if it may have been by accident.
Overall, if you’re someone who plays low to the ground, prefers a stable ride and has a wide foot, these are going to be great for you, just be aware of the lackluster impact protection — and watch out for that heel cup.