Say what you want about James Harden and his game, his shoes have been amazingly consistent from the start: good traction, Boost cushioning, and a low cut (okay, the Vol. 2 was more of a mid). The adidas Harden Vol. 4 flips the script, losing the Boost and bringing the Lightstrike cushioning from the adidas N3XT L3V3L. Is the Vol. 4 the next evolution of the line or a completely new start? Let’s go…
While the Harden 1 and Harden 2 went with a storytelling pattern, the Harden 3 last year copied the adidas basketball line with a thin, tight herringbone. It worked, but it was boring (I don’t mind boring if it works, honestly). The Vol. 4 goes back to an abstract pattern, featuring a set of squares and quadrilaterals (HAAAA!!!) across the outsole, varying in size and shape. The performance really reminds me of the Harden 1 – it isn’t a dead stop, break-your-own-ankles grip, but more of a smooth stop and release. This makes changing direction easy and effortless but I had issues when trying to stay in front of my man on defense. The hard plant and push off just wasn’t sure, at least for me, and I tested these on three different floors.
On offense, drives and stepbacks were easy and quick (makes sense, huh?) and I had no issues stopping off the dribble and pulling up. For outdoors, well, honestly, I could see these working for a while. The pattern isn’t the deepest but the rubber is a little harder than most on the market today. I wouldn’t plan on rocking them to on the concrete every day for hours but, if you had them in your trunk and the boys call, you’ll be okay.
The biggest change, of course, is the cushioning. Boost is out (seems like it is making an exit from basketball, but what do I know) and Lightstrike is in. I tried the Lightstrike in the N3XT L3V3L last year and it was freaking great. I tried the Lightstrike in the adidas Streetball (couldn’t finish that shoe – fit was too sloppy) and it was stiff and hard (that’s what she said lol). The Vol. 4 is a mix of both. The heel foam is thick and soft, feeling great on landings and easing into transition on a change of pace but still stable on off-balance landings. The forefoot is thin and stiff, which I have been loving lately. I know it’s only a shoe, but being closer to the ground with the foam having very little give made me feel quicker. It also made me feel a little impact in my ankles and calves after about 4-5 games of full court runs but the stability coming off screens and the lift-off from the low ride made up for it. If you are expecting the Boost plushness, keep looking. If you like a Curry feel, you will like the Harden Vol. 4.
This colorway has materials that feel crazy premium for a modern basketball shoe, especially compared to the grey colorway Nightwing and Jalique reviewed. The toebox is coverd in a thick suede and the lateral midfoot around to the heel is coverd in the same material. The rest of the shoe is made up of mesh that feels almost like Primeknit and fits my foot perfectly. The only colorways so far with this make-up are the Barbershop, pictured here, and the all pink. The rest replace the suede toebox with a fuse overlay and use the mesh/knit all around the rest of the shoe. There probably isn’t any difference in the performance but the feel and look is much cleaner with the suede additions. The suede portions do need some break-in time, which means this colorway starts off stiff in the toebox and the heel has some slipping until the back tab breaks in, but once you give them about three wears they are golden.
Here we go – the always suspicious, always confusing, fit of an adidas shoe. I went a half size down in the Harden 1, true to size in the Harden 2, and true to size in the Harden 3. I stayed true in the Harden Vol. 4 and it was the right call. The band over the midfoot of the shoe is extremely constricting on first wears and, honestly, it doesn’t stretch much after. Going true gave my foot a little room to conform and and the little bit of extra length wasn’t enough to be a deal breaker. The lacing system does an okay job of locking the foot in but the overall structure, padding, and the elastic band are most responsible for the good fit.
The tongue construction is a little, well, awkward. The tongue doesn’t lay flat under the collar and laces, which makes it look extremely out of place and 90s-era large, but it doesn’t affect the performance. The laces are set back along the collar far enough to pull your foot back and down into the heel and lock you in perfectly. The mid-and-forefoot are snugged up by the mesh and internal padding and there is no side-to-side or containment issues at all, anywhere. For the most part, it’s a normal Harden fit.
All of the normal suspects are there – wide base under the forefoot and heel, stiff midfoot, raised lateral sidewalls, and strong heel counter – so support is average to good, Factor in the midfoot elastic band and the thick padding in the heel and the lockdown just makes the support and stability even better. The lacing system does it’s job, pulling you into the shoe better than the Harden Vol. 3, so you never feel disconnected from the shoe, and the forefoot cushioning is so low you never feel disconnected from the floor either (usually you get one or the other – the shoe is so concentrated on fit that it feels like a boot, or it locks you in but the cushioning and padding around the foot is so thick it feels like a cloud). The Vol. 4 won’t make you think Ektio is back but you won’t feel in danger from any sudden movements or 4-step three pointers.
The Harden Vol. 4 is a nice shoe – that’s about all I can say. It does most things well, in the right colorway (materials on some are hit or miss) but overall it’s just… nice. The traction is good on most surfaces, Lightstrike works but isn’t overly bouncy or plush, and fit and support are good. If you are looking for a wear everyday game shoe, or are a huge Harden fan, then the Vol. 4 is a good choice. If you want a shoe that looks good on and off court, the Harden Vol. 4 is that shoe (in my humble opinion). If you are a player that needs cushioning and biting traction, well, there is always the Vol. 3. While I do enjoy the overall evolution of a shoe line, I feel the Harden line took a – ready for it – step back this year. That one was free so throw it away if you want.