Nike Kobe 4 Protro Performance Review


Just a Retro. Not a protro.


Not much has changed in ten years. The Kobe 4 Protro offers the same pattern and the same soft bite as the original Kobe 4. Traction does start off a little slick, but most Nike’s have been having the same issue as of late. A little bit of break-in time may be required to rub off whatever residue is leftover from the manufacturing process, but once that’s done then it’s pretty much smooth sailing from there.

The rubber seems to be slightly softer than what I remember, so there has been some peeling in a few of my personal high-wear areas of the outsole. Not sure if this will be a common occurrence for everyone, but this has been my experience thus far.

Outdoor hoopers will receive great traction, but due to the softer rubber compound I’m not sure if it’ll be quite as durable as the OG. However, most should be more than happy with the traction no matter if you’re indoors or outdoors.

Full length Zoom Air… just kidding.

The Protro edition of the Kobe 4 is nearly identical to the original. Both use a Phylon midsole and a large volume Zoom Air unit in the heel. However, one minor change between the two is the density of the Phylon itself. It’s a bit softer in the brand-new iteration thus giving a slightly softer feel under-foot. Don’t expect anything drastically different from the OG, if you’ve played in them, and definitely don’t expect a bouncy forefoot ride, but despite the cushion-less forefoot — they’re still pretty comfortable.

This Protro setup offers a lot of rear impact absorption, should you need it, while offering a very stable and low profile ride up front.

If you enjoyed the original setup then you’ll enjoy this version just as much. If you’ve never had the chance to play in the original then you’re in for a treat as these are as close as it gets. If you were looking forward to full length Zoom Air then you’ll be a little disappointed.

Materials look damn near identical to what we saw on the original Kobe 4 back in 2009.

First Gen Flywire midfoot panels are in place and work well. I’m not a huge fan of plastic and thread, but I can’t complain at all about the performance. It works and it’s durable. Not much else you can ask for.

The leather throughout is still synthetic, but like the rubber and Phylon midsole, it feels a bit softer than the OG. I don’t know if it’s actually softer than it once was or if my OG pair were getting old and stiff/dried out. All I know is that this synthetic setup feels and acts like leather really well. So, like the first generation Flywire panels, nothing to complain about. It works. It’s durable. It breaks in nicely.

They fit true to size then and they fit true to size now.

There was a little bit of dead space or volume above the toe area to start but that went away once they materials broke-in — which was very quick. Everything from the lacing to the last to the sculpt of the padding in the heel works just as good as it had. The fit is awesome. However, my favorite fitting shoe of all-time was the Kobe 5. Yes, I’m already looking forward to those re-releasing next.

Nothing has changed in this aspect. The heel counter is the same — and it works great. The midfoot glass-based carbon fiber shank is still there — and it works. The tooling is wide in the front while offering a small outrigger — and it works.

The Nike Kobe 4 is one of the greatest basketball shoes of all-time for a reason. Only one thing could have taken these from great to greater and that would have been the inclusion of forefoot cushion. Nike had ten years to think about what they’d do to upgrade these babies and they could have done any number of things to make them slightly improved. React, Cushlon, forefoot Zoom Air, full length Zoom Air… yet, they did nothing. Not a swing and a miss, but a head scratcher for sure.

Didn’t Kobe specifically say he did not want his shoes to be Retroed unless they updated them to today’s standards? Maybe he wanted them to be on that Kyrie wave — having no cushion at all. Maybe he didn’t know the Kobe 4 was a Retro and not a Protro. Who knows.

For $175 they could have, and should have, given us more. If not more then charge less. Are they cheaper than OG pairs found on the after market? Yes. Of course they are. But what does that have to do with anything? The fact is that we were told one thing while Nike did something else. Again.

The shoe is still great, but if we want things to change then we’re going to have to start voting with our wallets. We can’t use after market pricing, or the Kobe Bryant name, as an excuse as to why Nike is justified in ripping us off. That’s what Jordan Brand has been doing and people are starting to understand that it’s simply not worth it.

I love the shoe, but I won’t let that blind me from the truth. This is not a Protro. It’s a Retro. Just like other all-time great performers, they still perform as great as the day they originally released. Just don’t play us for fools. Be honest from the jump and people will decide for themselves whether or not the $175 is worth a purchase. And please, Nike, notify your retail partners of the typo. They’re still selling these things with the description “Full-length Zoom Air unit means long-lasting responsiveness.” Mamba Face.


9 Comments

  1. It seems like the misleading marketing, and most people not remembering how the OG 1’s felt (if they even tried it), made the Protro 1 come with a much stronger impression. The people who have both the OG and Protro 1 didn’t necessarily find it “night and day”. In reality it sounds like it was always a good shoe period.

    I get it: full length Zoom turns anyone on, and I was disappointed to be a victim of that tease too, but the original Kobe 4 was marketed to be a lighter, quicker shoe. It’s not like the Kobe 1, which came with large Zoom units to start. In that scenario it’s arguably a tweak, whereas here people are wishing for a straight up identity makeover — or otherwise this is a “downgrade”. If anything this and other reviews go in depth revealing this is perhaps a little better than the OG 4.

    $175 is not cool, though. Unfortunately that applies to many shoes. Kept my cash for other colorways. I was particularly not into the Draft Day colorway at all.

  2. I’m Daniele from Italy, hello!
    And thanks for your amazing website, the best online resource for performance shoes lovers!

    I have the OG back in the days, and rear Zoom Air popped after two games…
    Same old story with Nike and separated Zoom bags.
    Oh, I’m a small and light PG, so isn’t a weight problem…

    1. Hi Jim!
      My rotation includes Jordan 31 Low, Adidas Crazy Explosive 2016 & 2017, Brandblack Force Vector Mesh and Future Legend Low.
      I would love hooping in Brandblack Rare Metal also, but I have some pinches between forefoot and toes, and these shoes are unconfortable for me, even off court…
      Such a shame… the cushion is amazing

  3. Part of me thinks claiming full length zoom up to the release was done on purpose to sell them early, but it couldve easily been a dumb mistake as well. Either way, they got a lot of bad publicity because of it and i dont really see a lot of people paying 175 for heel zoom and a plastic upper. If you want this on the cheap i think theyll fill the outlets in a few months. Then you can get them for a more appropriate price of 120 or less.

  4. NW given your sentiments expressed earlier about the cushioning controversy you delivered another great balanced review. A lesser reviewer could have let a little bias seep in but you of course stayed objective.

    The OG IV is one of my top 3 shoes along with the Nike Jet Flights and Bugeyed Flights. So I was not sure if the new could live up to my standards. I was pleasantly surprised! Everything feels the same but even a little better. As you mentioned the cushioning is a bit softer. I think the fit is even better in the sense that I remember myself and many others experiencing our heels slipping out occasionally with the OG. With these it feels as though the foot fits a tad bit lower and there is no slippage risk.

    I know many of us heads are upset with the cushioning controversy and understadably so. Nike needs to be held accountable when they make “mistakes” such as this. My take is that Nike has had a terrible record when it comes to many very important issues including international labor practices, womens equality in the workplace and too many countless others to mention here. While they need to be taken to task for the cushioning “mistake” it feels a little bit like being outraged by a serial killer robbing a liquor store. Unfortunately we have been choosing to dance with this devil for years because of our love of their products.

    1. The original was a Phylon midsole with a thin Lunar foam pad in the forefoot. Stated in the video. Did not state in the write up because I thought people would understand that I was only comparing the Phylon densities between the two. I should’ve been more clear.

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