Prose: Finch (@Sir_Stymie)
Back in July of 2013, our good friend Jake reviewed the adidas Crazyquick and I must admit that I was itching to try adidas’ new natural motion midsole for myself. While It wasn’t in the cards for me last year, I stumbled upon a shoe that not only satisfied my desire to try adidas’ newest tech but also is garnering interest with the 2014 NBA All Star game rapidly approaching: the adidas D Howard 4.
Recently, we have seen adidas go with a minimalistic approach in its performance line with models such as the Crazy Light and Derrick Rose silhouettes. This is far cry away from the Feet You Wear line of the late 90s, including the recently retroed Crazy 97, Crazy 8s and Real Deal (worn by Kobe Bryant and Antoine Walker, respectively). These classics featured a bulkier silhouette and a midsole that wrapped up around the foot – providing natural motion and support in a never-before-seen way. This line was one of the most popular and innovative developments in shoe history.
adidas dabbled in it again in the mid-2000s, with a new Formotion iteration showing up in Tracy McGrady and Gilbert Arenas’ signature shoes among others. They hit the nail on the head with the TS Supernatural Creator, a performance monster and the shoe that Derrick Rose wore in his first NBA season.
That’s why it’s still surprising to see adidas focus on minimalistic and lightweight designs. While adidas has a nice guard rotation repping the brand (Lillard/Rubio/Wall/Rose, etc.) I was really interested to see how bigger NBA players such as Tim Duncan (Crazyquick), David West (Crazy Light 3) and Dwight Howard played in these minimalist shoes. I couldn’t imagine those models being able to support their larger frames and in Duncan and West’s case, their older joints and muscles.
Furthermore, I was interested to see if these shoes could work well with my style of play. So with all the background out of the way, let’s get into the review.
I’m normally a 13 but I’ll go a size smaller in my basketball shoes to get the best possible lockdown, but I grabbed a 13 instead of the 12 for the D Howard 4. Personally, I didn’t really like the fit overall, but there were some really nice things about it.
The heel fit was very nice and had lots of added padding and structure on the interior around the ankle. The lockdown and partical mesh sleeve aid in a very nice overall fit. Even with that being said the overall shape of the shape didn’t fit my feet well at all – but this is where our new review charts should help take our own needs out of it and let you decide if a shoe might work for you.
It seemed to fit long, so going a size down may have helped some but after I went back to try a 12 on it still felt long – like I may have needed an 11.5. This lead me to believe that my foot wasn’t really meant to fit this shoe. There was a lot of space in the shoe on the sides of my foot (I have a narrow foot) and near the toe box. The shoe shape simply wasn’t for me, but if you have a wider foot this might be good for you. Wider builds are tough to find right now so the D Howard 4 is worth a look.
Due to the natural motion midsole/outsole of the D Howard 4 the transition was very smooth. No “slappiness” and lag or hang-up in my gait – I was pleasantly surprised in this regard as the sole and midsole flexes really nicely under foot.
It’s easy to see why this type of natural motion design has transitioned from a running technology to being integrated into training and basketball models (even dating back to the Nike Free Huarache Basketball 2012, which was recieved with mixed reviews), although the kinks in the technology as a whole are still being worked out.
This shoe has very firm, low profile cushioning from the foam in the midsole. This is inherent due to the minimalist natural motion design. What you gain in terms of flexibility, mobility and traction you sacrifice cushion and support.
In my experience with playing in the D. Howard 4, I recall feeling pain in my feet numerous times upon landing from rebounds and contesting shots. After a while, I continually felt the impact of landing on my joints. I had to give it low scores in this regard – any shoe that causes pain is never a good thing.
The shoe’s almost complete absence of a midsole leaves a lot to be desired for in terms of responsiveness. There’s quite clearly a difference in the cushioning setup or at least the foam distribution between the D Howard 4 and the Crazyquick. I found myself growing more fatigued in these shoes then I have in my other basketball shoes (Jordan Superfly 2), which feature unlocked Zoom cushioning. The cushioning setup in the D Howard 4 is very bare bones overall and your foot simply isn’t supported.
The traction that is used on the D. Howard is a mix of the classic herringbone with a twist. The outsole is identical to the Crazyquick, and I’ll explain the functionality briefly.
The natural motion (think Nike Free) midsole/outsole with the multidirectional herringbone grip pattern allows grip and traction in every way you foot can go. This helps defensively when guarding someone off the dribble, gaining position boxing out in the post, or planting to driving to the basket. Like the Crazyquick, this pattern worked very well.
The D. Howard 4 seems to be a very durable shoe. The upper is made of a synthetic leather with Sprintweb overlays. This material feels a bit thicker in certain areas and light stippling on the surface which seems to prevent scuffs somewhat. It is also quite flexible, and works well in conjunction with the midsole. For what it’s worth, I have worn this shoe a few times now and it shows very few signs of wear. Valued at $125 ($140 dollars retail, you would hope that you get a shoe that would last and I feel it will.
All in all this shoe has a lot of good things about it, but due to its bare bones design and lack of an adequate cushioning system I find this shoe hard to play in and not really conducive to my style of play. For wide footers, it’s definitely worth a try-on. And if you are a power forward/center or a wing player looking for a lightweight shoe to provide great traction and durability, it may be an option.
Overall, just be advised that there is little to no support and cushion so if you’re looking for a plush ride, go elsewhere. Also, with the firm cushionings and lack of support, this shoe should probably be priced closer to $100.
There are a lot of new and interesting colorways coming out – like the All Star version – so at the end of the day it may just be a nice shoe to rock off the court.