adidas Harden Vol. 1 Performance Review

Prose: @jtsittler

Part 1

When I first went to buy the Harden Vol. 1, I had my eye on the first black/white/red colorway. I was smitten with the white leather toe cap and the asymmetrical lacing, plus I’ve been a huge fan of some Boost-based basketball shoes in the past.


Oh and they felt damn good in-store upon first slipping them on.

I went a half-size down to a size 11 because I felt they ran wide and somewhat long. The 11 really felt like a normal 11.5. I threw them on that evening and went to the gym around 9 pm (when I know it will be empty) to get jumpers up for a half hour or so. While they felt fantastic – smooth transition, great responsiveness while not sacrificing court feel – they were just a bit too roomy on the inside for me.

I was set to relegate them to casual wear because they’re just so freaking good looking, but I remembered the blacked-out Dark Ops pair I’d seen as well…so like a moth to the flame I went back the next day to grab them. I now own two pairs of the Harden Vol. 1 – one for off-court, and one definitely for on-court wear.

“It’s the blackout ‘Rari, got the back out”

The second time, though, I went with a 10.5 – a full size down for me – and it made all the difference in the world. The Dark Ops model has an elastic toe cap rather than the white leather one on my first pair. The flexibility of that toe cap allowed me to go down another half size without any toe box pain. My foot can still flex and splay normally, but the fit is now pretty much perfect. I need a 1:1 fit or at least damn close to it for me to keep a shoe for regular hooping, and the 10.5 got me there.

The elastic tongue made a difference for me – it allowed me to go a full size down for the best overall fit, yet gave my foot the flexibility it need to play normally

The burrito tongue does a good job of staying in place. It’s molded interior conforms to the foot well and is extremely comfortable. The lacing system is really not my favorite part of the shoe – I love the asymmetrical design and the way it matches the anatomy of your foot, but as many reviewers have noted the round laces and double lace holes make it difficult to really cinch the shoe down tight.

After a couple of wearings, this does get better as the upper breaks in. I’m able to pull the laces tighter now than I could initially, and the lockdown is excellent. I’d say there’s a tiny bit of heel slippage at times, but that’s more than likely due to the narrow profile of my foot – most of you will be ok. Either way, I feel completely secure on them without any significant movement no matter how quick the pull-up or how abrupt the change of direction.

The round laces kind of suck, but they get better after a few wearings. Lockdown is not an issue, and the asymmetrical setup is almost perfect

Underfoot, the Boost setup is for the most part caged and lower profile than the Crazy Light Boost 2016 (which I’ve tried on multiple times) and the Crazy Explosive. Caging the Boost slightly limits its responsiveness and the tactile “Boost” sensation you’ll get in some pure Boost setups because it doesn’t allow the Boost nodules to fully expand and return energy, but it’s still more responsive than most setups you’re going to find.

Caged Boost sacrifices just a bit of plushness and some of the tactile Boost feel, but in return you get a more stable ride. Check out that outrigger too

The benefit of this is improved stability and court feel – a trade-off I’ll gladly take. It’s still supremely cushioned, but it’s slightly firmer than your typical Boost runner especially in the forefoot. It’s closer to the Rose 5 than Rose 6 underfoot (my local Finishline just now got the Rose 7 in a Primeknit model for $160…hard pass for me until they go on sale). Stability is probably as good as any shoe on the market – the outsole seems slightly wider than most and the forefoot outrigger is substantial.

Transition is butter smooth, which actually surprised me given the noticeable arch in it. I know Schwollo mentioned that the arch support bothered him for a few wearings; mine were totally fine so that’s going to be something you’ll have to feel out when you try them on.

Smooth transition despite a noticeably higher arch
Smooth transition despite a noticeably higher arch

Support, a major category for me, has been awesome. You can see the support structure in the Dark Ops colorway through the icy outsole and it does a good job of dispersing impact and providing some needed rigidity under the Boost midsole. If a hoop shoe doesn’t have enough support for me, I’ll feel it within an hour and my arches will be sore for the next day or two; the Kobe VIs have just enough to keep me comfortable and the Harden Vol. 1 is about perfect in this department.

The full length TPU underneath the Boost midsole gives it needed support
The full length TPU frame underneath the Boost midsole gives it needed support

Traction has been a point of contention for Harden’s shoe. I’m sure you’ve all read how Adidas mapped the pressure points on his foot during the course of games last season and developed a traction pattern to grip better on high-impact and high wear areas. You’ll see a tighter pattern near the ball of the foot where more traction is needed, and the pattern is more dispersed elsewhere. It’s really not unlike the Kobe VI pattern, even down to being relatively shallow.

The results of pressure mapping...not earth-shattering but it works
The results of pressure mapping…not earth-shattering but it works

I like the traction on the Kobe VI, especially after it’s broken in, and I’ve found the Harden Vol. 1 to be the same way. I had to swipe more than normal on the first few wearings on semi-dirty YMCA courts, but now 5-8 wearings in I don’t really have to. On clean courts, the traction is excellent.

On the fourth pair, I’ve finally found a suitable partner for the Kobe VIs in my rotation. I had to go down a full size, but the Dark Ops pair with the elastic toe gave me the fit I need all around. The Boost setup, caged with a large TPU support underneath, is one of the best cushioning platforms I’ve ever played in. It’s responsive, stable, and super smooth. Though the shoe feels heavy out of the box, it’s so responsive and well-fitting that it plays way lighter than it feels.

You’ll definitely want to try them on first to determine what size you need, but I have no hesitation in recommending these for most guards and wings – the support is probably there for the bigs too if you don’t mind a low.

I’ll be answer questions and comments as they come in, and will drop a review from time to time when I need a new pair. I look to Schwollo (blunt, in-depth, well-written reviews) and Bryan aka Duke4005 from Weartesters (a guy who once helped me out as a college kid writing about shoes and an industry veteran with a ton of knowledge) for my regular review-reading, and I suggest you do the same.

Play to win, and get buckets.

The guide returns! Thanks to all those that have told me they appreciate it - I'm glad it's useful
The guide returns! Thanks to all those that have told me they appreciate it – I’m glad it’s useful