Mad Dog1's Babolat Propulse 4 Full Review:
I’ve played tennis since I was 13. After college, I stepped away from the game and got back into the game 3.5 years ago. I play for fun and exercise. Tennis is also a healthy and safe outlet to relieve stress after a long day or week at work. I can go to the court and take out my aggression on a poor hapless ball without breaking any laws and hurting anyone.
I play with a bunch of guys who range between 4.0-4.5 in skill.
Describe your playing style (i.e. serve & volley):
I was a serve & volleyer in my younger days. Having lost a step or two or three due to age (42 yo), I now consider myself a baseliner, but am not afraid of approaching the net to get passed or to flub a volley.
i appreciate a shoe that is light, comfortable and durable since I treat tennis as exercise and don't mind running alot. Weighing in at just under 160 lbs, I'm not an excessive toe dragger nor am i excessively hard on my shoes.
New Balance MC 851 – this is one of the lightest and as a result one of the most comfortable tennis shoe I have worn. Positives: The light weight and low profile make it a very fast and fleet feeling shoe. I can definitely get to the ball quicker in these. Running shoe like comfort. Negatives: Not very durable. I’ve almost worn through the outer sole on the medial side of the forefoot in less than 2 months playing 4 hours a week.
Nike CB 3.3 – this shoe weigh a ton. Positives: Incredible outer sole durability and heel cushioning. These last me a little over 5 months before I broke into the midsole. Negatives: Long and uncomfortable break in period. Lace straps snapped after 3 months so I ended up punching lace eyelets in the upper. Traction eroded as the outersole wore down. The AirMax heel does not offer great stability. An enclosed air packet is not inherently stable. Think trying to pop a balloon by sitting on it. Narrow forefoot fit. I normally wear a 9.5 and had to go up an entire size to fit comfortably and even then it wasn’t great. The narrow forefoot fit caused some pain under the ball of my foot that disappeared as soon as I switched to new shoes.
Adidas Barricade 5 – this is another tank of a shoe. Heavy in weight. Positives: felt lighter than they weighed. Another extremely durable shoe. These last me almost as long as the CB 3.3s. toe durability wasn’t quite as good as the CBs. By the time I wore a hole under my big toe, the rest of the outersole still had another month or 2 of life left. Once broken in, these shoes were very comfortable. AWESOME heel cushioning offering more stability than the CBs. Fantastic forefoot stability. Great traction for the entire life of the shoe. Fit was a bit wider than medium in the forefoot. Negatives: Long and uncomfortable break in period. Weighed a lot and felt kind of tank like.
Babolat Propulse 2 – lighter, lower profile, high performance shoe. Forefoot fit was a bit tight which I remedied by wearing thinner socks. Positives: Loved the close to the ground, low profile feel. Ventilation was the BEST. The vents underneath the shoe were extremely effective in keeping the feet cool and moisture free. The Michelin rubber compound provided some of the best traction – even better than adidas. Relatively quick break in period. Outersole durability was very good. Last me about 4 months so not quite as durable as the B5s or CB 3.3s. Very good support. Negatives: Forefoot cushioning was a bit thin especially as the outersole under the ball of the foot wore away. Landing on the forefoot was a bit jarring on the feet and knees. My joints would feel more fatigue wearing these vs the B5s.
KSwiss Defier DS – Generous medium width fit. nice wide stable shoe last that works well with hard orthotics. Positives: decent durability and an all around solid performing shoe. Didn’t feel too heavy. Durability was acceptable. I wore through the outersoles in 4 months.
Negatives: Ventilation wasn’t great. Feet sweat a lot in these. Felt a bit clunky and clumsy.
Nike Air Breathe Cage, Asics Challenger 7, KSwiss UltraNatural – Since these shoes are much older, I won’t offer any comparisons.
How many hours did you play with the shoe?
25 hours so far
Comments on shoe performance:
9/10 I really love the new P4s. If these shoes offer durability as good or better than the P2s, I can say that out of all the shoes that offer excellent durability that i have tried to date, these are at the top. The P4s offer great comfort, fit and performance. They accommodate my orthotics well. They fit very comfortably and they offer excellent stability and traction. They hug my feet and do not feel heavy, clunky or tank-like. Babolat has done a SUPERB job with their newest shoe offering! BRAVO!!!
9/10 AWESOME! Super comfy. This is the 1st tennis shoe of the more durable offerings that is just so comfortable after the brief break in period that i would wear these around on the weekend. There are no tight spots causing any pinching; no hard plastic materials that dig into the ankle or the outer part of the forefoot and toes, etc. The Cell Shield upper molded nicely around my feet. The cushioning is first rate! I really liked the low to the ground feel of the Propulse 2s but my only complaint was that the forefoot cushioning seemed a bit thin. The Propulse 4s aren't quite as low profile as the 2s, but they are still feel closer to the ground that than the CB 3.3s and the Barricade Vs both of which had really thick cushioning under the heel. While the Propulse 4 heel cushioning isn't as thick as the CB3.3 or B5s, the heel Kompressor cushioning system offers comparable levels of shock absorption while still allowing me to feel connected to the court. The forefoot cushioning is the best i've felt in any tennis shoe. it's not overly rigid like the CBs and Barricades but it's more cushioned. When i bounce on the balls of my feet, i can feel the Side 2 Side technology with the 3D Dynamic Fishbone providing the cushioned feel and then springing back like a shock absorber. While I'm not sure it helps get me to the ball quicker, it sure does an excellent job at providing effective cushioning.
I can’t comment on the built in arch support since I wear prescription orthotics; I will say that my hard orthotics seated in the heel cup very nicely. I believe this is due to the Propulse heel cup design. Most shoes have a rigid plastic cup for the heel counter. If the plastic cup is too narrow, the orthotic never seats quite right into the heel cup. The Propulse heel counter is 2 pieces rather than 1 fixed piece. There’s a rigid counter on the left and right side; the width is adjusted by the heel strap. You pull the strap tighter to tighten the heel counter and loosen the strap to accommodate a wider orthotic. I find this design to work exceptionally well with hard orthotics. I had a hell of a time getting my orthotic to seat comfortably in the Nikes, Adidas and Asics. The narrow heel cup would squeeze my orthotic forward in the shoe bed. The friction of the orthotic rubbing on the inside would create a very annoying squeaking sound as well. Over time, the orthotic eventually seated properly in some shoes while they never did in others. This wasn’t a problem with the Propulse 4. I give the Propulses big props for this design.
10/10 Because of the Propulse 4s low profile design, stability is excellent as is support. Additionally, like the prior generations of Propulses, the FootBelt straps do a great job of securing the foot as well as securing the shoelaces to keep them from coming undone. The heel cushioning is excellent while being very stable. The CB 3.3 heel cushioning was excellent but not very stable.
9/10 Ventilation is xlnt. Not quite as airy as the Propulse 2s with the built-in underfoot air vents, but superior to the Defier DS, CB 3.3s and B5s.
After 25 hours, the medial side of both shoes is starting to show significant wear. the tread under the ball of the right shoe is showing approximately 50% wear. tread is balding, but traction is still excellent.
After 25 hours, the medial side of the left big toe area has significant wear.
9.5/10 Traction is excellent. The Michelin rubber provides the right amount of bite, grip and give. The P4s really excel when making sharp stops and quick acceleration to the ball. They feel connected to the court. With the CB 3.3s, the feedback was always rather vague i think in large part due to the Air Max cushioning. The B5s were pretty good after they were broken in.
8/10 These shoes feel lighter than the B5s and CB 3.3s for sure. I think the P 4s are about the same weight as the KSwiss Defier DS but they feel much more agile and nimble. The only shoes that feel noticeably lighter and quicker are the NB 851s but at the expense of durability.
General reaction/comments on overall performance:
The P4 is a good looking shoe! The Pittsburgh Steelers colorway looks like it means business! Per the TW product description, slight break in required and I agree. VERY quick break in period. Took about 10-15 mins. After a few hard cuts on the court, i had to tighten the laces and VOILA! the Propulse 4s were broken in. Per the TW product description, length is true to size; width is medium. I agree on the length. I am finding the width to be a bit wider than medium. I describe it as a generous medium fit in the forefoot/toebox. These are a bit roomier than the Propulse 2s. The fit of the heel is medium.