My tennis experience/background:
I am 19 years old and play club tennis at my university. I played 2.5 years of varsity tennis (5A Texas High school). I am a 4.0-4.5 player.
My playing style:
All court with a lot of variety and good movement.
I played a lot with the New Balance 851's and loved them after I got used to the fit and low cushioning. However, my previous shoes have been: Barricades 5,6,7, CC Genius 1 and 2, Propulses 2,3, CB 2.3 and 3.3's and Breathe 2k12's.
Hours played in the PP4:
Comments on Performance:
This is a very comfortable shoe. It was a little stiff at first, but never to the point where it was uncomfortable. The break in process was very easy for me. I did have to wear two pairs of socks at a few points on these, which isn't unusual for Propulses which I usually had to wear two pairs of socks to get the most comfort and stability from them. I had a problem with the heel area rubbing on my Achilles with the PP2's and PP3's, and Babolat fixed this issue on the 4, it is no longer constraining and aggravating on that area now.Cushioning is low to the ground, but not as low as the NB 851's and is not harsh if you land in a certain way like the PP2s and PP3s.
Right away, these shoes felt like a slightly narrower, more stiff, more cushioned Propulse 3. As they broke in, they loosened up and felt better than the 3's in terms of comfort and fit my foot even better with 2 pairs of socks, however for a light hit, 1 pair worked just fine. I guess comparing with other brands, they fit slightly like the Nike Breathe 2k12 with less stiff arch support, and a way more beefed up version of the NB 851, and I can't compare to any adidas model. I'm pretty sure Babolat used the same mold as the other Propulse models.
Arch support: 8/10
my arches are about medium and this shoe did not dig into my arches at all and actually was a little low for me and my caused the fit to be a little weird when I didn't wear two pairs of socks.
I have never had much of a problem with Propulses and stability. They're aways very solid and I'm never afraid about rolling an ankle or anything of the sort. The low to the ground feel makes it even more stable feeling. The velcro straps always help if cinching the laces doesn't cover it, and the heel belt helps heel slippage that may occur. I never had much trouble with them and Babolat made them smaller to be more out of the way if you weren't a fan of them. Overall I think stability is comparable to top models from other brands and more customizable with the straps.
This is a very breathable shoe and I didn't have any problems with blistering. I'm kind of sad that they removed the vents on the bottom, but they're still breathable enough in the hot Texas weather.
Sole Durability: 9/10
Babolat Has definitely improved this aspect for me. I don't know what it was about the previous propulses that I owned, but they wore out fairly easy for me (about 2 months playing a few times a week), whereas I can't see much wear so far on these. I still don't think they are comparable to Barricade durability and that's why they didn't get a 10/10.
Toe Durability: 10/10
I'm not much of a toe dragger, however I did manage to wear out the toe on the NB 851's, but they weren't known for toe durability. I've never had a problem with Propulse toe wear and these appear to be up to par if not better than the previous ones.
So the 8/10 is how sticky they are. For me, most Barricades and a new pair of NB 851's are close to a 10 on the traction scale here. I am a fan of shoes that don't slide too much when I recover and these didn't slide nearly as much as the other propulses I've previously worn. I like this new outsole pattern that Babolat used for this shoe, it is vastly improved over the other PP's in terms of slipping and sliding around. These however don't provide too much traction and do allow you to slide if you really want to or need too. I felt in control of my footwork very well with these and I have no complaints about traction.
I recently came from wearing the NB 851's for several months and I got used to the super fast/lightweight feel of those, so at first, these felt very clunky and I was not a fan. However, once I got used to it (I have played in and gotten used to the clunkiest shoes (CB 3.3's and Barricades)), They were fine and I enjoyed playing with them. They feel very fast compared to other top models by other companies and I enjoyed the feel. However, they are by no means running shoe light and aim to be fast, yet still durable which babolat has accomplished in these.
General reaction/comments on overall performance:
I really enjoyed this playtest and love seeing the improvements Babolat has made over the previous versions of this shoe. I think if you love the propulse 3's and 2's, you will still love the 4's and if you thought the 2's and 3's were too flexible and lacked cushioning, well Babolat has fixed those two aspects in the 4. Note, I did wear two pairs of socks with these shoes most of the time for added cushioning and a tighter fit as these do run slightly big as I wore a size 11 in the PP2 and 3 and these are a 10.5 and fit about the same as those. It is a very good top of the line shoe for babolat and very comparable to other top of the line shoes. The look is very cool (I got the black with Yellow) and I never feel like they're too flashy, but at the same time, they feel just flashy enough. The only thing Babolat still needs to figure out is how to make a pair of shoes that makes the user win every match they play while wearing them. Then they'd really have something going.
Thanks so much TW for allowing me to be part of this awesome playtest!