KICKZ Performance Review: adidas Harden Vol. 5 Futurenatural

Photo by Albi Quito (2021)

The adidas Harden Vol. 5 Futurenatural recently landed on my doorstep and at last, I was finally able to have a closer look at a James HARDEN signature model 🙌. So let‘s see what the Beard’s new kicks have in store for us and get straight into this!

Design

I am sure, you have seen the recent KICKZ ad campaign with Bayern Munich, which was fire 🔥 in itself but first and foremost highlighted the Harden Vol. 5 very nicely. Definitely could not wait to get my hands on these to check them out myself. Personally, I think the two original colorways in white or black really make the multicolor pods pop. The contrasts look even better in person. Another eyecatcher is the way these are built. Sure, you get that usual low top silhouette that we already know from former HARDEN models. Nothing new in that regard. But it’s really in the details. For the first time ever, adidas used their newest Futurenatural technology in a shoe. If you look closely, you will see the seamless transition of the upper into the midsole. This innovation delivers a one-piece shoe mold that is supposed to work with the athlete’s natural movements. Very interesting tech, that however comes with quite some weight. I measured  a whopping 486 g, which is pretty heavy. Especially for a low.

Materials

I can only imagine that producing a one-piece shoe mold just simply requires heavy use of plastic. And that’s what you will find here. Layers that for once make the upper feel very rigid and durable but also make it stiff, heavy and don’t offer the nicest feel overall. It looks like the materials got glued down too much, which came at the cost of the materials’ flexibility. In terms of performance, this will get the job done but be prepared to break these in properly. For me, these did not work out of the box and I definitely had to invest some time to get the right feel.

Traction

What is quite a buzzword when it comes to grip nowadays is “data-driven”. This is definitely a very interesting concept, as shoe companies apply this approach to find out more about an athlete’s movements to then integrate the findings into the outsole pattern to provide optimal traction. So this part of the shoe gets more and more scientific, which I definitely appreciate as this is such a vital factor for a performance sneaker. adidas did that and equipped this shoe with a web-like traction pattern, that at first sight in combination with the outsole’s shape reminded me of an adidas YEEZY BOOST 350 V2. But does this work? First of all, be prepared to break the outsole in. After that, these still didn’t necessarily have the hardest bite and I thought lateral movements would offer more traction than stops after moving forward, which makes of course sense in terms of providing grip for James HARDEN’s signature step backs or euro steps. Overall, the ride was okay and it looks like the rubber compound will also survive the blacktop.

Cushion

Exciting in the beginning to be honest. adidas went with a drop-in midsole that features a combination of Boost and Lightstrike. Having a setup with both of adidas’ signature cushions, you would just naturally expect greatness. But in the end, it was just somewhat average 🤷‍♂️. Most of that I have to attribute back to the way this shoe is constructed. In my opinion, the heavy use of plastic on the outside caged in the cushioning to an extent that made it dull and took away some of its ability to expand and compress. Bottom line, court feel is good but you won’t feel too much bounce and impact protection in the heel is just alright. On top of that, the drop-in in general is pretty firm and makes the whole shoe hard to flex. Running around in these just doesn’t feel as smooth as you may want it. Definitely expected more of this combination of cushioning technologies. I think an iteration that has the midsole exposed would be awesome though.

Fit

The fit was weird. Widthwise these fit me perfectly in my usual size. However, these run pretty long. So I had some dead space up front. In my specific case, I don‘t think that moving down half a size would have helped me because I felt like the shoe would have been too narrow then. In combination with that stiff material, I did not want to go that route. That upper was also giving me some pinching in the area where the shoe would flex as that rigid material would dig into my foot. So not the greatest experience in the beginning but it got better over time. In the achilles area, four paddings were placed that actually felt quite nice and comfortable. Being responsible for heel lockdown also, those however did not quite get the job done as I did have to fight with heel slippages over the time. Just a bit annoying but I don‘t think the paddings are solely to blame for that. In my opinion, the shoe‘s hard flex also does its part and doesn‘t allow the foot to flow well with the shoe. At least in the beginning.

Support

If you lace these up tightly and give them some break-in time, the issues with heel slippages will get a bit better and you will feel quite comfortable and safe rocking these. That firm upper will not give in and keep you on the footbed on lateral movements. Further, the base is pretty wide and offers good stability. In general, these offer some really solid support features and I definitely enjoyed this part of the shoe, despite having totally exposed ankles 😂.

Bottom Line

Ready to deliver more step backs than the girl that has you friendzoned? Go for it in the adidas Harden Vol. 5 Futurenatural. But keep in mind that the key to this shoe is patience. You will not get out of doing your part and breaking these in before going on to break ankles. Overall, I think adidas made quite an effort to equip this with technology and drive innovations. But I also think, it was not quite executed to perfection yet. Especially this one-piece construction looks very promising if they manage to make it lighter and more flexible. So should you get this shoe? At a price of EUR 140,- this is a mid tier shoe, that has its highs and lows. If you are a HARDEN fan, are looking for a shoe that offers good ankle mobility with solid support or just really dig the look, those are all good reasons to give these a go. But as I have pointed out in many of my previous reviews, the price segment these are in, is the most competitive one. So you will find lots of options at a similar price that will also have their highlights and lowlights. It will really come down to what you expect from a shoe.

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