words & images // Nick DePaula
For the past two years, Kevin Durant's signature sneaker has been the best performing shoe available at retail. I really believe that. It's worth noting, of course, that the "at retail" part is all the more impressive when you factor in the fact that the shoes were "just" a mere $88.
At anywhere from $30 to even $70 less than competing signature products, every part about that is tremendous. The shoes held up well, had great traction, cushioning and all of the stuff you're looking for for the hardwood -- and then on top of that, they were also affordable.
So why the big intro about the great performance and relatively low price of the Kevin Durant series up til now? Well, the Zoom KD IV is by its own merit an outstanding shoe on-court, but for the $7 more at retail that Durant's fourth model jumps to, it's perhaps a step back in overall performance from the exceptional level of playability that his line has already reached. If you're a guard looking for a supportive, reliable and cushioned sneaker, the KD IV is a great choice, but if you're a close follower of the line so far, you might find a few points that let you down.
To get right into it, the shoe's new Adaptive Fit system, a variation of which we've seen over in Nike Running, offers great fit through the midfoot, but is perhaps too narrow for most. The more you pull on the lower two medial lace loops and the adjoining strap system, the more snug the shoe's midfoot will be, as the dual-pull harness tightens accordingly through the arch. This might create a struggle for people with wide feet to find just the right balance of fit. I have a pretty standard D width foot, but anything wider and you might need to size up for more room through the body of the shoe.
Regardless of how the midfoot fits you, you'll also notice the arch of the shoe is rather pronounced, a noticeable difference right away from the KD II & III. While the exact same shank is carried over from last year's model (a nice way to save some money in the constant quest to keep the shoe under $100), the extra midfoot sculpting and stance of the shoe still make for a substantial arch. If you have flat feet, you'll want to try these on ahead of time.
Just ahead of the shoe's midfoot, I also noticed quite a bit of irritation and discomfort stemming from the underside of the forefoot lateral fused vent. This is what you might traditionally call a "hot spot." I tried a few different sock thicknesses over the course of my testing to see if I could build up a buffer of sorts, but nothing seemed to work. The toe box is a bit snug side-to-side to begin with, and the vent underside pressure only compounds the problems up front.
Above: The underside of the forefoot vent is where I experienced the most irritation and rubbing during play.
While the shoe has a few fit and irritation issues, there are quite a few bright spots to touch on as well, but I'll get to those in a few. One last complaint first! For years now, I've sworn by no-show socks. Simply a personal preference, and ideally I'd be playing in an ultra-thin no-show in every shoe. I found the collar of the KD IV to initially also be quite harsh during my testing, and it wasn't until the fourth or fifth wearings that the chafing and irritation of the collar softened up and went away. After the first night, I was in quite some pain, had visible callouses, and had to switch to some taller socks towards the end of the trial. I'd definitely recommend a thicker quarter cut sock with these. Of course, that might also make the midfoot far too narrow, so try these on first if you can, with thick socks on hand. The underside of the Hyperfuse layered upper and edging of the collar are simply too harsh at first otherwise.
Because I was curious, I even took a night off during the testing and played in my trusty KD IIIs from last year. The collar felt amazing by comparison, and the shoe had no pressure spots. Much of that newfound discomfort can be attributed to the new fused approach. There's just less padding along the underside in the hopes of shedding some weight.
Now that we have all of the negatives out of the way, let's turn that frown upside down and take a glance at what I loved about the KD IV. The strap, entirely unique and at first glance rather odd, works great. It's not useless like a forefoot strap, and not too restrictive like a collar strap either. It's there for a nice additional layer of lockdown, is fully adjustable and works in tandem with the shoe's Adaptive Fit arch system. Well done. Will it continue in the KD line and in other shoes? That might be too early to get into, but I definitely wouldn't mind seeing it in other shoes. This coming from a guy who hates pointless straps. But, it's not pointless here, so that's a good thing.
Another great item of the shoe is its transition, as we've come to expect from the KD line. There's a full-length Phylon midsole for a smooth ride and the same propelling TPU midfoot shank from the KD III. Great ride, stance and bounce in the open court.
While the shank and story-telling approach is carried over throughout the outsole, there is one big shift in the shoe's traction pattern. Gone is the herringbone outsole that we saw in the first three models, as the IV features an integrated thunder bolt pattern. Clearly inspired by his team name -- the guy is all about team, afterall -- I found the traction to be great. Not screech and squeak inducing like the best herringbone designs, and not quite as the bar-setting KD IIs, but still reliable on marginal courts and outstanding on outstanding courts, as you might expect. I always will vote for herringbone if given an option, but the traction works here. We've seen quite a few signature themed patterns fail in recent years, so it was nice to see this tread work nearly as well as the tried and true.
Ever since the KD series began, people have complained about the lack of heel cushioning. Well, the shoes wouldn't be under $100 if there was heel and forefoot Zoom Air, and that's really all it comes down to. On top of that, KD himself barely makes contact with the very back of the heel, so a forefoot unit also does more for him. Which I'm thankful for. The forefoot Zoom unit here feels great, and in tandem with the full Phylon midsole, the shoe has a great cushioned ride. It could be better, but that's what the $140 Zoom Kobe VII is for if you really want both heel & forefoot cushioning.
All in all, the KD IV's style clearly has taken Durant to a different level in the overall signature shoe landscape, thanks mostly to the awesomely executed Nerf and Weatherman themed versions. On the court though, his line was already *there* in my opinion, and I'm afraid this fourth model is a slight step backwards because of the fit and irritation issues that I had to get off my chest during the first half of the article.
Definitely check them out if you have a standard or narrow foot and like playing in taller, thicker socks. They have a great combination of cushioning, transition, traction, lockdown and support. However, there's quite a bit of irritation and a troublesome hotspot along the lateral forefoot if you, like me, enjoy playing in no-show or thinner socks. The KD IV is priced exceptionally well at just $95, but be sure and try them on first if you're interested in making them your next on-court sneaker.
designed by: Leo Chang
best for: shooting guards and small forwards with slashing style of play
colorway tested: Varsity Purple / Orange Blaze / Neo Lime
key tech: Hyperfuse upper construction, Adaptive Fit strap system, full-length Phylon midsole, 6mm forefoot Zoom Air unit
pros: transition, forefoot cushioning, nice lockdown and great value for price
cons: runs fairly narrow through midfoot, forefoot has some hot spots, collar is harsh through first week
improvements: better protection from hot spots in the forefoot, improve fit issues through midfoot and irritation issues along collar.
buying advice: The KD IV, much like the past two models in the Durant signature series, is a great on-court performer with outstanding cushioning, traction and transition. Unfortunately, I liked the II and III better, as the IV has a few fit issues and some hot spots throughout. Check them out if you have a narrow foot and don’t mind wearing thicker socks, but be cautious or try them on first if your sleds are on the wider side. At $95, they’re a great value with durable support and lockdown.