In 2019, adidas launched its first iteration of the 4D sneaker. It featured the first 4D midsole, printed using Carbon Digital Light Synthesis™, or DLSTM. The running shoe wasn’t widely available, and it wasn’t until 2021 that the brand made it more accessible, while also reducing the price a bit. As such, I was lucky enough to cover the first iteration of the 4DFWD running shoe, which was a completely unique experience as a long-time runner. Now, in 2022, the brand released the update to this in the adidas 4DFWD 2.
The 4D midsole was based on the research initiatives started in 2016 as part of the FUTURECRAFT project. The long-term idea behind FUTURECRAFT is to manufacture (or print) a shoe for a runner on the fly, which is uniquely customised to their foot, preferences and style. Although it’s still early days in that regard, the 4D midsole has seen plenty of iterations in 2022 across various releases.
With the 4DFWD 2, adidas has fine-tuned many of the shortcomings of the original. As is always the case, the question needing to be asked is whether the brand has improved significantly over the predecessor to upgrade or provide sufficient gains compared to conventional running shoes to justify the cost.
Build and Design
When first unboxing the new adidas 4DFWD 2, there is a distinct familiarity about it. For all intents and purposes, it appeared to be the same shoe as its predecessor, if not for what’s jotted down on paper. However, upon closer inspection, there is quite a number of differences between the two pairs throughout the design.
Irrespective of the difference in colourways, there are numerous small details to pick up. The most notable of these is the grey lining between the contrasting colours on the upper. More than just a distinction between the colours, it also acts as a support for specific areas.
The outer portion of the upper (the lighter side), features the PRIMEKNIT+ material. This is adidas’ proprietary technology that creates a breathable, sock-like fit for your foot. In contrast, the darker area has a more mesh material finish. It is slightly softer than the PRIMEKNIT+ material. That being said, the overall construction of the upper is a lot firmer than on the original 4DFWD.
On the midsole, there are further two changes. The first of these is that it is quite a bit wider on the forefoot. This is to provide more surface area upon impact within the stride. Further to this, the structure of the midsole is more curved in the front. This creates a smoother approach to the toe-off when running.
Flipping the shoe over and you’ll notice the Continental branding on the outsole. As with many of its other Ulltraboost running shoes, adidas has added premium rubber to its latest variant of the 4DFWD. As a result, the pattern on the bottom has changed somewhat. It resembles the flowing movement we see on tyre tread to dispel water. I can’t attest to how well it can do this while running but it definitely offers more grip.
Lastly, in terms of aesthetics, the closed lacing system has also been enhanced. You’ll notice that it is a complete overhaul of the original design. However, the biggest change is right at the top where the adidas designers have added a twisted loop for the final loop. At first, I didn’t think much of it but in the real world, it adds a lot more security to the lace (so it doesn’t untie as easily) while also feeling a lot more fitted around the ankle area when running.
As with most running shoes, aesthetics aren’t a big factor when making choices on performance. However, with the 4DFWD 2, adidas has used these aesthetics to its advantage by making subtle improvements throughout. The end result is a much better fitting and comfortable shoe, which will discuss in more detail below.
The first iteration of the 4DFWD provided next-generation performances. It’s not the fastest-running shoe in the adidas portfolio, but it’s the most flexible. Its 4D midsole adjusted to any terrain and was suited to almost any foot type. The same applies to the 4DFWD 2, with adidas further developing the technology.
Most of the comfort is derived from the 4D midsole technology. The 3D-printed midsole won several awards in 2021. With each stride, the vertical pressure on the FWD cell is converted into a forward movement for easier propulsion. This works both when walking or running, taking significant impact off your feet and ankles.
Furthermore, there are several new areas of padding added to the inner lining. It’s not as significant as many other running shoes but creates a comfort zone around your foot to feel as little wear from the surrounding material.
That said, it’s not the end of the updates. Added to this, adidas has also improved the upper. It’s crafted from adidas’ PRIMEKNIT+ technology. With a sock-like fit, it wraps around the foot. I was surprised at the difference between the two iterations.
While I loved the fit on the original, the 4DFWD 2 offers a tighter approach. This isn’t just around the forefoot but, most importantly, around the ankle and heel as well. It feels a lot snugger and a lot more fitted. This gives the wearer a more secure feeling and, as a result, more confidence when moving across various terrains which may require lateral movement.
Lastly, I can confidently state that the 4DFWD 2 is a shoe you can easily wear the entire day. This was also true in the previous iteration. However, with the latest updates, it feels more balanced with the added comfort zones, padding and security from the PRIMEKNIT+ upper.
Tying all the above-mentioned changes into a singular running shoe adds significant changes across its performance. From the traction underfoot from the Continental rubber when traversing various terrains or weather conditions, to the newly improved cushioning and PRIMEKNIT+ upper. The overall experience when putting the adidas 4DFWD 2 through its paces is quite impressive.
Over the few weeks running with the 4DFWD 2, there are additional benefits to its performance. For starters, with less impact on my ankles and shins, there is less strain. I didn’t need as much recovery time either as a result. The cushioned feeling underfoot created a balanced running approach.
That being said, purchasing a new running shoe would almost always come down to improved performance. As mentioned previously, the curvature of the forefoot creates a better toe-off action in the gait cycle. With the added secure fit, the movement also feels a lot easier to manage. This is especially true in the heel area with little to no slippage with the changed design.
When running in isolation, it may not feel like much of a difference. However, to test out the differences, I completed a few shorter runs wearing both shoes as a comparison, swapping feet, so as not to cause too much undue strain. The 4DFWD 2 is a definite improvement over the original in almost every aspect.
Is It Worth Upgrading to the adidas 4DFWD 2?
If you were to wear the two shoes in isolation, they both would be justified in their performances, comfort and quality. However, it’s not until you compare the two variants side by side that it makes all the difference. At first, you have the same familiar approach to the design and fit but when you really compare them at the same time can you feel the differences – those added few tweaks that go a long way. In terms of performance, there is also a slight improvement in the cushioning, while offering a major improvement in traction with the new Continental rubber.
Currently, you can find plenty of sales and more affordable pricing options for the original 4DFWD running shoe. Thankfully, adidas has kept the pricing relatively the same year-on-year with the release of the 4DFWD 2. It is still a bit on the pricey side as a result of the relatively new midsole technology, with retail pricing at R4,999.
At the end of the day, the questions remain, should you upgrade to the adidas 4DFWD 2 if you already own the original, and, as a first-time buyer, which would be the better option (with pricing factored in)? Upon first glance and without really testing it, I’d have easily suggested going with the original – saving a few Rand while still having the 4DFWD experience. That being said, after numerous tests, side-by-side comparisons and hitting the tar, I quickly changed my mind on this. The adidas 4DFWD 2 is definitely worth the upgrade, and definitely worth the extra funds as a first-time buyer.
adidas 4DFWD 2
The adidas 4DFWD 2 is an improvement over the first iteration of the running shoe. Its changed appearance isn’t just skin deep. Each of the elements work together to provide a more comfortable experience and secure fit. Furthermore, adidas has introduced Continental rubber to the outsole for added traction. Overall, there are enhancements across the board, making it stand out quite significantly in the end against its predecessor.
- Updated lacing system
- 4D midsole
- Improved comfort
- Remains on the pricey side