It is Dame Time! Whenever I get to do a performance review on a Damian Lillard shoe, I always get excited. Not only are these a fresh breath away from all of the Nike shoes we do analyses on, but they are also incredibly fun to test because of the different technologies infused in them. In this Dame 4 performance test, we will overview various factors in what makes basketball shoes great: traction, durability, aesthetics, on-court performance, and stability. Get a right combination of these going on, and you have yourself a proper shoe. Miss one or two of these areas and sneaker fans start to worry.
Before we get started, an important thing to note is that I did get sufficient playing time in these, as with all our basketball shoe reviews. Our run-in tests are not merely a bunch of pickup games stringed together consecutively. Instead, we do actual examinations that use real-time basketball movements. These movements are often done in an inflated manner, exaggerating movements to see if we can abuse the shoe to its limits. Each performance review is executed with a brand new pair; we never start our analyses with worn-in boots. This is for two reasons: 1. to keep a level playing field across all basketball shoes that we do review and 2. to examine the break-in progress of an out-of-the-box shoe. Each break-in is different, so inspecting the progression of the breaking in period is crucial.
With that side note complete, let’s begin with my Dame 4 performance review!
I will start first with the overall look of these shoes. I have two pairs: the all-black “Dame Time” colourway and the all-white “Start to Finish” Dame 4 colour scheme. Both are almost simplistic in their design, as they were the two earliest colorways of these pretty new shoes. The only other colorway available at the time of my actual performance review was the “Glow in the Park” scheme, which alludes to Lillard’s fondness of amusement parks. I wasn’t feeling that design but to each his own.
Here’s a look at the Lillard x Bape limited collab
The core-black Dame 4 does seem straightforward with its look, but in a way, it looks mean and ferocious. I am always a big fan of the all-black scheme, and Adidas did a fantastic job not making this look too dull. The outsole is similar to a lot of Adidas’ casual shoes (like the AlphaBOUNCE). It adds an excellent, fierce style and texture that I love, aesthetically speaking. The stripes of orange (at least on my “Dame Time”) around the heel part of the sole are also a nice touch.
The material on this thing is a little iffy. Mesh makes its return to the Dame 4, which you can see from the mid-sole to forefoot areas. The heel section surprisingly featured a compression collar, so it wraps around your Achilles heel when you put it on. I enjoyed this as it added comfort through real compression and heel lock. On top of that, it just makes it look more modern than the Dame 3, which is always a good move.
While the mesh material may seem like it will get scuffed up easily from abrasion, it does seem to have been coated with a polyurethane spray to prevent that from happening early on. I have only tested these for a few weeks, but so far the material is still holding up well. Dame 4’s are on the budget side of shoes, so don’t expect them to last as long as the more expensive signature lines. But for a basketball sneaker that retails for USD 115, I am highly pleased by the durability and selection of the material.
Moving on to performance, the first thing to mention is traction. I do not know how to describe the grip pattern, but I do have a picture above for you to analyze it yourself. It’s an aggressive traction pattern, but it works damn well. The channels are situated pretty wide apart, so dust on the court simply doesn’t stay on the sole. The only place dust finds itself on the Dame 4 is clinging onto the channels themselves, which is highly uncommon due to how thin the slits are. Even so, a simple hand wipe gets rid of all of that, and you’re back to playing with fantastic traction.
Traction is covered in all directions. Doing my examinations, I was impressed by the sheer stopping power in these shoes. Even on moderately dusty courts, the Dame 4 manages to absolutely hold onto the hardwood.
Bounce is a type of foam cushion that is dense and provides an excellent blend somewhere in between Adidas Boost and Under Armour’s Micro G foam. I will say the responsiveness on the Dame 4 is still up there, although a little was less bouncy than previous iterations. Just jumping up and down, I can feel that energy from the forefoot being reciprocated back to me. Explosiveness is undoubtedly one of the 4’s better features. I will say that the Bounce cushion feels a lot closer to the ground than on the Dame 3’s, although I couldn’t tell just looking from the outside. As a result, you will get more of an on-court impression for quicker explosiveness, but you sacrifice the comfort that comes in other basketball shoes like the KD 10.
The Bounce tech on the heel area is still high, although nothing has changed for the 4. Landings are still soft, so at least you have that. Cushion, for the most part, focuses more on the forefoot of the shoe.
I went half a size as a recommendation from one of my sneakerhead buddies, and it went well. It noticeably squeezes around the middle of my foot at half a size down. True to size loosens that problem but adds unnecessary length. I ultimately stayed with 0.5 sizes smaller; the discomfort eventually passed as I got more run-in time since the soft in-sole material finally broke in.
I will say if you have wide feet, it is probably best to go right to size since you do not want to be suffocating, especially on a shoe with a denser cushion and sharper on-court feel like the Dame 4.
For this, I am looking at overall foot lockdown and stability while playing on the court. First, I am highly impressed with the lockdown on this shoe. As mentioned above, I did go a half size down, and it helped lock everything into place. Once broken in, the Dame 4 almost conforms to your feet with how the cushion and material are set up—the mid-section grips nicely to your foot. From forefoot to heel, I felt comfortably in place thanks to both the lacing system and the right compression collar. The lacing is impressive in its own right, as the hinges are rubber-coated, durable, and stay in place. The compression collar again is satisfying because it clings to your heel. There is little point in a compression collar if it is a loose fit and thankfully, Adidas got it right with the Dame 4.
The core-black “Dame Time” colourway
Stability-wise, the shoe doesn’t do anything fancy. It has a naturally broad outside base for support, a small edge around the forefoot as an outrigger, and flexible material for freedom of movement. Other than that, Dame 4 relies on its fit and on-court feel for stability. And this works surprisingly well. Despite the lack of stability features that other shoes advertise, the Dame 4 keeps it simple yet manages to let me move how I want without feeling vulnerable. That is remarkable and an ode to the excellence of the Adidas design team. They structured an affordable shoe for excellent stability with their limited resources.