Adidas 4DFWD review: the next chapter in running shoe design has begun

A 3D-printed midsole that actually works? That seems to be the case with the Adidas 4DFWD

T3 Platinum Award
Adidas 4DFWD review
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The Adidas 4DFWD is the first running shoe with an actually useful 3D-printed midsole. The bowtie-shaped 4D cells do a great job in moving you forward while the Primeknit+ upper makes running a comfortable experience. Kudos, Adidas.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Responsive 3D-printed midsole

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    Excellent ground contact feel

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    You're in control of your stride

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    Allows for speed

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Somewhat heavy

Adidas 4DFWD review TL;DR: Adidas has finally nailed its 3D printed midsole tech with the 4DFWD, a running shoe that's comfortable, supportive and will be your companion on fast training days.

I love high stack, carbon-enhanced running shoes as much as the next person but admittedly, they take something away from the running experience. Shoes such as the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% will surely enable you to go fast but it never quite feels like it's your achievement. If only there were running shoes that you can go fast in but without taking away from the feeling of achievement...well, now there is one, the new Adidas 4DFWD.

The 4DFWD is not Adidas' first 3D-printed running shoe: the Adidas 4D Run 1.0 used the same technology but didn't quite mastered it as well as the 4DFWD. The 4D Run 1.0 was more of a test run to see if the manufacturing process can be scaled up to commercial levels, while the Adidas 4DFWD is here to showcase the true potential of 3D-printed midsoles. And boy oh boy, does it showcase it well.

Here is one more reason to like the Adidas 4DFWD: it won in the 'Best Running Shoes' category at the T3 Awards 2021! Now that's something.

Adidas 4DFWD review: price and availability

The Adidas 4DFWD will available in limited quantities on 15 May 2021. Sign up in the Adidas App between 6-16 May 2021 for a chance to buy a pair of the limited drop. 

The Adidas 4DFWD Tokyo colourway will be available on 1 July 2021 while the worldwide drop of the shoes is to be expected on 12 August 2021.

Head over to Adidas for more details. 

Adidas 4DFWD review

(Image credit: Future)

Adidas 4DFWD review: the tech

The 4DFWD is the next chapter in Adidas' saga to create a responsive midsole out of thin air, literally: the Digital Light Synthesis manufacturing technology pioneered by Carbon uses digital light projection, oxygen permeable optics, and Carbon’s programmable liquid resins to create a functional midsole.

This lattice construction is made of 39% bio-based material and said to offer 23% more cushioning as well as generating three times as much forward motion when compared to previous generations of 4D midolses. The new midsole is constructed from bowtie-shaped FWD cells that redirects impact force and creates forward motion.

Basically, as the lattice is compressed, as opposed to bouncing back up, it moved forward diagonally, like if you landed on a surface that's in an angle. And in all fairness, the actual running platform is in an angle: the Adidas 4dFWD has a 11.3 mm (!) midsole drop, 21.2 mm under the forefoot and 32.5 mm under the heel. According to Bob Kirk, Senior Director/Future Footwear Innovation at Adidas, this high midsole drop compliments the lattice structure the most and enables runners to move faster and smoother.

In an interview I had with Bob prior to the release, he also mentioned that the final bowtie-shaped FWD cell lattice was picked from 5 million different variations, which then was narrowed down to 10,000, which then was further processed down to 25. These 25 lattice variations were then thoroughly athlete-tested to find the perfect shape that supports running motion the most.

But the Adidas 4DFWD is not just a midsole, of course: it also features the Primeknit+ upper, seen in the Adidas Ultraboost 21, complimenting the midsole perfectly and making sure your feet is comfortable and able the expand when it gets warm. The upper has a sock-like fit which is very comfortable yet supportive.

Adidas 4DFWD review

(Image credit: Future)

Adidas 4DFWD review: the ergonomics

Running in the Adidas 4DFWD is a real treat. What surprised me the most – and it really shouldn't have been that surprising – is how well the lattice midsole connected me to the ground as I ran. It really feels like you're in control of your stride when wearing the Adidas 4DFWD: every step is reported back to your muscles and joints and you can react to this feedback accordingly.

This sensation reminded me of how I felt when I ran in the ASICS Metaracer and the Salomon S/LAB Phantasm: although those are carbon-enhanced racing shoes, the 4DFWD offers a similar experience in terms of ground contact feel. That said, the 4DFWD is not a racing shoe, more like a running trainer for days when you want to go far and fast.

The Primeknit+ upper is super comfortable and manages to offer just the right amount of tightness for training runs. I prefer tight-fitting racing shoes but for fast training, a less-compressing upper is better and the Primeknit+ does just that. My only criticism is that the reinforced part of the upper, where the eyelets sit, rubbed against the medial side of my feet at the front, but this could be just because I have a wide feet. And I mean they are wide enough that I don't need to wear fins in the water for propulsion.

The Adidas 4DWFD is a bit on the heavy side: the tested size 10 (UK) model is a hefty 370 grams. Given that the shoes will be used for training, it's not a massive issue but it's worth keeping in mind.

Adidas 4DFWD review

(Image credit: Future)

Adidas 4DFWD review: the aesthetics

It's probably for the best that the Adidas 4DFW doesn't look as sneaker-like as the Adidas 4DFWD, running shoes often criticised by runners for looking too 'casual'. That said, there is still quite a lot of swag going on here.

First of all, the 3D-printed outsole will always catch the attention, no matter where you wear the Adidas 4DFWD. The contrast between the Core Black/Solar Red coloured upper and the kind-of beige midsole further emphasises the latter. It won't be all that visible when wearing the shoes but you can quite literally see through the midsole; quite a cool feature if you ask me.

The shoes have a distinctively Adidas look, in a good way. The Solar Red highlights are used in the right areas and I'm glad the highlight colour wasn't used for the three stripes logo on either side of the shoes. This way, it doesn't feel like the 4DFWD is shouting in your face: 'LOOK AT ME! I'M AN ADIDAS!'. Cranking down the vibrancy at top helps emphasise what really matters: the midsole. 'Look at me: I'm the centre of the attention now.'

Would I wear the Adidas 4DFWD for other things than just running? Well, I did wear them, pretty much all the time when I tested them, even when I went down to the shop to get some milk. So there is that.

Adidas 4DFWD review

(Image credit: Future)

Adidas 4DFWD review: the verdict

Should you buy the Adidas 4DFWD? It's not the cheapest running trainer and admittedly, the limited drop nature of the initial release won't help make this the go-to shoes for most runners. Nevertheless, if you have the chance, I'd highly recommend getting a pair as the 4DFWD represents the next step in running shoes evolution.

As well as that and in-line with Adidas' efforts to reduce plastic waste, the 4DFWD is not a bad choice for environmentally conscious runners. Don't get me wrong, buying a pair of running shoes won't save the planet but if you have to buy new running shoes, you might as well get a pair from a manufacturer that pays some attention to environmental-friendliness. Adidas at least tries to make a difference, which is admirable.

All things considered, the Adidas 4DFWD are great running shoes, probably the best running shoes from Adidas at the moment for runners who are looking for something a bit more serious than the Ultraboost 21 but less sporty than the Adizero Adios Pro. And taking into account the normal distribution curve, that's majority of the runners.

Adidas 4DFWD review: also consider

The Hoka One One Mach 4 might not sport a 3D printed midsole but in return, it has a luxurious feel with lots of padding and ventilation holes. The Profly midsole feels both soft and springy, so you get a double whammy of cushioning and a firm toe-off, making the Mach 4 one of the most adaptable shoes around.

The Under Armour FLOW Velocity Wind strips away the outsole without reducing traction. These much-hyped running shoes deliver a fast running experience and the woven upper is not dissimilar to Primeknit+ either.

Matt Kollat
Matt Kollat

Matt is T3's very own fitness and nutrition writer. In his free time, he swims, runs, cycles and tries various resistance training workouts so he can ramble about them to people who aren't really interested in fitness.