Babolat Propulse 3 Shoe Review
|Babolat Propulse 3 Shoe Scores|
|Overall Sole Durability||3.9|
- Durability guarantee
- Fast feeling
- Low to the ground
- Straps work - lock in feet
- Forefoot not quite as stable as previous version
The Babolat Propulse 3 impressed our playtesters in all categories of this review. We found the shoe to be very comfortable thanks to the supple Cell Shield upper and responsive Kompressor cushioning system. The low to the ground feel and the excellent traction provided by the Michelin rubber had our testers moving quickly and confidently. The Foot Belt was very effective in locking down our heel and providing the needed support for aggressive movements on court. However, a few testers felt the upper was a bit too soft and didn't provide the type of support they were looking for. The outsole durability was an issue for only one playtester, but the 6 month durability guarantee helped alleviate any concerns. With a softer, more durable upper, less weight and improved traction, the Propulse 3 appears to not only be an improvement over the previous model, it also meets our expectations as a high-end tennis shoe.
High-end tennis shoes come with many performance expectations, especially if the shoe is endorsed and used by ATP pro Andy Roddick. Those expectations are raised even higher when the shoe is an update to a popular shoe. Already in its 3rd generation, the Babolat Propulse 3 promises to build upon the popularity and success of the original Propulse and the Propulse 2.
When Roddick walked on the court at the 2011 Australian Open wearing his bright red Propulse 3 shoes, he created quite a stir. Along with the new eye-catching cosmetics, this latest version offers new technologies that Babolat promises will increase performance and comfort. The new Kompressor System, found in the midsole of the heel, is designed to absorb shock efficiently and to remain effective over time for consistent performance. The new Cell Shield upper provides excellent abrasion resistance while still providing comfort and ventilation.
Will all this add up to a shoe that meets the needs of even the most demanding player? Will this 3rd time continue the charm for Babolat? Our team of testers took the Propulse 3 shoes out on a month-long playtest to find out.
Comfort - Score: 4.2
The supple uppers and responsive cushioning of the Propulse 3 provided a comfortable and solid ride. Chris was very pleased. He said, "I had no break-in issues with these shoes. I was able to put them on and go straight to the courts. The uppers felt a little softer in this third version, and it allowed for more flex and a very comfortable feel. Again, the cushioning was minimal under the forefoot, which I have found in every version of this shoe. However, the level of cushioning was plenty for me, and I enjoyed the low to the ground ride."
Finding this shoe to offer exceptional comfort was Jackson. He said, "I wish I could give this shoe a better comfort rating, but given that it has such a low-to-the-ground feel, it's not what everyone would describe as being comfort oriented. The midsole is thin and tapered heel to toe, which lessens cushioning in the forefoot. The upper also added a new level of coziness in this latest version of the Propulse line. The mesh-lined rubber cage provides decent support but also flexes nicely, which gives the Propulse 3 an edge for those people with wider feet -- since it's able to be more accommodating. The tongue is also amply padded and secured to the insole to prevent movement, just adding to the already outstanding lining inside the shoe."
Jason found one major flaw for him. He said, "There are a lot of aspects of this shoe that make it very comfortable. However, the one downside was such an irritant that I had to deduct quite a few points. The heel collar came up too high and rubbed up against my Achilles so much so that it took off skin. I typically wear no-show socks, but I switched to crews every time I wore these, and it seemed to fix the problem. I thought the upper was very nice. It flexed well and didn't pinch me at all. Cushioning was just what I liked. It wasn't that plush type of cushioning, more of the responsive, low-to-the-ground type."
Spencer agreed. Adding, "The flexibility and soft upper made for no break-in. I did have some rubbing around the heel collar where the material was sewn together, as it was too rigid. It caused a bit of discomfort on the first couple of wears. There was plenty of cushionimg in the heel, and a low to the ground feel in the forefoot."
Ventilation - Score: 4.3
Our team found the Propulse 3 to have excellent ventilation. Spencer enjoyed the breathability. He said, "The Cell Shield upper in the forefoot provided plenty of perforations, while there was a screen mesh in the lateral midfoot, as well as on the bottom of the midfoot. Combine all that with the mesh tongue, and it makes for plenty of breathability."
"There was plenty of ventilation and my feet never got hot in these shoes," said Chris. "Even with the weather heating up, my feet stayed comfortable in them. I would definitely grab these when playing in a hot climate."
The ventilation was more than adequate for Jason. He said, "This shoe did not disappoint in this category. My feet felt cool for the duration of the playtest thanks to the generous use of perforations in the upper and the mesh in the tongue."
Jackson raved, "Probably one of the most well ventilated tennis shoes I've worn, and a close second would be the Babolat Propulse 2. Even at a slow canter I could feel the draft running across my toes. The breathability really helped to cool my feet, even when wrapped in thick ankle braces."
Arch Support - Score: 4.1
The slightly lower arch seemed to fit the gambit of arches of our playtesters. The shoe worked well for Jason and his low arches. He said, "There was a need for a slight break-in period for me, but after 1-2 times the arches softened up and worked well for me. No real soreness issues for me after break-in."
Jackson had similar sentiments. He said, "The insoles on these took a little getting used to and had to be broken in, but they were right in line with the tradition of the previous Propulses. They molded very nicely to the bottom of my feet, cupping my soles and providing all the necessary support where it was needed, without having any awkward pressure points."
"The arch support was a little soft and low," said Spencer, who was happy with the support. "However, I didn't notice any pain or discomfort, so there was enough support to satisfy my arches."
Chris' feet felt aptly supported. He said, "I found the arch support to work well for my higher then medium arches. I didn't feel the need to go with after market insoles, and the chassis of the shoe was plenty stiff enough to protect the arch area of my feet."
Foot Support/Stability - Score: 3.9
With the Foot Belt system, the Propulse 3 provided a secure and customizable fit. Feeling 100% confident was Jackson. He said, "Propulses have always provided me with excellent support and stability, which is an important aspect for me. Since I experienced a serious ankle injury, I'm constantly thinking about the risk and danger of having a repeat injury. With the Propulses, all those nagging thoughts dissipated, and I felt safe and secure. The TPU counters and the Velcro straps helped to make sure no sliding or movement occurred in the shoe, and I can't say how much I appreciate the Foot Belt design, even from the first generation. The 0.2 points I deducted from a perfect 5 score is only justified by saying the cage was almost too flexible on lateral stops."
"These shoes offered a supportive fit," said Chris. "The support straps work for me. Both the mid foot and heel straps really cinched the shoes around my feet for a secure fit. I found more flex from this version in the forefoot, and the stability that I found in the previous two versions wasn't quite there. However, there was enough support and stability for me to play at my maximum speed without fear of rolling an ankle or hurting my feet."
Jason had some mixed feelings. He said, "I am a little torn in this category. The front of the shoe lacked the rigidity and support I would've liked. It was just too soft for me. The heel was a different story. The Foot Belt technology really works! I could cinch down on the strap pieces and get a nice snug fit. My heels felt very well supported even during the most aggressive movements."
Spencer had similar sentiments, adding, "Though the performance of the shoe was good, I would have liked a more rigid upper. From the midfoot forward, the upper was very soft and pliable, allowing a feeling of sloppiness. There was a little too much room up front, causing some slight movement within the shoe. On the flip side, from the midfoot back, the Propulse 3 was extremely solid. It provided a very locked in feel that was very stable. I'm normally not a fan of velcro straps on a shoe, but they've admittedly been effective with the Propulse line of shoes."
Sole Durability - Score: 3.9
The Michelin rubber outsole held up well for our team of testers. Chris was not surprised with how the outsole held up. He said, "The durability was what I would expect from a speed oriented shoe, but not up to par with several durability guaranteed shoes. This is a shoe that will be worn out in a month or two for me, but that's not so much of an issue thanks to the guarantee."
"Like with the Propulse 2, I thought the Michelin rubber held up very well in this third version," said Jason. "There are definite signs of wear on the medial toe area, but nothing out of the ordinary. I'm not too harsh on my shoes, but I can see how the more demanding player could wear out the outsole in a couple months."
The shoe exceeded Jackson's expectations. He said, "I'm not sure if I played less in these than my previous Propulses (which is ridiculous since I feel like I haven't taken these off since I got them), but they showed little wear, even in the typical problem areas for me. Looking at the sole now, the only way I'd tell these were played in are some small pebbles stuck sporadically in the tread and a few scuffs here an there. This version definitely seems to have an edge over the previous generations."
Spencer was more than pleased. He said, "Though the shoes showed the expected wear in the usual places, I was completely satisfied with the durability. Given the excellent traction, I would normally expect the durability to be less, but that wasn't the case here. On top of that, if I had any concerns about durability, the 6 month durability guarantee put those concerns aside."
Toe Durability - Score: 4.2
Our two toe-dragging testers loved how durable the toe area was. Unable to put a dent in the material was Jackson. He said, "I had absolutely no issues with the durability of the toe, just as with the outsole. I couldn't even find a scratch on these."
Chris agreed. He said, "The toe durability was solid. The uppers are lasting better than the outsoles. The tip of the toe is well protected, as the outsole wraps up and offers some solid protection. Beyond that, the Cell Shield upper material provided good durability when the top of my trailing foot slid across the court on a wide lunge."
Traction - Score: 4.8
Our team agreed that the Michelin rubber used in the Propulse 3 provided top of the line traction. Moving well on court was Spencer. He said, "The Michelin outsole provided excellent traction on the hard courts. I usually prefer a herringbone pattern on my shoes, but found this non-traditional pattern to offer good tack, and maybe even enhance it. Not once did I experience any slips to hinder my movement. I was very happy with the traction."
Chris felt the shoe inspired confidence. He said, "I loved the traction I found and gave the shoes top marks here. I was able to move as fast as I can in them and never had to fear slipping or sliding. I only played on hard courts and found this shoe to offer the perfect level of hard court grip."
Jason appreciated the Michelin rubber. He said, "I was expecting a lot out of these shoes in this category because the previous version was so impressive. I was not disappointed. I thought the Propulse 3 gripped the court superbly well. I could move aggressively without fear of slippage. Outstanding."
Moving like a well-oiled super car was Jackson. He said, "The low to the ground feel and the weight of the shoe granted me the advantage of foot speed. The traction allowed me to put every muscle contraction to maximum use. I had the confidence of knowing these would stop me, and give me the torque of a 450 block V8 off the line. I did experience some sliding, but only enough to nit-pick at and prevent me from giving a perfect score."
Weight - Score: 4.7
The lightweight feel of the Propulse 3 had our team moving with speed and confidence. Having no issues was Jason. He said, "I love shoes that are not only lightweight, but have that low to the ground feel, and this shoe has both. I don't know what the measured weight is, and I don't really care. All I know is that they feel light and agile on court."
Jackson felt like Cinderella putting on the glass slipper. He said, "These shoes were the perfect weight for me. Light enough for me to go all out on every sprint to get to every ball and not be gassed by the end of the first set, but not so light that it felt like I'd bust out of them, either. These shoes had substance, enough to give you that same feeling of holding a significant piece of electronics; it's fast, it performs well, and you can also use it to knock someone out if they try to jump you."
"I gave the shoes top marks here, too," said Chris, who loved the ride. "They felt very light on my feet and were faster feeling then the previous versions. Without comparing the weights, I would put the faster feel down to the better flex in the forefoot of the Propulse 3. They seemed to hide their weight better because of it."
The static weight was deceiving to Spencer. He said, "Though over 16 ounces in weight for a size 10.5 shoe, the feel of the shoe on court didn't match the listed weight. Offering a fast feel around the court, I would have guess this to be more of a speed shoe based on the performance."
Overall - Score: 4.3
Chris - "I liked the fast feel, the support straps work and the traction was perfect."
Jason - "Really loved the low-to-the-ground feel and the heel support."
Spencer - "The look and the locked-in feel around the midfoot and heel."
Jackson - "Everything."
Chris - "No gripes for me. I really enjoyed this playtest."
Jason - "The heel collar came up too high for me and the uppers were a tad too soft."
Spencer - "The upper in the forefoot was a bit too flexible and sloppy feeling."
Jackson - "Nothing."
Comparing the Propulse 3s to previous versions, as well as other shoes they have worn, our testers said:
Chris "This was the fastest version of the Propulse so far for me. I liked the added flex for speed, but it did mean sacrificing a little support in the forefoot. Overall, I thought the fit was great and I was able to cinch them securely, even though I have narrow feet. Outside of the adidas adiPURE Pro, this was the best fitting shoe that we've tested so far."
Jason "I liked the lighter weight feel and cushioning of this latest version, but prefer the more supportive upper of the Propulse 2."
Spencer "Compared to the two previous versions of the Propulse, I thought it lacked in support and stability. The Propulse 2 offered a stiffer, more rigid feel, resulting in a more solid feel. The cosmetics on the Propulse 3 have an awesome, techie look to them."
Jackson "In my opinion the Propulse 3s are in a class of their own, and Babolat has continued to improve upon an already solid-performing shoe with the 3."
Playtester Foot Types:
Chris - Narrow width / Medium arch
Jason - Wide width / Low arch
Spencer - Medium width / Medium arch
Jackson - Medium width / Medium arch
Review date: June 2011. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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