Babolat Propulse 2 Tennis Shoe Review
The Propulse 2 has to be a good shoe, right? If you think about it, 2 is bigger than 1, so this new version has to be mathematically twice as good as the original -- and the original was an impressive shoe.
The Propulse 2 also has to be good enough for Andy Roddick. After all, it is his signature shoe. Roddick has significantly stepped up his game over the last season. The question is, has the Propulse 2 been improved enough to keep pace? We hit the courts for a playtest that spanned several months to find out if our math was correct and to make sure the Propulse 2 can support Roddick's new fitness level.
Read on for our in depth review, and be sure to check out the playtest video.
Comfort - Score: 4.3 Our TW playtesters were all in agreement; the Babolat Propulse 2 offered exceptional comfort after a very slight break-in period. Danny was thoroughly impressed. "This was the most comfortable Babolat shoe I've ever worn. I gave this shoe a day or two to break-in before I judged the comfort. There is not a lot of cushioning because this shoe is made for the aggressive tennis player, and this worked for me."
Liking the blend of feel and comfort was Spencer. "I enjoyed the fit right away. I noticed a little bit more room in the forefoot and vamp than in the previous model. This worked well for my foot, making the Propulse 2 that much more comfortable. It offered adequate cushioning while providing a low to the ground feel. Normally I'm not a huge fan of any kind of straps on a shoe, but the Footbelt Technology seemed to work well. I liked the locked in, performance feel. I was locked and loaded from the initial try-on."
Chris needed an extra pair of socks to fill out the wider forefoot. "For me, the ride was comfortable and the shoes hardly took any break-in at all. The fit felt a bit wider than the previous version so I had to work a little harder to get them cinched down and snug. Fortunately, the added strap at the heel did a great job of locking the back of my foot in. The added room in the forefoot was harder to fill, and I had to resort to wearing two pairs of socks or a really thick sock like a Thorlo level 3. I found the shoe a tad too soft and flexible. My feet would start to ache during a long match or if I wore them for more than two days straight when hitting."
Jason offered no criticism. "Nothing to complain about here. These shoes required hardly any break-in at all. They just felt great for the duration of the playtest. I liked the wider fit of these compared to the original Propulse, as it was a much better fit for my feet. Cushioning was more than adequate."
Jackson said,"This shoe was comfortable right out of the box, I almost didn't want to take them off after trying them on for the first time. The mesh in the shoe allowed for some of the best ventilation I've gotten out of any shoe, while the plastic skeleton and synthetic materials added support without rigidity. I love the lacing system of this shoe, the tongue was padded but also allowed for breathability, and the eyelets made for a quick, tight fit without putting too much pressure on the top of the foot. I also liked the elastic bands that held the tongue in place; some manufacturers haven't quite got that feature down as they will often rub against your foot, causing blisters, but in the Propulse 2s they do exactly what they're designed to do, and no more. The low-ride design of the shoe made me feel like I could run down any ball (and almost did), and they gave good feedback on my footwork. That being said, the cushioning wasn't all that great, but I didn't experience any shock to my feet while playing on hard courts."
Arch Support - Score: 4.0
The medium arch support on the Babolat Propulse 2 worked out great for our playtesters. Jackson found the support to match the low to the ground ride of the shoe. "The arch support felt medium-low to me and added to the low to the ground feel. I didn't experience any discomfort with the height of the arch. As someone with an average arch, the insole molded to my foot after about a week or two, contributing to the great court feel."
Even with his low arches, Jason had no problems. "The support on these shoes didn't hurt my arches at all. They seemed to compress down even more the more I wore them, so it was non-issue." Needing the arch to be a bit more firm was Chris. "The height of the arch support felt great. However, I would have preferred the shoe to be stiffer here, too. At the start of the test the shoes offered enough support, but after a month of hitting, they had softened up on me too much. Again, my feet were aching if I played a long match or wore them for consecutive days of hitting."
Spencer thought the arch fit well. "The medium arches supported my feet well. Any time I can go through a play test and have to be reminded to talk about the arches from the play test form, that's a good thing. That means that I didn't have any issues with arch support. The old saying, 'No news is good news' comes to mind." Finding an adequate amount of support was Danny. "I thought the arch support worked well for me, although it felt slightly low. If the shoe was narrower, the support and fit around the arch may have been better for me."
Foot Support/Stability - Score: 4.0
The Foot Belt technology found in the Babolat Propulse 2 seemed to be a hit with our TW playtesters. Chris fully utilized the Foot Belt. "I thought the straps were excellent. I was able to really cinch them down and improve the support of the shoes. With the wider feeling fit and the soft uppers, I made full use of the straps to keep my feet locked in and secure. There were times when my Achilles and arches ached, and I was able to stave off most of the aching by cinching down the straps very tightly. However, I had to make them so tight the straps became uncomfortable at times."
Spencer found a natural level of support from the shoes. "Though these shoes aren't the stiffest feeling shoes out there, I was thrilled with the stable feel I got when changing direction along the baseline. Along with the natural feeling fit, the Footbelt technology helped cinch in a very supportive feel. The combination of comfort with stability and support made for a wonderfully performing shoe."
Jason was surprised by the level of support he found. "I was reluctant to accept the effectiveness of the Foot Belt technology at first glance, but after the first time on the court, I was a believer. With Velcro straps on both the tongue and heel, I was really able to cinch my foot in and get a very secure fit. Unlike other playtesters with narrow feet, my wide foot felt secure the whole time and did not slide around in the shoe at all."
Danny found some additional support from the dual straps. "The Foot Belt technology of the Propulse 2 had a hand in the solid support and stability I found. The shoe worked well for me and I think the straps are made for the aggressive tennis player." Jackson was also wowed by the support of the shoes. "This was probably one of my favorite aspects of the shoes. The first Propulse shoe also had a Velcro foot strap, but the second generation took it a step further by adding a support strap across the heel. Even though it's a lot of Velcro for one shoe, these straps really helped lock in my feet. After lacing up the shoe and adjusting the straps, my feet weren't going anywhere. The structure of the shoe helped with the stability, the mesh made it comfortable to wear, and the firmer structures kept my foot from moving in the shoe."
Overall Sole Durability - Score: 4.3
After the month long playtest, our TW playtesters were amazed with how well the Michelin made rubber held up. The Michelin emblem on the outsoles was a good omen for Jackson. "The little Michelin man on the heel seemed to act as a personal bodyguard for the sole of the shoe. I noticed very little wear on the tread pattern and only saw what could be considered significant wear on the parts of the outsole that are typically abused the most. With all of the running and the aggressive starting and stopping, these shoes barely gave up any of their tread. I would probably have to put in some effort to wear these down in the six-month durability period."
Finding the durability to meet his expectations was Spencer. "Expectations are high with any durability guaranteed shoe, and the Propulse 2 was no exception. I was completely satisfied with the wear, or lack of wear concerning the outsole. There were no premature signs of wear. The minimal wear I did see was in the usual places I wear down outsoles."
Danny was impressed by the level of durability. "I was surprised that I did not see more signs of wear during my 15-20 hours of testing this shoe. I didn't think this shoe was going to be that durable, but I have no complaints. I like the fact that this shoe comes with a six- month guarantee -- a great inclusion for all you roadrunners out there.
Jason only saw slight signs of wear "The Michelin rubber outsole held up exceptionably well. Only minor rubber loss was noticed on the front medial side of both shoes." Having a tough time wearing down the outsole was Chris. "This version of the Propulse seemed to be much more durable than the original. The outsoles held up very well, even in all of the usual high-wear areas. At the end of the test my shoes had plenty of tread left and were still offering excellent traction."
Toe Durability - Score: 4.0
The toe guard on the Babolat Propulse 2 has been improved and both our toe-dragging playtesters were impressed. Danny was surprised by the high durability. "Similar to my comments about the overall sole durability, I was surprised that the toe held up so well. The material felt light and weak, but the construction is deceivingly durable." Chris agreed. "The toe area seems much improved from the original. I wore through a seam at the toe on the original Propulse review, but with this second version, Babolat seem to have corrected that issue. I was impressed with the durability, and as with the outsoles, my shoes still have plenty of life left in them."
Traction - Score: 4.6
The Michelin made rubber on the Babolat Propulse 2 exceeded our expectations when it came to traction. Jason gave the shoe glowing remarks. "The unique tread pattern on these shoes gave it surprisingly top notch traction. There was no herringbone pattern and no pivot point, yet I was able to make all my cuts and pivots without slippage. I loved having the confidence of knowing the shoe was going to grip the court on every start and stop." Needing a slight break-in period before maximum traction was achieved was Spencer. "I was very impressed with the traction of the Propulse 2s. The non-traditional outsole pattern, with help from Michelin, proved to be quite effective. Once again, when the traction is combined with good support and stability, the results are impressive."
Finding this shoe to have more grip than a tire on a Formula 1 race car was Chris. "I gave these shoes top marks in traction. I found an excellent level of grip and was able to move at full speed and take aggressive cuts without fear of sliding or losing grip. As far as traction is concerned, this was the best I have found all year. Needless to say, I was very impressed." Danny didn't have any issues with the traction. ̉The outsole worked out great, and I had no slipping problems. Thumbs up for me." Jackson was also impressed. "Traction was great. The shoes gripped to the court without being sticky, which made hard, lateral stops a breeze. I had more time to get back into position to hit the next shot. My confidence on an all out run was undeterred, as I felt assured that I could stop on a dime if needed."
Weight - Score: 4.4
With a low-to-the-ground ride, the Babolat Propulse 2 felt significantly lighter to our TW playtesters than the listed static weight. Both Spencer and Danny were surprised at how light the shoe played. Spencer said, "Considering the excellent stability I experienced, I felt this shoe to be on the lighter side. Light enough to not feel any sluggishness, yet enough substance to offer a trusting stability." Added Danny, "I thought that this shoe played light. I was surprised to see that we list this shoe at 16.7 ounces in size 10.5. I think it plays lighter than listed. For me, this was a very maneuverable shoe."
Chris was moving like greased lightning in the Propulse 2. "I felt very fast in these shoes. They felt light, and because they were so flexible they moved well with my feet. I was able to cut aggressively and felt I could really float into position. The weight, combined with the excellent traction, had me moving at full speed." Ready for the track or the courts was Jason. "These shoes felt nice and light on my feet. The weight distribution combined with the low to the ground feel made for a fast feeling ride. This shoe is race day ready!"
Jackson said, "For an average weighted shoe it felt like a pretty light ride. I found myself running for balls I normally wouldn't run for and surprised myself when I was able to get a racquet on a ball I would normally consider out of reach. After a two-hour hitting session I almost forgot I was wearing them. I came off the court still feeling like I could run for miles."
Overall - Score: 4.2
The Propulse 2 makes a great choice for the fast moving player.. Its low to the ground ride, excellent traction, lightweight feel and supportive straps allow players to move at their full potential. There's no doubt Babolat has created a shoe that's more than capable of keeping up with the lighter, faster Roddick. It also seems ready to survive the rigors of the tour as it lives up to its six-month durability guarantee. A great option for the frequent hard court player, the Propulse 2 is one of the most impressive shoes we've tested this year.