In my more than a dozen years working with TENNIS magazine and TENNIS.com, I’ve gotten to cover some great events and test out all types of equipment. However, in all of that time—and actually in my 30+ years playing the sport—I’ve never once wore a pair of Lotto shoes. I realize ending that drought isn’t quite the bucket-list event as attending the Aussie Open, but after playing with Raptor Ultra IV ($95) I now wonder what I’ve been missing.
I had always lumped Lotto in with the other shoe brands that lean more towards fashion over function. I had no valid reason for such a shortsighted sentiment other than they usually have showy colors. When I opened the box and found the glossy black-and-orange combo with a choice of laces in either color, I felt my suspicions might be confirmed. But the model worn by roadrunner David Ferrer had to have some substance.
Picking it up and giving it a different eyeball test, it’s easy to tell the Raptor Ultra IV is built for performance. And when I told my playing partner that I would be trying out a new pair of shoes, he commented: “Those just look like solid shoes.”
In previous reviews I’ve mentioned that one of my main criteria for a tennis shoe is that I don’t notice it. My own performance is more than enough to worry about during a match; I don’t need to consider the reliability of my footwear. Fit well, prevent slipping, and stand up to the pounding—that’s what I’m after. If it happens to be particularly comfortable and not bad to look at, all the better. The Raptor IV more than held its own in each of these categories.
While the Raptor Ultra IV is not at all cumbersome, I wouldn’t consider it a lightweight, fast shoe. My lasting impression was of stability and security. It feels firm when you first start playing with it, but it requires a very limited break-in period. I hardly did any walking in them before I played and experienced no comfort issues. There’s a curved cutout in the midsole—you can see right through it—revealing the Syn-Pulse cushioning system that also acts like a spring for a quicker first step.
The traction of the outsole also stood out. I demoed the Raptor Ultra IV on a slick, indoor clay court and moved with complete confidence. My opponent had two noticeable slips, but I had zero issues with changing directions. I felt dug into the court and responsive.
If you missed out on the Raptor Ultra IV in 2013, nothing will be changing in the 2014 models other than some flashy new colorways. But don’t be misled into thinking it’s all about appearance. These shoes deliver where it matters most.
David Ferrer's shoe of choice is quite a find.
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