Sunday, May 19, 2024

Li Ning Feidian 4 Ultra Review: 7 Comparisons

Article by Derek Li

Li Ning Feidian 4 Ultra 

Li Ning is arguably China’s most recognizable sports brand, founded in 1989 by former Olympic gymnast Li Ning.  They sell equipment for many sports and in the past couple of years, they have really started to make a more concerted push in the running market. 

I currently own 3 pairs of Li Ning shoes, all personal purchases: the Feidian 3 Ultra, Feidian 4 Ultra and the Feidian 4 Challenger. 

Their highest end range of running shoes are the Challenger, Elite and Ultra range. 

The Challenger model can be considered the lightweight trainer of the range, while the Elite is more of a road racer, easily good enough for the full marathon, but the Ultra is increasingly being considered their top tier super shoe. We are now into version 4, just released earlier in the year. Do note, however, that the Ultra series only came out for v3 and v4; the Elite was the top tier racer up until v2. Now that all that’s out of the way, let’s delve into the specs. 

Stack heights are always a bit of a black hole with Chinese shoes. They hardly ever publish the numbers, and even when they do, it’s usually midsole stack without taking into consideration the combined stack with sockliner and outsole. That’s why I never quite know what the stack is going to be until I get the shoes and measure them myself. 


Measured stack: Heel 42.5mm Forefoot 35.5mm, 7mm drop

Weight 228g / 8.04oz for Men’s US9.5 /Eur43

Platform Widths: Forefoot 111mm /  Midfoot 54mm / Heel 78mm

The pricing  works out roughly to US320 (pegged to the same price as the Nike Alphafly in China. Yes, the Alphafly MSRP is really high in China for some reason, while  the VF Next%3 retails in China at US$235)

Upper, Fit, First Impressions

There is always an impression that the shoes out of China are a little less polished, but that is something that is gradually changing. And with a price tag as here, one can hardly be forgiven for expecting nothing short of the very best quality. 

The shoe is stunning in hand. The nylon mesh upper is not overly soft, and gives very good structure and volume while retaining excellent breathability. It has a slightly reflective opalescent appearance that really doesn’t get captured well in photographs. The very eye-catching design of the midsole also has a nice reflective finish at the forefoot. There is so much white on this shoe that I have chosen to only run it on fair weather days!

There are internal laminates in key areas like the front toe guard, but also where the 5th toe might make contact with the upper on the side. The whole construct is a 1.5 piece sock-like fit. With a knitted section serving as the integrated tongue.

The heel counter is semi-rigid and you kind of squeeze your foot into the shoe with the help of the heel pull tab. 

Thick padding around the rim of the opening really help keep the foot well planted in the shoe.  The ankle opening is quite similar to what you get with the Alphafly, and you get better at it over time. Overall volume is on the lower side at the heel, but opens up quite nicely at the toe box. 

One thing I really enjoy with Li Ning’s shoes is all the models tend to fit my feet really well. You don’t actually have to have much tension on the laces at all, and there is zero foot movement in the shoe. 


There is a lot of radical sculpting here, and it’s not just cosmetic. The foam used is beaded PEBA and is on the firmer side, though it does soften up a bit more after the first couple of runs. 

(Source: Li Ning official store on Taobao)

The sandwiched plate is really radical and seems designed to accentuate the rebound at forefoot push off. Given the high stack, they have opted to raise the sidewalls quite a lot at the level of the metatarso-phalangeal joints to improve stability on the run. This also gives the visual impression that the forefoot stack is very high, when in fact, comparing numbers, forefoot stack is still about the same as on the Nike Alphafly 3. 

The overall stability of this shoe is good. I’d say, better than Metaspeed Edge Paris, Alphafly 3, and Adios Pro 3. Part of it is the foam. It’s on the firmer side as far as PEBA goes, slightly firmer than Lightstrike Pro, so it doesn’t deform as much on impact. 

The raised midsole sidewalls plus the construct and stiffness of the plate also give it a very mechanical forward roll the the rocker, similar to the Nike Tempo Next%. A very supinated foot striker might well find the shoe to feel a bit clunky due to the high torsional stiffness. 


The outsole uses polyurethane, a common theme amongst Chinese shoes. Grip and durability have proven to be quite good. 

Coverage is mainly at the forefoot, and here you can also appreciate the nice aesthetic touch they have given to the forefoot rubber. 

Ride and conclusions

This shoe is a rocket ship, and definitely a top tier super shoe. It’s not a soft shoe, but the rebound you get at the forefoot on push off is quite special. It’s best described as a deep, dense, energetic springiness. 

Underfoot, the heel is firmer than the forefoot because of the proximity of the plate to the foot at the heel, but the midsole still compresses a little. 

The moderate 7mm measured drop lends the shoe well to both traditional heel striking and mid-forefoot striking. As I mentioned above, the forward roll of this shoe is quite mechanical, and reminds me a bit of the Nike Tempo Next%. 

Even though the foam is firm, the high stack still ensures that ground feel is very much muted and the shoe is by no means harsh. The overall balance of the shoe is very good, and with the excellent upper, the shoe just disappears on your feet. 

As with most Asian shoe models, the arch is not built up and people with lower arches will have no problems with this shoe. This is one of the more stable super shoes on the market, mainly because the foam does not deform much at the edges when you land. Even though the heel is fairly narrow, I think most people will find that this shoe navigates corners well because the midsole sidewalls and the upper give a very confident bracing effect when you need to lean into a corner. My main concern is for people with wider feet. The raised midsole sidewalls mean there is less room for splay and stretch. 

The ride is pretty close to the magic of the Nike Alphafly 1 Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro 2, but beyond pure mechanical assistance and dynamism of the ride, the fit of the Feidian Ultra 4 for me is easily one of the most sublime in recent memory. That makes the shoe work just a little bit better, when you don’t have to be particular with sock options and lace tension. 

Score: 9.50 / 10

Ride (50%): 9.6 Fit (30%): 10 Value (15%): 8 Style (5%):  10

Smiles: 😊😊😊😊😊

7 Comparisons

Nike Alphafly 3 (RTR Review)

I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The rocker feel is much stronger and more aggressive in the Feidian. In terms of absolute leg saving cushioning, the AF3 is still the better (best?) shoe, but in terms of propulsive assistance, I think the Feidian is better. 

Nike Vaporfly 3 (RTR Review)

I wear US9.5 for the Feidian, and can get away with US9.0 with VF3 in thin socks. The softness differential between the heel and forefoot for VF3 and the Feidian are actually fairly similar, just that the Feidian foam is inherently firmer. Both shoes transition very smoothly, but the Feidian’s cushioning is just a little better, with less ground feel and a stronger rebound on push off. I consider the Feidian the better shoe. 

ASICS Metaspeed Edge Paris (RTR Review)

I wear US9.5 for both shoes. The Edge Paris is softer and more cushioned. Both shoes have similarly good spring on toe off. The Feidian has the better upper and lockdown for me, though the Edge Paris upper is softer and more pliant. The Feidian has a little bit more stack at the heel but both shoes have about the same forefoot stack. I think lighter runners might appreciate the softer foam of the Edge Paris more, while heavier runners will likely better load the foam of the Feidian and get a bit more oomph out of the shoe. For shorter races, I would probably take the Edge Paris as the lighter option. 

Adidas Adios Pro 3 (RTR Review)

I wear US9.5 for both shoes. The Feidian is slightly firmer underfoot and that makes it the more stable option, but crucially, it also has a more effective and aggressive rocker and the roll through is a lot smoother and faster. The upper of the Feidian is also more effective. Overall the Feidian is the more efficient shoe for me. 

Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro 2 (RTR Review)

I wear US9.5 for both shoes. The comparison is a lot closer here. The Rebellion Pro 2 is softer and the rebound off the forefoot is about as good as the Feidian. The key differences lie in the lockdown of the upper and stability. The Feidian is a lot more stable as a shoe and also has a more structured and fitting upper compared to the Rebellion Pro 2. I think for a flat course with few corners, I might lean more toward the Rebellion Pro 2. Otherwise, if cornering performance is prioritized, I would go with the Feidian. 

Saucony Endorphin Pro 4 (RTR Review)

I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Feidian is significantly more cushioned, with a more aggressive rocker. The EP4 is a lot softer but tends to feel a bit flat as a consequence with a less aggressive rocker. I think people with higher volume feet would prefer the EP4, but otherwise I don’t see any reason not to go with the Feidian. 

Diadora Gara Carbon (RTR Review)

I wear US9.5 in both shoes (though I would say the Gara Carbon might well fit a half size long). The Gara Carbon is a soft and bouncy shoe but its low drop means it is really more geared toward mid-forefoot strikers to engage it. The Feidian, while firmer, actually has geometry that works for a wider range of running styles. The Gara Carbon is more cushioned and more fun for long runs and easy runs, but when it comes to race pace and uptempo running, the Feidian feels a lot better.

Derek is in his 40’s and trains 70-80 miles per week at 7 to 8 minute pace in mostly tropical conditions in Singapore. He has a 2:39 marathon PR from the 2022 Zurich Marathon.

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