Nike Romaleos 3 vs. 4: Should You Upgrade?

Nike Romaleos 3 vs. 4: Should You Upgrade?

The Nike Romaleos are the most successful squat shoe series in the world of powerlifting. It started gaining massive popularity by the release of the Romaleos 2 back in 2012. Today, I’ll compare the latest iterations: Nike Romaleos 3 vs. 4. 

So what is the difference between Nike Romaleos 3 vs 4?  

The Romaleos 4 has two straps that provide better bracing than the single strap of the Romaleos 3. While some lifters may prefer the lighter midsoles featured in Romaleos 3, the Romaleos 4 have a denser construction with better attention to the major stress-bearing areas. Both the Romaleos 3 and 4 have 0.75” heels.

All in all, I think the 4’s excel by a wide margin. I like that they’re built with a denser upper that offers impeccable durability, no matter how often you work out, or how much you lift. 

A Quick Look at Each Edition 

Let’s take a quick overview before heading to the detailed comparison. 

The Romaleos 3

The Romaleos 3 were released in 2017. After a couple of months, people started noticing some major issues in durability. Luckily, in 2019, Nike took it upon itself to revamp the design in the next version: Romaleos 3 XD.

Pros

  • Superior comfort
  • Equipped with the Flywire technology
  • Lightweight
  • They come with 2 insoles: soft and hard

Cons 

  • Flimsy construction (the original version)
  • Have only one support strap

The Romaleos 4

In 2020, Nike finally released the latest version: Romaleos 4. Until now, the feedback lies well into the positive extreme. Nevertheless, Nike released the Romaleos 4 SD after a couple of months in an effort to fit lifters who have wide feet. 

Pros

  • Hefty build
  • Firm fabric upper
  • Have double support straps
  • True to size

Cons 

  • They don’t feature the Flywire technology

Detailed Face-To-Face Comparison

Now let’s start diving into the actual differences to see how they can affect your performance. 

Heel Height

Heel Height: Nike Romaleos 3 vs 4

Without a doubt, the first thing that you should consider before purchasing lifting shoes is the heel height. It could double up your gains, but it could also ruin your workout if picked wrong.

Thankfully, Nike made it easier for folks who can’t make up their mind. The Romaleos 4 come with a 20mm heel (0.75”), which is the same height featured in the 3’s. 

If you ask me, I’m quite happy that they kept it that way. 0.75” is the gold standard height. It won’t feel too uncomfortable for first-timers, yet it’ll do its job nearly as efficiently as the taller ones. 

Are heels always good? Not necessarily. For instance, people who prefer low-bar squats would be better off wearing a pair of flat shoes, like the iconic Chuck Taylors. I’ve written a full article on this matter, explaining when, why, and how to pick between heeled and flat shoes. Make sure to give it a look! 

Heel Construction

Heel Construction: Nike Romaleos 3 vs 4

Both shoes are equipped with sturdy TPU midsoles that don’t compress under the heftiest weights. However, Nike has done some important changes in the design. 

The Romaleos 3

Nike wanted the Romaleos 3 to revolutionize the heel design of weightlifting shoes. Instead of going with the regular solid construction, they arranged the TPU in a honeycomb shape that manifests over the outsole. And since that construction requires less material, these shoes became one of the lightest options on the market. 

To improve the aesthetics, Nike placed a bunch of parallel diagonal plastic lines over the outer part of the heel. 

The Romaleos 4

As silly as it may sound, Nike built the heels of the upgraded 4’s by bringing back what they introduced in the 2’s: the Powerbridge. 

If you upend the Romaleos 4, you’ll see a transparent polygonal shape lying exactly underneath the heel. This represents the thicker TPU construction that flares as it approaches your heel until it completely cradles it. 

And instead of the diagonal lines we saw on the 3’s, Nike opted for a clear plastic cover that looks way cooler. 

The Winner: The Romaleos 4 

To be fair, it was a bold move from Nike to come out and try to change something as essential as the heel design. They were pretty successful, too; the 3’s weigh about four ounces less than the 4’s.

But is that what you need? Not really. The heavier the shoes, the more supportive. Those extra ounces would cement you to the ground, preparing you to lift heavier loads. That’s why I prefer the revamped Romaleos 4. 

Upper Construction

Upper Construction: Nike Romaleos 3 vs 4

The materials featured in the upper can directly influence your performance. As you’ll see, Nike did some serious improvements in the upgraded 4’s. 

The Romaleos 3

To complement the lighter build, Nike built the original 3’s from thin leather that takes minimal time to break in. 

At the forefoot area, Nike added multiple rows of stretchable mesh that adds a lot to the overall flexibility and breathability. In theory, that design tweak should make your workout much easier and more productive. However, it turns out that it does quite the opposite. 

See, the mesh is too weak to bear the stress of the constant toe splay that you inadvertently do to support yourself during most lifts. After it tears, the shoes will feel super loose, thereby forcing you to throw the pair away, even if everything else is still intact. 

The Romaleos 3 XD

In 2019, 2 years after the release of the original pair, Nike announced a new version of the 3’s that they called XD, short for “Extra Durability”. 

As the name suggests, the Romaleos 3 XD came to correct the serious durability issues of their predecessors. Nike replaced the flimsy mesh with perforated leather to improve the performance without impacting breathability. And thankfully, things worked out well this time. 

The Romaleos 4

Nike decided to ditch the leather and mesh that were used to make all of the previous versions of the Romaleos series. They used what seems to be a woven fabric, but they didn’t reveal the actual nature of that fabric. 

I won’t lie; the first time I heard about the fabric build, I thought it was completely absurd to employ such weak material. But I’m happy to say that I was proved wrong. The fabric is built with high density and complemented with tight stitching. I won’t be exaggerating if I said that it feels even firmer than leather.

The Winner: Tie

If we’re comparing between the 4’s and the original 3’s, the latter would be literally crushed! However, the XD’s are pretty good. 

Personally, I prefer the Romaleos 4. I like having that firm bracing that I can push my toes against, especially during squats. Lifters who want shoes that allow for wider toe splay should love the Romaleos 3 XD. 

Support Straps and Laces

Support Straps and Laces: Nike Romaleos 3 vs 4

No matter how strong the laces are, the support straps will always be mandatory. By squeezing your feet inside the shoes, they allow you to safely lift heavier weights.

The Romaleos 3

Unfortunately, the single support strap of the Romaleos 3 was one of the attributes that received a major backlash. 

Owing to the flimsy mesh build, many users reported premature ripping and stretching, which should never happen in a $200 pair. To make matters worse, its buckle was made from puny plastic that can’t withstand weights larger than 200 lbs. 

On the top 2 eyelets, Nike added its ingenious Flywire technology. In a nutshell, this feature comprises thin Vectran filaments that wrap around your feet to improve the support. Since they’re connected to the laces, the whole shoes will feel much tighter as you pull harder. 

The Romaleos 3 XD

On the XD’s, Nike built the support straps with a thicker mesh that can effectively withstand pulling. They also stitched a small leather pad at the end of each strap to improve the grip. 

And best of all, they used a robust metal buckle with a convenient roller. This way, you can pull the straps into the tightest setting with minimal force. 

As for the laces, they were already perfect; nothing needed to be upgraded. 

The Romaleos 4

Once again, Nike looked back at the Romaleos 2 for inspiration! They added two support straps: one over the tongue, and the other over the metatarsal area. By the nature of the beast, they had to make the straps shorter and thinner than the previous versions in order to fit together. But thankfully, this doesn’t affect the support at all. 

The laces were completely revamped, too. Instead of the conventional eyelets, Nike opted for fabric loops, which is quite similar to Reebok’s Legacylifters. Sadly, the Flywire technology was ditched. 

The Winner: The Romaleos 4

Naturally, double straps provide much firmer support. Plus, they allow you to fine-tune the fit. You can make the forefoot area looser in order to splay your toes. But at the same time, you can keep the collar area tight to splint your ankles in place. 

But I must say, I’m not fond of those fabric loops. Not only did they remove the Flywire technology, but they also don’t feel that sturdy. 

Sizing

Sizing: Nike Romaleos 3 vs 4

How accurate is the sizing in these shoes? Do they run big? Small? Or are they true to size? Let’s find out! 

The Romaleos 3 

Just like the majority of the weightlifting shoes, the Romaleos 3 run big; you might want to go down half a size from what you normally wear in a running pair. 

Nevertheless, that extra width narrows down at the toebox. This might feel a bit annoying for some people, especially those who like to splay their toes during squats.

The Romaleos 4

Nike built the Romaleos 4 true to size; you won’t need to pick a smaller size to achieve a better fit. 

Is that good? Well, yes and no. It’s great because the shoes are sized uniformly from toe to heel — you won’t encounter the same weird experience of the 3’s. But it might be bad because it goes against the norm; if someone doesn’t check enough reviews before buying, he’ll go down half a size as usual, which will leave him with an infernally tight pair. 

The Romaleos 4 SE

Nike released the SE’s as wider alternatives for the originals. They’ll suit people who have wide feet with large toe splay. 

Winner: Tie 

In terms of sizing, there’s no right and wrong. It all boils down to your personal preferences and what you’re used to wearing. Just bear in mind which runs small and which runs big to avoid picking a misfit. 

Design and Colors

Design and Colors: Nike Romaleos 3 vs 4

If you want something cool to brag about, both shoes will be excellent. Still, the minor differences in the design might leave you favoring a pair over the other. 

Nike Romaleos 3

Contrary to how the 2’s were designed, Nike decided to shrink the outer Swoosh and limit it to the forefoot. The mesh rows are molded around it, which makes it pop out more. 

Generally speaking, all the color schemes deliver satisfying contrast by varying the colors of the support straps and the Swoosh. Here are the currently available colors: 

Nike Romaleos 3 XD 

The XD’s look pretty identical to the originals. To allow the customers to visually identify them, Nike removed the inner Swoosh that was placed underneath the collar on the original 3’s. 

Here are the currently available colors: 

Nike Romaleos 4

Without a doubt, newer models take the spotlight since they’re usually made to follow the latest trends. I know that the visual appeal is hugely variable between people, but I think that the Romaleos 4 really outdo their predecessors. 

The first and clearest difference is in the Swoosh. Nike printed it over the whole outer face, making it much more visible from a distance. But instead of making it solid as usual, they opted for a sleeker outline that looks super unique. 

Furthermore, they added another huge Swoosh on the outsole, just underneath the forefoot. Although it doesn’t really appear that much, it adds to the overall cool hype. 

Here are the currently available colors:

Nike Romaleos 4 SD 

Until now, the SD’s come in only one version. Unlike the original 4’s, Nike used a solid Swoosh that has a mesmerizing violet/flash-crimson gradient. To let that Swoosh shine, the rest of the shoes had to be colored in white. 

You might disagree, but I think Nike went too far with the outsole. They divided it into two halves: the first is colored in flash crimson, while the other is given a sky blue tint. With all due respect, this color combination looks a bit childish to me. 

I really hope to see more versions that look less playful, especially that the SD’s wider toebox is an essential upgrade. 

In Summary, What’s Unique About Each Version? 

To better illustrate the major differences, let’s see the things that make each version stand out. 

The Romaleos 3

  • More Comfortable: The leather/mesh construction of the original version and the full leather build of the XD’s are more flexible than the fabric upper of the 4’s. 
  • Flywire technology: The top two eyelets are connected to thin elastic wires that wrap around the whole upper. This way, the Romaleos 3 will feel much tighter as you pull the laces harder. 
  • Thick tongue (only in Rom 3 XD): The tongue is generously cushioned with superiorly comfortable material. This way, you can pull the laces to the maximum tightness without feeling the slightest bit of discomfort. 
  • Lightweight: The TPU midsole is built in a honeycomb pattern that cuts down on the amount of the needed material. 

The Romaleos 4 

  • Double straps: With that additional strap, you’ll enjoy a drastically improved level of support. 
  • Heavier build: The TPU midsole covers a larger area with a higher density. This should enhance the support by cementing your feet to the ground. 
  • True to size: The Romaleos 4 eliminates the need for guesswork. You can purchase the same size you normally wear without worrying about the fit. 
  • More attractive colors: The Romaleos 4 come in a variety of bright, attractive colors that will give you something to brag about! 

The Final Word

After exploring the ins and outs of the Nike Romaleos 3 vs. 4 duel, I can’t really pick an ultimate winner. I can, however, quickly recap the differences so that you can make up your mind. 

Use the Nike Romaleos 3 if:

  • You want to wear a lightweight pair 
  • You don’t fancy firm uppers
  • You usually perform workouts that bend the forefoot 
  • You want to receive 2 insoles

Use the Nike Romaleos 4 if 

  • You want superior durability 
  • You favor firmer, heavier support
  • You have wide feet (get the SD version)
  • You want something that looks super cool and trendy

Fancy more options? Check out my articles on the best shoes for squats and deadlifts