Nike’s marketing pitch: Total support for moving in comfort.
Upper: PU-coated leather and synthetic leather with mesh tongue and lining. No sleeve.
Midsole: EVA foam midsole with 3/4th length Nike Air bag.
Outsole: Carbon rubber in a herringbone pattern.
Weight: 423 gms/ 15 Oz for a half pair of Men's US 10/UK 9/EUR 44/CM 27.1.
Widths available: D - regular (reviewed), 4E - extra-wide.
Country of origin: Made in Vietnam.
Recommended use cases: Daily casual wear, streetwear.
Recommended temperature range: Warmer than -5° C/23° F.
For this review, Solereview purchased the Nike Monarch IV at full retail price; the proof of purchase is below. We do not accept free samples for our reviews.
In this review:
SUMMARY AND VERDICT
The saying ‘they don’t make them like they used to’ applies to most products made in recent times.
Unless we’re talking about the Nike Monarch IV, a $80 oddity that didn’t get the memo. It’s exceptionally well-built for its price, has a comfortable and supportive ride, and is very durable.
This shoe is truly an oddity, and that’s a compliment. Originally sold as a cross-training shoe over two decades ago, the present-day Monarch IV is a cultural and functional crossover. It’s very much a shoe for suburban dads as it is a fashion staple; it’s equally at home during a Vogue photoshoot as it is inside a minivan parked on a cul-de-sac. If nothing, it’s a great daily beater which also doubles as a workout shoe.
There are very few shoes that achieve that level of success. Some New Balance shoes come to mind – like the 993 or 992’s for example – but they seem to get higher votes from the streetwear masses than the authentic dad crowd. Besides, the 9XX series makes a larger dent in the wallet. On the other hand, the New Balance 623 and 608 retain their dad shoe appeal with limited success in the fashion world.
Hoka is doing well as a lifestyle/dad sneaker brand, but it hasn’t made significant progress with its performance running shoe assortment as it did once. Also, Hoka’s pricing is much higher than what Nike Monarch and New Balance staples go for.
The Monarch IV can often be had for less than its advertised price, and that makes it incredible value for money. Just know that despite its quarter-length Air unit, the Monarch IV is neither soft nor plush.
This traditional sneaker has a firm ride and stiff upper that requires a longer break-in time than retro-runners with suede or mesh uppers. The PU-coated leather upper also makes the Monarch run hotter by limiting ventilation.
THE MIDSOLE DESIGN AND CUSHIONING
Many are familiar with the Monarch’s easygoing nature and supportive comfort for everyday walks. But let’s go further and take a closer look at what makes the Monarch the shoe it is.
The Monarch IV’s ‘full-length’ encapsulated Air would have you believe that the shoe has a soft ride. While the Monarch is a comfortable sneaker, ‘soft’ isn’t an adjective one would use to describe it.
Except for a mild sensation of step-in softness due to the insole and Air bag, the cushioning has a firm feel. While it never feels wooden, the midsole doesn’t have much give when stood on.
The non-removable footbed is the only plush part of the ride; it uses a smooth fabric over a thin foam layer. The Nike Air bag is located under the lasting fabric. It’s not a true full-length Air bag, but rather a three-quarter kind that stops short of the toe-box.
It’s worth mentioning that the Monarch did not get this particular ‘full-length’ unit until version 3 – the predecessor to the Monarch IV.
The Air bag isn’t very thick, so the firm EVA foam midsole is responsible for most of the cushioning. The forefoot is noticeably firmer than the heel because it doesn’t have the exposed foam window that the heel (see below) gets.
The cut-out window that’s directly under the heel allows the midsole to compress when loaded without the outsole getting in the way. The forefoot doesn’t get any of that, so the cushioning is firm and solid-footed.
And that’s what the Monarch IV is – a comfortable and very stable sneaker. The rubber outsole follows the 90’s cross-trainer design template, so it has nostalgic elements like the Herringbone pattern and ‘pivot point’ – a circular area that, in theory, makes quick turns easier. It’s one of those cool-sounding 90’s things.
The one-piece outsole has built-in flex grooves and cut-outs, and creates a supportive foundation. It wraps the firm EVA midsole under the forefoot and also forms a midfoot footbridge. This makes the Monarch IV more supportive than comparable retro-running inspired products.
With all this rubber and leather, the Monarch ends up weighing nearly 15 ounces (423 grams) for a US 10. That said, the shoe doesn’t feel bottom-heavy, so the 15-ounce bulk never becomes bothersome.
Besides its everyday wear appeal, there’s another use case for the Monarch – its protective upper and stable ride makes it an excellent shoe for weight training. This was originally a training shoe after all, so it doesn’t feel out of place in a gym.
The stiff midsole requires a few days to break in. The forefoot is completely inflexible out of the box, but after 2-3 days of wear, the midsole becomes slightly easier to bend.
The Monarch IV’s grip on dry and wet pavement is satisfactory. The outsole has a flat surface without deep lugs, so it hesitates over slick storm-drain covers when wet.
THE UPPER DESIGN AND FIT
The Nike Monarch IV has a true-to-size fit with a snug forefoot. If you’re a wide-footed Clydesdale, then you should consider the 4E (extra-wide).
And even if you’re not wide-footed, you should wear the Monarch with thick socks, and absolutely not barefoot.
Without a pair of thick socks, you can sense the seam – or rather one of the leather layers – on the inner forefoot. This is where the three different components are stitched over (see image below).
The next thing you should know about the upper is its lack of ventilation. There are ‘vents’ atop the forefoot, but those are blocked with mesh on the inside. The toe-box ceiling, in particular, uses a thick and spongy mesh on top of the foot. That’s good news for comfort, but detrimental to breathability.
If you work in non-climate-controlled interiors during summer, the Nike Monarch may not be the best shoe for the job. Unlike a running sneaker with a mesh upper, the Monarch IV will get stuffy and make the feet sweat during warm days.
The tongue is made of mesh, but its thick quilting restricts airflow. This shoe is great for colder weather, though.
Lastly, the tongue isn’t tethered to the sides, so there’s a fair bit of movement. These areas will not be deal-breakers for most people, but it’s good to get acquainted with the Monarch’s quirks.
The Monarch’s upper uses a combination of PU-coated real leather and synthetic leather. The toe-bumper, toe-box, and midfoot panels are made of real leather, whereas the rest of the upper (including the lacing eye-stay) are made of synthetic.
There are no mesh surfaces except for the tongue, so the Nike Monarch IV is very maintenance-friendly. A piece of damp cloth is all it takes to wipe off splashed dirt. If the shoe gets severely soiled, applying a shoe cleaner takes far less effort than it would on a mesh shoe.
The PU coating and synthetic exterior also do a good job of keeping the feet dry during drizzles and light showers, as it doesn’t absorb water the way textile uppers do.
The thick upper makes a break-in period necessary; the Monarch IV feels much better after 3-4 days on the feet than it does on day 1.
We mean, just look at this shoe. The exterior uses leather panels, has embroidered logos on both the sides and heel, and decorative stitches are applied in abundance. The tongue and heel are plump with padding, and cocoon the foot like very few other shoes do.
And that’s just the upper. The midsole has a large air bag inside, a full-coverage outsole, and what have you. All the parts come together in a product that doesn’t look and feel cheap, and hits way above its price segment.
The footbed inside the Monarch IV is glued tight to the lasting, so it’s difficult to replace it with an orthotic. On the bright side, the firm midsole provides all the support one needs.
It makes more sense to get a comparable shoe with a non-removable insole. The New Balance 623V3 has a replaceable insole and is the Monarch IV’s closest match.
PROS AND CONS
We sang praises about the Monarch’s exceptional price value, fully loaded upper, comfortable ride, durability, and multi-generational appeal. The upper is easy to maintain as well.
Among its few shortcomings would be the warm upper, the internal forefoot seam, and the mildly annoying tongue slide. Though the shoe weighs 15 ounces, the weight is distributed optimally between the upper and sole, so it’s not large of a concern.
SHOES COMPARABLE TO THE NIKE MONARCH IV
Both the New Balance 623V3 and 624 V2 have a similar design as the Monarch, but with a removable insole. The replaceable footbed comes in handy when inserting an orthotic. However, you won’t get the street cred of the Monarch or its Air bag.
Retro trainers like the New Balance 530 and 550 have leather uppers, but they are cupsole-based court trainers with a stiffer ride and relatively cramped interiors.