“Best Run Ever”. Tagline for the new adidas Ultra Boost, as put out by adidas Running. I have heard some outrageous claims in my life, but basically saying you have created he “best running shoe ever” is pretty large. But is it false? I know – we should find out!!!!
Materials – We start here because it was the first thing I noticed. Upper is PrimeKnit, and it feels completely different from the PrimeKnit Boost from last summer. For one, it is more forgiving, meaning it stretches and flexes more. Last year the PrimeKnit wasn’t rigid, but it was more structured. This version feels like a padded sock, which, think about it, feels pretty good. There are some tighter weaves in high-stress areas, such as around the toe box, which is what makes these weaves and knits so amazing – they can be woven for specific uses, becoming flexible when needed and loose and comfy in other areas. I know I stay ranting on leather uppers for basketball, but mesh and knits in running just make sense.
Cushioning – Of course the next thing we have to hit is the Boost midsole. If you haven’t tried Boost, stop reading this right now, go to the nearest shoe store, find a pair, and get them on feet. See if I don’t preach the truth – Boost is the best foam cushioning in running right now. Hands down. IT is responsive, protective, consistent (same front to back and day after day) and durable. Like 3000 tiny little toe pillows, the pebbles compress and spring right back, giving a sensory feedback that your foot is being pushed into running. They sink in and push back and do it all again on the next step. As for durability, I have only had these about three weeks, but the Energy Boost I got last February still feel like new. Boost just lasts. It’s good.
Support – Here is where the shoe should be failing. Primeknit can’t possibly be supportive – it’s only yarn!!! And you would be correct, except for that big, split, purple heel counter and that black support cage around the midfoot. The cage I could take or leave. It did add a more secure and snug fit to the upper, but the upper is spandex and knit – it already fit great. If a way could be found to just lace up tight without the cage it could go away completely. The heel counter, however, is a thing of beauty. Matte finish and gold lettering, it is split in the back because, let’s face it, no one has ever rolled an ankle backwards. Cuts down a little weight, looks cool as he!!, and ties into the midfoot to secure the fit and hold it together. I wore these for running, both road and treadmill, and some crossfit and weight workouts, and the support was substantial enough to get me through. I won’t say they are cross-trainers – they aren’t going to hold up to lateral training you would find in basketball or football, but for normal gym workouts you should be okay.
Transition – I always feel weird doing a “traction” section in a running review, so we will call it “transition” – how did the shoe feel while moving. I love shoes that have one cushioning system – ClutchFit Drive and Micro G, full foot Zoom in Lebron XI, full Boost in the Ultra. The shoe just feels smooth and effortless – you don’t get that slappy feel as the shoe moves from one system or element to the other. The Ultra falls into the smooth category. The rocker toe (it is bent upward) coupled with the Boost and the Torsion system make the next step as easy as the first. I am normally a heel striker, but found myself running on forefoot and midfoot more in the Ultra, especially the midfoot. And I usually need some support as I pronate, but the neutral support of the Ultra felt good straight away. I was wondering about the outsole and its resemblance to the Pure Boost, which is NOT meant for running, and was told the rubber is spaced in this pattern to allow the Boost to expand as it compresses with no restriction. Seems to work so far. As for wear, some of the nubs in the midfoot have began flattening after 50 miles or so, but no noticeable wearing or breaking down.
Overall – adidas nailed the cushioning innovation two years ago when it introduced Boost and it just gets better with every release. This is my seventh pair of Boost shoes and only one has disappointed (but not because of the Boost — lack of Boost, yes). Price may be a deal-breaker for some, as they will release February 11 for $180. You can find Boost shoes for cheaper, and they are all monsters. If price is no object, and if you need a neutral, highly cushioned, responsive, well-fitting shoe, the Ultra is for you. Seeing what adidas is doing in the running category only gets me more excited about the basketball direction. Until then, I guess I will have to run more.