The adidas Pulseboost HD is a new runner from Adidas that debuts Boost HD, a brand new version of Adidas’ beloved Boost cushioning.
Boost originally debuted in 2013 and today “Boost is Life” is an often-recited fan mantra. The inclusion of Boost on any shoe is a clear indication that it will be comfortable. adidas has built huge brand equity in Boost. So why are they messing with the tried and true formula?
The good folks at adidas sent us the Pulseboost HD so we could try them and give you the details. The three of us put a bunch of miles on them, ran in all types of conditions, worked out in them, and, of course, rocked them casually. Here’s how it went:
Drew: Boost HD is much different than normal Boost. It’s more stable and feels stiff in comparison. It feels like you get back 100% of the energy of every footstep whereas with Boost you feel some of the energy dissipate into the cushion. Overall, the midsole is still very flexible but you don’t sink into the cushion like you do with Boost. Boost HD feels very much like adidas’ Bounce. Bounce and Boost HD are really similar and for now, I prefer Bounce. This being the first iteration of Boost HD, I hope they tweak it so it’s just a touch bouncier. It works well for speedwork but anything over 5 miles and you’ll feel it.
Jodi: I wasn’t impressed with the high density version of Boost. I know when it comes to Boost and running there’s some people that don’t love it. The main complaint being that Boost can be too mushy. I’m not one of those people. I’m a huge fan of the Ultraboost 2019. But going from the UB19 to the Pulseboost HD I felt like I was running on cardboard. There just wasn’t much give when landing. With Boost in mind, the step-in comfort was a disappointment.
On a slightly unrelated side note, the LTD version comes with a tinted midsole. I think they were trying to match it up with the reflective pieces. I wish they hadn’t done that. The greyish midsole made the shoe look dirty before I had even gotten them outside. This has nothing to do with performance, but if you’re buying these for casual wear and want a clean looking shoe, the LTD’s look might drive you crazy. I showed my pair to a lot of people and they made similar comments about the midsole.
Bryan: Boost HD is dense, absorbing, and not your normal Boost. It made the shoe feel quicker under foot, at least from a cushioning perspective (more to come on that in the Fit section). It’s more Pureboost than Ultraboost.
Drew: The outsole of the adidas Pulseboost HD is Continental rubber and looks super knobby like a mountain bike tire. There’s also some extra high abrasion rubber strips on both the lateral and medial side of the forefoot. It’s way more rubber than typically seen on a Boost shoe. They’re marketed for an urban environment so all this rubber was added to increase durability. And it will be more durable than the outsole on the Ultraboost 19. It occasionally picked up some very small debris in the square holes that show the Boost. Nothing that affected performance like with older Nike Frees but it’s something to consider. Also, I loved how the outsole really grabbed the track when I was doing speed work. It was nice and grippy on toe off and I felt it made a difference in my speed.
Jodi: The traction on the Pulseboost HD is excellent. To take a line from Nightwing2303, “it’s rip your face off traction.” Continental rubber is killing it in this pixelated rendition. If I were to try out for America’s Ninja Warrior this is the kind of traction I’d want to get me up the warped wall.
Bryan: The traction is great with the multi-level design. It hasn’t worn down much except for a little on the nubs. I love the rounded, natural motion outsole/midsole design. It made transition feel smooth and easy. Toe-off is smooth and the small amount of outsole that runs up the heel gives increased stability on heel strikes.
Drew: All knit everything. The Pulseboost HD’s upper is basically a sock with a thin internal heel counter inside the knit. The upper’s materials and construction remind me a lot of the adidas Ultraboost Mid. The cut is lower than the Ultraboost Mid but the materials seem more concerned with pulling off a nice casual look than with performance. One note: on the right shoe’s ornamental tongue there’s a QR code that links to an exclusive Spotify playlist. I (and several others) could never get the QR code to work. If anyone has a direct link to the playlist hit me up on Twitter.
Jodi: I was sent the LTD version, so my upper had extra reflective hits worked into it. Something I always appreciate. The sidewalls are sort of reinforced while the collar area and toe box are super stretchy. Because of that the wearer gets easy entry and plenty of wiggle room in the forefoot.
Bryan: It’s knit so there’s not much to say. The Pulseboost HD feels great on foot and conforms with every movement but it doesn’t offer any stability at all.
Drew: The Pulseboost HD is wider than the Ultraboost 19 so wide footers won’t feel suffocated. The knit upper is comfy but the collar height is a strange middle ground between a low and a mid. It hits the ankle at a weird place and may cause blisters rubbing the bottom of your ankle (if your socks aren’t high enough). The collar does feature a knit pull tab at the heel to help slide on the shoes. The laces, well, they don’t really do much. You can get them slightly tighter in the midfoot but nothing that really helps the fit. I tried them sans laces and the fit wasn’t much different. It did feel weird not to have a little weight up top where the laces go. It also looked weird. So the laces went back on and that’s when I noticed that they could tighten a bit at the midfoot. Largely useless, but depending on your foot shape the laces may or may not help.
Jodi: You know that old pair of sweatpants that you should have probably junked a few years ago? The elastic is kind of shot, they have holes and/or stains and your significant other is definitely going to give you the side eye if you try to wear them out of the house? That’s how these fit. I’m all for straight out of the box, all ready broken in shoes. That’s everyone’s dream as far as sneakers go. Unfortunately, the Pulseboost’s fit was on the sloppy side. I kinda felt like I had gotten someone’s hand me downs.
Bryan: Fit in the forefoot is ok, nothing locked in but not restrictive either, just there. Heel lockdown is non-existent. The laces didn’t do anything for me. My heel was almost slipping out of the shoe while running with no way to fix it. Pair that with the heavier midsole and for me the fit of the shoe was clunky and slow.
Drew: Ha. Pretty much nothing to see here. The thin plastic heel counter and the fact that your heel (but not the rest of your foot) sits slightly within the midsole provide the only support. The knit isn’t tight enough to offer much in the way of support either. I’d stay away from using these on trails or rough surfaces of any kind. These are built for pavement, asphalt, and tracks.
Jodi: “Worn in” exactly describes the overall feel of this whole shoe for me. The upper has plenty of different types of stitching throughout to try and help with stability but it just didn’t work. When making tight turns I could feel myself drifting inside the shoes. I believe this is something that could have been remedied with a better lacing setup. The laces on these guys are purely ornamental. And I’m a wide-footer with a high arch so drifting inside a shoe is rarely, if ever, a problem for me.
Bryan: None. Nada. Minimal soft heel cup, nothing in the midfoot knit, and a wide base for stable landings on uneven surfaces. Again, the Pulseboost just feels sloppy on foot.
Drew: I liked the adidas Pulseboost HD in my speed workouts and as a casual shoe. I hope to see adidas tinker with Boost HD so it provides a slightly different feel from Bounce. If you love rocking Boost, but it’s always been too bouncy for you, check out Boost HD. It might be just what you wanted.
Jodi: It’s a “meh” performance shoe. It’s not that it performed poorly, it just didn’t measure up with what’s out there right now. After 50+ miles I know it CAN get the job done. I also know I have other runners in my current rotation (including other adidas models) that I enjoy more.
Bryan: The adidas Pulseboost HD looks good, really nice in my opinion. Other that looks though, it just wasn’t a great shoe for me.