Under Armour is coming full force for the spring by unleashing HOVR. We just worked out the HOVR Phantom, and now the HOVR Sonic gets a turn. Yes, the both use HOVR, but that’s where the similarities end. Let’s ride…
You can purchase the HOVR Sonic at Eastbay.com
Where the HOVR Phantom used a nubby, turf pattern, the HOVR Sonic features a more traditional running sole. Black rubber layers the outsole and is textured for grip in wet or dry conditions. It is still thick and wears well, except for the nubs — after about three wears they were gone.
However, the nubs don’t cover the whole outsole. There are flex grooves cut into the sole for added traction and transition (the more the soles flex, the better traction usually is). The grooves also expose the foam but not so much that it wears the foam cushioning down; they’re more like little windows to see the tech.
On every condition tested, the traction was serious. From dry, asphalt roads, up and down some 100+ elevation hills, wet pavement, treadmill, and a little off-road, there was only stable grip. Even on wet, smooth surfaces the traction was like a road tire.
Also, that heel cup area that resembles a suction cup? It is, and it does. Just like the Under Armour Drive 4 in basketball, when you heel strike on a smooth surface it connects and offers a slight “pop” when it releases. It didn’t happen on fast, running movements but when wearing on hardwood floors or tile it was a little amusing to feel the shoe stick to the floor.
Under Armour is using HOVR, a foam cushion created with Dow Chemical, for the Sonic, and it is…wow. Olefin, the chemical name for HOVR, is bouncy and soft, if that makes sense. If not, follow along.
The foam will compress, like any foam, according to the amount of air in the compound. Foam will rebound due to the amount of rubber used. Therefore, at a point of compression, the foam will rebound and respond. Too much air and the foam is too soft and will lose rebound; too much rubber and the foam will be hard and stiff.
Under Armour tuned the HOVR Sonic for a stiffer ride than the HOVR Phantom. The HOVR Sonic is a fast shoe, with pop on the toe-off and rebound in the midsole that keeps your feet wanting to move forward. The Energy Web is in place around the HOVR foam to keep it caged, so compression doesn’t get too deep, and the EVA carrier (the white part you see externally) keeps things on the stable side. HOVR, to put it mildly, is the best cushioning Under Armour has ever used, from the tune-ability to the rebound, impact absorption, and durability.
The HOVR Sonic uses a flat knit weave for flexibility and comfort, and it freaking works. Like most knits, the weave is tighter in points of high-stress to help with containment and support (right around the toebox/lateral midfoot). Most materials will become stiffer when wound tight, so Under Armour opened the rest of the weave to improve the feel.
The top of the toebox and the “side panels” are extremely open and ventilated, meaning this is not a cold-weather or rain shoe — unless you like frozen piggies. Even though it is woven, the upper has very little stretch, so it should hold its shape.
Internal padding is minimal — you can see through most of the shoe. The heel is the only area with extra padding around the foot, with shaped pads right above the insole. This keeps the heel cup from rubbing through the thin sidewalls and also helps with heel lockdown.
While the HOVR Phantom felt about a half-size small, the HOVR Sonic is very true to size, at least for my needs. Going with my normal 10.5, there was about a finger’s width length in the toebox. Running shoes have to have a good fit, as the running community needs no blisters or hotspots from movement within the shoe, and the HOVR Sonic fit almost perfectly. There is a little extra room above the toes and when laced tight there is a slight overlap of the tongue and the side panels, but overall the midfoot is locked in and heel slip is a no-no.
Widefooters: feel free to check these out, unless you are a hobbit. The knit doesn’t stretch much, but the overall shape of the shoe should fit all except the widest of feet. Once laced, the heel is locked in, and if it doesn’t feel that way, use the farthest-back lace hole and you will definitely feel a difference.
Lace pressure should have been a problem with the thin and minimally padded tongue but the combination of flat laces and good fit meant I didn’t have to pull extremely tight for a locked-in feel.
Most fast shoes aren’t built for support, and the HOVR Sonic is a fast shoe. Not that support is bad, but the shoe is sleek and form-fitting with stiff cushioning, and that is about all you will get for structure.
The heel cup is there but it is soft and very flexible, so not much help there; the midfoot is supported by the midsole — no shank could be felt — but the thickness of the foam and the stiffness will keep your foot from bending backward (plantar fasciitis happens). There is no additional arch structure or bridge, so seriously, if you are a neutral/slight over-pronator, you should be good. If you need some help staying upright, you may want to run away from the HOVR Sonic.
Anytime a brand comes with a new technology that feels this good and performs this well it has to excite consumers. The HOVR Sonic is a fast, springy, responsive runner that will serve well for medium distance and sprint work. If you are a controlled, neutral runner or even just starting out and looking for a “do-it-all” shoe, the HOVR Sonic is serious. The traction works on any surface and the design is smooth and not overbearing, so if you don’t like loud you’re in luck.
One last note on the HOVR foam: there won’t be a comparison here to other brands, except to say that HOVR belongs in the discussion of top foams with adidas’ Boost, Brooks’ DNA Amp, and Reebok’s Floatride. Whether tuned for a softer ride like the HOVR Phantom or a firmer, faster feel like the Sonic, HOVR’s ability to absorb impact and respond quickly will have Under Armour in the talks for best midsole in 2018.
Don’t let the rules get in the way — HOVR may change the whole game for Under Armour.