HOVR has been a huge hit for Under Armour since the Phantom first appeared in November 2017 (at least that was when I put my fist pair on my feet). UA quickly spread the technology across all platforms, but we haven’t seen a shoe in the training category with soft, plush, and stable cushioning from them – until now. Enter the HOVR Apex. Let’s go…
Borrowing heavily from the Under Armour Tri-Base Reign, a shoe that released last spring and focused on CrossFit-style training, the Apex keeps the midfoot delta plate but supplements the forefoot with a diamond-nub turf training pattern. The rubber is thick but not overly hard, but over the last month and a half of wearing the shoe everywhere (weight room, treadmill, stairstepper, roads, casual) I have seen no fraying and very little wearing down. The good thing about being a little softer is traction on wet surfaces doesn’t suffer, so when that rubber floor under the squat rack gets that nasty-good summertime sweat or when a surprise rain pops up you still get some good grip. There are also some deep flex grooves in the forefoot so the shoe stays in contact with the surface at all times. As for outdoor exercises, mainly thinking of turf/grass, you won’t get hat deep grip like a normal football/soccer cleat, but for rope drills, running, and light lateral work you will be good.
This is where the magic happens. When HOVR appeared in the Phantom and the Sonic at The Running Event in Austin two years ago, it was immediately the best cushioning Under Armour had ever had. Nothing has changed. If you haven’t tried HOVR, or only tried it in the basketball line, don’t judge. While it gets the job done in basketball (low-riding, impact protection, and stable), the running side is soft but responsive, rebounds well under foot, controlled chaos that makes your feet fell like they are springing off of the ground. That is the HOVR in the Apex. It is thick, dense, and super-cushy. While I normally don’t like soft cushioning in the weight room – it tends to deform under heavy loads and lead to instability – the Apex has enough structure built into the upper to keep the shoe upright. There is also enough forefoot cushioning to make the Apex a true crosstrainer, suitable for weights and running and being comfortable in both areas. If you like the Sonic and Phantom but didn’t feel the Havoc or Curry 6, you will be in love.
The upper of the Apex is a simple mesh with TPU overlays in the lace area and all around the toebox. The toebox overlays are thick but not solid sheets, meaning the upper keeps flexibility but still gets the protection, keeping whatever may hit your upper away from the mesh. It also provides a little structure around the footbed, helping to keep you from sliding off. The heel offers TPU support wings and heel cup. The one thing that sets the upper of the Apex apart, however, is the HUGE, padded tongue. This is 1990’s-era skate shoe padding, fat tongues, thick heel area, bulky foam. So far, the padding doesn’t lose shape either – the tongue still sticks out like a Metallica fan designed them. Cute.
Big shoe, big fit. I went true to size and could have possibly went down a half-size but I like a little room. My toes had about a half -inch in length and the extra padding all inside the upper kept my foot from moving or sliding even with the extra room. Wide-footers rejoice – you should be good unless you are the extreme of wide footers. Midfoot fit is locked in from the lacing, which is a simple up-and-down pattern, no gimmicks. The heel, well, the heel is completely set. Using the support wings and the lacing system that runs farther back than most lowtops, the heel can almost feel TOO locked in – I had to loosen my laces a couple of times once I began my workouts. Not a bad thing, but a thing. Mix that with the thick padding and your heel is sekuuuur like Kanye.
Boom, your in. The Tribase midsole/outsole is wide and flat, giving you a solid base for pushing off on lifts like squats/deadlifts but also a solid landing if you use the Apex for jumps and plyometrics. The Tribase also does a great job of tying in the heel and forefoot for torsional support and under the arch so your foot always bends the right way. The midsole is wide under the shoe as well, keeping any tipping at a minimum. The lacing system really holds the foot into the shoe, pulling the upper around your foot and your foot down into the footbed, keeping you close to the action.
The other main support structure is the heel wing system. The wings reach from the midsole into the last two lace holes, providing lateral support, but also are sewn into the lateral midsole structure, tying the whole support system together. This means if your foot slides a little sideways, the wings will hold, at least until the whole shoe rolls over, which won’t happen because of the wide base. Trust me – when you wear it, it makes sense.
I say these next words completely aware and mentally competent – the Under Armour Apex is a better trainer than the Rock 2 – if you need cushioning and lockdown/support. The HOVR is super-comfy and feels great under foot and the upper is Wall of China solid. If you are a lifter who likes a lot of padding/cushioning/comfort in your shoes, look no further. If you like a mire solid base with stiffer cushioning and a more minimal feel, then go for the Rock shoe. Basically, know your role (and shut your mouth).
I say it again – Under Armour knows training. They have found a sweet spot of a cushioned shoe, a stable/lifting shoe, and a good middle ground of both. With the Apex, the Rock 2, and the Rise (review coming soon) there is a shoe for everyone and every need. Now it is up to you to make them work.