This has been a very difficult review, not because of the HOVR Phantom, but because of the release date.
We at WearTesters have had this shoe since November so we have put some miles on it, and it has been difficult holding back our thoughts from all of you. That said, the day is here, and the Under Armour HOVR Phantom review is on…
You can purchase the HOVR Phantom at Eastbay.com
The HOVR Phantom uses a strange pattern for a runner. Most running sneakers go with flat rubber, mostly black, that wears really well and grips in most conditions, wet or dry. This colorway stayed with black, but the flat, normal traits are long gone. This shoe sports more of a turf, nub-like sole, and it wears well under use. After two months of wearing in the gym, on the treadmill, and on the road, the outsole looks nearly brand new.
Because of the nubs, there was some slipping on wet surfaces. On wet ground, like a cross country run or off-road, the outsole worked great. On smooth, hard surfaces, the outsole had some issues (wearing casual, walking into a store while raining, it was really noticeable).
The forefoot is segmented with lines cut completely across the pattern — letting the midsole flex with no resistance — which lead to a seriously good transition. With thicker midsoles stiffness in the forefoot can be a concern, but the HOVR Phantom rolls naturally and smoothly into your next step. Speaking of the midsole…
Here is where the magic happens: HOVR. Described by Under Armour as “a proprietary foam compound in partnership with leading innovators Dow Chemical, providing a super-soft durometer with incredible cushioning and shock absorption with every single foot strike,” HOVR is at once soft and responsive.
The beauty of HOVR is the ability to tune the stiffness. The white areas are EVA, used as a carrier foam for the HOVR inside. The HOVR is the black areas in the cutouts and the heel. The red textile netting, the UA Energy Web, is where the tuning comes in.
Think of squeezing Play-Doh — if you keep squeezing it will go everywhere and lose its shape. However, if it is in a confined space it will reach a point of resistance and rebound. By tightening or loosening the netting the foam has increased or decreased rebound.
The HOVR Phantom is the softer of the two shoes (the HOVR Sonic is definitely the faster, stiffer ride) so for recovery runs or runners who require plush cushion, the HOVR Phantom is the shoe. From the very first try on it is soft underfoot and extremely comfortable. During runs, the midsole has a sinking feeling but responds underfoot with a soft bounce.
There is another element to the HOVR Phantom that contributes to all of this cushioning and comfort, and that is the SpeedForm 2.0 construction inside the shoe. SpeedForm, if you didn’t know, is a process Under Armour uses to mold the insole, shoe lining, and upper into one form-fitting piece with the midsole. That means there is no insole to speak of, your foot just sits right on the cushioning. SpeedForm 2.0 takes this construction a step further by adding cushioning zones in the footbed, some as thick as 12mm. This alone makes the cushioning a must-try.
We have already covered the midsole and outsole, so let’s look at the upper. A 5/8 height collar made of knit stretch materials makes entry into the shoe easy but still pops back into shape for a secure fit around the leg.
Going down into the midfoot, Under Armour used a chamois material for the side panels and heel. If you don’t know what chamois is, ask a long-distance cyclist. If you don’t know one, here goes: chamois is what’s used for cycle shorts with inner thigh/butt padding — it’s like a memory foam that is also moisture-wicking. It perfectly forms and fits around the midfoot, and while it may give the shoe a bit of a chunky look, on-foot the HOVR Phantom feels sleek and fast because of the fit.
The forefoot, tongue area, and collar are all circular knit, a process that provides stretch and comfort. The toebox is extremely stretchy and the collar, which shouldn’t rub with no-show socks, feels great, even when barefoot (I wanted to try the Speedform 2.0 directly under my feet). UA isn’t calling the knit Threadborne, but it functions the same while being just a bit thicker.
This may be a debated category. If you like your shoes to fit 1:1 with little to no wiggle room, go true to size with your normal Under Armour fit. If you like a little room for expanding and toe splay, go up half. I tried a TTS 10.5 and a half up to an 11 and for me the half up 11 worked better. Again, if you like the shoe to fit directly on your foot with no extra room, true to size should work, and the comfort isn’t sacrificed because the knit is stretchy and feels great against your foot.
The lacing system works perfectly to pull the midsole saddle up around the foot. An extra lace loop at the collar helps eliminate any heel slip you might get and also pulls your foot into the heel cup. Be careful on your lacing though: there was some lace pressure across the top of the foot when I laced in the rear loop — it went away when the shoe was loosened slightly and loosening did not affect the fit. Bottom line, don’t pull too tight.
One note: I did have some heel/Achilles chafing on my right foot after a couple of miles, but only my right foot. When I went up a half size it went away. Could be the shoe, could be the sizing — I’m just informing you all.
The main support component in the HOVR Phantom is the midsole, as crazy as that sounds. The foam carrier is stiff and thick enough that a shank plate/midfoot support structure isn’t needed. It is simply really difficult to bend this shoe from toe to heel. The foam also sits wider than the upper which acts almost like an outrigger on a basketball shoe. Even though the midsole sits a little higher than some, it never felt unstable.
Sometimes, with foam as responsive and bouncy as HOVR, it can feel a little out of control when active. From a vertical standpoint (foot goes up, foot comes down), the HOVR Phantom is extremely bouncy. Laterally, this would lead to instability. The white foam is stiffer and only allowed a certain amount of bounce before controlling. This leads to stable platform that is primary in support.
The other support structure is the heel cup, which is made of a soft TPU. It’s really nothing more than decoration, as it can be bent and moved with ease, but it does provide a little mental edge to think it helps with lateral movement. Plus, it breaks the upper pattern and gives UA somewhere for the logo placement.
This is what we have been waiting for from Under Armour. Charged in the running line worked and worked well, but it wasn’t groundbreaking. The looks, feel, and name (HOVR just sounds plush) are all an awakening for a brand that has been in need of a signature responsive foam since it moved away from Micro G (for some reason).
The HOVR Phantom is a comfortable and easy ride for recovery runs or runners who need a soft cushioning for their joints. If you have been looking for a runner that is both responsive and cushioned, the HOVR Phantom has you covered.
I won’t say HOVR will change the industry — who knows what the general public will latch onto next — but I will say it is the best cushioning Under Armour has ever put out, and it can be tuned for different activities and needs per shoe (more on that in the next review). If you are a serious athlete, you owe it to yourself to at least try a HOVR shoe on. The HOVR Phantom could be a menace that no one saw coming.