The Under Armour Project Rock 5 continues The Rock’s fitness-focused footwear line, and this iteration shines where The Rock spends a lot of time, the weight room.
In the world of functional fitness, Under Armour occupies an interesting place as an innovator in apparel but is often overlooked in footwear. Certainly signing Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson elevated awareness and interest with a mainstream audience, but we don’t see a lot of functional fitness stars rocking the Project Rock shoes. Are they missing out?
That’s the question we had at WearTesters, so we reached out to the folks at Under Armour, who sent us these shoes for review but have no involvement in this review, didn’t receive an advance look at it, and have not attempted to influence this review.
So, with that, let’s see if we can smell what the Rock is wearing (Editor’s Note: apologies for the awful joke, this is Arune’s first intro).
Under Armour Project Rock 5
Release Date: September 2022
Weight: 13.5 oz
Sizing: True to Size
- Rundown: The Under Armour Project Rock 5 is a super stable, accommodating shoe that excels in the weight room.
- Solid like the Rock
- Wide Feet Welcome
- The Looks
- Heavy like the Rock
- The R in PR ain’t for “Run”
How do the Authors Train?
Arune “The Pebble” Singh (age 40, 5’10”, 205lbs): Trains daily with functional fitness programming provided by Deadboys Fitness, founded by Colby “Seth Rollins” Lopez and Josh Gallegos. He has recently started training for his first-ever half-marathon and looks for every opportunity to get some time on a heavy bag. Given his medical history of Sleep Apnea and Myasthenia Gravis, Arune’s focus is on lean muscle mass and getting down consistently to 190lbs, with a secondary focus on cardiovascular training and aesthetics. He works out in a home gym with a rower, air bike, bench, adjustable dumbbells, and kettlebells.
Drew “The Slab” Whitcomb (age 40, 6’6″ 198lbs): Trains daily with a focus on running, strength training, and mobility. He writes the majority of our running shoe reviews and runs a lot of miles both due to testing needs and his growing affinity for long-distance races. He’s currently training for the NYC Marathon. More marathons, half-marathons, 10k, and 5k races are in his future. His strength training and mobility regimen center around maintaining flexibility and lifting heavy to build power as a counterbalance to all the long-distance running he’s doing. His number one focus is staying injury free so he can keep up the sweet gig of reviewing shoes for a living.
What is the Under Armour Project Rock 5?
The Under Armour Project Rock 5 is described, according to The Rock, like this: “The Project Rock 5s are the most innovative training shoes we’ve ever made—they give you power, energy, support with an amazing comfort level.” (Editor’s Note: way to phone in that marketing quote Dwayne)
The shoe has an 8mm drop and weighs 13.5 oz – the Under Project Rock 4 had the same 8mm drop but weighed 11 oz while Under Armour’s TriBase Reign 4 (which we recently reviewed) also weighs 11 oz with a very different 2mm drop.
Solid like the Rock
Arune: There are two types of people reading this review – those who roll their eyes at that headline and those who know exactly with Arrested Development episode I’m referencing. Which one are you, Drew?
Drew: I watched 3 episodes of Arrested Development, but it got lost in the ever-growing tidal wave of content, and I never continued it. You’ll usually find me referencing The Office or Community. The only Arrested Development references I know are “there’s always money in the banana stand” and “I just blue myself.”
Arune: Whew, I was worried that was too deep a cut. (Editor’s Note: waaay too deep) But getting back to the Project Rock 5, there are a few things that are clear from the first try-on (one of which is in the Cons). Most importantly, you realize you are solidly planted on the floor. Olympic lifts, single leg movements, bicep curls, – you name it, and this shoe is built to excel at it.
I’ll be honest – the Project Rock 4 was probably the most disappointing training shoe I’ve ever worn. The sock-like upper frayed almost instantly, the sizing felt completely off, and they gave me arch pain that never went away while wearing them. I was a huge fan of The Rock’s first Delta shoe and love a lot of his products – from his Zoa energy drinks to his JBL earbuds – but those Project Rock 4s felt like a discount trainer.
But the Under Armour Project Rock 5? Immediately you get a sense this is a shoe meant to be beaten up in the gym. There are four reasons why this worked so well for me:
- The Upper: I normally complain about laces in, well, every shoe and they just stay locked down here, along with the rest of the upper that feels wonderfully snug and supportive. My foot isn’t fighting to stretch out the shoe nor is it rolling all over the place. It’s just locked down in place so I can focus on my workout and not constantly readjust.
- The Heel: The plush heel locks you in place, eliminating the heel slippage from the Project Rock 4. This shoe now fits 100% TTS (true to size) whereas Project Rock sizing has been infamously…unreliable.
- The Midsole: The HOVR midsole felt a bit stiff at first (more on that in the Cons), but it seemingly molded to my foot with each subsequent workout. As much as I love the somewhat squishy Micro G in the Reign 4, the HOVR really gives me the support I need to dig my feet into the ground on the heaviest lifts. I don’t want or need squishy midsoles – so if that’s what you want in a training shoe, this won’t be it.
- TriBase: I absolutely love TriBase, and while it didn’t feel as stable or grippy in the Project Rock 4, the Project Rock 5 provides the performance I love from the Reign 4 and locks me into place on the ground.
The end result of all that is an incredibly stable and secure shoe. I’ve used this for rowing, on an air bike, for plyometrics, and for functional fitness workouts. I don’t ever think about the shoes on my feet because I’m so comfortable and because they feel molded to my foot. I can put on the Project Rock 5 and go set, well, some PRs – which is what I did with my Romanian Deadlift, Bench Press, and Single Arm Shoulder Press over the last few days of training in these shoes.
I was also muttering “Shazam” a lot, so maybe The Rock just sent me some of his Black Adam swagger…
I’m curious if you had the same experience, Drew – I’ve got about ten lbs on you, but you’re a whole lot taller, and I’m curious if that impacts things.
Drew: Arune, you’re right about the stability on the Under Armour Project Rock 5; it’s great. On lifts like the deadlift, squat, standing shoulder press, and various others, the base of the shoe felt glued to the ground. And for that reason more than any other, I absolutely loved them for lifting weights. My base was strong, and it did help me have more confidence lifting heavier weights. And with the amount of time The Rock must spend in the weight room, a shoe built like this really feels like his shoe.
Wide Feet Welcome
Arune: You know that I had to talk about this, Drew. It’s my first question to you about every damn running shoe you test.
Drew: Yet, you still buy them even when I tell you it’s a no-go for wide footers.
Arune: Look, at least I give you lots of chances to say “I told you so” whenever I complain about crushed pinkies. (Editor’s Note: can confirm)
Luckily, that’s not a problem with the Project Rock 5, as my Hobbit-esque feet feel like the perfect shape for this shoe. I get the full toe splay I want without any of the extra room in other Under Armour training shoes (sizing on the Project Rock line has been all over the place for years) and that means a lot less of the resulting instability.
The midfoot is just snug enough, as I felt a bit of pressure on my arches (especially on the right foot) during the first wear but that’s disappeared completely after a couple of wears.
I don’t often wear shoes that give me the snug hug that people want in their training shoes, as I’m generally getting my pinky crushed or I’m sizing up .5 with too much room. But this is as perfect a fit as I could imagine.
Being able to spread my toes out without slipping around the shoe meant that I could focus on driving into the ground. Even with an 8mm drop, I felt as connected to the ground as I do in the Reign 4 with its 2mm drop and really could go for it on more complex lifts like cleans.
Drew: This is where Arune and I differ. I love the materials used, the neoprene tongue, the Achilles padding, the nylon/rubber, the heel counter/lockdown strap, and the ClutchFit-like forefoot. Well, at least the forefoot feels like ClutchFit (a previous Under Armour tech used on basketball shoes). It doesn’t perform like ClutchFit. Doing anything laterally in my Project Rock 5 resulted in my forefoot getting out over the footbed. Quick feet or cone drills were not doable.
Don’t get me wrong, the forefoot is super comfy and breaks in nicely to mold to your foot. The Project Rock 5 just doesn’t work for any side-to-side movements. This is too bad, because the decoupled heel really allows some nice flexibility at the midfoot. It’s got everything it needs to be a good HIIT or Metcon shoe except for the lateral containment and cushioning (which we’ll mention in the Cons).
I also had a problem where my foot would slide forward and hit the end of the toebox for the first couple of wears. As the built-in Speedform insole conformed to my foot and I tightened up the top two eyelets, this went away. Be wary of quick stops during your first few wears.
Arune: The Project Rock line of shoes has gone through a lot of changes, and the aforementioned Project Rock 4 decidedly felt like a shoe for the gym and nowhere else.
But the Project Rock 5 has embraced the big shoe trend that we’re seeing everywhere from HOKA (respect to the OG) to Yeezy and created a hefty training shoe that looks great for the gym and great for wearing casually too.
The biggest tell for me was my very fashionable wife’s reaction of “you should keep those” when she saw me pull the Project Rock 5 out of the box.
These aren’t as distinctive as something like the Nike Metcon 8, but that’s also to the Project Rock 5’s benefit. They’ll easily work with a pair of shorts or joggers when you’re going out casually.
Drew: The Under Armour Project Rock 5 looks a lot better than the Project Rock 3 or 4. I’m still not ready to rock them casually. They still look like they belong in the gym to me. However, some of the colorways did catch my eye (especially the Black Adam one), so maybe I’m wrong on this one.
Heavy Like the Rock
Arune: I teased this above, but the specs let you know this shoe is 2 oz heavier than most other Under Armour training shoes and you definitely feel it from the moment you put your foot in. It doesn’t feel like wearing cement shoes, but if you like barefoot training or lighter training shoes, you’ll feel the weight right away.
I mostly wear ASICS shoes these days, and I’m spoiled by the fact that those shoes are probably 40% lighter than these, so perhaps I felt this more acutely – Drew is the running king around here so he may be more used to this variance in the weight of his shoes over the years.
The good news is that the feeling of the weight goes away pretty quickly and it’s not something you really think about unless you throw these on right after wearing lighter kicks.
But I think a lot of folks will put this on their foot and not like it right away – so I can only say that I hear you, I felt like the shoes were heavy and stiff out of the box but they break in quickly.
Drew: Yep, they’re heavy, but if you’re using them in the weight room, to do what they’re best built for, I don’t think it’s a showstopper. Most of the younger kids are rocking Nike Blazers to lift at my gym…this is a much, much better experience than those even with the extra weight.
The R in PR ain’t for “Run”
Arune: You’ll hear more from me on this in the verdict, but these shoes are exceptional for lifting and the kind of workout you see from The Rock in his training videos.
Just remember that, because I absolutely hated running in them and never plan to do it again. We put our bodies on the line for you, folks.
I like these a lot for plyometrics, but the Project Rock 5 isn’t what I would recommend if you’re only taking one shoe to the gym to train – and that’s okay because I don’t think these are intended to be the “do everything” shoe.
But given that these are $150, you’re spending a decent chunk of change. Many folks only have one “gym shoe” for the year, so I’d plan your cardio around the elliptical, bike, Stairmaster, or rower if this is gonna ride solo in your training rotation.
Drew: The Under Armour Project Rock 5 is absolutely not for running. Not even short distances on the treadmill felt good. The HOVR in them is just kinda meh with all the softness coming from the built-in insole. I wouldn’t want to run more than 50-100 yard sprints in them.
I do agree with Arune that they’re solid for plyometrics, even box jumps. They just have a clunky heel-to-toe transition that makes it annoying to run in them. Especially with most of today’s running shoes packing a nice rocker shape that helps you roll through your stride. If you buy the Project Rock 5, just know you won’t be hitting the roads in it.
Is this for me?
Arune: Look, I’ll cut to the point: The Under Armour Project Rock 5 is my favorite training shoe in nearly a decade and top five overall, with the Reebok Nano 4, 5 & 6 in that mix alongside perhaps the Nike Metcon 2 or the Under Armour Project Rock Delta. This is 100% not the kind of shoe I expected to love given that the Project Rock series has basically been a bust for me, but I’ve already purchased another pair of Project Rock 5 because I love them so damn much. In case you’re wondering which pair, I ordered the Black Adam pair and everything from that collection.
For my training style and my feet, this shoe is nothing short of a 10/10. I know Drew might tell me to GoRuck Off (#dadjokes) (Editor’s Note: #sigh), but I hate taking these shoes off and switching to anything else unless I’m running. I plan to wear these for travel, casually and any damn time I’m training.
Drew: I mean listen, Arune just bought the entire Black Adam Project Rock collection! He’s hopelessly biased toward this shoe. Also, if you look at his author picture you’ll see he bears a striking resemblance to the Rock himself. Is Arune Dwayne Johnson’s long-lost brother from another mother? I’m not saying he is but if a DNA test were to conclusively prove it, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Which is all to say, Arune loves him some Rock. Personally, I prefer a more versatile shoe in the weight room so I can do some lateral movements and run. Something like the GoRuck Ballistic Trainer. But, if I do need to sling some heavy weights I may call on the ultra-stable Project Rock 5 to help me do it.
Is this for you?
Arune: I think this will be a polarizing shoe in a market where training shoes are getting lighter, and versatility is the key.
I don’t think this is for anyone who wants a “do everything” shoe, and I don’t know that it’s the right choice for anyone doing the kind of functional fitness that has rope climbs and lots of running in their WODs.
But if you’re someone like me who’s using this for weight training and plyometrics at home or in the gym, this is a killer shoe.
Just give it a try before you buy since Under Armour’s sizing seems to change annually and this is much heavier than the shoes you’re probably wearing now.
Drew: The Project Rock 5 is for you if you like to smell what the rock is cooking (Editor’s Note: not you too smh) and spend plenty of hours in the gym pushing and pulling on big stacks of weights. If that describes you, I think you’ll be really happy with your purchase.
Under Armour Project Rock 5 Summary
Arune: As I said, the Project Rock shoes have been a bust for me after the Delta released in late 2017. I’ve tried every model – including the BSRs – and they’ve always felt incredibly ill-fitting, unstable, and often very cheap.
The Under Armour Project Rock 5 is a huge turnaround for the brand and the kind of shoe that I think will appeal to a lot of folks if they’re willing to give this line one more chance.
Drew: As I said above if you’re a gym rat that’s looking to continually lift heavy and value stability and an accommodating fit above all else, step right up. The Project Rock 5 is going to serve you extremely well and make you feel like you could bust out a people’s elbow at any moment (Editor’s Note: holy hell, can we be done now?).
- Solid like the Rock
- Wide Feet Welcome
- The Looks
- Heavy like the Rock
- The R in PR ain't for "Run"