The new Adidas Ultra Boost trainers are billed as “The Greatest Running Shoe Ever.” The claim likely has been made before, perhaps many times before. But it’s unlikely that such an assertion has ever been backed by so much technology.
Adidas Ultra Boost shoes feature high-tech answers to some of the issues present in most running footwear. The sum of all that technology is a smooth-riding, lightweight (about 11 oz.), uber-comfortable, and very fast dedicated road runner.
Adidas Ultra Boost Cushioning
The cushioning in these shoes is the heart of the technology story. So it makes sense to begin any discussion of Adidas Ultra Boost with the “boost” sole after which the sneaks are named. Rather than use relatively heavy EVA cushioning like that found in most shoes, these runners utilize a proprietary thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) sole that holds the secret to the shoe’s ultra-boosting credentials.
The TPU technology used by Adidas was introduced in their Boost running shoes in 2013. This Ultra Boost iteration received 20% more TPU material than its forerunners. That translates to 3,000 “energy capsules” that comprise the soles. The TPU capsules look like marshmallows packed together. They’re collectively meant to capture the energy associated with foot strikes and then release that energy as the foot leaves the ground. A runner’s heel-to-forefoot strides are supposed to be easier as a result. (On the note of stride “engineering,” these shoes feature a 10mm drop.)
The energy boost element of the technology is, by my testing, an unmitigated success. These shoes won’t turn a tortoise into a hare, but they will add some revs to your running. The added amps are most noticeable when energy reserves begin to flag mid-run. The shoes feel almost buoyant.
Extra buoyancy would be great for long-haul runs, like a marathon. Indeed, these shoes seem to be positioned by Adidas for such distances. I haven’t taken these shoes out for more than five miles or so at a time. However, I would be hesitant to run a 26.2 in them without first conditioning my feet thoroughly for the Adidas Ultra Boost feel. The amount of flexion in the TPU soles is high, and the energy release feeling can take some getting used to. Indeed, the soles can be flexed and twisted quite easily by hand. “Lazy” or unconditioned feet would be punished in these shoes.
TPU offers a handful of non-boosting advantages, including superior temperature resistance (for more consistent feel in various conditions) and superior wear and longevity characteristics. The soles are said to provide a consistent ride throughout the life of the shoes. In my testing, the shoes felt comfortable and stable in temperatures ranging from just above freezing to about 75 degrees. My testing has not yet covered more than about 50 miles; however, to this point, the ride has been consistent, and I do not anticipate significant changes in feel anytime soon.
Adidas Ultra Boost Torsion System and Stretch Web
The Torsion System and Stretch Web comprise the rest of the Adidas Ultra Boost sole technology. The Torsion System is a rigid insert placed mid-sole that is meant to optimize heel-to-forefoot stability. This system works well – it has been, in various forms, in Adidas runners for a long time – and does impart good stability.
The stability of the sole is significant given the high degree of flexibility of the TPU soles. And yet, at times, I would have preferred more stability and less flexion. This was particularly the case during running stints that found me going downhill at steep grades. I had to moderate my speed significantly to avoid the feeling that my feet would be injured by unwanted flexion.
The Stretch Web is a soft rubber outsole that is – you guessed it – webbed in appearance. Traction is imparted by rubber nubs found at the web’s intersections. The webbing is intended to flex so as to maximize the energy capture/release of the boost cushioning. My testing suggests it does so to great effect.
It has not taken much testing for wear to be noticeable on the rubber nubs. The rubber is quite soft. It’s comparable to high-performance summer tires for a sports car: great grip and performance, but not a whole lot of longevity. I suspect longevity of the traction will be an area of weakness as I continue using these shoes longer term.
Adidas Ultra Boost Primeknit
The Primeknit technology is phenomenal. The Primeknit is an integrated textile weave that flexes and conforms to the wearer’s foot. The upper of the Adidas Ultra Boost shoe is made entirely of the stuff, and it fits like a sock. Like a comfortable, awesome sock.
The Primeknit breathes wonderfully, provides a surprising amount of upper support and could not be more comfortable. Visually, the Core Black shoes I’ve been wearing are vaguely reminiscent of a 3D snakeskin. The Primeknit is a win on all fronts.
Adidas Ultra Boost Heel Counter and The Three Stripes
The Heel Counter is basically a plastic exoskeleton heel cup with the middle third (which overlays the Achilles) removed. The result is an accommodating fit that takes unwanted pressure off that precious tendon behind the heel and offers natural movement throughout the running motion.
These shoes would work for heel sizes across the board. My heels are particularly narrow, which transforms some shoes into blister factories. I’ve experienced zero looseness or rubbing in the Adidas Ultra Boost shoes.
The Brand with the Three Stripes has put to use its trademark lines in these kicks. The Three Stripes hold the lacing system. When the laces are tightened, the stripes provide lateral upper support.
Together with the Heel Counter and Primeknit, the Three Stripes help the upper of these shoes offer the best of all worlds. They’re lightweight, comfortable, supportive, and, for the travelers among us, reducible to almost nothing. These shoes can be an afterthought in overnight travel bags.
Who Adidas Ultra Boost Running Shoes Are For
These are great technology-packed shoes. They’re comfortable, smooth-riding, and attractive. But it’s not clear they’re the best running shoes ever. In my opinion, they’re amongst a group of very good running shoes that have become available in recent years.
For most buyers, these shoes will provide great dedicated on-road or on-track training utility. For fans of the earlier iteration of the Adidas “Boost” technology, these shoes will surely satisfy.
For buyers looking for a shoe that has any off-road capabilities, however, these shoes should be crossed from the list. I had occasion, in one of my first trials of these kicks, to unwittingly step on a small rock that had found its way onto the street. In most running shoes, this misstep would have been a non-event. In the Adidas Ultra Boost shoes, where lightweight flexion and speed are the operative watchwords, the misstep resulted in an underfoot bruise. Ouch.
The Adidas Ultra Boost shoes fit very comfortably in my normal size. Because of the material and workmanship of these shoes – which are top-notch –these shoes likely would work for feet of just about any shape or width.
The Adidas Ultra Boost shoes are available in the following colors: Collegiate Royal/Air Force Blue/Collegiate Navy; Core Black; and Solar Red.
MSRP: $180.00. For more information, visit adidas.com.