adidas Ultra Boost: First Impressions

Hot on the heels of a shoe review, comes… another shoe review! This time it’s the premium-priced (let’s not beat around the bush) latest Boosted model from the German sporting giant. The Ultra Boost (UB) is a new addition to the expanding range of shoes from adidas featuring the midsole which debuted in the Energy Boost back in 2013.

Since I’ve clued you in on the UB’s premium positioning, let’s get that part out of the way, shall we? It retails for RM650, which means it shares the upper echelon pricing as the adios Boost, adistar Boost and Springblade Drive 2.0. I view shoes in this price bucket as niche. Sometimes companies do turn POC (Proof of Concept) projects into production runs although this may not have been the intention of the UB creators. According to adidas, the goal was to “create a shoe that unleashes the full potential of the amazing BOOST foam while at the same time ensuring an unsurpassed adaptable fit in the upper.” ARAMIS system (same tech used by NASA, Boeing and leading aerospace and automotive industries) was used to measure and map out zones of higher and lower deformation which can be as much as 10mm in the forefoot area just before push off. The upper wasn’t only the area to be scrutinized since the outsole is one large high-stress part of a shoe. You can read the interesting story that went behind the conception of the Ultra Boost here.

The result? Foot-conforming PrimeKnit upper and Stretch Web outsole as well as other complementary components you see below. The video that follows shows the assembly process.

Photo source: adidas blog

When I picked up the Ultra Boost the first time, it felt like a substantial shoe. I’d opted for a US10.5, up from my regular US10 because of my past experience with the Energy Boost (EB) and Boston Boost 5 (BB5) which both ran a little tight in the toe box. It’s bulkier than my recently blooded shoes and accentuated by exaggerated upward spring on both ends. The UB also has a very prominent heel tab.

At 11.35oz for the US10.5, the Ultra Boost won’t find itself in the lightweight category.

 

The high toe-spring and low toe-box can be clearly seen in this photo. In reality I didn’t substantially feel the effects of both the attributes. In fact, toe-springs are very obvious in shoes with knitted upper, just have a look at the Nike Free Flyknit.

The PrimeKnit upper is just as impressive. Not only you can see that the high stress areas are reinforced by close weaving but the whole upper fits like a bootie negating the need to lace up tight as you would a traditional shoe. If there’s a purpose for the long heel tab, it’s to allow you to grab and pull when putting the shoe on. The fit is very snug, very sock-like and almost immediately you’ll feel as if there’s a slight midfoot bump reminiscent of the out of production Skechers GOrun 3. The upper stretches in every direction and thus is more accommodating than say, the Boston Boost upper. Due to a low toe box, the upper could be felt rubbing on my big toe – I’ll cover this in a moment. The step-in feel is plush and walking around in the UB is extremely smooth, unlike the Energy Boost and the performance oriented Boston Boost.

The hard external split heel counter is very substantial. It goes without saying that the bulk contributed to the weight of the shoe.
The removable insoles which are thinner than the Energy Boost’s. You can quite clearly see my footprint on the bottom unit. It may appear that I’ve too much room up front but due to the shoe construction, the fit was actually just nice.
There’s a thin layer of felt-like material under the removable insole.

In evaluating it, I was determined from the very first run to really put the shoe through the wringer. I would be a bit more lenient if it is a sub-RM450 but well, it’s not. My first run was a 6K, which covered a wide variety of surfaces on straights and twisty paths between Jalan Binjai-KLCC Park-Mandarin Oriental Hotel driveway-Pinang-Kia Peng-Stonor. Surfaces covered were tarmac, concrete, tiles, bricked pavements, synthetic track, grass and packed earth sections. Conditions were warm and humid, with no rain that evening. The plan was to have a slow and easy recovery run what with 2 quality back-to-back sessions over the weekend. The Ultra Boost blew those plans away. Once the body warmed up after 1.5K, the pace just kicked in. I was conscious at the back of my mind to reel back the pace yet at the same time I wanted to put the shoe through the challenge.

The upper which fits like a bootie. The 2 large pieces of plastic on either side holding the laces and providing some structural integrity are the other reasons why the UB goes above 11oz.

Anyone would’ve had no problems believing me had I reported that this bulky (and heavy) shoe stood no chance on the twisty and congested (it was packed with tourists and I had to slalomed my way through) route I took that day. But the UB was anything but that. It had to be the snug upper which totally locked down the foot despite the frequent directional changes. The low toe-box turned out to be a non-issue due to its highly stretchable properties. The designers well and truly got that part right. Because it was unbelievable, I went a second round. At a faster pace. Same eye opening experience. I had to remind myself that it was my easy day and stop at the end of the second loop.

It was still too early to form any judgment. The next day, I pulled on the UBs again. The menu was an easy 10K and again I failed to keep to the plan of going slow. This time, I took another newly mapped route that’s turning into a personal favorite: Binjai-Tun Razak-U-Thant-Ampang Hilir-Raintree Club-back to the KLCC Park. It had poured like crazy but slowed to a light drizzle as I started off. This second run would reveal much more about the shoes, both good and bad.

The outsole lip of the Energy Boost makes a return on the Ultra Boost.
The Stretch Web outsole. As your foot strikes the ground, the outsole stretches along with the midsole compression. resulting in a buttery smooth ride. This photo also shows the midsole cutout with the small embedded torsion bar that pops out a little on the medial side.
Medial shot showing the little medial post. As with most Boosted models, the midsole “jut-out” in the heel is quite substantial.

First, the good. The shoe pretty much retained all the positive attributes I experienced the day before, from the smooth and quick transition, fit and the upper breathability. The bad? The almost non-existent traction on the wet surfaces especially on the tiled and brick pavements. The little rounded nubs which are also spaced quite apart are simply not for such running conditions. I walked around corners and up the pedestrian bridges to avoid face-planting on my run. The Ultra Boost’s outsole feels nowhere near as assured as the BB5’s Continental rubber. The other thing worth mentioning is that while the PrimeKnit upper is very breathable, it’s also susceptible in letting in rainwater. It’s not a unique attribute of the UB but a trade-off of ultra breathable uppers.

The two most recent runs were both slower, one a 6K and the other a 16K on the hard pavements and sidewalks of Putrajaya. The Boost midsole offer the necessary protection for my legs and I appreciated the bouncy feel in all my strides. In all my runs in the Ultra Boost, there had been no chafing, hotspots or any rubbing, even by the extended heel pull tab. Because the tongue is integrated to the upper, there’s no slipping and sliding.

Reviewing the Ultra Boost has really been more about the wear experience than looking its inherently unflattering specs in terms of weight and pricing. I admit that I had some apprehension going in to the review but am glad to have some doubts struck off for the most part. I’ll put more miles into them before returning with a wrap-up take on the shoe.

Disclosure: The adidas Ultra Boost is a media sample provided courtesy of Adidas (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. Initial review is based after running and walking in them for close to 42K. The Ultra Boost is already available at Adidas boutiques in the country, retailing for RM650.

Originally published: Mar 21, 2015


2 thoughts on “adidas Ultra Boost: First Impressions

Comments are closed.