One of the most exciting things about reviewing products is having your preconception smashed to smithereens. This can be a positive or negative experience, of course. We expect great things from the giants and are little lenient with the upstarts in the industry. The last time I was pleasantly surprised was when Skechers debuted the GORun back in 2012 [review here].
When Under Armour (UA) set up shop in KLCC recently, their first store in the country, I was fortunate enough to be invited for the store opening. Those who follow team sports (for example fans of BPL team Tottenham Hotspurs) will recognize the brand’s simple yet unique logo. If you’ve not heard of UA, you can read it up here.
Recently UA started making stronger surges into the running footwear segment which set quite a number of running geeks’ hearts aflutter. The Speedform has been around for at least a year but this year the Apollo and Gemini are the 2 providing the main thrust in sales numbers for the company. This review will focus on the Gemini but for a good take on the equally eye-catching, more minimalist Speedform RC Vent, head on to Nick’s review.
If there’s one thing that runners are raving about UA running shoes, it’s how they’re put together. The Gemini, like the RC Vent and Apollo, is constructed based on a near-seamless fashion. You can see from the photo below, provided by fellow shoe geek Seth Hasty of Granite City Running [Competitor covered the store opening in this article], that the shoe is basically made up of 3 parts. The mesh upper, the footbed, and the midsole/outsole. There’s an external heel counter that provide some structure at the rear, as you’ll see from the photos below.
UA’s product page will have all the marketing spiel so I’ll just breeze through the key features of the Gemini.
- Near seamless construction that really locks the feet in. There should be no problems going sockless if you’re that sort of a runner. The seams are welded with Bemis tape, the type used to seal tough wearing apparels and gear without added weight.
- The fit around the collar is very good. There are silicone grippers around the internal collar that secures the feet, preventing any slippage.
- The one-piece footbed that is truly well made.
- 8mm offset.
The visually striking Gemini is not what you’d classify a low-profiled shoe. It has a significant heel stack and has the disposition of a protective cushioned trainer as you can see from the series of photos below. The wear experience to me, however, is rather mixed. You will immediately feel the plushness stepping into the shoes. Heel to toe transition is very smooth and you feel as if you can walk the whole day in them.
There’s an airy feel to it which is expected since more than half of the upper are made of mesh so huge they appear like webbing. The 2-layer mesh is stretchy, so the seemingly low toebox height as seen in the profile photo below isn’t a good representation of how they really feel. US10 fits me fine if I wear a thin sock but I’d upsize by half should I go for a thicker one.
The Gemini has a slightly squarish toe box which suits runners with a wider forefoot, and the external toe guards looks like those from the Nike Presto. There are 6 reflective strips on each shoe, making it suitable for early morning/night running. The following 2 photos clearly show the 2-layer mesh adopted for the shoes. No rogue sand particles or pebbles have got in so far.
The tongue is wide which made slippage a non-issue. It’s made of the same mesh as the upper with an added strip of foam (similar to the collar material) at the top.
The heel cup is actually made of foam but there’s the exo-skeletal like heel counter to provide some semblance of structure. Even with the collar slanting into the achilles, I’ve not experienced any chafing, hot-spots, and rubbing in all my sessions in the shoes. They certainly fit more like socks than something stiff. In fact I’d say that they feel neoprene-like.
Peeping into the shoe, you’ll see the neat construction of the footbed. There’s no removable sockliner and that sort of thing here. Everything is integrated and one-piece. The construction method and technologies used allow the Gemini to be machine washable – instructions are clearly printed right there! The white dots around the collar are the silicone grippers that further secure the fit.
In the photo below, both my fingers were pointed to the welded seams, just about the only 2 you’d find on the Gemini.
Being a typical trainer, the Gemini’s weight reflects that too. I was surprised to see the US10 weighing in at 10.45oz because I thought they felt lighter. In my hands, the shoe’s weight felt a little unevenly distributed, with the heel section of the shoe feeling significantly heavier than the forefoot . This is an unusual comment, I know, since the heel stack is greater than the front and therefore would naturally be heavier. However I thought the forefoot to heel weight ratios felt a little lopsided. Mixing the use of the heavier foam in the heel section with more mesh (as seen on the tongue) will reduce the overall weight.
The Gemini feels like a 10mm offset/drop shoe like the Flyknit Lunar 2 (FL2), Pegasus 31, and Energy Boost whereas the actual drop is 8mm like that of the Ride 7. Nevertheless, such numbers are superfluous because what matters should be how it performs. We’ll get to that shortly.
The Gemini’s Charged midsole foam is touted to provide responsive cushioning. It sits on top of a thicker white layer and runs the full length of the shoe. The darker material is visible from the cutaway at the bottom of the shoe.
The outsole is both a mix of blown (blue sections) and carbon rubber (in the heel) as clearly seen below. There’s no midfoot TPU shank, no medial posting which means overall flexibility is pretty good for the Gemini. There are generous flex grooves in the forefoot and the outsole is decoupled. There are plenty of exposed foam in the outsole but durability remains to be seen as I’ve only logged 43K in them.
Now comes the most important part of the review – the wear experience. Folks are basically curious about a few important things:
- How they fit? Is it true to size?
- Ride. Is it soft, very firm? Any road feel? How does it compare to <insert any popular shoe here>?
So I’ll just cover the points above.
I normally wear a US10. Although the Gemini fits just nice, I’d have preferred a 10.5. Overall fit is excellent. The midfoot fits snugly as with the heel, while the forefoot opens up sufficiently to accommodate medium volume feet. It doesn’t get to the level of roominess of the GORun Ride 4 (GRR4) though.
Step-in feel, as mentioned before, is plush. So is walking around in them. The pronounced feel of the arch support disappears the moment I started running. So did the plush feeling. The immediate responsiveness of the Charged midsole dispels any notion that the Gemini offers a soft ride. It’s certainly not the Kinvara 5, or even the GORun 4. The Charge midsole provides less bounce than the Lunarlon and Boost materials of the FL2 and Energy Boost respectively. The “F” word (F for firmness!) kept popping up in my mind as I put mileage into the shoe. Perhaps with some breaking in, the midsole will soften up a little? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t find it uncomfortable, just stating my observation.
As in other training shoes with this level of midsole build up, road feel of the Gemini is muted. Regardless of the runner’s preference for a soft or firm ride, the heel striker will appreciate the smooth heel to toe transition. This plus the substantial use of blown rubber ensure that the shoe runs silent, huge contrast to the FL2.
Expectedly, breathability is excellent, with all the mesh. My feet stayed dry throughout my runs in muggy and hot Penang recently, and there were no hotspots either.
Those are my prelim thoughts and observations on the Gemini and so far, my lean is still towards a softer and lighter ride like the Kinvara 5 (K5), GORun 4 (GR4) and Boston 5 (B5). That’s certainly a matter of personal preference, of course. It doesn’t take away the fact that the Gemini is a solid offering from UA with many areas done right and a pair that I’d grab to log longer and slower miles in.
The Gemini isn’t what you’d call an affordable shoe. At RM538 full retail (I purchased it using a discount voucher), it’s a full RM100, and more, than the K5, GR4, Pegasus 31, and Boston 5, parking itself close to the just launched Flyknit Lunar 3 and Energy Boost 2.
It also goes up against asics’ stability offerings like the GT series and Kayano, or even the cushioned ones like the Cumulus and Nimbus. Ditto Brooks’ Adrenaline and Ravenna. Yet, the Gemini can hold its own, and IMHO, trumps the aforementioned asics and Brooks due to several factors. Firstly, the innovative use of materials and construction (made in a bra factory no less!) make the Gemini one of the best fitting shoe in the market today. Secondly, it’s a stable enough option for runners who wear heavier stability shoes with medial posting to migrate over to.
Originally published: Feb 23, 2015