The "Greatest Running Shoe Ever" is a bold declaration. With so many different shoes on the market and so many different foot shapes and preferences, what works for one runner may not be the best for another. There has been a ton of hype surrounding the Adidas Ultra Boost running shoes, but how do they actually perform? The Active.com editors put them through their paces, and spoiler alert: We liked them.
By Michael Nystrom
Easily my favorite feature of the shoe, the Ultra Boost features 'boost' foam soles that allow the runner to feel the ground without having the lasting effects of road fatigue. Even on cement-dominated runs through downtown, the soles were comfortable and kept my feet feeling fresh—a rare feature in most classic designs. The natural springiness of the sole gave my run a quick and light feel, and the shoe begged me to run on my toes.
Although considered a neutral shoe, the Ultra Boost's sole incorporates a proprietary Torsion System that supports the midfoot but still allows the shoe to conform to your natural stride. It's a great feature, designed to provide support in an otherwise structureless sole.
The outsole features a layer of STRETCHWEB rubber that has a uniform pattern throughout the entire bottom. Paired with the boost foam, it allows the sole to flex and bend with your foot strike and to the contours of the road. It gripped hard surfaces appropriately and even worked on short stretches of dirt.
When I first tried on this shoe I thought I should have sized up—I could feel the material on all sides of my feet, and my toe (just barely) touched the end. Turns out that feeling was intentional—the Ultra Boost incorporates a seamless Primeknit upper that stretches and conforms to your foot. So although the shoes run small and the toe box is narrow, they're designed to have a sock-like feel. I finished runs with no blisters or hotspots, and the enclosed feeling became the norm. The Primeknit fabric was extremely breathable and lightweight, and worked well with or without socks.
The Primeknit upper makes for a distinctive running experience. The Ultra Boost midfoot feels more like a bootie than a running shoe due to the tongue-less, seamless upper and sockliner. A plastic lace enclosure system cinched down my foot appropriately, and there was no movement in the midfoot area.
Because the entire upper (sans laces) stretches to fit the foot, the heel enclosure felt unlike most running shoes. The elasticity of the fabric allowed for some "give," but the external heel counter kept my heel snug and comfortable. The heel moved with the fluid motion of the shoe, but it didn't necessarily slip. It took some getting used to, but after a couple runs I found it to be extremely comfortable and unrestrictive. The tab behind the heel works great for quickly pulling the shoe on and off (*cough triathlon cough*).
Pictures of the Ultra Boost don't do the shoe justice. The Primeknit fabric has a much more "knit" look in person, and the contrast between the large threads and the plastic styling is a nice juxtaposition. The shoe's color themes are conservative compared to industry trends (Adidas does offer some louder colors, though), a breath of fresh air in an industry where everything is neon and brightly colored. This brings up a design flaw, though: The Ultra Boost doesn't have any reflective features. Nonetheless, I've received several compliments on the clean, monochromatic look of the shoe, and they feel as quick as they look.
For a hefty price tag of $180, what do you get? The Ultra Boost is a quick, dependable shoe fast enough for race day but durable enough for training runs on city streets. The Primeknit fabric and the boost soles combine for a fluid and responsive ride, and even though it's technically a neutral runner, the Torsion System in the midfoot provides the necessary support for the average runner. I've nicknamed these shoes my 'high-performance slippers.'
Is the Adidas Ultra Boost the "Greatest Running Shoe Ever?" Again, it depends. But for what it is, it stacks up with the best. I recommend the Ultra Boost for racing and training up to the half marathon distance, and they excel at the 10K distance.