‘What I like is the way it holds my foot, it fits like a sock’ – Torie Bowie
In February 2013 came adidas’ Energy Boost trainer – a running shoe offering the industry’s highest energy return due to its revolutionary cushioning technology. With three of the world’s fastest marathon times achieved in adidas Boost shoes (including Wilson Kipsang’s Virgin Money London Marathon win in 2014 with a time of 2:04:29), Boost was considered to be the technology that would revolutionise and reset the running industry.
Last week came Ultra Boost, an uber-energised development of the Energy Boost trainer, containing 20% more energy. Landing in New York City and presented on the catwalk by the likes of Yohan Blake, Wilson Kipsang and Torie Bowie, the Ultra Boost is claimed to be ‘the best running shoe ever’ offering the ultimate energised running experience.
The crux of adidas’ revolutionary Boost trainers is its ‘energy-returning’ midsoles. Made up of thousands of energy capsules, the midsole locks in energy created as the runner pushes down on the ground and releases this in a spring motion to quite literally boost the runner forwards.
Whilst the original Energy Boosts contained a plastic EVA rim harnessing the midsole, the Ultra Boost has a 100% Boost midsole, meaning a 20% increase in ‘energy return’.
We met up with Ben Herath, vice president of design for Adidas Running, at the NYC launch and he told us:
“Throughout the two years (since adidas launched Energy Boost) we looked at the layers between your foot and the foam to see: how so we reduce and remove? How do we give back more energy? So we looked at the EVA rim on the Energy Boost and realised that actually we could create a great running shoe without that piece.
“That actually allowed us to add more boost foam back in, so with 20% more boost comes 20% more energy, and we were able to create a shoe that feels more alive than the original Energy Boost.”
Unlike EVA, Boost foam is not temperature sensitive so will not only give you more energy return but also a more consistent run as the shoe retains its form whatever the weather.
So why choose Ultra Boost?
According to an independent survey from the University of Calgary, Ultra Boost has proven to show a 1% improvement rate, knocking a second off every mile. Now this may not sound a lot but considering a marathon is 26.2 miles, a marathon runner could knock a whole 26 seconds of their time just by wearing the right shoes – that’s a world record!
In theory, by giving a runner that extra boost of energy return, they should be able to keep going for longer and up the mileage!
Another key technological component is the Stretch Web Outsole, designed to move, flex and bend in conjunction with the midsole to offer runners more flexibility but also more support.
“We feel it’s really revolutionising the way that running shoes are going to look,” said Ben Herath. “It looks simple, but lots of engineering and design has gone into tuning this exactly with the gait cycle, so it’s tuned to really work with the boost foam and consequently with your foot.”
Support & Stability
Looking carefully into the way the foot moves when running, adidas wanted to create a shoe that would work in conjunction with the foot for a more supportive run. The Torsion System embedded into the shoe’s base allows the shoe to move more like a foot does: flexing like a foot for extra support.
The Ultra Boost’s new heel construction is also designed to offer extra support. It supports the foot through the highest extension of the Achilles.
Talking to track and field athlete, Torie Bowie, who currently holds the title as the world’s fastest woman at the 100m, she said:
“In the past I’ve had problems with my Achilles but I think this is going to fix it now.”
The heel construction encompasses the heal but moves with the foot, offering support without friction.
A key design (and style) feature of the new Ultra Boosts is the Primeknit upper to allow natural expansion of the foot shape. This minimises the risk of chafing and blistering – and looks pretty cool too!
Whilst in the past, cushioning and energy return have been counter-intuitive properties, the Ultra Boost offers both. We asked Ben to explain:
“Comfort and energy return were almost two opposing things. You either have super soft and cushy shoes which are great but absorb all of your energy, or shoes made from high rebound materials that are hard and firm but not soft at all and that’s where Boost does both. Across the whole midsole it absorbs energy and releases it with every one of these capsules.”
Who are they for?
Coming in at £130, you’d assume the shoes are targeted solely at your ‘serious’ long-distance event runner. However, according to Ben this is not the primary target market. He told us that the shoes are designed to cater for everyone, from the most extreme ultra runner to your Saturday morning Parkrunner:
“We designed the shoes with performance in mind but it’s not limited to the type of runner you are it’s more about what kind of experience you want when you run so it really comes back to how this shoe makes you feel.
“Anyone that strives for a more energised shoe are going to love the shoe, whether a serious runner or not. It’s about creating a unique experience for all.”
After extensive testing by the WR team, we can’t help but love them. Whilst they are a little on the pricey side (and perhaps a little masculine to look at too) they’re honestly like running on clouds. You feel light as a feather (whatever sort of day you’re having), they give you a load of support and don’t leave you with blisters – well, at least not after 14 miles…