Running shoes are eternally personal. I’ve been wearing the same brand for almost 10 years, so it was with some skepticism that I gave the Adidas Ultra Boost a try. I scoffed at the barefoot, 5-finger craze and kept running in my corrective trainers. I giggled at the exercise-while-you walk shoes that turned out to be a scam.
You can imagine, then, that I slid on the Ultra Boost fully expecting to dismiss them as more snake oil. They promise to “charge” your run with an “endless supply of light, fast energy.” I mean, what the heck is “light, fast energy” anyway? Can you weigh energy? Is some energy faster than other energy? The Physics 101 student in me was ready to dismiss these things.
But as I did slide them on, I was caught off guard by the sans-tongue design. I remembered all the time I spent re-adjusting the tongue and laces in my tried-and-trues, and these slipper-like Boosts felt uniform, lacking those little pressure points that you just know will transform to pain 3 miles into a run.
Standing up, they were floaty. Coming from stiff, corrective shoes, the Boosts were more like cushy slippers. Laces attached to three Adidas-style outers allowed me to reign that in a bit, but I had a feeling I was supposed to feel free and floaty. In fact, they call it a “Torsion system” aimed to allow independent movement between feel and forefoot. The sole sucked to the floor like octopus arms. I walked around my place, feeling almost propelled, like the aggressive stance of a car with its rear section lifted a few inches.
It’s almost as if they combined what we learned from the barefoot craze with the protection and energy reciprocation of structured running shoes. I was intrigued.
I made my way to the gym, bouncing about the Brooklyn streets. I ran a few blocks to see how the Boosts performed on pavement. They provide tons of padding – perhaps too much for those who like to feel the ground a bit more – but the freedom of the upper was a welcome change. These things breathe, which is great during the summer for sure, but in the middle of February, I was ready to get back indoors.
Once I found an open treadmill (it was 7pm when everyone else in Brooklyn goes to the gym), I set the speed to 6.5 and opened up on the new shoes. Again, the padding felt generous, and the upper float had me feeling almost as if I was running within them. This, I have to imagine, is the intended effect. In fact, I was transitioning from heel to mid to forefoot so freely that I was feeling it in the same parts of my foot as if I was running on flats.
Ultimately, the small pains I had subsided as I adjusted to the new gait and I could tell these things are pretty aggressive. There’s a clear sense of “leaning forward”, or that aggressive stance I mentioned earlier. While I missed the arch support and control of my regular running shoes at first, I was determined to give them another try.
The next day, I felt a little discomfort in the balls of my feet. It was more of a “post-workout” pain as opposed to an “injured” pain, if that makes any sense. I took the day off to heal up and get back on the boosts for day three.
Slipping into the Boosts on day three was a breeze. Because of the tongueless design, they slid on like booties. I noticed some wear on the tread already, which jives with early reviews I’ve seen online (these things wear quickly, apparently), but it’s not surprising given how cushy they are.
This run went really well. There was no early pain like the first time, and I didn’t notice the lack of arch or pronation support as I did the first time. I did a quicker-than-usual 5K, gulped down some water, and was back home before the post-dinner crowd rolled in.
It’s hard to recommend for or against running shoes. What I can tell you, though, is the new Ultra Boost looks good, is super light, feels good, gives you a lot of room, provides tons of cushion (perhaps too much in the long run), and allows for a natural-feeling heel-to-toe transition if you’re a heel-striker like me. They’re handsome in black and white with a purple heel, but at $180 I’d be hesitant to tell you to run out and grab some without giving them a try first. They’re different – in many ways in a good sense – but it’s clear they’re not for everyone.