Adidas Ultraboost Review
Cons: Can feel too tight, design can create hotspots, pricey, low breathability
Our Analysis and Test Results
We spent weeks reading, researching, and running in these interesting kicks, trying to tease out their strengths and weaknesses. We took them out in all sorts of conditions and pushed them to the limits, and we found that they were fair performers. We recognize that not every shoe will be everything to everyone, but these need a little more refinement to beat out the best running shoes in our group. Still, we recognize not every shoe can be everything to everyone, so our in-depth analysis below will help you better discern if these are worth a try for you.
To get a solid understanding of the full value and performance of the Adidas Ultraboost, we set up a handful of performance measures and used them to determine performance both at the individual level and across a range of other top models. Read on to see how they do.
The Ultraboost uses Adidas' Boost midsole. The material is made up of both plush EVA foam and durable TPU, to give it a great mix of firmness and cushion. That means when you're out running you get the compression needed to soften the landing, but the midsole doesn't eat up the stride and sap away energy. Internally, the midsole incorporates the Torsion Spring to improve responsiveness, though the shoe generally feels more free and natural than tight and responsive. The one aspect that is a little more right and adherent is the supportive frame wrapping the upper, but it's a more restrictive than supportive feel.
The actual sole felt pretty good. The cushy EVA foam and firm TPU do a good job of dampening the road and absorbing shock, especially at the heel. The one detractor to note is that the external heel counter could be felt with every step, interfering with the gait and the support structures across the midfoot started to rub against the ball of the foot. Some heel shapes will do better with this design and heavier socks in cooler weather could also reduce the impact.
Sure, it's not the lightest kick on the block and in fact, it might even be one of the heaviest in our lineup, but it gets there by going all-in on the dense midsole and supple upper with foam padding. It comes in at 24.6 ounces in a pair of men's 11. It's not exactly a lightweight racing flat, but you still get a lightweight feel, even with the extra ounces.
The overall design seems like it should hold up to abuse. The knit is tough, and there aren't really any gimmicky features, though the construction may somewhat lack because there are reports that the upper tends to come off the sole after just a few months of work. We didn't have that issue after abusing them, but it's not an uncommon occurrence for glue to come undone from mesh or knit uppers. The midsole will also likely last a little longer because of its TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) mix, which is a stronger material than standard EVA. That allows it to be more resistant to temperature changes and compression over time.
The stretchy stitch upper and firm foam padding in the collar and along the rear portion of the upper go a long way to making the Adidas Ultraboost a comfortable shoe. The knit upper moves so naturally with the foot, hugging, and expanding. The thickness is almost enough to be its own padding. The only real point of note is in the rigid supports that might not work with all feet, rubbing the ball of the foot during the landing phase and the pincer-like external heel counters that can feel like they're squeezing the heel out of the shoe. It's worth trying because some feet are shaped so this won't be a problem. Pronators may also have a tougher time in these, especially if they have prominent balls on their feet (we mean the pad under the metatarsal head of your first toe).
The Ultraboost makes for a decent fall or colder weather shoe, as the combination of knit and dense padding hold in a bit of heat and moisture. What it does have going for it is that the padding isn't super cumbersome like some of the maximalist stability models and the upper does open up a little when you're running and stretches. Still, it feels a little more like a sweater, so it'd be ideal for cooler weather.
The going rate is a bit much for these, honestly. If they could fix the heel crowding and weight, it would be a lot more justifiable.
One of the best things about the Adidas Ultraboost is its cushy plushness. It takes a lot of the bite out of hard strikes without sapping away too much energy. There's still the annoyance of the external heel counter and aggressive padding used to cover it up, but it's not a dealbreaker and might work better for some feet. Aside from that heel counter, its other major stability feature is the external cage over the midfoot and those two work together to do a fine job of keeping your gait straight without being too controlling or cumbersome. Generally, it's a heavily padded model with a thick knit upper, so it's more comfortable, but has lower breathability, so it's a cool climate shoe, but worth having a pair in your closet if you're into the traditional models.
— Ryan Baham