Recent running shoe entrant Under Armour has done an excellent job of putting out straight-forward, comfortable, no-nonsense shoes and that approach earned their Charged Bandit 3 our Best Bang for the Buck Award. They're light and they feel really fast. Their thick stack is enough to cushion, without burdening your stride. The light, strong knit upper covers the foot like a second skin, holding to the foot, but not restricting it. These speedsters are sure to impress and they're certainly worth a try, especially given their great affordability. Read on to see how they do against the rest of the field.
Under Armour Charged Bandit 3 Review
Cons: Less responsive
Manufacturer: Under Armour
Our Analysis and Test Results
We spent hours researching, comparing, testing, and running in the Under Armour Charged Bandit 3s to figure out their strengths and weaknesses. We looked at them 6 measures and assigned weighted scores to help us see their value and to compare them against other top shoes on the market. Take a look at measures below to see if they're right for you.
One of their best qualities is a springy responsiveness. They use a thick Charged CushionⓇ midsole to achieve optimal energy return with every stride. The cushion is made of compression molded foam, allowing it to remain light, but springy, without much concern of degradation. Contributing to the responsiveness of the entire model is the firm upper paired with their secure UA SpeedformⓇ heel cup, which facilitates excellent energy from the foot to the ground and back.
It was hard to find a better pair of running shoes with comparable responsiveness, which is one of the reasons they won our Best Bang for the Buck Award. The standout model with better responsiveness is the unconventional Top Pick for Stability winning HOKA ONE ONE Elevon, which sports a thick maximalist stack to deliver both stability and a super responsive pop.
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the other two speedsters with notable responsiveness. The Editor's Choice On Cloud X uses a really unique open pod design to get its pop, while the Top Pick for Lightweight Racing Flat Brooks PureFlow 7 uses a high performing DNA LT midsole to get its bounce.
It should be no surprise that their natural feel and firm, light stack put them way up near the top of landing comfort. They use a Charged Cushioning® midsole, which is made of thick compression molded foam to get the right mix of cushion and response to evoke a sock on carpet feel. Their rubber outsole primarily covers spots that see the most wear, helping keep the shoe flexible without losing traction on wet or slick surfaces.
Those attributes landed them near the top of our bunch, outperforming all but the top kicks. It ranked alongside the Top Pick for Stability HOKA ONE ONE Elevon, with its kickass stack and padded upper. If you're in need of even more landing comfort, take a look at the Editor's Choice On Cloud X, whose awesome EVA Cloud Units hit the optimum cushion to bounce ratio. The X is a speedier shoe with a unique design. If you'd like a ride with a bit more plushness, we suggest taking a look at the super cushy Brooks PureFlow 7. The Nike Pegasus 35 also offers a lot in this measure.
One of the factors earning these kicks the Best Bang for the Buck Award was weight. A pair of men's 11 come in at just 19.1 ounces, making them one of the lightest in the bunch. This is at least partially owed to the ultra-thin mesh upper and super conservative padding along the collar and inside the tongue. The other major aspect is the light Charged Cushioning® midsole, made of compression molded foam.
If it's extremely low weight you're looking for, you don't have a ton of other choices because the Bandits are pretty far down there. The Altra Escalante 1.5 comes in at 18.2 a pair, but they lack the stability and midsole cushioning of the Bandits. If you want a more premium shoe with less mass and a bit of a better landing, we think you'll appreciate the On Cloud X.
One of the things that made the Bandit 3 stand out is that it wasn't full of crazy designs or gimmicks, which means there was less in it that could go wrong or deteriorate. It's a straightforward running shoe that uses compression molded foam for the midsole and knit-mesh for the upper. The outsole is protected by a thick layer of rubber along the high impact areas and shoes no signs of uneven wear or placement vulnerabilities.
These are among the most durable in our lineup - most runners should get a few seasons out of them. They have similar design and makeup to the Nike Pegasus 35, which uses tried-and-true materials and few design gimmicks, resulting in a fairly durable shoe that will last a few seasons. There are tougher shoes out there, but they tend to start becoming clunky, as is the case with the New Balance 1540v2 and ASICS GT-2000 5 or specialized for taking abuse, like the New Balance Minimus 10v1. If you like the cushion and speed, we think the Best Buy Bandits will be what you need.
They have a lot going for them in the comfort realm. The knit mesh upper and anti-microbial Ortholite® sockliner work together to hug the foot for a natural fit that feels more like a minimalist shoe. There's no encumbrance in the ride. Structurally, a seamless molded heel cup cradles the foot while the external TPU heel counter further secures it so the shoe and foot move as one unit. The design or cut of the shoe is also really comfortable. The tongue is smooth and rounded, shaped to perfectly contour the ankle and avoid chafing.
We gave these our Best Bang for the Buck Award for a reason. They're great whether you're out for a half-hearted jaunt around the block or pounding out tempo on mile 8. That doesn't mean they're the most comfortable shoes out there, though. We think these will be all the comfort you need, but for runners needing more cushion might want to look at the Pegasus 35. It has a similar upper construction, so it also has a natural feel to it. Its difference is in the level of collar padding, which is ever so slightly more.
If padding is what you're after, you'll want to look at the Brooks offerings. The Top Pick for Lightweight Racing Flat Brooks PureFlow 7 is still mostly parred down, but includes supple padding in the collar and a silky smooth sockliner. The unquestionable comfort model is the Brooks Glycerin 16, with even more padding covered in a silky sockliner. This is a heavier model, though, and will feel a bit less natural, but you'll be floating on pillowy cushioning and riding in comfort.
This is another area where an uncomplicated design and simple upper materials shine. The uniform knit mesh keeps the shoe cool and breezy without sacrificing too much structural integrity or secure feeling. It also helps that it's thin and there's limited padding, which means it doesn't insulate too much or hold moisture.
There are still a few others that outperform them in this measure. If you're in a hot climate and want something that feels just a bit cooler, you might look at one of the models with thinner material. The Brooks PureFlow 7 use thinner mesh and tend to manage heat a bit better. The caveat is that they also use more padding, so once the moisture is there, it might retain more. But generally, the inflow through the toes and across the top of the foot keep your feet cooler. The On Cloud X use a thin mesh and very little padding, so they perform quite well on the air-cooling side of the equation and don't have the moisture retention concern of the PureFlow 7s.
You could easily get away with off-roading in these puppies, but they're really meant to be traditional road racing or training shoes. We suggest keeping them on the road and light trails.
Their great performance and affordable price of $80 won them the Best Bang for the Buck Award. We feel strongly that they're a good deal.
The Bandit 3s really surprised us with their top performance. Their simple upper has a super natural feel to it and they have a landing that could be mistaken for minimalist shoes on carpet. They excel out on the road in the mid-distance category, really shining at that 6-8 mile range when chafe spots and less padding in other shoes becomes apparent. But what we especially liked about them was their price. They picked up the Best Bang for the Buck Award because they delivered such awesome performance for almost a third of the price of some of the other kicks in our selection. We were super thrilled in these out on the road and we think a lot of runners will be too.
— Ryan Baham