Under Armour seems optimistic with its Hovr soles that promise to “Lift You Up”
At a massive party in NYC in early 2018, on the rooftop of The Standard hotel, athletes and influencers gathered to toast the launch of the new HOVR technology – and listen to a private concert by H.E.R. It’s a new sole structure from Under Armour, which the fitness and sportswear brand plans to base most of its shoe launches with. So, for them it was a pretty big deal.
But is the shoe worth the fuss? Will it help you be a better runner?
What is behind the HOVR technology
At Under Armour’s New York office (its official head offices are based in Baltimore), I meet with Justin Howe, creative director of footwear to talk about the two-year project we know as HOVR. And he tells me the most surprising thing. While I was expecting the inspiration for the new shoe to be some out-there science-y space engineering with medical grade material, he made it so much more simple.
The shoe – ready for it? – is based on the chamois. And that is the padded shorts cyclists wear to be more comfortable on the bike seat. Now, stay with me, while that sounds like a left turn, it’s really a more focused approach to shoe design – it’s about comfort.
“We set out to attack gravity,” says Howe. “Gravity pulls you down. It creates two to four times your weight with every step when running. This is a zero gravity feel.” The reason HOVR is worth the hoopla, he says, is because it is the first shoe to be both soft and can transfer energy. Typical ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam soles usually do one or the other, but hadn’t achieved both. But the foam and the webbing in HOVR soles give runners both benefits.
You see, the inside of the soul – like the chamois – has different support systems based on the pressure of the foot as it hits the ground. So while on the outside, it might look like a minimalist-type sole, inside is all about comfort and protecting the impact on the foot from running.
Created by Dow Chemical Co., the foam midsole is wrapped in a web to give structured cushioning and help the foot rebound upon striking the ground.
There are two models currently available with HOVR soles: Sonic (a sleeker design made for longer distance runs), and Phantom (a more solid base for speed training, interval conditioning and shorter runs). Sonic has two colour offerings, and Phantom has three (ivory, grey and an intense reddish orange called Brilliance).
The HOVR review
My first run in my Sonics was at The Mile High Club for a treadmill class. Typically with new shoes, I find my toes and the ball of my feet cramp, as I have to “break in” the soles – either by twisting the shoe to soften the rubber or just grin through the pain until the shoes give. This was the first pair I have never had to do that with. It honestly felt like I was wearing a pair I’d already owned for a month or two. And it has felt the same over the past few weeks.
The flat-knit toe bed was super breathable (don’t run in the rain though, unless you’re prepared to get wet). And I had no redness on my feet from rubbing – which also means I had no risk of blistering (halleluiah!). Because I already knew about the “chamois” inspo, I expected the shoe to have more support on say the heel or the balls of my feet, but it really felt seamless from heel to toe. While my superficial side loved the white and gold, the practical side of me is a bit sad that they are going to get really dirty. So,
Under Armour HOVR Sonic (above in white and below in blue), $120 at ua.ca.