adidas Boost – the next chapter

SS15_Boost_PR_FW_Neon_3x2When adidas announced Boost as their latest technology, I honestly thought that they were on to something in terms of changing the paradigm. They had created a material that would challenge the ubiquity of EVA as the stuff that was on the bottom of every pair of running shoes (excluding the most minimalist of minimal shoes which have no cushioning at all). But as with all technology, the proof is in the pudding. How would Boost stand up to millions of miles of running? What would runners think of it? Would it become the default cushioning material for running shoes everywhere in the way that EVA had in the past?

My personal Boost experience

Personally I think that Boost is brilliant. It is firmer that a lot of the EVA that is found in trainers. And what I really liked is that now it has found its way in to the adios adiZero – my marathon racing shoe of choice – there is what I think is the perfect balance of weight, cushioning and firmness.

In fact in all the adidas shoes that I have had the chance to run in, that have Boost in them, I have found the material to be just about right.

SS15_Boost_PR_FW1_3x2As an aside, I think that when the adizero Prime Boost came out, adidas had come pretty close to the perfect racing shoe for me: low-profile Boost cushioning with around 9mm drop, durable rubber outsole and a flexible breathable upper. Only problem is the price at the time of the launch – £185!

Now Boost continues

Today adidas have announced the next chapter in the Boost story – the Ultra BOOST. adidas tell me that this trainer features 20 percent more BOOST cushioning material which they claim has the highest energy return cushioning in the running industry.

The shoe looks pretty amazing and there is a very sumptuous video to go with the launch. As soon as I can, I will run in the new Boost shoe and post a review, but for now… enjoy:

http://youtu.be/oqpTJP36okk

ADIDAS_BOOST_INFOGRAPHIC

adidas Supernova Glide Boost review: from cold & wet to warm & sunny!

I am unashamedly a fan of the adidas Boost midsole material technology. In case you are not up to speed on what it is all about, my understanding is that adidas have developed a midsole material (the springy bit that provides the cushioning in running (and indeed most other sports) shoes) that replaces the EVA that is usually used with something made up of millions of little balls of material fused together – this is Boost. From my point of view, I think that the Boost material has a couple of advantages:

  • It is very light. I am not sure how the weight-to-cushioning ratio compares to EVA, but the Boost shoes I have feel like they have a really decent amount of cushioning but are as light as a feather
  • It is really resilient – the boffins at adidas say that because the Boost midsole is made up of many individual balls of material, the cushioning remains for longer. What I do know is that the first pairs of Boost shoes that I tried out feel as responsive now as the day I got them, well over 500 miles ago

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 14.08.46The latest shoe to receive the Boost treatment is the Supernova Glide. This is a new shoe for me. I have run in the adidas Bostons before and I love the adiZero Adios. But when I was looking for a reliable, everyday training shoe – which is what I consider the Supernova Glide to be – I always opted for the Mizuno Wave Rider. But my head has been turned by this new adidas shoe.

The team at adidas invited a few of us to the Highbury Fields Parkrun (in case you didn’t know, adidas are a supporter of Parkrun, the free weekly 5km runs that have sprung up all over the UK and further afield) to find out about the Supernova Glide Boost. Sadly the courier that was supposed to deliver a pair the day before the Parkrun didn’t, so the first I saw of the shoes was as I arrived 20 minutes before the run. Being tender-of-foot I had to decline the opportunity of trying the shoes that morning, sticking instead to my trusted adiZero Adios. But the shoes immediately impressed me straight out of the box.

First, the race

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 14.08.08There has been some controversy recently with the editor of Athletics Weekly and the people who manage Parkrun disagreeing on whether the events are ‘runs’ or ‘races’. I think that the distinction comes down to how much Parkrun wants to help UK Athletics hit its participation targets set up Sport England (or something like that – I can’t really figure out who is who and what is what when it comes to all the politics) and so they call their events a ‘run’ to avoid elitism and get as many people involved as possible.

However as far as I can concerned, there is a start line and finish line, the course is accurately measured, the organisers time how long it takes you to get around the 5kms and there are other people trying to get around said course faster than me. That is a race.

However training has been patchy recently and I have never been very useful over relatively shorter distances, so I had lowly ambitions for this race. My plan was to set off and stay as close to the leaders for as long as possible. The anonymity of Parkruns means that it is often difficult to tell who is who and whether someone is going to hammer out a 15 minute 5K. We will see, I thought!

The starter got us under way and immediately there was a group in front – probably 5 or 6 runners ahead of me. The first 200m were uphill and I tried to stay steady and make my way around the first of five laps as close to them as possible. By the end of the first lap, I was second.

The chap in front looked determined. I could tell that from the back of his head. He wanted this win and all I could hope was that I could make it as difficult as possible for him. So I closed up behind him on the hill at the start of lap two and by the top, as we headed into the wind on the downhill side of the park, we were working together to try to get around as fast as possible.

By the end of the third lap I was in trouble. My heart was in my mouth and I had a horrible raw feeling in my lungs, as though I was sucking in really cold, harsh wet air. Which I was. I hung on grimly and even managed to take the lead for the penultimate uphill section at around 4km.

Then ‘Determined Man’ put in a surge. We turned at the top of the park to start the last downhill into the wind and he pushed on. The string between us snapped. I was finished. Then I noticed a runner on my shoulder. It was Harry Benyon, one of the team from adidas’ PR agency who were there organising us bloggers. Now I know Harry is young, fit and enthusiastic, but when I grunted “Go Harry, GO!” he took off like he’d just started the race (sorry, run!) in pursuit of Determined Man.

For me, the world closed in. My great friend and the coach on the day Tom Craggs had jumped in with 1000m to go and was pacing me, 5 meters ahead. All I could do was stare at the back of his head and hang on. For the last two laps we had been running through back markers and now, as we hit the uphill for the last time, it was rather crowded. I couldn’t see D.M. or Harry. I didn’t care.

I crossed the line in third in 17:20. Not bad seeing as I am out of shape and it was a difficult course on a very windy day. D.M. won dipping under 17 minutes for a PB. Harry barely looked out of breath (bastard!)

What about the shoes?

So unfortunately I didn’t get to try the shoes in the race. Maybe if I had been in them I’d have stayed with D.M. and Harry. Maybe not. But since that cold, wet, windy Saturday, I have been running in the adidas Supernova Glide Boosts quite a bit. I’ve brought them on holiday with me and have been running in them between bouts of eating and relaxing (the balance of running to eating/relaxing has not been ideal, but I feel great!)

My impression is that the Supernova Glide is a great training shoe. Like all of the Boost range that I have tried, the shoe is light, but in this shoe there is a really good amount of cushioning. I will happily pull this shoe on for my mid-week steady runs. The upper is really well ventilated: a mesh with some welded overlays which forms Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 14.08.29a nicely generous toe-box. The heel is well cushioned. And the outsole has Continental™ Rubber which means there is no slipping and sliding in the wet (it has actually rained out here in the last couple of days!)

All in all, I think the adidas Supernova Glide Boost is a great all-round running shoes. It is slap-bang in the middle of the price range for similar shoes at £100 and I think that given the responsiveness and the long-lasting cushioning that the Boost delivers, this is a good choice if you are looking for a reliable, everyday training shoe and possibly a comfortable option for longer races.

Now you must excuse me, I have some essential eating and relaxing to do.

The adidas Boost – first impressions

EVA  – the material used to make the sole of over 90% of all cushioned sports shoes, has been around for getting on for 20 years now. There is no doubt that when it was launched, this material represented a quantum leap forward in footwear technology and whilst many advocates of barefoot running, blame the introduction of cushioned footwear and EVA in particular for what appears to be a change in the way people run, to a heel-strike gait, for many runners, cushioning under the foot allows them to run and makes tackling marathons possible.

This is not the place to debate whether or not cushioning is good. I am going to say that for many runners, it is desirable and I am one of them. On that basis, I was really intrigued to see what adidas had come up with when they announced, a few months ago, that they had a product that would revolutionise running.

That product is Boost – a propriatory mid-sole material that adidas have been developing for almost two years and which promises to be a massive improvement on EVA.

World, meet Boost

On Wednesday 13 February 2013 at 10:30am, Boost was launched in front of a group of journalists, writers, bloggers and others at an event in New York, USA. By 3pm I was running around Central Park in a pair. And I was very pleasantly surprised by what I found.

Boost mid-sole material

The first thing I noticed when I pulled on the Energy Boost shoes we had been given, was the material under my feet. Standing on the concrete floor in the conference centre where the presentation has taken place, the sole of the shoe felt springy and light, but not hugely different from EVA.

Boost is made up of thousands of beads of energy-returning material
Boost is made up of thousands of beads of energy-returning material

On the run, however, Boost really surprised me. It was much firmer than I expected and there was no loss of feeling or proprioception, which I thought there might be.

I think I felt that Boost would be a development of EVA – a softer, plusher material. But it is in fact, much firmer than many of the EVA-soled shoes I have run in recently. Certainly much firmer than Nike’s Lunarlon material. During my hour-long run with Stuart Miles from Pocket-Lint (a fine navigator of Central Park, it should be said!) I think I worked out why Boost is not a soft material by delving back into basic science at school.

The advantage that Boost offers, over EVA, is that it does not absorb force (or energy). Instead it rebounds and return energy from the footstrike. That is why it feels firm. At the presentation there were bins full of the little pearls of material that are fused together to make the mid-sole material and Stuart said that when he tried to compress the beads, they were resistant. So (and here is my basic and unverified scientific analysis) the force that the runner exerts on the mid-sole as his or her foot hits the ground, is returned as there is an equal and opposite reaction to the action of compression. Soft EVA simply absorbs energy. I likened the sensation of running in a shoes with an EVA mid-sole to riding a bike with suspension – it smoothes out the bumps, but at the same time absorbs the energy from pedaling, making the rider work harder. Boost is the equivalent of a stiff carbon frame and solid forks – possibly a rougher ride, but no loss of energy through absorbtion (in fact the opposite is true, so the analogy is not perfect).

The shoe

The shoe that we were given is more then just the mid-sole material. It would be, in fact, a very interesting shoe even if it only had an EVA sole.

Energy Boost shoe, complete with Central Park mud!
Energy Boost shoe, complete with Central Park mud!

The upper is made of a fine mesh material that has very few seams and a nice snug, but not restrictive fit. adidas shoes tend to come up smaller than other brands anyway, but the pliable upper is very forgiving and also doesn’t threaten much in the way of blister-causing seams.

Overlayed onto the upper are some bands of what feels like PVC material that run from the sole up around the mid-foot and form the lacing eyelets. These seem to have the effect of pulling the mid-foot nice and snug, whilst leaving plenty of space in the toe-box. At the back of the shoe is an external heel-counter made of plastic, which gives the shoe a familiar feel for anyone used to running in adidas and holds the foot nicely in place. It is also interesting to note that the opening above the tongue is wider than usual then on the adidas shoes I wear – the AdiZero Adios and the Feather – and whilst this didn’t make any difference to me, I did wonder whether the pressure of the laces across the top of the foot might cause problems if the shoe is laced very tight.

Did I get a Boost?

Overall, I think that the adidas Boost is a very, very interesting development. I was really pleased with how firm the material felt and there was no doubt, even on the gentle run that I took with Stuart, that there is a noticable rebound to the material. I am interested to see how that feels on both a longer run and a shorter faster session.

I am always wary of promises that a development – whether that is in kit or footwear or technology like GPS – will change the way we run. But I do really think that Boost has the possibility to provide a little extra, a small advantage – a boost! – which, when it comes to trying to be the best runner you can be, will be welcome. I am already really looking forward to trying out the Adios AdiZero version later this year and, if the rumours I have heard are true, will be watching the elite adidas athletes who will be wearing that iconic racing flat with the new mid-sole material, tackle the London marathon in April. Who knows, maybe this will be the development which will boost them to achieve new levels of performance and bring the sub-2 hour marathon a step or two closer.

The adidas Energy Boost will be released on 27 February and will cost £120 in the UK. Check local specialist running shops for details of whether they will have them in stock or the adidas website at www.adidas.co.uk

The launch of the adidas Boost – New York, Feb. 2013.

How do you announce and celebrate a game-changing piece of technology in the running market? It must be difficult for the marketing and brand heads of running companies to answer that question sometimes. After all, there are so many times that a new product or a new piece of technology is touted as a game-changer, that if you believe that yours IS a genuine epoch defining change, it is a challenge to do something big enough.

Well, adidas really stepped up to the mark for the launch of their Boost technology: they hired the Javits Centre (home of the New York Marathon expo) for the event. Flew in dozens of journalists, influencers, bloggers and others from around the world. Gave out iPads and shoes to the people invited to the launch event. Invited Yohan Blake and Haile Gebrselassie to the launch event.

And I think that all the huzzar might well be justified. The technology behind the Boost sounds valid – intstead of using a uniform slab of EVA, the Boost sole is made up of thousands of little balls of springy material all bonded together. This means that the spring is huge – based on the test that they have where a metal ball is dropped from a height on to sheets of Boost and EVA (you can see the test here) and the viability of the material doesn’t deteriorate in the same way that EVA does. If this proves to be true, then the Boost might well challenge the ubiquity of EVA, which at the moment is in 98% of all sports shoes produced with cushioning in them. That is game-changing.

Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 14.38.29 Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 14.38.09 Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 14.37.48 Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 14.37.18

The proof will be in the pudding but I did have the chance to ask Johan Blake and Haile Gebrselassie what they think of the shoe. Johan told me that training is hard and that he actually does quite a large amount of his training in cushioned shoes rather than spikes. For him, anything that reduces fatigue and enhances recovery is good because it allows him to train harder and longer. That was what the Boost meant to him.

For Haile, the shoe represents a benefit for all levels of runners. He thinks that the shoe will allow elite athletes to gain a marginal advantage and when it comes to winning international and championship marathons, marginal gains are all there is. A few milimeters per stride, over the marathon distance, translates into big margins at the finish line. When I asked Halie what he thoghut the Boost would have allowed him to dio when he set the world record in Berlin, he was unhestitating:

It would have saved me a minute

And Haile also believes that the Boost will be a benefit to non-elite runners. For those who are heavier, the enhanced cushioning will reduce impact and therefore the likelihood of injury. That, by itself, will allow more training which will result in faster times, whether you are looking at breaking three hours, or finishing a debut marathon in five.

I am going to run as much as I can in the Boost I have been given to see what I think. There will be an initial review in the next day or two. And I have been told that there will be many versions of the Boost including an Adios racing flat, which is the shoe I am really looking forward to trying. In the mean time, here are some images so you can see the shoe…

Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 14.57.50 Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 14.57.36 Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 14.57.25 Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 14.57.14