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

adidas Energy Boost sneak peek

As I have mentioned on this ‘ere blog before, when it comes to footwear – and especially racing footwear – I am a big fan of adidas products and I have really enjoyed wearing the Adios AdiZero and the AdiZero Feather 2 for many of my races. The Adios AdiZeros were on my feet when I PB’d in London in April last year.

And now I have been told about a new technology that adidas are releasing – the Energy Boost system. Now I can’t tell you too much about it… mainly because I don’t know all that much about it. But I have been told that there is a new shoe that offers the runner three significant-sounding benefits:

  • Improved cushioning thanks to ‘energy capsules’, which make up the footwear’s distinctive midsole and which claim to store and release energy more efficiently on every footstrike
  • Performance in all conditions: adidas tell me that the new Boost material “holds its performance in almost any condition at unparalleled levels; tests revealed that, when taken from +40  to -20 degrees Celsius, BOOST™ foam is three times more temperature-resistant than standard EVA material”
  • And better comfort with an upper on the Energy Boost shoe which incorporates adidas Techfit technology

This all sounds pretty good and I am very keen to try the shoe out – something I will get to do on 13 February at the global product launch. Until then, there is a video which offers a glimpse of the new Boost technology – which you can see here – and a rather cool, if enigmatic, photo to whet your appetite…

Feather-weight comfort

I like Adidas – I like the brand, I like the German-ness of the company. I like their focus on performance above all else. And I really like the products, especially the adiZero range. One of my favourite bits of kit – and I have quite a bit of kit! – is a second hand adiZero longsleeve t-shirt that my coach, Nick Anderson, gave me.

Above all I really like the Adidas shoes that I have tried out… which is actually exactly one pair – the adiZero Adios 2s, with super-special Continental rubber in the soles. They are really good shoes (especially after the toe-box was widened a smidgen which means they now accommodate my big fat feet!) and I ran my marathon PB of 2:38:30 in London this year in my second pair of Adios.

But unlike Nike, Brooks, Mizuno, New Balance, Saucony and others, Adidas have never wanted anything to do with me and my little blog. Until recently, that is.

A few months ago I was contacted by an agency on behalf of Adidas asking me to give them some details about myself and tell them about the blog. Which I did. And for a while nothing happened and I didn’t worry about that. I don’t chase brands – if they want to reach all the lovely people who come and read this nonsense… erm, I mean blog, then they can chase me.

Then suddenly two weeks ago, I received a very large package with an address label prominently displaying the Adidas logo. Inside was a magnificent metal and perspex box, containing a pair of the new adiZero Feather 2s. I was immediately taken aback by the amazing packaging and presentation of the shoes. You can see for yourself:

 

Now THAT is a shoe box!

But packaging is all well and good, but it doesn’t tell you how the shoes perform on the feet. So after wearing them in the office and at home for a few days to get used to them, I went out for a few easy 45 minute runs in the bright blue Feather 2s.

Now I know this is not the worlds most insightful review, but

They are great!

OK, more detail. They are a touch on the narrow side, but that has always been my experience of Adidas shoes and they are not as narrow as the first version of the adiZero Adios that I wanted to wear but couldn’t because they were too tight around my toes. The Feathers are stiff and the cushioning in the forefoot and heel is firm, but that only serves to make the shoes feel really fast. If you are an efficient runner, used to racing flats or minimalist shoes, then you’ll feel right at home in the Feather 2s. The upper is super-lightweight, but without feeling flimsy and a side effect of that, which I like is the great breathability of the shoes. I even like the short and thin laces that stay tied perfectly.

The main thing that catches the eye about the Feather 2 however is the SPRINTFRAME construction which runs the full length of the show above the Adiprene cushioning material. It looks like a sort of plastic spring and seems to me to be a bit like the Wave insert that Mizuno use in the construction of their shoes, although in the adiZero Feathers the spring is under the mid-foot, not in the heel like the Mizunos. This seems to give the shoe a real springiness that means there is no sensation of losing momentum through the cushioning compressing, which I have experienced before. I am sure that it is this plastic plate which gives the Feather 2 such a pleasingly fast and responsive feel.

So, conclusion: the Adidas adiZero Feather 2 feels like a serious racer/trainer to me. This is a properly light shoe (just under 190g according the kitchen scales), low to the ground and with a firm feel that makes the shoe very responsive. This is a shoe for tempo runs, fast sessions, 10ks… that sort of thing. Light, biomechanically efficient runners will love this shoe as will anyone else who is looking for something quick and eye-catching. They’ll make you feel and look like an Olympian!

The Adidas AdiZero Adios (and a new love affair)

As I have admitted before I have never really run in Adidas shoes. In the case of Adidas it was a big sulk caused by a bad retail experience, the impression that Adidas shoes are too narrow for my rather wide feet and the fact that with so many other brands to try, I never had the need to buy Adidas.

However, after being invited to the launch of the new Adidas range for 2012 and then being sent a pair of the new AdiZero Adios, I am converted. In fact I would go so far as to say, I am really impressed with the shoes.

The new Adidas AdiZero Adios

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the shoes worn by Patrick Makau in Berlin a couple of weeks ago when he broke the world record and I can certainly see why they would be his choice for the marathon. They are light and flexible. The upper is really breathable and whilst the fit is snug (bear in mind I do have wide feet) they seem to hug my foot rather than restricting it.

Three test runs

Low profile and yet just enough cushioning

I have worn the Adios for the last week on three runs and they performed superbly on each.

On Wednesday night I had a progressive 10 mile run on the canal towpath in the gathering gloom. This was my first run in the Adios and I was delighted by how light they felt despite providing a good deal of cushioning on a relatively long run on the hard concrete towpath. The grip was excellent despite some dampness on the ground and I really felt like I was floating along in the Adios. I was also really happy that the upper of the shoe is very breathable and as I pushed the pace I could feel the cool evening air through the top of the shoe which was great for cooling my feet.

The second outing for the Adios was a speed endurance session on Saturday. This involved extended threshold periods and multiple short fast hill reps in between. Again the Adios were perfect, with just the right balance of lightness and cushioning to ensure that I finished the session with my feet feeling great.

And then I took the Adios out for a long run today. I always try to do at least part of my long run off-road if I can but today that wasn’t possible. However despite the lightness and low profile, the Adios were great even after 16 miles and I didn’t miss my usual, much more cushioned shoes in which I do most of my easy running.

Features

Continental rubber provides excellent grip

The Adidas AdiZero Adios have quite a few features that I really like;

  • they are really ‘grippy’ – this is in part thanks to the section of Continental rubber at the front of the sole – this rubber from the famous German tyre manufacturer, it is claimed, can save up to 1mm of slip every meter, which I guess over 42,125 meters adds up. I’m not sure about that, but I do know that the shoes had great grip even when I was running on wet canal towpaths
  • the shoes have a very low profile – I’m not sure what the heel drop is, but these – to me – are real racing flats with no sign of a thick heel. As a result they really encouraged me on to my mid-foot as I ran
  • the Adios are really light – 217g according to my scales
  • comfortably wide toe-box aligned with a snug mid-foot means that the shoes were not restrictive but at the same time didn’t feel that there were slopping around as I ran. I would however suggest trying a half size bigger than usual especially if you are not used to racing flats
  • the Adiprene material under the fore-foot provides great, light-weight cushioning, which makes them ideal for the marathon in my opinion

Conclusion

My conclusion is simply this; for many of us the search for the perfect shoe is a long and arduous one, especially the search for the perfect race-day shoe. I have known for almost as long as I have been running that many of the greatest runners in the world wear Adidas shoes and yet I stubbornly refused to give them a try for a rather petty reason. That was a mistake. I really like the Adidas AdiZero Adios. It is a great race-day shoe and one that will have a permanent place in my shoe rack. It is a shoe that for me combines all the things that I am looking for – lightness, breathability, flexibility and cushioning – with the fewest possible compromises. And it is very, very orange (which I like). I’m glad I have finally got over my jilted-lover syndrome and embraced the Adios – I think we’ll have a long life together.

The new Adidas AdiZero Adios will be available in the UK from January 2012.
If Carlsberg made running shoes...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Postscript, here are some official notes from Adidas about the technology built into the AdiZero Adios:

Adidas’ new range for 2012

First of all a confession – I haven’t ever really run in Adidas footwear before (I did have a pair when I very first started running, but I can’t really remember them and they were consigned to the bin fairly quickly after I discovered I had bought a size too small for me). The reason for this is rather ridiculous, but is something that I hope many runners will understand; I had a bad retail experience and then never went back to the brand I was annoyed by.

After I started running I always went to a specialist running shop for my shoes, but after a few years, I started to think that I knew what felt good on my feet. So I went to a huge Adidas shop on Oxford Street, in London’s West End, with the intention of trying on, and buying, some Adidas racing flats. After all these were the shoes that Haile Gebrselassie had worn when he and I ran the Berlin marathon earlier in 2008; he set the then world record of 2:03:59 and I ran a PB in 2:51:52.

The problem is that I am not good at shopping. I don’t like hanging around and I don’t like what I perceive to be bad service. So after waiting for a preposterously long time to be served and for the shoes I wanted to try to arrive, the sales assistant dropped the shoes on the floor at my feet and started serving another customer… and I left and walked straight into the arms of ASICS, where I remained until earlier this year.

But I have always liked the idea of Adidas. My favourite racing shorts are Adidas. My favourite t-shirts, long- and short-sleeved, are Adidas. And so many runners I know love their shoes, I often felt I was missing out. But I can be a bit stubborn and there wasn’t really a good reason to stop racing in my ASICS.

But now I might relent and finally succumb to the lure of the three stripes. Why? Well I have stopped wearing the ASICS that I was so faithful to and started trying different brands. And the new Adidas range looks pretty interesting.

Shoes for racing

Being shown around the Adidas shoes today by Kirstyn from the KTB PR agency, I finally grasped the different ranges that Adidas have and who they are aimed at. There is the Response range, aimed at the beginner and designed to provide a choice of entry level shoes. Then there is the Supernova range, offering slightly lighter and rather sleeker-looking shoes with lower profiles and an overall racier feel, aimed at the ‘improver’. These shoes include Adidas’ torsion system in the sole along with a larger area of Formotion cushioning but without any extra weight. Next up is the adiStar range, which is considered to be for the serious runner with further technical additions and even lighter weight. And finally there is the adiZero range which contains Adidas’ racing flats, as worn by Gebrselassie and, perhaps more significantly, Patrick Makau in this years Berlin marathon, when he set a new world record for the marathon: 2:03:38.

The Adidas adiZero range

There are two shoes in the new adiZero range that I am really keen to try; the adiZero Adios and the Feather.

The Adios is the shoe that I think could become one of my favourites. Handling the shoe, it is undoubtedly light and feels well balanced and with just the right amount of flex. The innovation in this shoe that I think is really interesting is the link-up between Adidas and the tyre manufacturer Continental, who have supplied rubber that has been incorporated in key areas of the sole to aid grip. The areas of rubber are quite small to ensure the shoe remains extremely light, but the rubber is exactly where my racing flats always wear the fastest – mainly at the front of the toe-box – and if the Continental rubber adds traction (the KTB PR team informed me that some boffins somewhere have estimated that the rubber saves 1mm of ‘slip’ per 1 meter, which over a marathon adds up I guess!) and longevity, then I think Adidas could be on to a winner.

The other interesting shoe in the range, that caught my eye, is the Feather (see right). As the name would suggest this is a very light shoe indeed and has something that I haven’t seen in a long-distance shoe before. The ‘sprint frame’ that the shoe is built around is a full-length rigid plastic base – similar to the sole of a track spike – that the upper is bonded on to (thereby saving stitching which might make the shoe  more attractive to those who prefer running without socks) and onto which is stuck the adiPRENE cushioning material. I must admit that I am not convinced that a shoe that has such rigidity in the sole is going to be a good idea, but I hope I’ll get a chance to try them out and report back.

Adidas adiZero and Supernova apparel

The other things that caught my eye were the adiZero clothing range and the official London marathon apparel.

As I have said before, I really am a big fan of the Adidas adiZero clothing range. The latest offerings feel really great; super-light, well made with body-mapping technologhy which means that different materials are used in key areas to aid moisture management or improve ventilation. Oh and they are orange (and I mean really orange – see left!) I know that personally I am highly likely to end up adding to my already considerable collection of running wear with some items from this range and as soon as I do, I will post some reviews.

The final items I had a look at were the Supernova pieces that will make up the official London marathon range (at the time of writing this they are not available, but you can have a look by following the link). Again, orange is the colour of choice – see right – and I think that the collection looks good and really is high quality, so if you are keen to show-off that you have run the London, then this kit is the way to do it and is also pretty good technically.

So I would say that from what I have seen, Adidas have some pretty exciting products coming out in the next few months. I hope that I will have a chance to try at least a few out and I will put something in the review section. In the mean time if anyone reading this wants to add a review of some kit they are currently using please let me know (and that goes for any brand, not just Adidas) whilst I am going to pull on my new trusted Mizunos and head out for a little run.    

Why I might buy ASICS’ entry level shoe

I read today that my favourite brand of running shoe, ASICS, plans to launch a $60 dollar shoe in the US in the near future, as part of its programme to double sales by 2015. This story, which seems to have made more of an impact in the business pages than the running forums, interested me because the price point they have chosen has been described as: the price they can sell entry level shoes at. The implication being that once someone has shelled out $60 for an entry level shoe, they will start to work their way up ASICS evolutionary scale until they are evenually rocking a pair of Kayanos, which retails for around $140.

However I think that ASICS might shoot themselves in the foot with this idea, especially if some of the comments I read are true. Toshiyuki Sano, an executive in charge of finance at ASICS, said that they are pitching the shoe at $60 because that allows certain aspects of the higher priced shoes to be retained, but others will have to go to save costs. And it is exactly this stripping back that ASICS might live to regret.

The barefoot running movement is really starting to gather momentum especially in the US and the UK – only last night a girl arrived at the Mornington Chasers in a pair of Vivo Barefoot shoes – and caused quite a stir with certain older members of the club… but that is another story. And whilst I don’t know many people who I think are likely to go the whole hog and ditch their shoes, amongst my friends and peers there does seem to be a trend towards more minimalist shoes – racing flats if you like. I run in ASICS Tarthers. Others I know favour the Adidas Adios range or the Saucony Fast Twitch. Now please don’t misunderstand me – I know these are not barefoot running shoes in any sense of the word, but I do think that one of the residual effects of the popularity of barefoot running is that the rest of us are increasingly looking for shoes with less built into them.

I would certainly look at a cheap ASICS shoe if one were produced and sold in this country. Most of the time I want a really basic, light shoe and I accept that at the level I run at I will need to replace my shoes every few months, so no big deal. I am not a heavy runner and I don’t have any biomechanical issues that mean I need stability built into my shoe. So from a business perspective this could be a problem for ASICS if they find that it is not just first-timers who buy their stripped-back $60 shoe, but experienced runners who think that less is more and who don’t want to pay for technology with dubious benefits. And I think I might be one of them!