To help you find workout gear that's as functional as it is stylish, we're trying out the latest products and letting you know how they fare when we put them to the test.
When Under Armour set out to design their latest running shoe, they wanted it to "create a performance, luxury car-like ride." Not sleek and aerodynamic like, say, a Tesla, but more substantial and regal like a Rolls-Royce. They ended up with a cushioned foam shoe with a thick midsole and high knit cuff, called the HOVR Phantom.
As the name suggests, the HOVR shoes are supposed to provide a "zero-gravity feel" or "hover" effect while you're running. The soles are made from a soft, responsive, wax-based foam, which is supposed to reduce impact on your muscles and joints when you run, explains Justin Howe, Under Armour creative director of footwear. "It has a super soft durometer [firmness] that helps cushion impact and provides shock absorption with every foot strike," he says.
On the outside of the foam is a special "energy web" that's supposed to direct the energy from the ground back into your stride, Howe says. Basically, that means that the more impact the foam receives, the more energy is "returned" to your body. For the record, lots of shoes have similar "energy return" capabilities. But some biomechanics experts say this claim goes against the law of physics, and is kind of B.S. Now, I'm no biomechanics expert, but I thought the shoes felt pretty springy.
I ran on the treadmill in the HOVR Phantom, and thought they were super light and had a decent amount of bounce to them. They're definitely not as responsive as other running shoes I've tried (like the Adidas Ultraboost or Nike Vapormax), but they felt more resilient than the Under Armour SpeedForm, another Under Armour running shoe. Kayla Isaacs, Snapchat Discover production assistant at Refinery29, wore them to a 305 Fitness dance class and told me, "I seriously felt like these shoes were propelling me forward."
When Victoria Tomkinson, social media editor at Refinery29, wore them for a long run, she said they were comfortable at first, but gave her a blister on the bottom of her foot toward the end of her run. She also said compared to her usual running shoes (Nike Free), they felt heavy. Kayla said she wished that they had a little bit more arch support, because she got a foot cramp in the middle of her workout. I didn't have any major issues with the sole of the shoe, but the upper part was kind of annoying.
The Under Armour HOVR is cut slightly higher than usual around the ankle, which "makes the transition from the shoe to your ankle as soft and natural as a sock," Howe says. But instead of a true sock-like upper (like the FlyKnit or the Adidas PrimeKnit), the HOVR's upper is made of a molded foam like the chamois of a bike short, Howe says. "It delivers layers of uncompressed foam under and around the foot for next-level comfort without any compromise to performance," he says.
I found it was so stiff that it gave me a blister (but that might only be a problem for the first few wears until I build up callouses). And Victoria said she thought they were a little clunky, "which is a lot for running but also for transporting in my gym bag."
Lots of athletic brands are launching high-top running sneakers, because they often look cool and provide a little more ankle coverage. But something about the foam and the stark white and red of the HOVR made them resemble Crocs — which isn't a bad thing per se, but it's not what I typically look for in a running shoe. That said, Under Armour told us that those original colorways sold out fast, and last week they launched a few more colors — like black and grey — so if you're not into the intense hues, you can opt for something subtler.
So, would we recommend buying these?
If you're someone who needs a lot of cushion from a running sneaker, but are looking for a more lightweight option that you can also wear to workout classes, the HOVR Phantom is a solid pick. At $140, they're a bit of a splurge, but they also come with a built-in sensor that syncs to the MapMyRun app, which is a definite perk for runners. Just be prepared to have to break in these bad boys before they truly feel comfortable, and maybe consider getting a bigger gym bag to carry theses Rolls-Royce-sized shoes to and from the gym.
*Under Armour provided Refinery29 with the product for testing purposes.