So this is a surprise. A little more under the radar than Nike’s React, UnderArmour launched its own brand-new cushioning system: HOVR. It’s basically a core of foam wrapped in a net layer for energy return. It’s a novel way of using Saucony’s old Power Grid concept. And UA might have something here.
First, the good: the new midsole is very responsive and adaptable to your running style, as well as great at absorbing impact. UA says they aimed to make a shoe that wouldn’t make runners’ legs tired. They mostly nailed it, but one issue is the fact that the shoe is very bottom-heavy. The upper is so light that the weight of the sole is very noticeable. So basically what your legs would save in effort, they lose because they’re swinging with unbalanced shoes on the ends of them. This might not be a problem for heavier runners, however, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they really liked all the positive parts of the shoe. One aspect that’s definitely adding to the weight, but still a very cool idea, is the outsole, which has a center section down the length of the foot that acts as a shank, to increase responsiveness. If they could keep that, but trim other parts of the outsole, it would really help. Then there’s the flatness of the shoe. They just need to add a little curve to the bottom, to aid gait transition.
The upper doesn’t have nearly as many complaints. UA has arguably made a better knit upper than Nike’s Flyknit, and here they’ve integrated a heel counter to help stability. The shape might bug those with heel spurs though, so watch out.
HOVR has a lot of promise, the Sonic just doesn’t fully capitalize on it. However, if shock absorption is a major aspect of shoes for you, you’ll get a lot of mileage out of this one. It’ll be really neat to see where they go next.