When it comes to naming the top two global running brands, most of us would say Adidas and Nike. So, when Adidas announced they were adding the Ultraboost 22 to its iconic line-up, their first-ever women’s specific running shoe, I wanted to check out just what the new tech involves, but more importantly, how they feel to run in.
As soon as I took delivery of the Ultraboost 22, I forgot about work, got my running kit on, and headed straight out. Super keen, I know, but mainly because I haven’t really run in an Ultraboost shoe for years and I wanted to see what Adidas had been up to. I was curious: has Adidas created the best running shoes for women or is the female-specific approach just a marketing plot?
Whether it’s right or wrong, you instantly form an opinion of a shoe by its colour, just like how you often buy a book depending on how the cover sleeves look. The first option for the UB22 is a very subtle ‘magic mauve’ colourway, with a tiny pop of neon pink on the top of the laces and a complimentary strip in the midsole.
Initial thoughts? Not too girly if you’re a tomboy, stylish and they quickly grow on you. One of my teenage daughters grabbed them saying: “I love them,” and I replied: “I don’t think so…”
And with that, I was off to see how the Adidas Ultraboost 22 feels and performs on the road...
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Adidas UltraBoost 22 price and release date
The Adidas Ultraboost 22 will be available from 9 December 2021 at Adidas US (opens in new tab), Adidas UK (opens in new tab), via the Adidas App and in-store for a recommended retail price of $180/€180/£165.
AUS prices TBC.
Adidas Ultraboost 22: Designed by women, for women
Before we got to the experience itself, I wanted to explain the tech behind the Ultraboost 22 and how it came to be. To help me get a grasp of everything this new release has to offer, I spoke to Nora Wilimzig, Senior Product Manager at Adidas and one of the main people behind the shoes.
"We used a database with 1.2 million foot scans to identify key differences across instep height, heel anatomy and the female gait cycle so that we could re-engineer and refine the Ultraboost last to better reflect the female foot", she explained, "The last in this shoe, born from the foundations of the signature S-curve Adidas Ultraboost 21 last, was fine-tuned to create a narrower heel pocket, shallower forefoot profile and lower instep area, whilst the newly refined outsole is designed to help you say goodbye to overpronation."
Rumour has it that only women had worked on the redesign of the Ultraboost and I wanted to find out if it was true? Nora put my mind at ease: "Yes! We’re very proud that this is the first Adidas shoe where everyone on the team that created it was a woman. We thought it was about time an all-woman team was responsible for a female-specific shoe, and we wanted to create a 360-degree improvement for our female runners!"
"The foot scans we analysed showed us that we needed to change the last of the shoe, which is the foot-shaped mould, like the silhouette of a foot", Nora explains the process, "We realised we needed to create a lower instep height on the new last as this is the area that is significantly different on a woman’s foot, compared to a man’s."
So, even though the last was based on the unisex Ultraboost 21 model, Adidas' made it narrower in the new iteration. The zone on the heel, right up to the Achilles tendon has been redeveloped to give a narrower fit. Pronation was also taken into account when designing the Ultraboost 22.
"We spent a lot of time looking at the female gait cycle, which revealed that women tend to over-pronate more than men", Nora says, "So, the other main area of development is on the outsole where there are holes in the rubber on the rear foot area to allow the boost to move."
She goes on: "These holes are flexible and they're longer and larger than on the male shoe because of the difference in the female gait. As your foot lands, these holes can open, allowing the Boost in the midsole to expand and stretch into them. This makes your landing softer and allows the Boost to move and support your feet."
The most important question I saved for last: can you feel the boost when running in the Ultraboost 22? "You’ve also got Adidas Linea Energy Push, which works in harmony with the Boost midsole to give you a responsive ride", Nora says, "And we’ve worked out you’re getting four per cent more energy return due to the redesign, Boost and LEP system, than you’d get with the UB21 for women. The Boost literally wraps around your feet, so your heels are completely embedded in this ultimate comfort zone."
Adidas Ultraboost 22: first run impressions
After just two (relatively short) runs I agree that the Adidas Ultraboost 22 scores extremely high when it comes to comfort, cushioning and responsiveness. There’s a noticeable internal comfort pad on either side of your heel, which feels like a micro cushion supporting your Achilles from each side.
The Primeknit+ upper, made with yarn containing 50 per cent parley ocean plastic, feels familiar and flexible and gives that sock-like fit. It’s thick enough to feel snug and supportive, but still flexible and thin enough for your feet to stay dry. It’s a simple design but the foot is held in place and doesn’t move when you make ground contact.
There is a very deep layer of Boost cushioning in the rear of the shoe (the rear height is 22 mm, the front 12 mm) and this really does feel incredible. There’s a lovely feeling of your feet softly hitting the ground before receiving a welcome boost in the push-off.
The lacing is simple and effective, although the plastic strips that secure the laces, although they proudly display the Adidas three-stripe logo, seem less in line with all the other re-designs. They feel a bit clunky. The flared Achilles heel support and the heel counter are deliciously soft against your ankle.
These have a large footprint and feel bigger than my normal shoes, however, I like the fit and support from the upper and even though it’s early days, I think they’re going to live up to what Adidas is promising and give back a lot of energy to my legs. Bravo to the all-women team who’ve given us the Ultraboost 22.