Shoe Review: Under Armour HOVR Sonic

Will UA's innovative midsole foam platform take the brand to the next level?

 Price: $100 ($110 for the HOVR Sonic CT “Connected” version)

Specs: 13mm (forefoot), 21mm (heel), 6mm heel-toe offset (men’s size 9)

Weight: 9.6 oz. (men’s size 9)

The Scoop: If you visit Under Armour’s world headquarters in Baltimore or its new state-of-the-art performance and innovation lab in Portland, Ore., you’ll see many bold statements adorning the walls that reflect the brand’s dramatic rise to one of the world’s leading athletic footwear and apparel companies over the past 20 years. Perhaps the most profound of those statements is: “We Have Not Yet Made Our Defining Product.” It reinstates to all who see it that the brand is forever committed to innovation and challenging the norm. Under Armour has certainly done that in running—as evidenced by its SpeedForm upper materials and constructions, “smart” Connected shoes powered by MapMyRun and backing some of the world’s top urban run crews. But after all this time—about 15 years if you’re keeping track—the brand is still seeking a sustainable foothold in the running world. Perhaps that’s because, as its forward-looking decree suggests, it hasn’t yet made it’s defining product when it comes to running shoes. But the Feb. 1 release of the HOVR Sonic—and its cousin, the HOVR Phantom ($130; $140 for the Connected version)— shows the brand is still in hot pursuit of those goals and might finally be at the tipping point.

Both the Sonic and the Phantom—and the brand’s latest push to establish itself within running in a more authentic way—are built around an innovative new midsole compound and application known as HOVR. It consists of a proprietary new foam developed in partnership with Dow Chemical that’s aimed at providing both soft cushioning and shock absorption in every single footstrike. (Yes, this is Under Armour’s answer to the dual-purpose midsole amalgamations of Saucony’s Everun compound, Brooks’ DNA AMP material, Nike’s React foam and Adidas’ Boost substance.) But the magic of the UA material—and how it performs—is how it’s implemented into the shoe. It’s wrapped with a durable and somewhat pliable mesh webbing that helps to maintain the midsole’s shape and, in return, helps deliver consistent responsiveness and energy return. The application is certainly unique, which is why designers offer a “visible technology” glimpse of it from the lateral and rear heel.

How does it perform? Well, pretty darn good actually, but differently than its competitors. The step-in feel is comfortable, although not overly plush and pillowy like some of its contemporaries, and the initial feel tends toward the firm-with-a-hint-of-soft side. The ride is subtly but consistently energetic, allowing the Sonic to straddle the line between a high-mileage everyday trainer and performance-oriented speedster. While it’s not a soft and squishy shoe by any means, it does feel amply cushioned during the initial and final miles of a long run. The multi-mesh upper provides both a locked-down snugness and ample wiggle room for the toes, although our initial reaction is that it favors narrower foot shapes over wider ones.

Who’s it Best For? This shoe should appeal to a wide range of runners from beginners to intermediates, as well as advanced runners looking for a uptempo training shoe. Given the do-everything nature of this shoe, it could work for those runners who rely on one shoe for all of their running or it could be a versatile choice in a quiver of options.

Plus: The Connected version of these shoes can track mileage and other run data via Under Armour’s MapMyRun app.

Minus: Runners with wider feet said the shoe was bordering on being a bit too snug in the forefoot. 

 

Brian Metzler
Brian Metzler is the Content Director of MotivRunning.com. He was the founding editor of Trail Runner magazine, a senior editor for Running Times and the editor in chief of Competitor. He's wear-tested more than 1,500 pairs of running shoes, raced every distance from 50 meters to 100 miles, has finished three Ironman triathlons and enjoys the quirky sport of pack burro racing.