First run: Under Armour Speedform (2014) review
The Under armour Speedform is a new running shoe that takes a very different approach to what Nike, Adidas, and others are doing.
Its approach is to come at it from a garment perspective. That's fitting seeing as the company is famous for compression clothing worn to aid performance, as well as, help recovery.
But does a shoe that is made in a bra factory have what it takes to compete against shoes made by company's who's roots are in the cobblers trade? We've bashed out a couple of 5km runs to find out.
Seamless and light
Under Armour pitch the new Speedform shoes as fast. At 185g they are lightweight, and the fabric upper only aids the streamline feeling.
There are two unique selling points with the shoe. The first is that there is no innersole or steams within the shoe itself, the second is that the upper is just two pieces of fabric that wrap around your foot.
The former means that the heel and inner are one piece which in turn is welded to the cushioned sole. This makes for a very comfortable ride, although one that most probably won't notice compared to a regularly designed trainer. You will notice the lack of a padded inner sole though, and it's a little strange to comprehend to start with. It means there is no shifting material in the shoe. All the cushioning really is only in the sole.
A fabric upper
The upper is just two pieces of fabric that wrap around your foot. From the heel component to the toe, it is one bit of stretched fabric that moves and floats above your foot.
The sheer expanse of material, compared to a traditional trainer, meant that in our run we felt the crease of the fabric in the same way that you would a leather shoe, only softer. This wasn't off putting, but noticeably when we concentrated on the ride. We suspect on a day to day run you wouldn't notice anything and that we were more aware of it because we where concentrating on the feel of the fit for this article.
The fabric upper, which is punctured with breath holes, also makes for a very airy experience as there aren't any additional fabric supports on the top of the shoe.
In the winter rain soaked days we have in the UK, it is worth noting that this isn't a winter shoe. Like the FlyKnit shoes from Nike, a puddle or some cross terrain action will soak your feet. Thankfully washing instructions say you can wash the shoe (it's fabric remember), but not in a washing machine.
Cushioned but designed to be a hard ride, the sole offered some support, on the outside edge, but not much. In our two runs the support proved virtually non-existent to the point were we felt we were running barefoot for a while. That might be something to do with the 8mm rise across the shoe, or a carved out bridge section with no real tension support or straps.
Heel strikers will enjoy the extra padding at the rear, and strangely the further back the heel you go the more cushioning there is while there is enough cushioning around the mid-foot area tool. As a mid-foot runner it was cushioned, but no where near anything like the Nike LunarGlide 5 shoes that we feel are akin to wearing sleepers.
Grips, made with a material designed by Under Armour, have been stylised into a footprint shape. It looks cool, does add grip to pavement running, but little else. The positioning of them however means turning up the pace is easy (as long as you are strong enough) as their is grip to support your efforts.
The Under Armour Speedform shoes are light and deliver a hard and fairly unsupported ride which will appeal to runners who want a barefoot like experience (they aren't barefoot though). Geared towards shorter runs between 5km - 10km the shoes were comfortable to wear and are certainly worth looking into. For those who care about this kind of stuff, they look good too.
The concerns we have range from a rather roomy and airy toe area, to expecting a better fitting upper especially given Under Armours heritage.
If you get a chance to check them out at your local running shop, this is certainly one alternative to the popular Nike and Adidas brands.