adidas is one of the most influential sports brands in the world and has a long and deep-rooted history in running, stemming back to when Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics wearing adidas spikes. It wasn’t until 1949 that the famous “adidas three stripes” appeared on track spikes for the first time, a design which was originally created to provide optimal support for the foot. adidas has a rich culture and recognises the power of sport to change lives as a call to action. Their attitude that “Impossible Is Nothing” lives true in their approach to product development, athlete and community support and their environmental mission.
More recently, adidas have become more known for their success in the trail world with the evolution of the TERREX range. TERREX products are created to help athletes cope with the toughest and most extreme conditions, whether that’s running up and down a steep mountain or taking on a 100mile+ ultra marathon. adidas TERREX supports and works alongside some of the best trail and ultra distance runners in the world to help create products that will enable everyone to achieve their goals. The expansion into the world of trail running hasn’t diminished their ambitions on the road. They continue to develop innovative road running shoes, from models that help break records to ones which make your everyday run feel easier.
The adidas running shoes range at Run4It includes a selection of their best road and off-road running shoes, that each offer specific qualities to help improve your run. Some of the Run4It team have been trialling the newest editions to the Spring/Summer range, with the aim of providing some further clarity on which model in the adidas range may suit you best.
adidas road running shoes
Ultraboost 21– The all-rounder
Will Stewart trialled the highly anticipated new Ultraboost 21. Sitting in our Neutral Soft category, the Ultraboost delivers exceptional cushioning with great energy return and is a true all-round shoe that works for both slower paces and faster sessions.
History of the Ultraboost
“adidas launched the original Ultraboost back in 2015 and it became an instant hit, albeit not necessarily just with runners. The Ultraboost transcended the world of running shoes and over the last six years, it has been perceived more as a sport shoe with a strong fashion appeal (popular among trainerheads) rather than a specialist running shoe. Meaning it was somewhat overtaken in the running shoe market as other brands innovated and looked for new ways to provide the plush, soft cushioning that Ultraboost is renowned for. The development of Ultraboost had been incremental in the last few years, however for 2021 adidas have completely overhauled the shoe and put it back firmly as a performance running shoe. The question is: have they caught up and surpassed the competition to firmly put Ultraboost at the forefront of runner’s minds?
I bagged myself a pair of the original Ultraboosts at an adidas event back in 2015 and I remember trying them on and thinking how different the midsole felt compared to anything else on the market at the time. Soft yet responsive, flexible and plush all at the same time. It was great. BOOST really carved a path to the future for adidas and it worked. The upper was not the most supportive and over longer runs I experienced a lot of foot fatigue but over shorter distances the shoe was insanely comfortable. Six years on, I can still recall the experience so when I was offered the chance to try the new, reinvented Ultraboost I jumped at the chance!
I hadn’t worn Ultraboosts for a number of years since 2015 and in the last five years the soft, plush running shoe category has seen some intense competition and innovation. Rockers, giant stack heights, super foams, plates – you name it, it’s likely that a shoe in our Soft category has it!
The new Ultraboost has 6% more BOOST material than the previous model and the midsole now has a curved, rocker geometry to help move through each step to take off effortlessly. It has gained a bit of weight (happens to the best of us) and the upper has been reinvented. It now features an LEP construction (linear energy push) to channel energy in a forward motion. This is further supported by the torsion construction in the midsole which aims to give a bit more rigidity to the BOOST midsole and a snappier feel when running. So how does this jargon all pan out?
My first run in the Ultraboost 21 was an easy recovery run with some stride outs at the end. The step-in feel to the shoe is great. The upper feels really supportive and wraps round the foot well. The sock like Primeknit+ feels brilliant around the heel and the midfoot but I was a little concerned about the amount of space in the toe box. I went for my usual size and length-wise this felt okay, however the tightness of the knit makes the front of the shoe feel quite claustrophobic and restrictive.
The cushioning feels superb and draws on a lot of the attributes from the original Ultraboost although it does feel a bit firmer, less ‘squishy’ than previous versions, which I think a lot of people look for in an Ultraboost. I think this works though as a concept to appeal to runners seeking a bit more spring in their step. It feels more purposeful. Out the door and onto the road, the shoe felt great underfoot. The rocker geometry coupled with the torsion plate system felt like it was pushing me on nicely and it made the easy pace feel very comfortable.
I was surprised not to really notice the weight of the shoe when running which is a big plus as 340g is at the top end of running shoes. Throughout the run my foot felt stable and well supported but the tightness across the toes didn’t let up and became quite uncomfortable after about 9km. I would certainly recommend going up a half size in this model to allow for a bit more wiggle room!
Moving onto the stride outs I really found the Ultraboost came into its own and really coped well with the faster strides. The shoe responded to the added pace and accelerations really well and the new components of the shoe came together to really propel me forward. It was something I hadn’t anticipated and left me a little confused with the shoe. It copes and performs admirably when running faster but I’m not sure that’s what the Ultraboost was aimed for. I would certainly reach for my Bostons for a fast session and envisaged the Ultraboost as being the softer big brother for easy days.
For me, adidas have nailed the objective of making the Ultraboost relevant for runners again and if you are looking for an all-rounder that provides ample cushioning but has that bit of pop for faster runs then I think this fits the bill. It’s great to not feel the weight of the shoe on your foot and the shoe does propel you forward into the next step. I would recommend trying the shoe on first or opting for a half size bigger than your usual running shoe.”
Another Neutral Soft shoe in our range, the Solar Boost 3 combines a high-level of cushioning with great support, to deliver effortless comfort for lower intensity runs and longer runs. Lucy Taylor and Emma Burton trialled them out.
Lucy: “I was given the chance to trial the Solar Boost 3. This most recent version of the shoe uses adidas’ own Primegreen upper material which means it is made from recycled polyester. This is not just a really well engineered shoe that looks the part but it also has a key environmental sustainability message which certainly fits with my consumer needs. I really appreciate a well fitting upper and the secure fit of the Solar Boost 3 with a moderate amount of cushioning, fitted my foot like a dream and really felt like an extension of my foot.”
Emma: “My first step in impressions of the Solar Boost 3 were of a really plush, cushioned shoe – it felt super comfy and I could imagine myself running for miles in them! They felt immediately secure across the upper, in part due to the presence of a gusseted tongue which wraps around the top and side of the feet, and partly due to the snug heel construction. They also felt like they had quite a wide base too which made it seem pretty stable.”
Lucy: “I tested the shoe on my morning and evening commute to and from work. My normal route ranges from 6-8 miles and is a well maintained bike path, with very small sections of road and gravel. What I tend to look for in a commuting shoe is something that is going to be well cushioned and give me enough support as I will usually be running on tired legs.”
Emma: “For my first run I took them out after work for a pyramid interval session around the paths in the meadows in Edinburgh, ranging from 30 second efforts to 3 minute efforts, with easy running in between. My pace varied between 6 min/mile to 9 min/mile over the course of the run so I really got to experience the shoes across different speeds!”
Lucy: “The Solar Boost 3 only made my run more enjoyable and because of the super soft and responsive benefits of BOOST cushioning I was able to lace and head out for run number two without any hassle and with a bit more gas. I have noticed some shoes don’t always feel great if they are being used twice in one day and I have experienced niggles cropping up when I’ve not been wearing a supportive enough shoe. But the Solar Boost 3 performed really well, it both supported and cushioned my run whilst allowing for quick changes in speed and direction, usually overtaking dog walkers on the path, or running around a sharp corner in town. The continental rubber gives you confidence that you won’t lose grip changing trajectory or moving on to a light trail. I don’t always keep to the same route and I will sometimes opt for forest paths for sections of my commute and the Solar Boost 3 gives me the freedom to do this. “
Emma: “For the faster sections of the run I could feel the shoe performing really well – there are so many great features in the Solar Boost that lend themselves well to this – BOOST cushioning in the midsole provides a high energy return, Continental rubber on the outsole ensures great traction and confidence on the ground, and a newly implemented Linear Energy Push (LEP) system increases stiffness in the mid and forefoot and leads to a more propulsive toe-off.
For the slower sections of the run I definitely felt well protected in the shoes – the BOOST cushioning is super soft and durable which makes the shoe a great option for longer runs. The Solar Boost 3 sits in Run4It’s Neutral Soft category of shoes which makes it a prime candidate for high mileage, steady outings.”
Best for and other adidas recommendations
Lucy: “I would say the Solar Boost 3 is my ideal commuting shoe. Any shoe that makes the sometimes arduous run commute a little less stressful on the body is really beneficial. I like to use my morning commute to ease into the day and allow my legs to recover and use the run home as a chance to inject some speed. These shoes allow for both. What I really like about Solar Boost 3 is the torsion system which allows for midfoot support in the transitional phase leading to a more efficient and springy toe off, something I have always really appreciated in the lightweight Boston and really plays well in the Solar Boost 3.
If I was looking to run longer on muddier trails, the Terrex Ultra Two Parley with its slightly longer lugs, would be more suitable.
As someone with a neutral gait the Solar Boost is perfect as it enables me to move within my natural range of motion but also gives me the confidence that during a longer run my legs would be nicely supported. You could say it is a modest blend of neutral and stability. I would recommend this shoe to anyone who incorporates a mixture of shorter and longer runs into their training program at a range of different speeds. I should state that I would switch to the Adizero Boston if I was aiming to do a session or a fast pace short to middle distance run and have regularly raced up to 10km in a pair in the past.”
Emma: “Most people will find it will work well for their easy and long runs, but if you want to do a little bit of speedwork too, the shoe will cope well! It would also be a good shoe for you if you have a touch of instability but prefer not to run in a stability shoe.
This shoe will go into my shoe rotation as a shoe for shorter and faster runs. For longer runs, because I do like the extra support provided by stability shoes I would go for the adidas Solar Glide ST from our range – this is a cushioned yet responsive shoe which features Stableframe and Torsion system for support.”
The Speed Pro is uncompromisingly fast. The first impression when unboxing is that this is a remarkably light shoe. The initial step-in feel is one of a featherlight open mesh upper which offers a secure fit around the heel and midfoot while allowing a little more room in the toe box than a traditional adidas ‘racing’ fit. The low-profile midsole is made from Lightstrike foam and is definitely on the firmer feeling side. This gives much more confidence on tackling more technical sections of trail than with a higher stack or softer midsole and also provides a more stable platform to drive off from when running at pace.
I tested the adidas Terrex Speed Pro on a short evening run on the trails of Fetteresso Forest which has a great mix of maintained forestry vehicle trails and a labyrinth of more technical single tracks. I had done a fairly hard tempo session on the roads earlier in the day so I was using the evening session as an opportunity to run a few short, fast efforts on some technical trails and on tired legs to simulate the closing stages of a trail race.
The firmness of the midsole feels comfortable enough at slower paces but really comes into its own when you pick up the pace. The responsiveness makes the shoe feel like it is helping you turn the legs over quickly rather than hindering and this is ideal for things like fast downhill running. There is also a full length protection plate so there is no risk of any sharp objects piercing the thin midsole and I felt little to no uncomfortable pressure when landing on stones or tree roots. I’m also a big fan of the adidas Primegreen upper which breathes and drains exceptionally well. Primegreen means that it is made from recycled polyester and it’s great to see that brands are now approaching shoe design with an element of environmental consciousness and that aligns brilliantly with our ethos at Run4It.
Lastly, what more can be said about a Continental rubber outsole that hasn’t already been said? It’s outstanding. The lugs on the Speed Pro are only 4.5mm but I was as confident in the traction on the smooth vehicle trails as I was on the rocky descents. If I had to make any criticism, it would be that the full Continental rubber outsole makes the shoe a little bottom-heavy for my liking however I think that it’s a well worthwhile trade-off for the confidence that this gives on the trickier terrain and for the durability that this will offer compared to similar lightweight trail shoes.
Best for and other adidas recommendations
I’ll definitely be reaching for the Terrex Speed Pro as my go-to-shoe for specific sessions in the build up to trail races and for some races up to about marathon distance. A session that I often like to do about 3 weeks before a trail race is a run on terrain that matches the race terrain as closely as possible with a section of about 50-60% of the race distance run at target race pace. The Speed Pro fits perfectly into my rotation for this type of session and would likely end up as my shoe of choice for the race itself as well.
The Terrex Speed Pro would be the ideal shoe for someone looking for a lightweight, responsive trail shoe for faster paced trail runs and races. It would even suit the more efficient runner for normal shorter trail runs on more technical terrain, where a lower profile shoe offers a much better ground feel and ability to react to the changing underfoot conditions.
For easier paced or longer trail runs, I would opt for the Terrex Two Ultra Parley as this offers a much more plush ride to keep the legs feeling fresher for longer and will be much more comfortable in the later stages of an easy trail run.
Similarly, for an equivalent ultra-responsive shoe for fast paced sessions or races on the roads, look for the Adizero Pro. This feels similar in many ways to the Terrex Speed Pro however also features a carbon fibre plate in the midsole to aid propulsion and improve running economy.