THE RUNDOWN: The Under Armour HOVR Sonic connected offers a cushioned ride, with smart technology.
Surface: Road Pronation: Neutral Stack Height: Medium
When I think of running shoe companies, Under Armour isn’t anywhere near the top of my list. And when I showed up at my local run club wearing a pair, most of my fellow athletes didn’t even know they made running shoes. But over the past few years, the brand has made a big push to change that perception, including purchasing MapMyFitness in 2013, the app which most of us used before upgrading to Strava.
In an attempt to stand out, part of UA’s approach appears to be innovation—both in the shoe and in its technology. While on paper, the Hovr Sonic appears to simply be the brand’s response to the moderately-cushioned, all-purpose running shoe, once you dig a little deeper, you’ll find a unique approach to an everyday shoe, and its ability to connect directly to your smartphone.
Weight: 9.6 oz.
Heel/Forefoot: 8.3, 23.2
Midsole: Energy Web with UA Hovr foam
Outsole: Blown rubber and high-abrasion rubber
Upper: Microthread, TPU
100 Miles In: The Review
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have low expectations for the Hovr Sonic when they arrived. For starters, they don’t look particularly cool. I’m not usually one to worry about the look of a running shoe, but when I pulled these out of the box and my wife said they looked like trainers my 97-year-old grandmother would wear to seated aerobics, any initial excitement quickly disappeared.
But how a running shoe looks shouldn’t be a major factor in whether you use them. Instead, I focus on three areas: feel, durability and usefulness. As soon as I actually slipped the shoes on, my tone immediately began to change. Under Armour claims that their UA Hovr technology provides a “zero gravity feel” that helps eliminate impact, step-after-step. That may be a stretch, but one thing was clear: the Hovr Sonic was a cushy and comfortable ride from the moment I put them on. They’ve continued to be just as cushy 100 miles in. I’ve been equally as impressed (and surprised) by the mesh upper; it’s breathable, stretchy and drains well.
My big hang-up when it comes to feel is how narrow the shoe is. I wouldn’t say I have wide feet, but any narrower and I probably wouldn’t have worn them at all. The mesh upper does seem to stretch slightly over time, which helps in this area, but rubbing for the first 50 miles or so caused a small blister on both feet.
As for durability, the Hovr Sonics hold up remarkably well. Over the course of my first 100 miles, I’d run about 60 percent on road, and 40 percent on buffed-out dirt and grass trail. They’ve been through mud and rain, and nicked a number of rocks. But if I took some time to clean them off, you’d hardly know I’ve run in them at all.
Other than slight stretching, the upper has no major signs of wear, and the sole looks equally strong. This is a huge plus in my book, and I feel confident I could get another 200+ miles out of them without any major issues. So how do the Hovr Sonics fit into my shoe rotation?
They’re a little too heavy and bulky for a racing or speed workout shoe, and while they do fine on smooth trail, I don’t trust the grip in anything wet or technical. Where I think they shine is for easy or recovery runs. Because they ride soft and comfortable, it’s easy to hammer out a mid-length run without thinking about your feet or shoes.
There’s the Rub
What makes the Hovr Sonic stand out more than anything else is the option to choose a connected version for around the same price, which you can do directly from your smartphone and the MapMyRun app through UA’s Record Sensor. The idea is to send data directly from your shoe to the app, so you can better understand your workout and stride. But does it work? I was immediately impressed by how easy it was to set up—just download the app and the shoes sync automatically after logging in. The data it produced, however, was less impressive.
When carrying your phone and running the app, you’ll collect GPS data, pace, and splits, along with cadence and stride length. This is cool, but chances are you’re already collecting that data through any number of apps or watches. They advertise that the phone is not required while on the run, which is really nice, but without the phone you do lose route and elevation gain data, making it feel less complete.
I also had an issue with cadence accuracy. While I wasn’t able to put stride length to the test, I did compare the data my shoes were giving me against both the cadence data from my Suunto watch and LUMO Run sensor. Those two devices were within two strides per minute of each other (around 174 spm), while the shoes ranged everywhere from 160 to the more accurate 174. After asking Under Armour about this, it appears that stopping at intersections or walking in the shoes at the beginning and end of the run after returning home may have caused the discrepancy.
In theory, this feature is very cool, and I could see how this could be a very valuable tool for someone looking to improve their stride and from (there are even coaching features as part of the MapMyRun app) or running without a GPS watch. For me, however, it didn’t enhance my run in a way that wasn’t already being done through my watch, which provides all the real-time data I need on my wrist.
Under Armour’s Hovr Sonic connected caught me by surprise…in all the good ways. They are comfortable and durable, and the cushy, neutral ride could make it a go-to shoe for easy or recovery runs on the road. Without a doubt, many runners (with narrow feet) will be happy with this shoe in their rotation.
But if you’re excited about the connected version, it may or may not be as useful as it sounds, depending on your other go-to devices.
**EDITOR’S NOTE: Article has been updated to reflect the author’s thoughts following a conversation with Under Armour’s connected fitness team about the shoes’ data-collecting capabilities and accuracy.