Friday, August 30, 2013

Under Armour SpeedForm running shoe review

Men, admit it, you are dieing to know what it would feel like to wear a bra. What would that soft supple fabric feel like pressed up against your hairy man chest? Well, unless you are going to buy a Bro or Manssiere, you will be waiting a little bit longer for that bra feeling against your chest. But, in the meantime, you could take in how Under Armour applies the bra concept to their latest running shoe, SpeedForm.

Every triathlete is out there looking for the perfect combination of comfort, affordability, performance, durability and aesthetics when it comes to running shoes. Some have more money to explore the latest and greatest shoes and some have their tried and true $35 pair of specific brands and models that they live and die by.

There are so many choices between minimalists, lightweight, stability, motion control, neutral and a heck of a lot more. The best bet is to get your feet measured at your local running store and start trying shoes out. If you have some cash to invest in your health, another layer of picking the right shoe would be to hit your local chiropractor or sports exercise specialists for some screening and gait analysis to find out your foot structure and what types of shoes would best fit your feet. That would at least arm you with ammunition to start with the right shoe section.

That being said, SpeedForm might not be the shoe for you. They are not motion control nor are the stability control. Unless you are working with good form or have been slowly progressing to lightweight running shoes, they may cause some issues for you.

But don’t let that scare you away. Under Armour sent us a pair of electric blue SpeedForms and we are far from minimalist shoe wearers. We tried them out with caution and didn’t just go out for a 15 mile training run. We wore them to the store, to church, treadmill workouts, indoor track workouts, paved trail runs and street running. We also sported them at the Shawnee Mission Triathlon and after all that (and 4.5 miles of nasty heal strike during the race), we have the follow review to share. Read on.


Packaging / Shelf Appeal / Marketing

“This is what fast feels like”. That’s a bold statement for a shoe box. Under Armour is out there and has no qualms about putting themselves out there. The box is huge, and they probably need that for the size of the ego that the shoes bring with the product line roll out. They are pimping these shoes hard and don’t spare any marketing expense.

Even with size 12 for this review, the box size wasn’t required to be that huge, but that’s the way they come.

As one would expect from a big sportswear manufacturer, the appearance and packaging is nothing short of professional and top notch. You definitely won’t confuse these shoes with something made in someone’s knitting room during their spare time. You probably wouldn’t connect these shoes to a bra manufacturing process just from the packaging.

Form / Construction

UA boasts that SpeedForms are a new type of running shoe with virtually no seams that’s made in a bra factory in China. The Speedform’s heel cup is devoid of any stitching and is made from one piece of material.

From their site, they post the following description about the science and construction of the SpeedForms;
  • Seamless heel cup for anatomical fit 
  • Silicone heel grip 
  • Smooth, ultrasonic seaming 
  • Micro G cushioning in the heel 
  • Molded 4D Foam footbed 
  • UA Light Speed Grip is strategically placed on outsole for the ultimate in ultra-lightweight traction 
  • 6 mm drop 
  • Super-lightweight: 6 oz.

Upon inspection, the shoe looks sharp and well put together. There are no sloppy seams and transition from soul to footbed. It’s what they claim in the sense of seamless. There are no insoles to take out (those that use orthotics might be out of luck with the SpeedForms as there is no extra room to be made by removing the factory insole). It’s super light, but comes as basically one piece and feels solid.

The fabric is bendable, foldable and malleable to many different shapes and contortions, but bounces back with no problem, even after being stuffed into a gym bag for a few days.

Honestly, it’s nothing like any type of shoe we have typically ran in. Soft and supple, but strong and manly all at once. Kind of like, “strong enough for a man, but made for women”.

Fashion / Appearance

It harkens to the five-finger shoes and toe socks from the toe box, but inside the shoe is the same shape we triathletes have always been used to. There are no toes in the shoe, and it’s all one open toe box.

The bottom of the soul is a unique design that takes after the natural foot layout rather than some funky scientifically developed pattern that delivers some magic energy savings. Mother nature made out feet for a reason, and that original design might be worth keeping.

The shoes are appealing in a shock value kind of way. The colors are not wild, but they are a little neon and do stand out in a crowd. Yes, we wore them to church to break them in at the request of our five year old daughter, and they got some looks.

They are clean, simple and functional in appearance. There’s no excessive and inordinate amount of symbols and logos on the shoes. There are no overcompensation for shiny baubles on the design to distract buyers from a lame duck shoe design, because as we will get to, SpeedForms deliver.

Fit / Function

The SpeedForms really do feel different than any other shoe we have tried. It’s akin to water socks that you can run in, except these won’t blister you up (as long as you wear socks).

They hug around the ankle, but not in a Aunt Betty-haven’t-seen-you-in 10 years kind of way. It’s firm, but not constrictive. The toe box is a little on the big side, but that didn’t cause us a problem overall.

In full disclosure, with these being along the lines of lightweight running shoes, most workouts or runs at a time were less than 5 miles and usually sprint intervals, hill intervals, tempo runs or strength training sessions. The SpeedForms were used for 2 workouts per week and worn casually in between for a total of around 50 miles for this review.

There were no issues with traction on the running surface or within the shoe with the foot slipping around. When laced up, the SpeedForms were as good as it gets to having a running shoe feel like a second skin. Now, we did use running socks and anti-chafing cream for longer runs. For the Shawnee Mission Triathlon, we used the Belaga socks we tested out with anti-chafing and they worked great in the heat and on the hills of the park.

We actually loved the SpeedForms for the short fast paced runs. The runs are short enough not to cause issues with fallen arches and the shoes are so light and airy feeling that it makes a runner want to bust out a fast pace.

One issue with the SpeedForms is the tongue. It’s a one-piece integrated design, and with the special fabric type, it is ultra-thin and easily bunches in the shoe if put on with the laces pre-tied. In order to avoid that annoying tongue scrunching and rubbing, wearers need to put a little more effort into pulling the tongue tight and getting the kinks out. While going out for a run or out and about, this wouldn’t be a real issue, but during a triathlon jamming on the shoes trying to get out of T2 asap, it might cause a slow down.

Foot cadence is not affected, and in fact is probably an aid to those looking to increase their foot turnover. At 6 oz, it’s lock wearing a thick pair of socks running around, but with a little more protection.

Another detraction might be the ease at which the shoes can get scuffed up. The fabric is different than the typical running shoes and attract scuffs and marks similar to regular light clothing. All in all, the SpeedForms stay relatively clean, but when the 5 and 2 year old kids stomp on your feet trying to get you to pick them up, they leave marks. Those darn crumb snatchers.

One last drawback might be sweaty feet. It took a little time to get used to the shoes as they do not feel as breathable as the standard running shoes. The lack of mesh is a loss in breathability, but SpeedForms have the holes for getting rid of foot heat. After wearing them for a few days, we got used to the change and foot sweating was not an issue.


At $119.99, SpeedForms are not cheap.

Savvy buyers can go find lightweight running shoes for $50 or even less, but the adage is true that you get what you pay for. You will not get the fit and feeling that the SpeedForms offer. You won’t get them even with the $100 shoes. The SpeedForms are truly different.

Final thoughts

Now, whether that difference is a good fit for everyone is up for debate. They are lightweight shoes and that does not work for everyone. Don’t injure yourself trying to fit into a cool shoe. But, even if you use stability shoes for your staple trainer and race shoe, there’s nothing that says using the SpeedForm for 1 or 2 workouts a week won’t actually improve foot strength by making it compensate for short periods of time to build strength up in areas not normally used with regular shoes. Just be smart about it. Don’t drop your motion control cold turkey and switch to SpeedForm all at once. Slow and steady transition.

Really, you won’t find many shoes like the SpeedForms. That’s where they have you on price. If you want that special feeling, you’re going to have to pay for it. They have the right combination of function, fit and personality.

We’ve used them in training, racing and casual wear and they work in all scenarios, admirably. If you have the funds, by all means try them out. They can serve as your trainer, racer and cross training shoe any day of the week.


* Writer's note - Under Armour provided the products for this review at no cost and did not influence this review.
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