The Under Armour HOVR Infinite serves up bounce with a side of data, making it a fun ride for innovation-interested athletes.
- Stack Height
Despite its status as one of the world’s largest and most robust sports brands, Under Armour has struggled some to find its footing in the running shoe market. In an effort to distinguish itself from the competition, last year Under Armour expanded its line of bluetooth-connected shoes, first launched in the Gemini 2 RE in 2016. On February 1, they unveiled the HOVR Infinite which will be the centerpiece of the HOVR line.
- 8.75 oz. (W), 10.75 oz. (M)
- Full-length HOVR foam and compression mesh energy web
- Blown rubber. High abrasion rubber in the heel.
100 Miles In: The Review
Under Armour advertises the HOVR Infinite as a light, stable and cushioned ride, along with a zero-gravity feel. It seems an odd marketing tactic, given it’s physically impossible for a running shoe to live up to a zero-gravity standard, but the shoe does deliver satisfying responsiveness that remained consistent throughout my 100-mile test.
The core of the Infinite’s midsole is UA’s new HOVR technology, in which a light, soft foam is encased in a mesh fabric “energy web” that keeps it from losing its shape on compression so it bounces back quickly. Given the boxy design of the HOVR technology, I didn’t expect the Infinite to be very comfortable, but my first test run proved me wrong. The midsole is stiff but flexible and achieves its goal of minimizing impact. The thick EVA sockliner adds another level of cushion (the women’s version is even thicker than the men’s), and molds to your foot, which takes some getting used to.
It also takes some time to break in the shoes. I initially thought the shoe fit too snugly in the heel counter, but after 30 miles, the shoes felt comfortably stretched and true to size. My first attempt at wearing ankle socks resulted in the shoe pulling the sock down to my heel, but I wore both crew and ankle socks comfortably with the HOVR Infinite after passing the 30-mile threshold.
As far as fit and responsiveness, the HOVR Infinite performs very well. The shoe is also quite durable, with one caveat which I’ll get to in a minute. First, let’s talk about the true distinguishing factor in this product: data.
Under Armour provides clear, easy to follow instructions on the box for setting up the shoes. I downloaded the free MapMyRun app (which Under Armour owns), logged into my account, went to settings, selected “Gear Tracker” and followed the directions for setting up UA Connected Footwear. It only takes a few minutes. Adding UA Connected Footwear to the app unlocks the MVP version of MapMyRun — on its own, an annual MVP subscription costs $29.99, so the shoes add some value for MapMyRun users.
You can track runs in these connected shoes simply by going for a run and syncing with the app when you’re done, or by running with your phone and manually starting and ending a workout in the app. Running with the app running on your phone has the advantage of adding GPS, weather and elevation data to your run. Otherwise, the shoes start recording a workout any time the sensor detects the movement of a run at more than a 14 minutes-per-mile pace, so you never have to worry about starting your watch or app. When you’re done, open the app to sync the workout, and the app gives you a breakdown of your distance, average pace, workout duration, calories burned, mile splits, average cadence and average stride length, as well as graphs of your pace, cadence and stride length.
I enjoyed tracking my cadence and stride length data over time. For cadence, it provides your average cadence as well as your target strides-per-minute range. For stride length, the shoe tracks the distance between consecutive foot strikes. It records your average stride length as well as a target range. The data helped me focus on form during my run, and my data improved over time.
There’s The Rub
When running outside, I found that pausing at intersections sometimes dragged down my average cadence data. Under Armour sayes it filters out walking cadence and breaks in activity (like stopping at an intersection), which I don’t contest— if it didn’t, my cadence would have been significantly lower for runs during which I often stopped at intersections. However, my average cadence on run commutes was often 4–6 spm lower than it was on uninterrupted runs, even though I always run with a metronome.
It also seemed that the shoes over-estimated distance, particularly if you stop and go. Regardless of where I ran, the shoes’ recorded distance seemed most accurate when I ran uninterrupted. Even on runs with no interruptions, my GPS watch recorded a slightly shorter distance than the shoes, and my GPS usually runs long. On multiple treadmill runs, the shoes also recorded slightly longer distances than the treadmill.
We gave Under Armour a chance to address this, and they sent this statement: “Our extensive testing indicates that for most runners the shoes are about as accurate as GPS. In many environments (such as urban areas with tall buildings) they will actually be more accurate than GPS. For a small minority of runners, there might be a need to calibrate the distance accuracy of the shoes. This is supported in the app. We recommend performing a calibration against a well-known distance, instead of doing a comparison to a GPS device.”
I didn’t perform a calibration because it wasn’t obvious to me that I should do one during the set up, so I can’t evaluate whether it will correct the apparent difference in measured distance.
For those who already have a GPS watch, most provide cadence data, and many provide stride length data as well, so the shoe data may not add value. The shoes do provide this data for far less cost than a smart watch. In future iterations of the shoe, I’d be interested in data on ground contact time, a right-left breakdown of ground contact time and vertical oscillation data, if feasible.
The data may not be perfect, but I didn’t expect it to be, and I still found it really interesting and helpful.
What I did expect to be better was the quality of the sockliner. At first, I didn’t love the mold-to-your-foot feeling, but I came to enjoy the cushion after a few miles. However, 40 miles in, I started to get hotspots on the balls of my feet. Runs longer than 9 miles weren’t terribly comfortable, so I pulled out the sockliner to get a better look. The foam had collapsed and crinkled in high-contact areas — I’ve never experienced breakdown like that, let alone so quickly. Even though I enjoyed so much else about the shoe, the sockliner quality ruined it for me.
Athletes who love testing the latest gadget will find these fun to try, and the price ($120) is reasonable given the HOVR Infinite offers technology that stands out from the competition. While the shoe fit requires some breaking in, the responsiveness is enjoyable and consistent, making it a good pick for short- to medium-length runs with some intervals thrown in. (I’d choose a lighter shoe for intense speedwork). But Under Armour either needs a more durable sockliner (they say they’re on it) or you need to buy a replacement insole if you want to wear these for the long run.