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ROADTEST: THE UA HOVR PHANTOM 2 INTELLIKNIT TRAINERS

Under Armour review

In a brand first, Under Armour has teamed with Foot Locker on a special edition of its new HOVR Phantom 2 runners: the IntelliKnit ‘Danger’ pack, We sent fitness lover and writer Tom Lazurus off for a test drive. 

 

Firstly, I didn’t realise UA had moved into sneakers in a major way, so I was excited to see how its athleisure chops translate to performance shoe design – and whether they hold up as fashion trainers.

In The box

The solid black box goes all in with the ‘Danger’ theme: mine comes sheathed in plexiglass daubed with hazard stripes. It’s all a bit dramatic, like something you need military clearance to open. Sneakerheads will go wild.

My initial take on the shoes inside: evil wasps. From above, the front has the sculpted look of an insect abdomen, its pleated fabric glowing with red stitching. There’s a sheeny panel either side at the mid-foot that evokes contour lines on a topographic map, and the laces don’t go through the shoe but are anchored on top. Nice.

On The Feet

The look-at-me red-and-black takes a second for me to metabolise, but with black shorts and socks, they read as more sleek than showy. My teenage son literally sighs at the sight of them.

They’re notably snug across the toes, but supple enough so my feet feel more swaddled than bound. The woven collar swallows the ankle in a reassuring way, and a Blunnies-style pull-on loop is a welcome feature, as nothing saps pre-run stoke like tugging at tight trainers for five minutes.

UA dubs the woven upper ‘IntelliKnit’, which implies an adaptive quality. It’s too early to tell how much these form to the foot like a wetsuit does to the body, but I like the cosseted, secure feel fresh from the box.

The Road-Test

Since the Jurassic-era breakthroughs of Reebok Pump and Nike Air, we’ve been raised on cloudlike footwear, but I’m still struck by how cushioned the sole is, despite its relatively sleek profile. This is UA’s vaunted ‘zero-gravity feel’, and just walking to the door I feel elevated and springy, as if the world has suddenly morphed into my personal trampoline.

I do my usual 4km run, on hilly pavement, with a few ankle-twist-y stretches of gnarly tree roots, loose mulch and metal stairs. The moulded plastic heel, which I took to be a vanity design feature, quickly justifies its presence as a sturdy counterbalance to the flex of the upper. If, like me, you’ve ever snapped an ankle in the past, you’ll thank UA.

Even on a lunchtime run on a humid day, the weave is breathable enough that my socks stay dry, although worn for longer stretches these feel warmer than my regular leather trainers – a reasonable trade-off for their responsiveness.

Overnight rain presents a chance to test for slip factor. The soles are pine-bark scaly, with a deep central channel and chevrons at the forefoot. Despite taking corners slick with damp leaf litter, I don’t slip once. NB. I’m low to the ground and 60 kilos; I’d be interested to know whether tall, solid types share my experience.

The Verdict

They’re not featherlight but at 277 grams per shoe (for size 7s) they’re 12 per cent lighter than my old runners and 30 per cent lighter than my fashion sneakers. Step after step, this makes a difference to leg tiredness. Also, the dark magic of Phantom 2’s proprietary foam nixes the spine-jarring thud that has given me back dramas in the past. (Disclaimer: I didn’t test these over marathon distances as I’m too unfit.)

Style is a marathon not a sprint, and although my taste runs more to understatement and natural fabrics, the ‘Danger’ shoes are soft enough that I find myself reaching for them to run an errand later wearing jeans. Seinfeld factor: zero.

For those who lean towards a more aggressively sporty aesthetic, it’s a double win: style and substance.

Available from Foot Locker, $220, footlocker.com.au.