Wednesday, June 14, 2017

2017 adidas Energy Boost (4): A Luxury German SUV. Looks and Stats Deceiving!

Article by Sam Winebaum, Editor Road Trail Run

2017 adidas Energy Boost
Weight: 10.9 oz/309 g (M9), 9.9 oz/281 g (W8)
Stack: 32mm heel/22mm forefoot, 10mm drop
$160. Available now.
The adidas Energy Boost 2017 edition is a heavily cushioned premium neutral daily trainer. It is now called Energy Boost with no numbering after as previously...confusing but I am calling it Energy Boost 4 here.

It features 85% Boost Content, Boost being adidas's high rebound, durable, less temperature sensitive than EVA TPU based midsole. Not just a fad, Boost is used in the marathon world record setting adizero Boost in a similar but lower profile overall construction but unlike the similar Supernova there is plenty of Torsion plastic to tame the soft and unruly Boost. All of the cushion is clearly aimed at maximalist players such as Hoka.

The upper now a fine gauge conventional mesh with a pattern of no sew overlays is unusually roomy and high volume upfront due to its stretch, right up there with Altra, yet with a superb overall foot hold from heel to toe. The often criticized 3 Stripes plastic cage at mid foot disappears on the foot and holds everything together brilliantly.

But there must be rub right? Yes there is...All of this tech comes in at 10.9 oz, way up there in weight for a neutral trainer even a "premium" one just as this.  The original Energy Boost weighed 9.5 oz and was my go to for all training and marathon racing. The Energy Boost 3 was up to 10.2 oz., still fine for a daily trainer ,but here we are now at close to 11 oz.

The question then is, how do they run?

First Impressions

Well at first glance the new Energy Boost looks foreboding and massive. Heavily padded, dark, with the prominent plastic cage it screams luxury German SUV to me. Right.. that is what it is after all. My first run, a slow recovery run was not promising. They felt heavy and off balance, weighted towards the heel. Next runs were at moderate tempo and things changed, a lot. While super cushioned, bouncy and clearly more shoe than my usual,the forefoot was dynamic and springy, the upper comfort and hold outstanding so much so I easily run in them sock less.

Upper and Fit
The Energy Boost fits me true to size with and without socks, a tribute to the excellent foot conforming and adjustable upper fit. Good news for wider high volume feet.

The upper is what adidas calls TechFit. It is a stretchy mesh with a fine and dense overlay pattern which increases in overlay width and density towards the front of the shoe. The last widest overlays create the toe bumper but are no thicker than any of the others. This approach of stretchy un engineered mesh with overlays creates a smooth and consistent fit up front. adidas calls it an "adaptive fit".  The famous mid foot TPU plastic cage is for all intents and purposes un noticed providing a well held mid foot without the constraining feel of the similar Supernova's plastic cage and its considerably snugger and narrower engineered mesh upper.
There is nothing between the end of the cage and toe to get in the way or pressure a wide variety of foot shapes. The bootie tongue is an extension of the rest of the front of the upper accentuating a sock like seamless fit with the cage holding the foot in place on the platform. I wish adidas would use this upper approach on all their shoes tuning down the cage somewhat to save weight and using differing stretches of the mesh with racing shoes being less stretchy. It is one heck of a fine upper technology, among the best of 2017 so far for me.

The "cage" is called the FitPanel and is a somewhat pliable and not overly stiff plastic with adidas saying it is provides a softer fit. This said it is a more present, structured saddle than in other similar shoes.While we did not run in the Energy Boost 3, it is certainly a softer fit than the similar 2017 Supernova's. The 3 White Stripes are stiffer overlays but only cover the center of the mid foot. Below and above the Stripes the cage is pliable and in particular we like how adidas left a gap between the end of the cage and the midsole making the wrap the mid and top of the foot and not cutting down under the arch. The cage is vertically attached in 2 places from the last and first lace holes to the midsole with an extension towards the heel collar. The cage ends before the flex point so there is nothing in the way of the flex up top.

The tongue is moderately but not over padded. Just about right. The laces are flat and non stretch.
The heel counter collar is relatively low and not overly firm with the TPU strips providing structure 

Midsole and Outsole
This being a Boost performance running shoe one expects lots of technical complexity underfoot. Boost has high rebound and claimed energy return (true from what I feel and read) but needs taming and some structure from embedded Torsion plastic elements, an EVA layer and the outsole to prevent it from being a soft mess. "Lifestyle" oriented running shoes from adidas such as Ultra Boost tend to go with more Boost content, less Torsion and softer thinner outsoles. Even the lack of the medial heel plastic side wall in the Boston 6 (RTR review)  has me feeling them  as less stable and effective in transition than shoes with such as Energy Boost, Tempo 9 (RTR review) and the world record marathon shoe the adios Boost (RTR review) all shoes among my favorites of the last 5 or so years.

How does Energy Boost address the underfoot platform from the adidas bag of Boost shoe tricks?
First we have 85% "Boost Content" in an overall 32mm heel 22mm forefoot stack we assume also including the insole at 4mm, so a lot of cushioning.  We question the massive overhanging heel design. Lots of Boost, EVA,and rubber back there leading to a sense of a heavy heel, an imbalance in weight at slower paces and added weight to the shoe in total. Interestingly as the pace picks up this imbalance is not noticed. Our sense is adidas is trying to do to much in accommodating

Under the insole is a black EVA layer of firmer material in a ring around the outside of the shoe, something the Ultra Boost does not have. adidas calls this the Energy Rail. It is designed to stabilize and guide the foot . The Tempo 9 has a similar and thicker Energy Rail.
Next we have the Boost layer.
Embedded in the Boost layer is the famous Torsion System of gray TPU plastic including the medial side wall piece near the heel I like so much.

The Torsion System, gray plastic seen through the outsole, extends from heel to mid foot on the medial side to stabilize the foot and is now centered and it seems narrower and long just under mid foot siting in deep cavity. This is a change from the Energy Boost 3, Boston 6, and Tempo 9 where it is a plate sitting closer to the outsole bridging under foot. Finally, 2 long strips of Torsion extend on both sides all the way forward almost to the toe as they did in the Energy Boost 3. The flex is decent reminding of other adidas in its single flex point where the lacing ends.

Energy Boost 3
Even the stability focused Tempo has a shorter run of Torsion on the medial size, relying more on its thicker more substantial EVA layer.  The Supernova and Ultra Boost share the central Torsion unit with neither having much of any forward Torsion plastic making for a softer, mushier less dynamic ride and especially so for the Ultra Boost which also lacks any firmer under foot EVA layer at all .
The Energy Boost 4 outsole also represents a change from Energy Boost 3 as it now has a Stretch Web configuration of round low Continental rubber lugs instead of square flat lugs, still prefer the fuller contact of flat square lugs. The rear overhanging rubber heel landing pad on the Energy Boost 4 is extends in all directions, including off the back of the shoe we assume to provide a consistent and stable initial touch down.
The sum of all this midsole and outsole technology is a shoe with fantastic cushioning, Boost rebound, and more than sufficient stability and response, understanding it is much more SUV than sports car. It is somewhat imbalanced with weight towards the rear of the shoe and feels best, surprisingly, brought up to speed where unlike slower paces it runs lively, bouncy and lower to me than its weight. My slow runs have been ponderous and my faster ones fun which is not at all what I would expect.

Conclusions and Recommendations
The new Energy Boost is a great shoe for runners looking for the ultimate in cushioning that isn't a mushy mess disconnected from road feel or response. It should be a good choice for heavier neutral runners who want a soft ride that is relatively stable and decently energetic.
As stated above, it runs far better faster than slower for me and as such is a great candidate for long runs at somewhat slower than marathon pace. Almost like it has front wheel drive. Interestingly, I find them to much work, to imbalanced and ponderous for slow recovery runs but with all the shoes I test I guess I am picky it is not that terrible just not quite right.
The upper is "barefoot" superb in its comfort and fit and can accommodate a variety of foot shapes due to its combination of stretch, fine and effective foot conforming overlays, and finally a well executed Fit Panel cage at mid foot.
The main knock, and it is a significant one for me despite its lively faster pace manners, is its weight at 10.9 oz. A bit less heel overhang Boost, a bit lower stack, and a bit less cage would put the Boost at a lower weight and livelier and become a daily trainer step up from the lighter Boston for neutral runners and also would remind me more of the original excellent Energy Boost 1. If you end finding them to much shoe you will certainly wear them around as they are incredibly comfortable.

Score 9.7 out of 10
-0.15 for weight
-0.15 for ponderous slow pace ride, to much weight towards the heel
adidas Supernova Glide 9 (RTR review)
While a decent shoe, the Supernova other than its lower price at $130, just doesn't measure up to the Energy. Soft and mushy in the forefoot and far less lively and responsive at faster paces it has a much snugger and less refined engineered mesh upper and a tighter "cage" so it is just not nearly as comfortable or fast despite weighing a touch less. I am not sure why it is in the line.
adidas Tempo 9 (RTR review)
Classified as a light stability shoe, the 10 oz Tempo 9 has everything I need in a daily trainer and I am a neutral foot type: decently firm yet Boost energized, stable, runs fast or slow equally well so it is versatile from training to long races. It reminds me of an improved original Energy Boost with a more stable responsive and cushioned forefoot, probably the only thing Energy Boost 1 lacked,
Brooks Glycerin 15 (RTR review soon)
Checking in about 0.4 oz lighter, the Glycerin is also a soft shoe. It relies on EVA and its outsole to stabilize its Super DNA midsole. Not as energetic or bouncy at speed as the Energy Boost but better mannered at slow paces it feels lighter than the difference in weight would indicate. Its upper, also a stretchy mesh wth thin overlays, is also superbly comfortable and adaptive to different foot shapes.  I would put it in a close race with the Energy Boost with Energy winning for faster paced running and Glycerin for versatility at all paces.

The Energy Boost was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
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Anonymous said...

How does it compare with the saucony freedom? Softer, firmer as responsive. Which is more balanced general running shoe? Thanks.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous, Thanks for asking. I would say neither is particularly well balanced. The Freedom is much more fun to run fast but I would not recommend as a daily trainer as its quite hard to tame both is quite unstructured upper and lack of any stabilizing of its bouncy midsole and its heel is soft. This said if you are light, agile and fast it could be good choice, The Energy Boost is heavy and very protective so if your miles are slow and easy it is a good choice for that. They both have a bouncy TPU midsole which in the Freedom is only controlled by the outsole whereas as described the Energy has lots of other components. A happier medium in adidas is the Tempo 9 review here and in Saucony the Ride 10 review here or upcoming Zealot 3 impressions here All more balanced general running shoes with the Zealot the lightest and most agile, the Tempo stable and steady at any pace and distance and very responsive and the Ride a more classic neutral trainer with very nice response. Hope this helps.
am. Editor
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Anonymous said...

Thanks for the feedback. Tried both shoes and got the Saucony Freedom.
The Adidas felt big, bulky and heavy especially on the heel and I felt I plodded in them. Also the midfoot plastic cage was to hard on my midfoot. The saucony felt more comfortable and smoother and faster to run in and the upper was so much more comfortable. The cushioning levels were fairly similar but the freedom felt slightly softer and a smoother shoe to run in.
Thanks again for your help

morfeo68 said...

I think it very interesting shoes

morfeo68 said...

the only doubt is on the cage around the midfoot

Anonymous said...

Dear Sam,

Which new Adidas shoe resembles the "energy boost"? Other brands maybe?



Sam Winebaum said...

HI Luc,
Great question and confusing the adi line. We recently reviewed the upcoming Solar Drive and compared to Energy Boost and Solar Boost here. You may find this article helpful.
Sam, Editor

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