Sunday, August 26, 2018

UA Horizon BPF Trail Runner Initial Review: Race Tested at UA Mountain Series 25K!

Article by Sam Winebaum

UA Horizon BPF ($130)
The UA Horizon BPF is a lightweight (9.4 oz/266 g) trail runner with a molded soft and supportive upper, a relatively firm, responsive but forgiving and protective ride with great stability over uneven terrain. They are shod with what proved to be a very versatile all terrain Michelin rubber outsole. The BPF in the product name stands for Bullet Proof Feather, a cool name which more testing will have to validate but so far so good!
I took a pair straight of the box to run, well more like mostly hike ,at  the Under Armour Mountain Series 25K at the Killington Resort in Vermont this weekend. They did not disappoint as I clambered up and down 4500 vertical feet of very  steep grassy ski slopes navigating lots of mud, rocky jeep roads, and single track. RoadTrailRun will have a full multi tester review soon but here are my initial impressions but I can say the Horizon BPF puts UA on the trail running map with an innovative and effective shoe.
Above my wife's women’s version all fresh, clean and ready to get muddy! My pair did not make it in time for the race so UA loaned me a pair from their demo fleet.

UA Horizon BPF
MSRP $130.00
Anatomically molded one-piece monocoque upper with cast PU support
Lightweight, quick drying, air mesh upper to keep you dry and comfortable on long runs
Molded collar foam package for comfort
Highly breathable air mesh tongue to promote air
ChargedTM foam pucks in heel and forefoot
Lightweight EVA midsole for optimal cushioning
Michelin® Oc Outsole Compound
Michelin® Wild Dig Decent'R Outsole Lug Pattern for shedding mud and debris
7mm Drop
Weight: 9.4 oz M9 7.6oz (women's size 7)
Available July 2018

Fit and Upper
UA did not have my size for in “demo  fleet” but loaned me a pair a half size up which I paired with a thicker sock for the race. The Fit was fine, a bit voluminous just in front of the last laces. I retied once as the new upper stretched.
The upper itself is very soft and accommodating on the foot yet totally secure. The sensation is unique as usually either the mid foot and  toe box in a trail shoe has a distinct sense of secure and sometimes uncomfortable grip on the foot.
Here the fit is all of a piece and very smooth and easy. Yet, totally secure with plenty of toe box room.
The reason for this unique fit is the unusual upper construction. Essentially a thin soft and dense mesh is molded in one piece in an anatomical shape to an outer grid of cast PU. The upper was very breathable and drained very fast.
The entire outer upper including mid foot support and toe bumper is one piece. The outer grid which is soft and slightly stretchy provides a highly customizable to foot shape fit and I assume some protection to the upper while the inner mesh is essentially a sock. Attached to the well padded tongue is an inner light bootie which quite usually I almost missed as it attached lower down than usual with the tongue wrapping further down on both sides of the foot.
Despite the larger than normal size, my feet were extremely comfortable and well held even on very steep slippery descents. I had zero blisters and no pressures anywhere. The tongue is relatively thickly padded as are the ankle and achilles collar. Heel and overall foot hold was impeccable no matter the twisting on downhill terrain or while climbing. My only comment would be concerning top of the foot. Fit just ahead of the last lace up front is so soft and unstructured that it has a touch to much volume, reminding me of the soft extra material fit there of the Skechers Max Trail. Unlike the Skechers the stretch and this volume and lack of structure did not affect foot hold up front significantly so no twisting in the upper there when pushing it harder.
Of particular note, despite tons of wet mud plowed through no debris made it in my shoe at all. The thin soft inner mesh is dense and the tongue and collars wrap the foot.  A Gore-Tex version is also available.

The midsole combines UA’s EVA with two Charged Foam pucks in the heel and forefoot. The Charged Foam (red above)  is slightly softer than the EVA and provides some bounce and also takes the edge of the firmerr stable EVA carrier foam.

Outsole and Rock Protection
This was my first time running with a Michelin outsole and it was outstanding. Zero slipping even on wet grass and mud, up or down, and great grip if a bit firm on smoother jeep roads.  Last year I ran the same race in only slightly wetter conditions in a Nike Kiger 4 and the hold and security this year was really far more confidence inspiring and effective, and I am a very timid descender whereas last year with the Kiger’s more dense, less profiled lugs not so much confidence for I stretched around in the upper.
I did run with poles this year which was a big help but after the first few of many descents and ascents traction was not something I worried about and some of the descents were “black diamond” grassy inclines, a tribute to the rear lug arrangement of wide cross the sole blocks.
The front lug arrangement, slightly less aggressive in lug surface area and more spread out made for superb climbing grip and very decent, but you know you have a trail shoe outsole for softer ground running, on the smoother sections. There is no rock plate here and none was required. The midsole is dense enough and the outsole firm and with full coverage so I had no issues with rock bite.

I will be getting a true to size pair for our full review but couldn’t be more delighted with the Horizon Bullet Proof Feather. The star features here are the incredibly comfortable yet supportive upper and the Michelin outsole. The ride can be characterized as having a full contact on the ground at all times, on all types of terrain and grades. Horizon feels lower and more stable than the 7mm drop and relatively narrow on the ground platform would indicate. I never felt unstable or off balance during the race.

Quick Comparisons (Full comparisons to come in full review)

Nike Terra Kiger 4 (RTR review)
An obvious comparison as last year I raced the same terrain in the Kiger. The Kiger upper, even at true to size was just not as secure, stretching significantly when pushed. especially when wet. Traction was clearly inferior. This said for easier dry terrain the Kiger ride while similar in firmness is smoother and faster due to its outsole design.
Hoka One One Torrent (RTR review)
I ran my last 25K at the SpeedGoat up and down Snowbird in the Torrent. It weighs a touch more than Horizon and provides a slightly wider, softer more cushioned platform and equivalent traction. It’s upper is also roomy achieving its comfort with volume rather than the stretch grid of the Horizon. I find the Torrent upper slightly less secure.
New Balance Summit Unknown (RTR review)
Very similar rides here with slightly less aggressive traction on the Summit. The slightly lighter Summit would have been an excellent choice at Killington, except likely in the muddier and wet grass sections given its lower less aggressive outsole.. The Summit Unknown upper is clearly a more “race fit” but not sure it provides much more support than the Horizon when combined with its narrow midfoot on the ground platform.  It also has a really fine ride on flatter terrain making it somewhat more of a road trail race hybrid than Horizon.
Salomon Sense Pro 3 (RTR review soon)
Very similar shoes here. The Sense Pro 3 is firmer overall, especially in the forefoot. It’s upper is very secure but has less up front “stretch” and volume than Horizon. Like the Summit Unknown, it has a narrower mid foot on the ground platform than Horizon.
Salomon Speedcross
I haven’t run one in ages but the Horizon should have a more comfortable upper better suited to wider feet and its outsole while not quite at the extreme of the Speedcross should be make the Horizon more versatile.

Under Armour  Mountain Series
This is the second year UA invited me to the Killington race. And I went back this year! I got very muddy and took my time more than I might in a road race.
With 3 race weekends: Copper Mountain, Killington, and Mt Bachelor still to come September 16 Under Armour Mountain Running puts on one heck of a fine series of brutal truly “mountain” races with lots of vertical.

The 25K had 4500 feet of vertical. There are multiple distances at each event: 5K, 10K, 25K, and 50K . The organization was impeccable.
I suffered a lot but had fun taking first in my 60-69 age group. Note there were only 3 old timers crazy enough in the age group.

Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun . He has been running and shoe geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half and as he turned 61 a 3:40 marathon to qualify for Boston. Sam runs his roads and trails in coastal New Hampshire and Park City, Utah.
Photo Credit: Jami Crist
The product reviewed in this article were provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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Unknown said...

I read that you weren't in your ideal size. However, ff you had to guess, how would you compare the sizing to the Speedgoat 2, Terra Kiger 4, or Torrent (I have all 3)?


Sam Winebaum said...

Hi John,
My true to size pair is arriving today and will let you know as soon as I can compare.
Sam, Editor
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