Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Under Armour UA HOVR Infinite and HOVR Guardian Review: HOVR goes Big and Connected

Article by Sam Winebaum

UA HOVR Infinite ($120) & HOVR Guardian ($120)


INTRODUCTION
Last year's original HOVR Sonic (RTR review) was one of the big surprises of 2018. It combined a soft HOVR heel insert with stiffer side walls for a firmer yet decently shock free ride. Priced at $100 with a thoroughly modern design top to bottom it was a fine trainer.

This year UA expands the HOVR line with a daily neutral trainer the HOVR Infinite ($120)  and a stability trainer the HOVR Guardian ($120) as well as performance trainer HOVR Velociti 2 ($120, review soon) and an upper update to Sonic, the HOVR Sonic 2 ($100).

UnderArmour Introduces the HOVR Guardian, Velociti 2, and Sonic 2 in our YouTube

HOVR now goes goes full length in both these new shoes for a softer yet still stable ride. The two share similar very soft, disappear on the foot uppers with plenty of room and great support.  Both shoes are on the heavy side at 10.75 oz for Infinite and a very stout 12 oz for Guardian but run lighter than their weight, particularly Guardian. Both release in February 2019 and both are very reasonably priced at $120.

PROS
  • Full length soft HOVR foam supported/encased by firm Charged Foam makes for a comfortable and stable ride in both shoes.
  • Superb, roomy uppers that disappear on the foot.
  • Smooth blend of ample cushion, decent flexibility and adequate easy of transition in Guardian
  • Largely un noticed stability elements in Guardian
  • Both shoes have a built in Connect sensor for (optional) phone free distance, cadence, and stride length recording and form coaching. 
  • Very good values at $120 for plush premium trainers with built in sensing.
CONS
  • Infinite is heavy. Guardian is very heavy but both run lighter than their weight especially Guardian.
  • Infinite is very stiff, considerably stiffer than Guardian and not as much fun to run with a dense mid foot feel and quite labored transition
  • Inconsistent Connect sensor connect and synch performance 
 Skip the Written Review?
Watch our YouTube Review


STATS
Weights
Infinite: 
Official: 10.75 oz / 305 g M9,  8.75 oz /248 g  W7
Tested sample: 10.5 oz /297 g M8.5
Guardian 
Official: 12 oz / 340 g M9,  9.8 oz/ W7
Tested sample:  11.8 oz / 335 g M8.5
Stack Heights
Infinite:     29.0 mm heel / 21 mm forefoot, 8mm drop
Guardian:  26.5mm heel /18.5mm forefoot, 8mm drop

Tester Profile
Sam is 61 with a recent 3:40 Boston qualifier. He runs halves in the 1:35-1:41 range and trains 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces in the 9 minute range.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS & FIT
Seems like the color of the season is black and white. Here the very open and soft mesh has see through holes to the white inner lining. The upper design as a result is somewhat busy but also indicates function as the whiter areas are the most open and breathable. While at first I was a bit taken aback by its dark busyness the design has grown on me.

Both shoe fit similarly. True to size with ample toe splay room and a very soft overall foot hold, yet one with very adequate security and hold. Wide and problem feet will be very happy with this upper. The uppers truly disappear on the foot. Lace up was once and done easy with a soft wrap with the puffy tongue with huge reflective panel providing a bit of structure to the soft tongue and tons of forward facing night security. I am not sure it is the ideal upper for fast running but for day to day easy cruising both uppers are incredibly comfortable,

UPPERS
The uppers are a very soft engineered mesh with plenty of open breathable areas, the white/gray showing through.  One might think support might suffer but not so. The uppers wrap the foot wonderfully if more on the comfort than performance side of fits.
There are very soft pliable overlays at the toe bumper with Guardian having a bit more  overlay coverage over the toes.
The only other overlays to be found on either shoe are external very pliable overlays on the medial side of the Guardian. 
The tongues are super puffy and quite high but work well with rest of the upper. The large reflective firmer top of tongue overlay provides copious reflectivity and shoe branding. It also very importantly keeps the laces from biting through the soft tongue,


The Guardian's achilles and ankle collars are slightly more padded than Infinite's and somewhat less vertical and high. The copious padding is reasonably soft with a non slip texture. Both hold similarly without pressures.
LEFT UA HOVR Guardian      RIGHT   UA HOVR Infinite 
The Guardian adds an external heel clip with a more open design on the lateral side for relief and a full structure on the medial side for stability. Quite frankly I think the clip may be unnecessary adding weight.
UA HOVR Guardian
The differences in rear support feel are noticed but not radically different with the Guardian is clearly more stabilized but never overly so or restrictive for this neutral runner

The uppers have gender specific anatomically correct and differing fits,

MIDSOLE

Both shoes have a similar basic midsole construction of a full length HOVR layer with EVA Charged Foam cage on the sides and below the layer. The 2018 HOVR Sonic only had a heel HOVR insert and was relatively firm up front.  The HOVR layer is made up of two components: an Olefin foam and a wrapping Energy Web mesh "net" to keep the soft Olefin from expanding laterally to far wasting energy,  As advertised, landings are soft enough and comfortable and there is a nice if muted return as load is released. It is not a Boost bouncy sensation given the Energy Web and firm sidewalls. The sensation is of controlled cushion, well maybe too well stabilized by the side walls and underfoot layer of Charged Foam

While sharing the same construction of HOVR and Charge Foam there are significant differences in the geometry and construction of the midsole.
UA HOVR Guardian
The Guardian has a TPU plastic Pronation Decelerator Chassis plus a medial firmer post all of which, quite frankly, look scary. I generally can't stand posts or such plastic plates. Yet the feeling is great and without that firm over supported feel of traditional stability shoes. In fact ,the support is barely noticed providing just a touch more stability below the foot than the Infinite which lacks the chassis. The post on the Guardian feels about the same firmness as all of the Charged Foam in the Infinite with the rest of the Guardian foam maybe a touch softer than Infinite.
LEFT: HOVR Infinite RIGHT: HOVR Guardian
I note the arch of the Guardian, plastic piece in all, is more carved out with a deeper center channel  which I assume decouples and aids transition.The lead developer told me, after I had tested, that the Guardian was designed for a more "natural ride" in a stability shoe and this is exactly what I feel. In fact, one could argue that while lighter. the firm side walls, firmer midsole and filled in mid foot of the Infinite make its medial support as noticeable and it is certainly less fun to run.

How this was achieved this is I am not sure, but the stack of the Guardian is actually lower than Infinite and while the outsole is more flexible  I was told Guardian's midsole is actually denser than Infinite while to me it also feels softer overall- firmness and density being two different parameters of midsole formulation. The combination of all these technical factors and design choices makes this not so big fan of any pure stability shoe actually significantly prefer the overall run feel of the Guardian despite its additional weight.

Bottom line, the cushion and support on the Infinite feels denser and firmer particularly at mid foot and is less easy to transition than Guardian to me.
UA HOVR Infinite 
The Infinite has no chassis and big cutouts up front through the Charged Foam midsole sidewalls to the HOVR layer which Guardian lacks. I suppose they remove some weight  and I would have thought they would have made the Infinite more flexible than Guardian but  this is not so. The Infinite is considerably stiffer, too stiff for me, while the Guardian has a fine flex and easier toe off.  This is likely due to its 2.5 mm higher forefoot stack and Infinite's outsole design.

OUTSOLE

The outsoles are generally similar but there are differences. The Guardian has a more extended piece of firm rubber with fewer notches on the medial side with the TPU chassis extending under the foot in similar fashion but more streamlined to ASICS Trussic plastic. It is not noticed under foot as ASICS approach often is for me,

TOP: UA HOVR Guardian  BOTTOM: UA HOVR Infinite 
Upfront we see broader pads of blown rubber with more and deeper longitudinal flex groove on the Guardian. This translates to more flex and a slightly softer forefoot feel and maybe a touch less response than Infinite. Not to worry about less response and such as Infinite is very stiff and quite frankly the stiffness gets in the way to transition to toe off. A miss in this area for Infinite.

BUILT IN SENSING

Both shoes and all 2019 HOVR models have built in Connect sensing at no extra cost. In 2018 it was an option for $10 more. A chip is embedded in the right shoe. The battery is not rechargeable and is intended to last the lifetime of the shoe. It records, without need for a phone, pace, distance, cadence, and stride length. It will also keep track of how many miles the shoe has been run, Data is synched via Bluetooth to MapMyRun, UA's run app when you wish.  If you run with a phone Connect will transmit cadence and stride length data to the app's workout in progress view.  Using Connect's data MapMyRun can provide coaching tips based on a combination of target pace, stride length and cadence data. We have not tried the coaching tips yet.

UnderArmour describes HOVR Connect in our YouTube below

My Infinite connected  to MapMyRun on set up but the Guardian has not as of yet despite multiple attempts. I was able to synch a two mile run from the Infinite but on my second run while the shoe connected to app I have been unable to synch despite following all troubleshooting tips multiple times, It is is possible my early samples firmware has bugs?
I will be contacting UA to see if these issues can be resolved,

When Connect "connected" it recorded without any of the optional calibration a run  of 2.2 miles on an indoor track where nominally the run was 2 miles, maybe a touch more. I expect with calibration this will improve but as a back up to a watch, if you forget  your watch, or indoors it is just fine and after included at no extra cost. Note also the stride length and cadence data.

Under Armour Presents Connect Sensing to RoadTrailRun in our YouTube


RIDE
These are big heavy shoes. While they run lighter than their weight particularly Guardian  don't expect rocket speeds here.  The ride balances soft cushion from the HOVR with plenty of firmness from the side walls and outsoles that neither a mushy or a firm dense one are to be found here. Just lots of comfort and cushion all well stabilized with no interruptions in feel in the Guardian, less so in the Infinite with its denser more ponderous mid foot. I will reserve Guardian in particular for easy recovery runs where I also want to keep from getting sloppy,

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Both new HOVR models will challenge in the plush heavily cushioned daily trainer category as they are priced very competitively and have a balance of soft, stabliity and some move along life despite their substantial weights. If you have problem feet or just like a soft supportive upper with no straight jacket areas you will love these uppers as their comfort is excellent.

I personally much preferred the more flexible and slightly softer forefoot of the very heavy Guardian over the Infinite ,ignoring the very slight in difference in feel from the extra support on the medial side compared to many stability shoes or even Infinite's support features. I actually ran Guardian before weighing, enjoyed a easy recovery run without feeling bogged down and then weighed them..11.8 ounces in my size 8.5... the heaviest road shoe I have run in years, maybe decades! That substance and HOVR feel made them enjoyable for slower recovery runs and some daily training when tired,  Durability should be excellent,

The added bonus of Connect and a very competitive price at $120 for either HOVR is a big plus but it needs to be reliable

I would recommend both with a strong preference towards Guardian for easy recovery runs for even neutral runners where you want some support underfoot, heavier runners, runners with problem fitting more rigid, lower volume, or narrow uppers, obviously "over" pronators, and beginner runners seeking a stable, protective, durable first shoe.

Infinite Score 8.9/10
The stiffness gets in the way of a decent ride and the weight is up there for a daily trainer
-0.7 for forefoot stiffness and dense hard to transition midfoot
-0.4 for weight
-0.1 for inconsistent, so far and these are not production versions, Connect experience,
Guardian Score  9.4/10
12 ounces is a lot to lug around, even in a heavy duty stability shoe, although it is not that noticed here as long as you don't go long or push the pace.
-0.5 for weight.
-0.1 for inconsistent so far and these are not production versions, Connect experience,

Comparisons
Saucony Triumph ISO 5 (RTR review)
At about 10.5 oz and $160, the Triumph weighs less and costs $40 more than Infinite. Its upper is as equally comfortable if a touch denser. Both have copious cushion with the EVERUN in the Triumph livelier.   Unlike Infinite the Triumph has a nice easy flex. Despite the big price difference for two equally well cushioned shoes the Triumph is just a smoother more fun operator than Infinite, or Guardian.

ASICS Gel Nimbus 19 (RTR review) and 21 (review soon)
Both the Infinite and Guardian in my view compare to the Nimbus as it has plenty of stability elements (Trussic plastic at midfoot) for a supposedly neutral shoe. The 19 has an overly supportive stiff upper. The upcoming 21  upper is considerable more relaxed than 19 and somewhat more secure and polished than either Infinite or Guardian. The 19 ride was dense and "complex",  the 21 smoother and considerably softer especially at the forefoot but is still all about modules of cushion and support (GEL, Propel, FlyteFoam Lyte, Trussic) located in various places and all noticed as separate on the run. The UA's with their simpler dual density midsoles and softer HOVR underfoot just feel smoother on the run and will set you back $30 less.

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v9 (RTR review)
Coming in at more than 1.5 oz less weight than even Infinite, the 1080v9 has close to equivalent cushion to the Infinite, is more flexible, has a more dynamic fide, and has a great somewhat more performance oriented upper. While $30 more, the polished 1080 will lead you through all your daily training paces, while for me the Infinite is more a slower days shoe. If we were talking about earlier firm stiff 1080 versions the Infinite would get the nod despite its weight.

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19 (review soon)
At approximately 11.2 oz the stability Adrenaline is considerably lighter than Guardian. This said it is considerably firmer overall despite its soft DNALoft heel insert and more awkward to transition at slower paces.  Its Guide Rails support system is located higher up bridging the edges of midsole and upper and for me was actually more intrusive than Guardian's lower medial side walls approach. Uppers are equally comfortable. If you "need" stability and lots of softer cushion for easy miles and are not worried about weight then Guardian is a better choice. That's saying a lot as Adrenaline is Brooks' best selling run shoe.

adidas Solar Drive (RTR review)
The Drive matches more to the Infinite than the Guardian as it is a also a neutral shoe. Identically priced, the Drive is soft and bouncy with a very roomy upper. I give the upper nod to the Infinite as it is more breathable and while light more secure towards the front of the shoe. Underfoot the Infinite is held back by its stiffness compared to the Drive and is just not as much fun,


HOVR Infinite and HOVR Guardian  will be available February 2019

The UA shoes were provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.


2 comments:

Richie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richie said...

Looks like a $20 shoe from Walmart.