UA HOVR Infinite ($120) & HOVR Guardian ($120)
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
- 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.
- 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
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Official: 10.75 oz / 305 g M9, 8.75 oz /248 g W7
Tested sample: 10.5 oz /297 g M8.5
Official: 12 oz / 340 g M9, 9.8 oz/ W7
Tested sample: 11.8 oz / 335 g M8.5
Infinite: 29.0 mm heel / 21 mm forefoot, 8mm drop
Guardian: 26.5mm heel /18.5mm forefoot, 8mm drop
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,
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|
|UA HOVR Guardian|
The uppers have gender specific anatomically correct and differing fits,
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
|UA HOVR Guardian|
|LEFT: HOVR Infinite RIGHT: HOVR Guardian|
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|
|TOP: UA HOVR Guardian BOTTOM: UA HOVR 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
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
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,
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.
Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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