Thursday, February 14, 2019

adidas Ultra Boost 19 Review - Yes Virginia, it's finally a real running shoe!

Article by Jeff Beck

adidas Ultra Boost 19 ($180)
The first major overhaul of the vaunted adidas Ultra Boost, the Ultra Boost 19 has taken largely a lifestyle (or at least its most prevalent use) shoe and turned it into a bonafide runner. Claiming 20% more Boost material underfoot, the Ultra Boost 19 is more cushioned without being sloppy. The extra squish, along with the deletion of the previous versions' ubiquitous (and awful) plastic midfoot cage has created a shoe that's enjoyable, if not a little confusing, to run in.

-Primeknit upper holds the foot well
-Lots of Boost underneath gives a comfortable ride
-Outsole grip is outstanding in wet and dry

-Too heavy for a fast shoe

Official Weight: 10.9oz /  309 g
M10.5 Sample Weight: 11.6oz/329g
Stack Height: 19/29mm
Offset: 10mm

Tester Profile
Jeff Beck is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup. As a middle-of-the-pack runner, his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less.  Jeff runs 40 miles per week, both roads and desert trails, in North Phoenix, Arizona. He has a PR's of 4:07 marathon and 5K at 23:39 both he is working to demolish with help from his coach and fellow RTR tester Dave Ames.

First Impressions and Fit
Looking good and feeling better, the Ultra Boost 19 is striking. Finally making good on the promise adidas made more than four years ago (when they called the original Ultra Boost their most cushioned shoe ever only to disappoint) the UB19 has lots of cushioning without approaching the mushy territory. I went with a true to size 10.5, and at first I was concerned that I should have sized up.

While the Ultra Boost 19 no longer has the plastic midfoot cage, the midfoot knit was so tight I was concerned they were too small. I could barely get the shoe on the first time. Luckily, the knit upper stretches just a bit and the extremely tight feeling went away after one run. As a self-professed toebox snob I was pleased, there is plenty of room up front due to the knit upper stretching and I would definitely recommend stick true to size.

Nearly every aspect of the upper has been improved from the previous Ultra Boost. 

The toebox allows a little more stretch, giving plenty of room for toes to splay.
The plastic mid foot cage is completely gone, replaced by a reinforced synthetic material saddle overlay that gives the knit a little reinforcement without annoying the foot in any way. 
The saddle overlay is flexible, light, and actually a mesh

In other color ways adidas opted for a white more translucent saddle, and that lets the Primeknit upper material color underneath come through.

Light coming from the opposite side
But even the black version allows a fair amount of light through. Either way, if you have a finicky mid foot and previous adidas cages gave you problems, you shouldn't have any issue with the UB19.

The heel counter, formerly a plastic abomination that either worked or very much didn't has been reduced down to a plastic outline.It gives the shoe a little more shape and structure, but was never felt either during the run or even wearing casually after a run.

As I mentioned before, the upper was almost uncomfortably tight out of the box, but it loosened up after one run. That said, one of my runs was ninety minutes in a constant downpour, and after the shoes dried out the upper was almost back to boa constrictor levels of tight. But, another run later they were back to hugging the foot without strangling. By comparison adidas Primeknit is the best feeling knit upper I've run in. The Flyknit used in the latest Zoom Fly doesn't nearly have the same hold Primeknit does, nor does any of the Brooks knits used in the Levitate 2 or Ricochet. I did a small jog around the block with one shoe tied and the other without any laces. With zero laces there was a little movement, but not much.

Did someone order a boatload of Boost? You're in luck. Unlike many of the other Boost shoes in the adidas line, the Ultra Boost 19 is pure Boost.
Unlike the previous Ultra Boost, it didn't leave me wanting more. Considering its weight, the original Ultra Boost never felt cushioned enough, especially in the forefoot but the latest version doesn't have that problem.  It has 2mm more Boost stack front and back, but if you'd told me it was more I'd believe you. There is plenty of cushioning throughout the shoe, and while the majority of midsole is under the heel, even a mid foot striker can appreciate what the shoe has to offer.
The TPU plastic Torsion system runs through the Boost, and while very little of it is visible, promotional shots from adidas show that it is very substantial, especially up front. It isn't restrictive though, there is plenty of flex in every direction.

Continental rubber is a grid pattern seems to be adidas' calling card, and here it works perfectly. I don't get many opportunities to run in actual rain (see my portion of the Topo Athletic Hydroventure 2 review that required the garden hose to test its waterproof qualities), but I was able to log a solid long run that started off misting and moved to a full downpour a mile in. I made a number of odd steps to dodge puddles, frequently unsuccessfully, but it didn't matter - every step was rock solid. Also, I've put fifty miles on the shoes, and the outsole looks effectively brand new. With adidas' claims that Boost lasts longer than standard EVA, this is a shoe meant to last a lot of miles.

This is where it gets complicated and the reason I had to wait until I had fifty miles on the shoe to write this. This shoe has multiple personality disorder. At 11.6 ounces its not lightweight uptempo shoe, but that's where it feels best. I wore the shoe on multiple long runs, multiple easy runs, and one session of hill repeats, and they felt the best when I was running up a hill at 90% effort. It doesn't make sense, but the bouncy nature of the shoe lends itself to pushing pace. Many of my easy runs ended with strides, and again the shoe felt smoothest at a faster pace. That isn't to say it isn't smooth during slow miles, it very much is, but it just feels better faster.

Conclusions and Score

Many runners have held the Ultra Boost as a lifestyle sneaker, not a running shoe. The Ultra Boost 19 changes all of that, improving every aspect of the shoe. The upper is more comfortable, having ditched the plastic midfoot cage and massive heel counter. The midsole has been amped up (Boosted?) with 2mm more Boost material underneath the foot front and back, giving a comfortable ride. The extra Boost likely contributes to the slight gain in listed weight over the Ultra Boost 18. The outsole's wet traction and durability are among the best in the the business.

But it is a odd shoe, feeling best at uptempo speeds (despite its considerable girth), and at $180 there are a lot of great shoes that cost well less. But ultimately this is an outstanding shoe, and deserves actual consideration from runners who might otherwise lump it in with its lifestyle based siblings and write it off.

Runners who are looking for a Swiss Army Knife of a shoe (one shoe that does everything) will find the Ultra Boost 19 checks most boxes, as well as runners who like their cushioning to be more bouncy than plush. Runners who live in rainy climates could also appreciate the Ultra Boost 19 for its superb wet traction.
My Score 9.5 out of 10
-.25 Weight - 11.6 ounces for a size 10.5 is too heavy to be a speed work shoe, which is where this shoe shined for me.
-.25 Cost - $180 is a big ask, even if the shoe's durability should be better than most.

adidas Ultra Boost 19 vs adidas Solar Glide (RTR review)
Two very similar shoes with lots in common, but the Solar Glide with more EVA and less Boost in the midsole is lighter and feels better at all speeds. Also in its favor is cost, $40 less at full retail, but if you're less picky about color they can be found at less than $100, making the Ultra Boost 19 effectively double the cost. It's a great shoe, but save the money and go with the little brother Solar Glide

adidas Ultra Boost 19 vs New Balance 1080v9 (RTR review)
Roughly an ounce lighter and a little more cushioned, the 1080v9 is a very good reason to skip the Ultra Boost 19. The UB19 upper is more comfortable, but they both have a similar ride. Even though I want to run in the Ultra Boost 19 more, I'd recommend the 1080v9. It's $30 less and largely a more useful shoe.

adidas Ultra Boost 19 vs Topo Athletic UltraFly 2
The UltraFly 2 has a massive toebox advantage and a smooth ride, but I'd barely give the edge to the Ultra Boost 19 for its comfortable upper and bouncy ride. While the UltraFly 2 is a great daily trainer, it doesn't have nearly the bouncy ride at faster pace, so I'd favor the UB19.

adidas Ultra Boost 19 vs Salomon Predict RA (RTR review)
Two surprisingly similar shoes, but the Predict RA is a better overall shoe. The outsole has plenty of grip (though I can't personally attest to its wet performance), the upper is every bit as comfortable as the Ultra Boost, and the midsole gives a smooth ride, the Predict RA is the least hyped shoe that deserves accolades. I really enjoyed the UB19, but the Predict RA is equal or better in nearly every measure.

adidas Ultra Boost 19 vs Nike Pegasus Turbo (RTR review)
While some have described the previous Ultra Boost as mushy, the Pegasus Turbo is what I'd consider a mushy midsole. The only thing the Peg Turbo does better is weight, coming in nearly three ounces lighter, but it doesn't ride as well, the upper isn't as comfortable, and the outsole doesn't have the grip. In a high dollar showdown - take the UB19 and don't think twice.

adidas Ultra Boost 19 vs Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit (RTR review)
I know, it's unfair. But if the UB19 wants to be a fast shoe, it has to against a fast shoe. And in this case, its a slaughter. $20 less (or even more if you go with certain colorways), more than 3 ounces lighter, and a carbon fiber plate, the Zoom Fly Flyknit is a legitimately fast shoe that has plenty of cushioning instead of a well cushioned shoe that wants to go fast. Call it the difference between a Ferrari 458 Italia and an M5. Sure, both can be quick, but at the end of the day there's no comparison when pushing the envelope. It's the Zoom Fly Flyknit, by a mile.

Reviewer Bio
Jeff Beck is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup. As a middle-of-the-pack runner, his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs both roads and trails throughout North Phoenix, and at the start of 2019, he began training with Ame For It Run Coaching as he gears up for his first ultra marathon. He's published three books, Outside ServiceProve Me Wrong, and Suck Less Less at Golf and along with his wife launched Mythic Brews Cold Brew Coffee Company in 2018.He enjoys running desert trails as well as the road, and is trying to get his 5K time to sub-twenty.

The product reviewed in this article was a personal purchase. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
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Dennis Chui said...

Thanks for your review. I run at a similar pace as yours so your feed back is valuable to me.

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

You're welcome, Dennis. Ask away, I'm always happy to help!

Spiros said...

Hi Jeff
All those years i'm running i'm trying to find the best cushioned shoe and at same time fast enough for my pounds over 200!!is the adidas ultraboost 2019 that shoe?Thanks for all thegreat reviews and feedback you and everyone in road&trail run give to us!Keep up the good work!Greetings from Greece!

abaynp said...

Love the way Jeff comparing the shoes!

abaynp said...

Been reading Sam's first impression, you should count the new Skechers GoRun Maxroad 4 Hyper, I guess :)

Anonymous said...

How is the fit compared to nike epic react? Does it have more volume around the midfoot? I found that epic react is too snug for my high volume midfoot

Jeff said...


The Ultra Boost 19 very well may be. I truly think it is a great shoe, with plenty of cushioning, and despite its weight on the scale, doesn't run heavy. In the last year there have been a number of shoes that I've tested that I was ready to move on from once I finished my review, the UB19 remains a mainstay in my rotation, and probably will for quite a while.


Thank you very much. And trust me, I'm very much looking forward to the Skechers GoRun Maxroad 4 Hyper. The little experience I have with Hyperburst midsole has been very positive. That's going to be a great shoe.


The Ultra Boost 19 has much more room in the midfoot compared to the Epic React, but it also is more secure. If you flip over both shoes and look at them from the bottom up, you can see the Epic React tapers in substantially like an hour glass, while the Ultra Boost 19 has a slight taper in. Also, adidas' Primeknit holds the foot much better than Nike's Flyknit, as well as the extra build up around the midfoot saddle. I really like the Epic React, but the fit around the midfoot and the upper are real concerns, while the UB19 doesn't have any of the same issues. Also - even though its roughly 3 ounces heavier, the UB19 is better for uptempo running, as well as easy miles.

I hope all of that helps,

Unknown said...

How do they compare to the Vomero 14?

Jeff said...

Hi Unknown,

Unfortunately I haven't run in the Vomero to give a good head to head comparison, and Sam has lots of Vomero experience, but not in the UB19. FWIW, the UB19 has a consistent 3mm more cushioning underfoot in both the heel and forefoot, and a little more weight as well. If I end up running in the Vomero I'll update the review.