Thursday, October 07, 2021

adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra Review - A next evolution in trail running shoes?

Article by Nils Scharff

adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra ($160 / 160€)


Introduction

The UTMB - Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc - is one of the most prestigious trail / ultra running events in the world. Running enthusiasts like me spend a whole week looking at the small town of Chamonix in the French Alps to watch the various competitions there. Just in time for this event, pictures and unboxing videos of a new shoe appeared on the social media channels of various adidas Terrex athletes: The adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra. A few pieces of information had already leaked out at this point. It should be a trail shoe with a carbon fiber plate! In the trail running world this has been rather rare so far. Since you already know carbon from various “super shoes” for road running and a few appearing in trail such as the TNF Flight Vectiv and Speeland, that naturally raised expectations! Is adidas bringing a super shoe for the trails onto the market?

In the course of the UTMB week you could see the shoe on the feet of various athletes, who then also performed respectably. For example, Ekatarina Mityaeva, who was significantly involved in the development of the Terrex Agravic Ultra, came fourth in the 145km long TDS ( "Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie", one of the UTMB races). So the shoe seems to work perfectly for top athletes on very long and very technical routes through the French Alps. But how does it treat normal people like me when I torture myself on much shorter runs through my local low mountain ranges? To find out what the new adidas shoe can offer, I ran  it for almost 100km. You can read below whether it actually turned out to be a trail running super shoe.


Pros:

Very stable and protective ride!

Great craftsmanship and very robust materials - the shoe could last 1000km!

Stone protection par excellence!

Leg saving on downhills!

Quite dynamic at higher speeds or downhill!

Great lockdown!

Good Continental outsole!

Comfortably wide toe box!

Stable enough to work for neutral as well as stability runners!

Upper material is breathable and dries quickly!


Cons:

It took the midsole 50km to break in and become a little softer / more comfortable!

Even then, the shoe is definitely on the more rigid side, especially in the forefoot area!

Even after breaking in, the stiff upper is not the most comfortable!

The high heel part caused friction and blisters in the Achilles tendon area!

Don’t think of the plate (and the shoe) of something that makes you run fast - it’s made for efficiency!

Due to the cut-out in the rear area of the plate and the use of the soft Boost material at this point, the heel sinks significantly further into the midsole than the forefoot does - therefore the shoe by time forces you on your heel - which can almost feel like a negative drop!


Tester: Nils Scharff

I’m 30 years old, living in Heilbronn Germany and I’ve done all sorts of sports for all my life, often 5-7 times a week. But my young running career just started 4 years ago with a company run which I joined together with some colleagues in 2017. From there I never let go. I ran roughly 1000km in my first year, doubled and then tripled that number in the following years. I've run 7 marathons to date with a PR of 2:55:19h - this fall in Berlin. My other PRs are 17:32 for the 5k, 36:15 for 10k and 1:22:56 for the half.


Data

Weight:

  Official: 299g / 10.55 oz (men US8)

  Review unit: 341g / 12.3 oz (men EU 44 / US 10)

Drop: 8mm (34mm heel / 26mm forefoot)

Release: available from adidas and  run specialists for 160€ / $160



First impression and fit

There it is, my first adidas Terrex shoe! I was very happy when it arrived, as the hype surrounding the Agravic Ultra had already built up over the past few weeks. Unfortunately, the shoe came in the normal adidas box and not in a cool wooden box, as you could see with the Terrex professionals. But of course that doesn't affect the shoe itself. After all, as with the Boston 10, there at least was a focus on sustainable materials during the design of shoe and shoebox - of course I'm pleased with that. 

The Agravic Ultra comes in a chic black and white design with a little neon yellow. The Continental outsole in a camouflage pattern sets a special accent, so I think the overall appearance is quite nice. Even if it could of course have been more colorful for me as always!

When I opened the laces to put the shoe on for the first time, I noticed that the laces as well as the upper materials were very stiff. Everything feels pretty indestructible and built like a tank, but not really comfortable either. Unfortunately, that impression didn’t change once I put the shoe on. The fit is good and especially quite wide in the forefoot. I had to struggle with the lacing for a while and also used the additional lacing holes in the forefoot area until I found a good fit in the shoe. But this work was worth it because, after the initial tuning, the lockdown in the shoe was perfect! The length also corresponds to my normal adidas size 44EUR / US10- so the Terrex Agravic Ultra fits true to size.

I had to realize another small disappointment when I put the shoe on the scales: 341 grams / 12.3 oz is quite heavy in my test size. So unfortunately I had to say goodbye to my initial hope of ​​a light trail racer with a carbon fiber plate.


Upper

The upper of the adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra consists of a very sturdy single layer mesh. It is made out of Primegreen, which means it is made out of recycled materials. Thanks to its stiffness, the mesh can make use of a very open-pored pattern. Therefore it is very breathable, doesn’t hold water and also dries very quickly e.g. after a river crossing.

You will find several outer and inner overlays which give even more structure to the upper. On the outside there is a very protective toe cap which wraps all the way around the edges of the forefoot. The three adidas stripes are even thicker than the toe cap. This way they not just look good but also reinforce the lateral side of the midfoot area.

The reinforcements around the lacing holes are even thicker and are probably as robust as you can design them. It is going to hold up forever but makes lacing up a bit of a hustle.

On the inside, you can find even more underlays to provide yet more midfoot hold. Because the adidas stripes are just placed on the lateral side, there are more of those inner reinforcements on the medial side to make up for it. The undelays are finished with a suede like layer and therefore do feel nice on foot.

The tongue is slightly padded - just enough to get rid of the lace pressure. It is not gusseted but held in place by the threaded laces. That’s fine in terms of the tongue placement and movement, but a possible opening for dirt to get in the shoe.

Last but not least there’s a very sturdy heel counter which provides more than enough stability in that area. The collar at the heel is very high which one one hand makes the lockdown even more secure but on the other hand it causes chafing to the right and left of my achilles tendon. This issue unfortunately didn’t go away after an initial break in phase. All the other parts of the upper and also the midsole broke in and felt more comfortable over time. But because of this high heel collar I can’t run the shoe without blister blasters. For race day that is no issue, as I would get those blisters anyways, somewhere!  But for training it is quite an expensive necessity to use two of those blasters each run.


Midsole

A lot of thought went into the midsole of the adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra. It has 26mm stack height in the forefoot, 34mm in the heel and accordingly a 8mm drop (which is written on the midsole!). 

There are basically three parts that lay on top of each other as you can see in the drawing above I borrowed from the adidas website.

The top layer is made of the well known Boost material, which is quite soft, comfortable and responsive.

The bottom layer consists of adidas’ Lightstrike material (not Pro!) and its purpose is first and foremost to provide stability. Therefore it is quite rigid and sidewalls rise to the left and right of the mid- to rearfoot area to give the foot more guidance. It also is sculpted towards the outside which provides additional stability.

In between those two layers you can find the star of the show: A carbon fiber composite plate made out of bio based TPE, which consists of 90% renewable carbon. That’s the first time I see someone using a sustainable approach to a carbon fiber plate and I applaud that! 

The plate runs the full length of the midsole and this way provides even more stability and assists the gait cycle while rolling through the slight rocker. I believe you can see some cutouts along the front part of the plate to help with lateral stability. And in the heel of the plate there’s another, star shaped, cutout which helps to make the shoe more forgiving on extended downhill running. It also enables the runner to load the plate more easily by sinking into the heel area of the midsole.

You can see that there is a lot going on under foot. It took me a while to understand how it works, but also its purpose. This carbon fiber plate is not made to propel you forward as a road racing shoe does these days. It is there to assist and guide you when your legs are tired after many hours or even days of running.


Outsole

The outsole of the adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra is made of Continental Rubber and provides its well known all around good performance. Adidas says the pattern of the 4mm lugs is inspired by the tires of gravel bikes and is made to perform best on rocky terrain (like at UTMB). I can’t judge if that’s true, but the pattern works well in most of my running scenarios. Sure, if your trails are moist and muddy deeper lugs would come in handy. But all in all there’s really not much to complain about here.

The only real downside I found are the cutouts in the out- and midsole. Those collect rocks on each and every run. Given that the outsole is especially designed for rocky stuff, that feels like a design flaw to me.



Ride

I’m not going to lie. Straight out of the box the midsole felt pretty stiff and rigid and accordingly the ride wasn’t really pleasing. I knew immediately that the adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra needed some break in time. But given that the high heel collar caused chafing left and right of my achilles just 5k into each run that took some time and effort. Especially as I was close to the Berlin marathon when I got the shoes and didn't want to risk anything. I almost gave up on the Agravic Ultra.

The heel cushioning felt fine and forgiving thanks to the star shaped cutout in the plate. But the cushioning in the forefoot was borderline harsh. Additionally the (felt) different levels of softness between for- and rearfoot led to the feeling that you kind of sink into the heel area of the midsole. It almost felt like a negative drop or if the shoe wanted to force you on your heel. But then at around 50k of running in the Agravic Ultra the midsole finally opened up.

It’s still for sure not the agile and fast ride I was expecting from my first carbon plated trail shoe. But I guess sometimes you have to get past your expectations. And what I find when I have a second look at the adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra is a very protective and stable running shoe that is made to save you and your energy during very long and very technical runs. 

But can the Agravic Ultra do anything else besides that very specific use case? Given the weight it will never be a very agile shoe. But the plate for sure gets loaded and works in a propulsive way if you run fast enough - which basically means on downhills during trail- and ultra runs. Once broken in it is also a solid everyday and easy run trail shoe if you need a good amount of stability or if you are usually running on technical, alpine trails. So if that’s you or if you are planning to run one of the UTMB races or something similar in length and technicality it’s for sure worth a look.


Conclusions and recommendation

As  I wrote in the last section the adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra is not the fast and light carbon plated super shoe for the trails. But in it’s own way it is just as well thought out and very well put together for its very specific use case - technical ultra running. And while you probably are going to find faster, lighter, cheaper, more comfortable (etc.) models for anything else, in this specific niche the Agravic Ultra for sure can hold its own.

You just have to think of what and who the shoe is made for. Ekatarina Mityaeva ran the 145km TDS (with 9100m of elevation gain and loss) in 24:31h. And while that is an astonishing time for that course it still is a 10min / km pace. If you subtract the time Ekatarina spent at aid stations that’s maybe a little faster, but still not fast running by any means. But it’s very impressive sustained running over a longer course and longer time than I’ve ever done or even ever tried (I’m actually going to run my first 50k  two weeks from now).

Given that background, the design of the adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra makes a lot more sense. The carbon plate together with the rocker are made to save you energy in the later miles of your long runs. The tank-like upper and the superb rock protection is made to protect you from hours and hours on the course (and most probably in the mountains). All the inherent stability is made to save your ankles from bending over during the technical downhills towards the end of your race and to give you confidence when you need it the most. And while I’m no ultra runner myself, yet, I strongly believe that the Agravic Ultra accomplishes all those tasks very well. Additionally it makes for an exceptional fast hiker!

Score: 7.8/10

Ride: 6.5 (30%) Fit: 8.5 (30%) Value: 7 (15%) Style: 8 (5%) Traction:8 (15%) Rock Protection: 10 (10%)


The ride of the adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra is not a fun one but a stable and protective one for  serious business for the mountains. And while the fit is perfect for me, the chafing around my ankle costs some points. You could argue for higher value points given the very high build quality and expected durability. But I also had  to take the small field of use into account. This shoe will shine on alpine, rocky, technical terrain but probably feel overbuilt for anything else. And while style points are a totally subjective thing and traction is just solid, the rock protection is outstanding with results of a very high score in that category.


Comparisons


adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra vs. Saucony Endorphin Trail (RTR Review)

Both shoes are similar in terms of protection from the ground and offering an efficient and stable ride even when your legs are tired. The ET has even more stack height and it’s midsole, while not plated, offers a little more pop. Its upper is more comfortable, it rides smoother on more moderate terrain and has deeper lugs for muddy conditions. The adidas on the other hand has the better lockdown, runs more precisely  and offers even more protection and stability, especially through the sturdy upper. It is the better mountain shoe in my opinion, while the Saucony can be worn on a broader variety of trails. adidas EUR 44 / Endo Trail EUR 44.5.


adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra vs. Brooks Cascadia 16 (RTR Review)

The Cascadia 16 was a surprise and is my go-to mountain shoe when I’m heading to the Alps. It’s build almost as sturdy as the Agravic Ultra, offers great protection and an even better traction. Its midsole is softer and more forgiving but probably not as energy saving as the plated adidas in the later miles of a race. I don’t need more shoe than the Cascadia for the runs I am doing right now. But if you are going into the ultra mountain category I can see the benefits of the adidas. It is even more protective, stable and more efficient and will therefore be the better shoe for 100k +.  adidas EUR 44 / Cascadia EUR 44.5.


adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra vs. ON Cloudultra (RTR Review)

ON chose a similar direction with the Cloudultra’s Speedboard as adidas did with the TPE plate of the Agravic Ultra. Both midsole setups are made for efficiency for very long runs. But while the Agravic Ultra opened up after 50k I never got to that point with the Cloudultra. It just felt unrunnable for me. Therefore adidas delivers where ON just tried to. adidas EUR 44 / Cloudultra EUR 44.5.


adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra vs. HOKA ONE ONE (EVO) Speedgoat (RTR Review)

The SG is a classic and capable of anything you throw at it. It’s midsole is softer by far, offers a more energetic feeling and therefore is a treat even for shorter runs. And while the adidas competes with the SG at the Ultra distance it gets outclassed at anything 50k or below. The tremendous weight difference the much lighter EVO SG has to offer just can’t be ignored. When things get longer the Agravic Ultra catches up through more stability and protection, higher build quality and a more efficient ride. It also fits a little wider than the HOKAs. adidas EUR 44 / SG EUR 44.5.


adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra vs. Salomon Ultra Glide (RTR Review)

The Ultra Glide is another shoe made for long distances. But it achieves it with a totally different approach than the adidas. The UG is soft, fun and energetic with a great rocker and a comfortable upper. It is actually one of my favourite shoes right now for more moderate trails. But it lacks stability and protection if your trails are rough and technical and its lockdown just isn’t what you need there either. Those are things you can find in the adidas. Two different shoes for two different occasions. adidas EUR 44 / Ultra Glide EUR 44.5.


adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra vs. Topo Ultraventure 2 (Multi Tester Review) (My German Review)

The Ultraventure is another great option if you want to go long. I loved it especially for its versatility. It runs well on roads and buffed out trails but offers enough stability, protection and traction to handle anything mountain related you throw at it. Oh and of course it has that wide yet secure Topo fit. The adidas isn’t as versatile but again tops the Topo in terms of stability and protection. It is the better mountain ultra shoe while the Topo is the better all rounder. adidas EUR 44 / Topo EUR 44.5.


adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra vs. Inov-8 TerraUltra G270 (RTR Review)

Both shoes have the Ultra in their name but both are very different shoes. The G270 is fun and energetic and a great race option for anything from the half and up. Like Damian Hall is showing us you can even wear it through UTMB or even longer runs like the Pennineway. But it is zero drop and far less protective than the Terra Ultra, reasons why I would choose the latter over the G270 for alpine usage. adidas EUR 44 / Topo EUR 44.5.


The Terrex Agravic Ultra available now!

adidas HERE

Shopping from US Running Warehouse HERE

Shopping from Europe Top4Running HERE


Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content

The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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8 comments:

Nils said...

Following

semmtex said...

Hi, thank you for the review. I have few questions.
How does It run on hard packet surface?
How is the midsole combo compared to Terrex Speed Ultra? I like that setup a lot.

I ran 50k ultra with 2k elevation in the mountains in the Salomon Ultra Glide and after 30km it wasn't enough cushioned and stable / protective. (Btw after 300km the shoe is shot.)
Adidas Terrex is recently on fire with great products.
I am looking for trail mileage dog, so lots of long easy miles. (mostly on forrest trails)

Nils said...

Hey semmtex,

thanks for your comment.

Regarding hard packed surface: At the beginning I thought the AU would be the first shoe I have to actually carry the 2km to my local trailhead. But after 50km breaking in the midsole opened up and is runnable on all my local trails here: forrest paths and hard packed single trails. Even though I believe that its natural habitat is in mountains like the Alps or the White Mountains. The midsole will definitely not flatten out through longer runs like you experienced with the Ultra Glide. I would say the Agravic gets better the longer your run / race distance is going to be.

I did not run in the Terrex Speed Ultra, I just tried it in a run specialty. But from what I remember those are two very different shoes. Speed Ultra is far more flexible, lighter, softer, agile and allows for more ground feel. It is actually for fast running on smoother trails. If I recall correctly it was designed for Tom Evans to crush Western States. That means actually running fast on runnable trails (100 miles in 14hours). The Agravic Ultra is made for things like CCC where Ekatarina Mityaeva (who was involved in the design) ran her 145k in 24.5hours. Much slower, much more time, much more elevation gain and loss, much more technical. I would say for forrest paths the Agravic Ultra might be an overkill and the Speed Ultra is the better shoe in that scenario.

Jason said...

Whenever I'm looking for the first review of a shoe, I can always count on the crew at RTR!

Curious about a comparison to the Brooks Catamount as well, which is another very protective and stiff ride, which I thoroughly enjoy (same price as well). I too have been enjoying the Speed Ultra, which was my first Adidas shoe ever. Good to see these big brands investing more time and money into their trail offerings (Adidas & Asics), and taking some risks as well. Just need some others to step up their game (looking at you Nike and NB).

Thanks much!

Unknown said...

Great review! Totally agree with how these shoes feel and run. They are built like tanks and feel like the ones (in a good way). They really shine on technical rocky / rooty terrain.
For the question above regarding hardpacked surface - the main issue of these shoes on this type of surface is that in dry conditions the mesh upper will let a lot of dust / sand in. For midsole material - IMO Adidas really nailed it with Boost / Lightstrike combo in Speed Ultras (fantastic shoes for higher intensity workouts or "shorter" races). Compared to them the Agravic Ultras will feel very different: less nimble and energetic but much more forgiving in a long run. Two different shoes for different purposes.

Nils said...

Thanks for the kind words, Jason & unknown!

Jason: I unfortunately never got my feet into the Catamount. Therefore I can't draw a comparison here. Maybe Sam can say a few words, but he didn't get a Agravic Ultra sample so far - so that'S gonna be difficult as well. We will update with more comparisons as soon as any of the others get samples - fingers crossed!

Sam Winebaum said...

HI Jason, I agree Catamount is as you describe it. Protective and stiff and far far lighter than the adidas. It depends on what you are looking for. The Catamount for most would be a shorter distances faster shoe while Agravic it seems for more technical, longer, slower paces in rougher terrain.
Sam
Editor

Phil said...

Great review wich i was looking forward to for a while now!

Is there any comparison with la sportiva Karackal of Jackal?

I am looking for an shoe for faster ultras (10-12 hours 100k) and for shorter technical mountain (50-65k 8-10 hours). Up until now I really liked the mutant for longer runs (bit high heeldrop) and the bushido 2 for alpine adventures (not really an ultra shoe).

Thanks