Sunday, June 16, 2024

adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra Review: The First Trail Super Shoe? 7 Comparisons

Article by Mike Postaski

adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra ($220)


Pros:

Forefoot-oriented ride - big cushion and big platform under there

Dynamic Lightstrike Pro foam, not too unstable

Energy Rods - efficient yet unnoticeable (in a good way)

Efficient rocker


Cons:

Heel a bit rigid, could have a softer, more secure fit there

Short tongue

Firm heel landings - could be softened up for descents


Introduction

Mike P: The Adidas TERREX Agravic Speed Ultra is Adidas' first true entry into the "super shoe for the trails" category. To be honest, the majority of Adidas recent trail offerings have been, let's just say, less than exciting. Pretty much anything with "Agravic" in the name has been somewhat of a disappointment. They've varied from being heavy to stiff to clunky to ill-fitting, or some combination of those. 


I've been anxiously awaiting for a true, performant, successor to the great Speed Ultra (RTR Review) which is now several years old. That shoe was one of my all time favs, but as the years have passed, it's been surpassed by more modern options.


Enter the new, similarly named Speed Ultra. Note on naming here - the successor to the original Speed Ultra is now named simply Adidas Terrex Agravic "Speed". The "Ultra" connotation has been passed on to this shoe which I am reviewing here - Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra.


I definitely put them to the test - recently winning the Scout Mountain 50M in Pocatello, Idaho in these shoes. Lot's of varied and rugged mountain terrain, 10,000+ ft of elevation gain.. absolutely legit testing grounds. Let's get into it.


3-4 most comparable shoes 

Nike Ultrafly

Hoka Tecton X



Stats

Approx. Weight: men's 9 oz / 255g US9

  Sample Weight: men’s 9.5 oz / 270g US 10.0

Stack Height: men’s  38mm heel /  30 mm forefoot (8mm drop spec) 

Platform Width: mm heel / mm midfoot / mm forefoot 

Available now. $220 including at our partner Running Warehouse US  HERE

First Impressions, Fit and Upper


Mike P: I chose a size 10.0 for my test pair. With my true-to-size being US 9.5, I decided to size up since I really see these as a long-ultra distance shoe. No sense risking a snug fit since I planned to put some long miles into these. Initially I thought I might have made a mistake - they felt somewhat large on the first try. 


But after lacing them up, trying some different socks (my dual-sock ultra setup), I'm glad I sized up to 10.0. They're perhaps a bit long, and I could definitely wear a 9.5, but there's some taper at the very front. When the foot is flexed, I'm glad to have that extra space in front of the toes. I'd probably be more secure in a 9.5, but again I don't see these as a short-distance, fast-racer type of shoe. 


[Nice, light & effective ribbed laces]


The light weight of the shoe is apparent the first time you pick them up. At 9.5 oz (270g) in my US 10.0, they’re right in the race-weight wheelhouse of ultra shoes that I prefer. Especially given the huge volume of midsole underfoot. Kudos to Adidas here for not disappointing in the weight department.


A striking first impression is made by the sheer width of the platform under the forefoot. It's massive, and even more striking in comparison to the super pulled-in midfoot platform and narrow heel base. 

The description on the Adidas website even mentions something about being up on the "forefoot", which is surprising. You don't typically see that. For me specifically, it's refreshing to see a shoe explicitly designed for forward-leaning, midfoot/forefoot running. Typically you see the opposite. More accommodations being made toward the heel-striking realm. 


The upper is a lightweight engineered mesh - highly breathable and non-stretch. Width at the forefoot is good for me, with a slight taper at the toes. It's no problem for me to have sized up, but at true-to-size I wonder if I would get some pinky side pressure. Fit through the midfoot is quite snug- it's definitely a race-fit with the midfoot and forefoot being solidly locked in. The heel is an area that I believe could use some improvement. 

The interior is a bit rigid around the heel bone area, with extremely small bolsters on the sides of the heel. I think perhaps the bolstering could be enhanced and the inner materials softened a bit. 


I'm happy to report no issues with the collar itself. This was a major issue with the recent Adidas Agravic models I've tested - the Agravic Ultra and Flow 2 have had extremely harsh, high, and grating ankle collars. That issue has been resolved here. 


The tongue on the other hand is definitely short. They went with a super thin, weight-saving lightweight design here. It barely extends beyond the top lace row, and lace bite should definitely be a concern for some runners. This is definitely one aspect of shoe design I'll never understand. What is the deal with short tongues?



Midsole & Platform

Mike P: The stack is 38/30 of Lightstrike Pro foam. They went right up to the limit - it definitely feels like you're riding high in these. 


Based on the midsole platform, most of the cushion is naturally centered under the forefoot. 

It's really quite noticeable, that's the sweet spot of this shoe. The design of the midsole under the forefoot is quite interesting. There are cutouts that run horizontally - these seem to allow more flex along the medial and lateral edges of the forefoot landing area. It seems like a way to combat the problem of wanting to have a super-wide base for stability, yet not wanting it to be rigid and unstable. It does seem effective, for example in tight singletrack where a lot of times the edges of the trail are slanted upwards.


[You can see that cutout in the midsole here - it allows the bottom section which is in contact with the ground to effectively contour]


Within the big stack you have the Energy Rods embedded. This is my first time running on Energy Rods - either road or trail. They seem to be stiff, yet not "carbon plate stiff". Honestly, aside from the vague sensation of forward-oriented efficiency, I can't say that I specifically noticed them. More noticeable is the rocker of the shoe - both front and rear. There's a big upsweep from the forefoot forward and also from the middle of the heel to the back of the shoe. More details in the ride section below.


Outsole

Mike P: The outsole is made up of a combination of 3.5mm lugs on the outside, and 2.5mm along the interior. The depth is similar to that of the original Speed Ultra - with a focus on dry, runnable terrain as opposed to loose, rugged, muddy stuff.


They worked perfectly during my Scout Mountain 50M race - which was mostly dry and rocky. There were a few sections of snow and mud up high, and the lack of traction in those areas was noticeable. I definitely had to tread carefully in those spots. If mud, or slick terrain is a concern for the majority of your usage, these would probably not perform well for you. But dry, runnable, think- Western States, they work great.



Durability is no concern either - I’ve had solid mileage out of my Continental rubber Adidas trail shoes before. After 50M of rugged, Idaho terrain, plus training miles, the outsoles are in fine condition.


[Post Scout Mountain 50M]


Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations


Mike P: The ride is highly dynamic in a way that's a bit difficult to describe. The high stack energetic Lightstrike Pro cushion definitely gives that "max-stack" feel, but not in the overly-wide stability-oriented trail shoe kind of way. 


It also has  "super shoe" bounce and dynamism that's vaguely reminiscent of road super shoes. Lightstrike Pro feels soft, and dynamic, but not quite on the level of ZoomX foam. I think the Lighstrike Pro’s feel here is a better fit for the trails. Same idea with the Energy Rods - they give a level of propulsion and efficiency that seems better suited for the trails than a stiffer carbon plate. The natural flexibility of the individual rods also seems like a better fit. 


[IDAHO !!!  photo - @_anastasiawilde]


What I'm trying to say here is - the Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra, for me, is the first legitimate, effective, road "super shoe"-style adaptation for the trails. I suspect this is what everyone had in mind and anticipated with Nike’s Ultrafly. Adidas seems to have outdone Nike here, and the Speed Ultra feels like the shoe that everyone expected the Ultrafly to be. Good news - all you have to do is wear a different logo!


A super shoe for the trails does have its limitations. The stack is high, obviously, and there's that extremely narrow midfoot platform. At times that shoe can feel a bit wild, like something to be tamed on the run. 


You need to pay attention at all times in these - they just don't have too wide a base to let your mind wander and plow through stuff. The narrow-ness under the midfoot is something to be wary of. The Energy Rods also seem to converge in that area, making it perhaps the stiffest part of the shoe. You’ll want to be careful landing on anything uneven in that area.


Another thing - they encourage you to be forward-leaning at all times. There's no space for sitting back and slogging along in these. To that end, the heel cushion is really not that much. The rocker in the heel seems to eat into heel softness, so that's not an area you want to be mashing. Even during descents, a forward-lean is encouraged, which can be a bit harrowing for inexperienced descenders. 


[with super-RD Luke Nelson at the finish]


Scout Mountain 50M was probably at the edge of technicality where I'd feel comfortable running these. There's quite a bit of rugged terrain, but less of the non-stop extreme boulder fields and rocky descents from some other races out in Idaho. All in all, it's a solid, honest, mountain course. At times I felt really good, speedy, and efficient in the Speed Ultras. At other times, it felt a bit precarious in some of the more rugged, technical sections. My assessment is that these are not beginner-level shoes for technical terrain. But for more mellow, runnable courses, these are a dynamite pick for all. 


Adidas nails the "trail super shoe" here. ! Hopefully more exciting trail shoes are in the pipeline for Adidas, can't wait!


Mike P’s Score:  9.6 / 10

Ride: 10 - Dynamic, smooth, fast, efficient - all the goods

Fit: 9.5 - Heel fit & comfort could be improved 

Value: 9 - High, but not obscene, for a legit super shoe 

Style: 10 - Great looking color that pops

Traction: 9 - Not the deepest, but works in the intended fast stuff

Rock Protection: 10 - Big stack + Energy Rod protection

Smiles 😊😊😊😊😊


7 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Adidas Speed Ultra  (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.0): The original Speed Ultra is a much different animal. I personally ran it up to 50M in a race, but most probably wouldn’t take it that far. Some Adidas pros took them longer though. Much lower to the ground, and more of a “speed” shoe, than an “ultra” shoe, especially in the current high-stack marketplace. The new Speed Ultra goes the big stack, super foam, Energy Rod propulsion route, giving it an entirely different feel. It’s a true, modern super shoe for trails.


Hoka Speedgoat (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.0): An ultra-distance staple - the SG is more adaptable to different runners and running styles. Max cushion, but also max platform width - it’s much more forgiving in any terrain. It doesn’t have the dynamic ride of the Adidas, nor the flat-out speed, but it’s a better all around trail shoe for the majority of runners, especially in more challenging terrain. The Adidas is more advanced, faster, and shines in runnable terrain.


Hoka Tecton X  (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.0): Tecton X is similar to the SG in terms of being big stack and also wide platform width. It adds a bit of stiffness though with its dual carbon plates, which makes them a bit more efficient on the run and quicker when moving faster. It’s one of my top 2 picks for the long-ultra, specifically 100M distance - I’ve run several 100M’s in them. Again, the Adidas is faster in runnable terrain, more dynamic, but less stable. I’m keeping an eye out for the upcoming Tecton X 3. It may be PEBA-based, so perhaps a bit closer to the Speed Ultra in terms of “speed”. 


Merrell Agility Peak  (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): The Merrell is quite far off from the Adidas in terms of performance. Just thought I’d throw it in there because it has a similar-feeling front rocker effect. The Merrell is much heavier though, foam is not as dynamic, and it’s not a quick shoe. It does win on traction though.


Nike Ultrafly  (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): I think Nike missed the mark with this one. They tried to go full ZoomX, but the foam is so soft that they had to wrap it in mesh to keep it under control. They also use a super wide platform to stabilize the super soft midsole. The carbon plate is extremely stiff, which for me felt hazardous in any type of uneven terrain. I think the Speed Ultra out-does the Ultrafly in every area. The foam feels almost as soft, yet more stable. The Energy Rods seem to work effectively without obtrusive stiffness. The Nike upper also seems over-layered, and the toebox is very wide. I think it’s a clear win for the Adidas here.


Nike Zegama 2  (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): Nike’s newest trail shoe - again a massive, unapologetic slab of ZoomX foam here. The Zegama goes full cush, but there’s no carbon or stiffening elements. It does feel super cush I must say, but the weight is up there, and it can feel a bit sluggish. It’s a good pick for cruising, but I don’t see it as a racer. The Zegama upper is also much more over?-engineered, has more layers, and less of a dialed feel. The Nike also has a heavy focus on heel softness and cushion. It’s a good and durable shoe for cruising, but can’t touch the Adidas on race day.


Salomon S/LAB Genesis  (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): My top pick for technical, ultra race day, this shoe is a shoe that I can literally take anywhere and everywhere. Any time we go camping around Idaho and I’m exploring new mountainous terrain, I alway bring the S/LAB Genesis. It’s much more stable than the Adidas in moderate-technical terrain. Great ground feel, and good-enough ultra-distance cushion. The upper is super-dialed, great lockdown, effective ankle collar/gaiter, and perfect width toebox for long days. The Adidas is the pick for fast, unobstructed trails, but the S/LAB Gen wins in anything technical.


Saucony Xodus Ultra 3  (RTR Review soon)

Mike P (9.5): Now in test, I’ve been surprised by the stability of the XU3 in rugged terrain. Solid volume of cushion, but not as energetic as the Adidas. I’m getting solid training shoe vibes from these so far, perhaps an ultra racer, although not a speedster. More to come in the full review soon..


Scott Ultra Carbon RC  (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.0): The Scott is quite firmer under foot, and features a dual-flex Carbitex plate. I found them fast for their weight, but the weight itself was still quite a bit high. They’re more stable than the Adidas, and also utilize a front rocker to keep up the speed. I had big problems with the upper though - the high, stiff, rigid ankle/heel collar really did a number on me. I could really run in them after that. Again, perhaps a better fast, technical shoe than the Adidas (if the fit is ok for your feet), but the Adidas wins on speed in runnable terrain. 


Also please see Marcel's Krebs review of the Speed Ultra HERE


The Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra is available at our partner

Running Warehouse US  HERE

Running Warehouse Australia HERE

Shopping at our partners is much appreciated and helps support RoadTrailRun

Tester Profiles

Mike Postaski currently focuses on long mountainous ultras - anywhere from 50K up to his favorite - 100M. 5'10", 138 lbs, midfoot/forefoot striker - he typically averages 70 mpw (mostly on trails), ramping up to 100+ mpw during race buildups. A recent 2:39 road marathoner, his easy running pace ranges from 7:30 - 9:00/mi. From 2022-23 Mike has won the Standhope 100M, IMTUF 100M, and Scout Mountain 100M trail ultras, also winning Scout Mountain 50M in 2024. He also set a CR of 123.74M at the Pulse Endurance Runs 24H and completed the Boise Trails Challenge on foot in 3 days 13 hours, besting the previous record by 7 hours. Mike's shoe preferences lean towards firmer, dense cushioning, and shoes with narrower profiles. He prefers extra forefoot space, especially for long ultras, and he strongly dislikes pointy toe boxes.


Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below! Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

How does it compare with the TNF Vectiv Pro?

Mike P said...

I haven't run in the Pro. I tested the Vectiv Sky, which is not really in the same class (26/22mm stack). It also had a rocker setup but it was very stiff around the midfoot area. It seemed like the ideal landing spot was dead center of the foot with those wheras the Adidas is best up on the forefoot, or just forward of the midfoot.

I did try on the Pro in a local TNF shop and the toebox was VERY pointy. I also found the Sky to be quite tapered up front.

Thomas said...

Could be interesting to add Vectiv Pro in the benchmark as (to me) be best super trail shoe on the market right now.

Mike P said...

Thomas - unfortunately we have not gotten test pairs

Anonymous said...

Same, came straight to the comparisons against the Vectiv Pro 2. Probably the only real competitor? It’s the one I’m thinking of getting over the Terrex as much as I love lightstrike pro 🤔

Bobcat said...

I found with heel rocker if you run too slowly it feels like a negative drop shoe meaning it takes effort to rock up onto the toes.