As a mid-distance runner, I’ve kept a close eye on the latest tech advances in running footwear. To be honest, many shoes are big on hype and short on results. So, when I heard about Adidas’s collaboration with NASA on their Ultraboost 20, I wasn’t expecting a great deal in terms of actual running performance improvement. Boy, was I wrong!
The Adidas Ultraboost has been around for quite a while. The 20th incarnation of this shoe promised some new innovations to propel an already highly acclaimed running shoe to the next level. To achieve that goal, Adidas has literally gone out of this world—they’ve partnered with NASA and the International Space Station (ISS) to create something special. That partnership makes for a great press release, but does it make for a great shoe? To find out, let’s consider the differences between the Adidas Ultraboost 20 and its predecessor, version 19.
Flashy and Flexible Design
The first thing you’ll notice when you unbox the Ultraboost 20 is the look of the shoe. The iridescent coating on the midsole of this shoe makes a bold statement. There are also a number of International Space Station-themed motifs on the shoe, just so you don’t miss the connection. Another cool aesthetic feature is one that you might not appreciate until you’re out there running under the sun. The Primeknit upper actually sparkles when exposed to the sun.
The upper of this shoe has been reconfigured. It is now constructed from Primeknit material that is stronger, more flexible, and more durable. This has resulted in a freer, yet more structured, toe box. That makes the Ultraboost 20 more suitable for people with wider feet than the Ultraboost 19.
The new Primeknit and upper design of the shoe make it extremely breathable, too. It allows for great airflow throughout the entire shoe, helping to prevent sweating, moisture build up, and odor.
The heel of the Ultraboost 20 has some added elastane reinforcing. This provides more padding in the heel. This, combined with the 3D heel frame, provides extra stability and support, especially when you are taking corners.
The medial cage of this shoe also uses a new embroidered material. This replaces the plastic mesh that was used in the Ultraboost 19, making the new version more comfortable and formfitting than its predecessor. At the same time, your feet will feel securely locked in.
The Ultraboost 20 has retained the midsole torsion spring that was a highlight feature of the Ultraboost 19. This translates to greater takeoff propulsion on every stride and more landing support when you come down.
When it comes to running performance, the lighter a shoe is, the better it will do. The Ultraboost 20 is actually slightly heavier than the 19, but it is so minimal that it will not make any appreciable difference.
So, What’s the Connection with the ISS?
Adidas has certainly received a lot of hype around the Ultraboost 20 with its NASA International Space Station collaboration. So, what is the substance of that relationship? Well, it seems that prototypes of the shoe were sent to the ISS in order to test the effect that gravity has on the Boost molding process. The goal was to assess the effect of microgravity on the Boost technology in order to make it even more effective for the runner back on Earth.
The Adidas Boost midsole technology has taken the familiar TPU material and reshaped it into miniature energy capsules. This greatly enhances the energy return on every running stride. The collaboration with the ISS promised to boost that effect even further. Judging by the feedback received from seasoned runners, they have achieved that goal, making the Adidas Ultraboost 20 among the most performance-enhancing running shoes on the current market. It has especially been noted that the Ultraboost 20 appears to be more responsive as the runner speeds up.
The collaboration with the ISS didn’t just produce a better performing shoe. It also resulted in a greater range of better looking shoes. The partnership has given consumers a wide range of colorways that can only be described as stunning in their visual appeal.