Adidas Ultraboost 20: A performance powerhouse for athletes

dreamt of a gravity-defying shoe and shot off its beloved Ultraboost to the International Space Station. While it did get a futuristic paint-job that screams “I was in space”, the Ultraboost 20 seems to have learned the rest from Earth’s streets. It’s a refresher of last year’s Ultraboost 19 with subtle but crucial changes. Here’s how the pair felt on feet in Delhi’s punishing cold.

Design (4/5)

The Ultraboost 19 introduced a one-piece upper that wraps around the foot like a sock called PrimeKnit. In most colourways, it has a multi-colour hue with an additional layer of threading in the vamp area or around the midsole or both. The UB20 changes the upper to a uniformly coloured, single-tone PrimeKnit textile, reminiscent of the original Ultraboost. A single colour upper goes well with the alien-inspired purple-hued, multi-colored midsole. I’d recommend the black colourway (pictured) if you are a runner first and a sneakerhead after. The white and grey, much like the many colourways of the UB19, are beautiful sneakers but impractical for a performance shoe that mustn’t be boxed.

The translucent lace cage of the UB19 also gets a revamp with a reflective three-stripes logo. The tongue looks tidier in a single stitch. The heel, constructed with neoprene instead of PrimeKnit, is a change I appreciate the most. It does not rub against the feet like fibre sometimes does. And the single, reflective orange stripe at the back is playful, and also useful during night runs.

My only disappointment with the design is that the skeletal heel-frame has already started losing colour in two weeks of rugged use. That’s poor performance for an ace running shoe that doubles up as a dope sneaker.

Performance (5/5)

The UB19 packs the most responsive cushioning I have ever experienced in a pair of shoes. And its uniformly stretchy PrimeKnit is great for long-distance running. Along with the Asics Gel-Nimbus 21, it has been my go-to running pair for some time now. But a few kilometres shy of completing a hundred in the pair, I have been longing for a few improvements. And surprisingly, the UB20 fixes most of them.

The legendary Boost midsole is noticeably more concentrated and perhaps slightly trimmed. It feels a bit like the Boost HD midsole of the Pulseboost HD — a very versatile pair currently available on discount for Rs 8,339 — but more premium. It’s still very responsive but less cushioned, something most runners I exchange notes with had hoped for.

The stretchy upper and the wide toe box still make my broad feet happy, but what I absolutely love in the UB20 is that new PrimeKnit feels less stiff around the vamp while a tailored double-stitch reinforces the edges around the toe box. It eases the strain during sharp turns and protects the foot from abrasions.

Verdict (4.5/5)

The cushioned yet rugged Ultraboost, which can clock more miles than most pairs without showing signs of weakness, has been tweaked to perform even better. At 300 grams a piece, it’s not the lightest of running shoes, but the UB20 for Rs 18,999 will take you the distance and last you very nearly a lifetime. Just what the distance runners ordered.

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