I’ve been testing running shoes for long enough to know that most brands follow the ‘pink it and shrink it’ approach to female running shoes; simply making male shoes slightly smaller, slightly narrower, and slightly more, well, pink. For a long time, the best running shoes have been designed by a mostly male design team, and predominately tested on the male foot.
This year, Adidas has made some significant changes to one of its most popular running shoes with female runners in mind. Adidas recruited an all-female team of designers and used scans from 1.2 million female feet to re-design the Ultraboost.
The Ultraboost 22 has a narrower heel, a lower instep, and an S-curve heel to allow the Achilles tendon to move more freely. But how does it feel on the run? I was one of the first people to run in the new Ultraboost 22, so read on to hear my first thoughts, and see if they're worthy of being named one of the best women's running shoes.
Adidas Ultraboost 21: Price and availability
The Ultraboost 22 are on sale for Adidas members from Monday, December 6. They are on sale in shops and online on Thursday, December 9. The shoe retails at $190/£165.
Adidas Ultraboost 21 vs Adidas Ultraboost 22: What's changed
I’ve always had a problem with the Ultraboost 21 — they’re super bouncy and comfortable on the run, but they just don’t fit my foot right. I’m a UK 5 with high arches and I’ve always found that the Primeknit upper, which is one piece of material, fits far too tight across the top of my foot. This is fine when I’m running, but if I ever wore the shoes to the gym, or walking the dog, the top of my foot would physically hurt by the end of the workout. Of course, this doesn’t make the shoe bad, but if you’re spending $200 on a shoe, you want to be able to wear it casually too, right?
I know I’m not alone in these fit issues either — another female running friend found the upper was too saggy on her narrower feet, and she always had excess material bunching on the top of her foot, which wasn’t particularly comfortable. We were both intrigued to see what had happened to the shoe once an all-female design team had gotten involved.
The result? The fit is completely different on the Ultraboost 22. The upper feels like it has more give, and the heel of the shoe fits my foot better. I’ve worn it on a light jog around London soaking up the Christmas lights, on a 5-mile progression run on the treadmill, and a rainy 5K on wet pavements.
Adidas has also added more support to prevent overpronation in the Ultraboost 22, adding an extra plastic support rail to the inner part of the outsole, underneath the arch. Studies have suggested women pronate more than men, although Adidas didn’t share findings like this at the launch of the shoe.
Finally, along with the same Linear Energy Push system found on the outsole of the Ultraboost 21, the tweaks to the upper and fit of the shoe have led Adidas to claim that the shoe gives women 4% more energy return.
Adidas Ultraboost 22: First impressions
From what Adidas has said, men who switch from the Ultraboost 21 to the Ultraboost 22 won't see much difference — there are some tweaks to the upper — as the majority of the changes have been to the women’s version of the Ultraboost 22.
For female runners, however, this shoe is far more comfortable. I found the shoe didn’t sit too tight against my foot and felt comfortable straight from the box. Like previous iterations of the Ultraboost, it’s soft and bouncy enough to wear on my longer runs, but it also has a good amount of snap for faster miles. Unlike other versions of the shoe, my foot felt stable around corners on wet pavement, however, I’m yet to try it on the track.
I'll be running a bit more in the Ultraboost 22 before I render a final verdict and rating, but after 10 miles, I’d go as far as to say that this is an excellent everyday running shoe for most women. It’s comfortable, supportive, and has a mild level of support for overpronators. It’s heavy, so speedier runners will probably want to save it for easy running days, but beginners will love the support it offers underfoot.
As a female runner, it’s also super encouraging to see Adidas recognizing the importance of building shoes for female feet — let's hope other brands sit up and take note.