Despite female runners making up pretty much half of the field of most of the world’s biggest marathons, most shoe giants design shoes based on the biomechanics of the male foot. Of course, the women’s version of any given running shoe is tweaked to account for the fact that women’s feet are often smaller and narrower than a man’s, but in many cases, the shoe itself will have been designed and tested on men.
Weight: 333 g (M), 285 g (W)
For the Ultraboost 22, Adidas brought an all-female design team on board to help create an everyday running shoe, designed specifically for the female foot. Adidas used scans from 1.2 million female feet to re-design its Ultraboost 21, giving the Ultraboost 22 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? Read my full Adidas Ultraboost 22 review below to find out if it's one of the best running shoes for women.
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Adidas Ultraboost 22 review: Price and availability
The Adidas Ultraboost 22 was available as of 8 am GMT on Thursday, December 9 online and in stores. Adidas members can buy the shoe now, but they will need to log in to their Adidas account to shop. The shoe retails at $190/£165. Both shoes come in a number of different colorways for both female and male runners.
Adidas Ultraboost 22 review: Design and fit
I’ve always had a problem with the Ultraboost 21 — they're super bouncy and comfortable on the run, but they just didn't fit my foot correctly. I’m a UK 5 with high arches and I’ve always found that the Primeknit upper, which is a bootie-style upper made from one singular piece of material, fits far too tight across the top of my foot. While this sensation is ok when I’m actually running, it soon got super uncomfortable during a hike, in the gym, or if I was just wearing the shoes casually.
I know I’m not alone in these fit issues either — another female running friend found the upper was too saggy across her narrow feet, and she often found she had excess material bunching on the top of her foot which wasn’t particularly cool, or comfortable. We were both intrigued to see what had happened to the shoe now that 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 around the back of 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, a rainy 5K on wet pavements, and an easy long-run.
In my opinion, the upper is one of the best changes Adidas has made to the shoe. The company used Primeknit+ yarn, which contains 50% recycled plastic in certain zones, to create more structure and support around the foot. Unlike the Ultraboost 21, the upper of the Ultraboost 22 didn’t feel too tight or constrictive on the foot. It’s still sock-like and thick enough to be supportive, but it seems to let the foot breathe, and move, more easily on the run. It’s also just more comfortable when wearing the shoe in the gym or walking the dog.
The lacing system is slightly different from that on the Ultraboost 21 — the bottom laces are attached to the plastic strips by two smaller material loops, which seem to prevent that uncomfortable tight feeling across the foot and reduce pressure points. The tongue is ever-so-slightly plusher too, which is a nice touch.
From the scans of female feet, the design team realized it needed to create a lower instep height, as this part of the female foot is significantly different when compared to a man’s. Although the Ultraboost 21 had a unisex design, the instep has been made even narrower in the Ultraboost 22, which has a tighter (but cushioned) fit up around the Achilles tendon.
These changes are designed to prevent heel slip and blisters in the shoe, and help the female foot fit securely above all that bouncy Boost foam. A problem I’ve had with past iterations of this shoe is feeling unstable when running around corners. While I’ve yet to do a track session in this shoe, I didn’t get this feeling, even going around the corner on wet, slippery pavements.
During the launch event of the Ultraboost 22 in London, Adidas designers explained how the Boost — Adidas’ bouncy midsole foam — is slightly different in both the male and female versions of the shoe. The holes in the foam of the female shoe are more flexible and larger, which gives a softer landing underfoot.
Similar to the midsole on my beloved Nike Invincible Run running shoes, the Boost foam wraps all the way around the foot for a bouncy, responsive feel. The foam itself is by no means as soft as the Invincible Run, but this gives the Ultraboost 22 far more versatility, so it is by no means a bad thing. The soft foam of the Invincible doesn’t have enough snap to really help you pick up the pace on a faster run, whereas the Ultraboost 22 performed well on a progression run, although faster runners might find them a little on the heavy side.
The Ultraboost 22 has the same Linear Energy Push (LEP) system as the Ultraboost 21. This is a fancy name for the plastic insert Adidas added to the outsole, designed to give runners 15% more torsional rigidity, allowing you to use the shoe to pick up the pace when you need it. While it’s definitely not the fastest shoe out there (at 285g it’s pretty heavy), it does make this shoe suitable for heavier runners, as it has a good amount of firmness upon landing.
In the female Ultraboost 22, Adidas has also added extra plastic support to the arch of the outsole, designed to help prevent pronation on the run. While Adidas didn’t mention any findings at its launch, a number of studies have shown that female runners are more likely to overpronate. I don’t pronate until I’m really tired and my form gets sloppy, but I did notice the mild support in this shoe, which is definitely reassuring in the final miles of a long run.
Adidas has said that with the LEP system, the Boost midsole, and the tweaks to the upper, female runners can expect to get 4% more energy return when running in the Ultraboost 22 compared to the Ultraboost 21.
Adidas Ultraboost 22 review: Performance
Of course, 20 miles isn’t really enough to make a proper conclusion on a shoe — I usually run around 30-50 miles in a shoe before making my verdict and will be updating this review after a few more miles. That said, from my first few runs in the Ultraboost 22, I’m impressed. I found the shoe comfortable straight out the box, and can easily see it becoming my long-run shoe.
Talking of long runs, I usually opt for something a little more cushioned when heading out for my easy miles — often the Nike Invincible Run, or the Hoka One One Bondi 7. I like to have a thick wedge of foam underfoot and to not feel the pavement at all. The LEP system definitely makes the shoe feel firmer underfoot than previous versions of the Ultraboost, but I didn’t hate it.
I do have a few doubts about the 4% more energy return, however. The shoe is still pretty heavy, and it isn’t as responsive as say, the Adidas Adizero Boston, for speed sessions. I found the shoe snappy enough to pick up the pace during a progression run, but it definitely isn’t the shoe I’d reach for if I was heading out for some faster running.
Adidas Ultraboost 22 review: Outlook
The tweaks to the fit of the shoe have made one of Adidas’ most popular running shoes even better for female runners. At yet, Adidas hasn’t announced what changes have been made to the male version of the shoe, but it seems the female shoe has been the focus for designers.
After 20 miles, I’d go as far 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.
I’d compare this to the Nike Pegasus 38 in its versatility and comfort on long runs and speedier miles, although if you’re racing in a Nike running shoe, you might want to train in the Pegasus over the Ultraboost.
Stay tuned for our final rating, but overall, this is a brilliant everyday running shoe for female runners.