Smart shoes aren't a thing yet, but Under Armour is determined to make it happen.
The Hovr Sonic Connected shoes iterate on Under Armour's previous smart shoes, the Speedform Gemini. The new model captures minute-by-minute data on distance, pace, cadence and stride length, rather than aggregating it as the previous generation did. The smart Sonics ($110) sync with Under Armour's MapMyRun app, which uses the data from the shoes to offer training insights after each workout.
While Under Armour's Hovr Sonic shoes can't replace your fitness tracker, they offer data you can't get on your wrist. Even better: The connected Sonic shoes cost only $10 more than the non-teched-out model.
Design: This running sneaker has style
Under Armour isn't usually known for its flashy kicks, but the Sonics are subtly stylish. They come in three colors for women (white, gray and “formation blue”) and five colors for men (red, black, white, gray and blue). Additional colors are available in the nonconnected version of the shoes which lack smart features but cost $10 less. (A $10 premium for data from your shoe isn't a high price to pay.) Under Armour says additional colors will be available beginning in March.
Under Armour developed what it calls Hovr technology, a special kind of foam to cushion your impact and “maintain energy return,” the company says. I don't love shoes that pack lots of foam in the midsole, because I have a high arch and need more support. But the Sonic is comfortable, and over the course of a month, I grew accustomed to its extra cushioning.
I loved the Sonic's knit upper, which feels like a breathable sock that is perfectly molded to your foot.
I loved the Sonic's knit upper, which feels like a breathable sock that is perfectly molded to your foot. The shoes have removable sock liners, though I didn't feel the need to take them out. All in all, the Hovr Sonic delivers the same comfortable ride that other running shoes in the $100 price range do. Bonus: You can't tell by looking at this shoe that it's smart.
Performance: Useful but limited info
The process of pairing the Sonic to your MapMyRun app is a breeze — just open the app, tap on the shoe icon in the top left and connect a shoe. You might have to tap the right sneaker to wake up the sensors, but once the Sonics are paired to your phone, they'll remain paired for the life of the shoe. The app will even tell you when the shoes are ready to retire, which is convenient. The retirement date depends on how many miles you run, but the shoes will last about a year.
The biggest difference between the smart functionality built into Under Armour's older shoes, the Speedform Gemini, and the new Hovr Sonic is the addition of personalized coaching tips. The app analyzes your data following a run and then tells you what your cadence and stride length are compared to the target range calculated by Under Armour.
You get these insights regardless of whether you take your phone along to track your workout, which is useful. And I appreciated that I could still see all the same data from a run, including distance, duration, average pace, average stride length, cadence and calories, regardless of whether I tracked it with MapMyRun.
The app analyzes your data following a run and then tells you what your cadence and stride length are compared to the target range.
The only information you don't get is a map of your route. Without GPS, the mileage isn't quite accurate. It's not wildly off the mark — the shoes logged a 3.2-mile run I tracked with my Apple Watch but not MapMyRun as a 3.03-mile jog. If you're relying on the Sonic for 100 percent accuracy, you'll be disappointed.
After logging a few runs wearing the Sonic, I started seeing the same personalized insights. My steps per minute (172) and stride length (64.6 inches) were in line with the target range MapMyRun set for me (164 to 180 and 63 to 71, respectively). It was interesting to find that out, but after seeing the same insights over and over, I stopped looking at them. I expect Under Armour will make this analysis more personalized and useful over time.
If you have $100 to spend on a pair of quality running shoes, Under Armour's Hovr Sonic are worth a look. Upgrading to the connected model with MapMyRun integration is an extra $10, which is a small price to pay for additional running data that you can't get from every wrist-worn fitness tracker.
The Sonics aren't a replacement for a smartwatch or activity band, as most of these wrist-worn devices track your steps, heart rate and sleep and offer notifications from your smartphone. Many newer models sport onboard music storage, making them more well-rounded workout companions. But if you have no interest in wearing a fitness tracker, Under Armour's smart shoes provide an under-the-radar way to track runs.
You can't tell these sneakers are packed with sensors; they look just like any other pair. If you already have a fitness tracker, the Sonics are a solid complement. If you're already spending $100 on a sneaker, $10 extra for running data you might not get from your wearable device isn't too much to ask.
Credit: Tom's Guide Staff