Adidas was one of the very first athletic shoes company in the world starting way back in 1924 in a small town in the Bavarian region of Germany.
Athletes like Jesse Owens first wore their shoes in the 1936 Olympics and the shoes gained later fame in track and field throughout the 1940s through 1970s.
In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a competing brand of track spikes throughout that era as Adidas had generally cornered the market.
However, with the dawn of the 1980s other athletic shoe companies started to gain a larger market share, primarily led by Nike.
By 2012 it seemed that Adidas had all but forsaken the running shoe market and their market share had dwindled significantly due to stagnant marketing and the loss of top designers to competing brands. But in the last several years Adidas running shoes have come back to the forefront of state of the art running shoe design, and this guide aims to highlight the line and what sets Adidas running shoes apart.
Adidas Neutral Running Shoes
$180 - Initially advertised as the “Greatest Running Shoe Ever”, the Ultra Boost is a premium neutral running shoe that mostly prices itself out of the market by combining all of Adidas’ proprietary technologies into one shoe. Weighing in at 11.4 ounces with a 10mm heel drop, the Ultra Boost is also fairly clunky when compared to Adidas’ performance models. While the incredible amount of Boost midsole material combined with a flexible Primeknit upper feel like bedroom slippers in the house, the shallow toe box and insecure feel of the upper leave runners feeling vulnerable over the long haul. This is a shoe that seems to straddle the line between a “lifestyle” shoe which could be worn to the gym for light weight lifting versus a tried and true running shoe design.
$160 - You can think of the Energy Boost as the Ultra Boost without the Primeknit Upper. While slightly more vetted in the running community, the price of this shoe rules it out for most people. What you get with the Energy Boost 3 is a supremely well cushioned neutral running shoe that is well built and resilient. In fact, I’ve heard of runners getting well over one thousand miles in this shoe, but what does it have over the Supernova Glide 8 which also features a Boost midsole and is $30 cheaper. Not much really. In fact, the Energy Boost 3 seems a bit overbuilt at 11.4 ounces with a 10mm heel drop, and many runners preferred the platform of the previous version which was lighter. I would recommend this shoe to Clydesdales and heavier runners needing a ton of cushioning for minimal mileage as the lack of support in the midsole contributes to any overpronation tendencies.
Adidas’ Supernova is a highly cushioned neutral shoe that comes as an exemplary hybrid of cushioned models and stability-centered soles.
This shoe will appeal to those who desire cushion and a traditional feel of shoe without an overly blockish heel, and who desire a fit that is secure yet opens up through the midfoot into toe box giving plenty of room for swelling of the foot while still maintaining a supported feel.
$120 - The Boston is Adidas’ lightest and firmest shoe designed for daily training. At 8.8 ounces with a 10mm drop, the Boston 6 features a Boost midsole underneath a firmer layer of midsole foam that contributes to a firm and fast feel. The upper of the Boston 6 is newly redesigned and features Knitted Mesh which allows for a more customized fit as well as more room in the toe box. Many runners love the versatility and durability of this shoe as it can be worn for long runs, tempo workouts, as well as racing. Ultra runner Jim Walmsley even wore the Boston 6 for the 2016 Western States 100 mile trail race which he led in record time before famously taking a wrong turn at mile 93. This is a shoe I urge any neutral runner to try, and if lighterweight racing flats are too minimal for you to race in, consider the Boston 6 for your next marathon.
Adidas Support Running Shoes
$180 - With the most Boost cushioning among Adidas stability shoes this is the same design as the Ultra Boost, but with medial posting aimed at adding some support for runners needing pronation control. The good news is that the medial posting tends to delay wear of the midsole and outsole, but the bad news is that the fit of the Ultra Boost ST is the same insecure fit of the regular Ultra Boost. If you’re looking for an Adidas model with structural support read on; the Supernova Sequence is one of the best supportive shoes on the market.
$130 - Adidas combines their Boost midsole along with their Stable frame technology to create one of the most reliable stability shoes on the market. At 10.9 ounces with a 10mm heel drop the Supernova ST features an engineered mesh upper with supportive heel cup, as well as medial posting and a torsion device which add ample stability without feeling too stiff. Boost foam in the heel as well as the midfoot make it hard to believe that this is a protective stability shoe, and the heel to toe transition and ride of the Supernova ST is smooth with a snappy toe off.
$120 - Notice the Adizero in this shoe’s name and you know that it is designed for faster paced running. You can think of the Tempo 9 as a slightly supportive counterpart to the Boston 6. With Stable Frame technology running throughout, the Tempo 9 works best for runners who require support for late stage pronation (foot rolls in closer to toe off). The upper also works to stabilize the foot and the sewn on Microsuede overlays hold the foot in place well. At 9 ounces with a 10mm heel drop the Tempo 9 works great as a shoe for faster paced workouts, or as a raceday shoe for larger runners or those needing more support due to its firm forefoot feel aiding in faster paced running.
$110 - The Adidas Vengeful is a light stability shoe debuting onto the running shoe scene and offers a comfortable amount of adidas’ boost foam in the midsole. The soft flexibility of the boost technology allows for a responsive ride and smooth transition from heel to forefoot as this shoe moves with my foot. It's an excellent shoe for races of 10K on down despite the slightly heavier weight; it feels light, and I absolutely love the boost foam in the midsole. The flexible upper is minimal, and the lack of support shows as the run continues on toward double digits. The price is attractive for those used to a more expensive stability shoe yet is still an investment.
Adidas Racing Shoes
$140 - While the price is pretty steep for a racing flat, the Adios Boost is responsible for multiple men’s and women’s world marathon records. If that pedigree doesn’t sell the shoe for you, then maybe the combination of a full length Boost midsole in a 7.9 ounce package will. While the Adios Boost 3 is not the lightest racing shoe on the market, it really is designed and intended for the half marathon to marathon distance despite feeling fast and snappy on shorter outings. Additionally, the durability on this shoe is much higher than your typical racing flat, so it can be worn for a variety of quicker workouts prior to race day. With 10mm heel drop and a snappy forefoot feel, the Adios Boost 3 really does seem to make faster turnover come naturally. New for 2016, this third version updated the fit for a little bit wider forefoot which really makes the feet happy over the marathon distance.
Adidas Adizero Adios
$110 - First released sometime around 2008 for legendary runner Haile Gebrselassie’s world marathon record attempt at Berlin, the original Adizero Adios was reissued to great fanfare. Some runners prefer the even firmer AdiPRENE midsole rather than the Boost material. Otherwise, the specs are identical to that of the Adios Boost 3 besides the overlays being ever so slightly different. A versatile shoe, the Adios was even worn by ultra runner Hal Koerner to win the 2012 Hardrock 100, arguably the steepest and most technical 100 mile trail races in the world. Runners liking a very firm race shoe may prefer this over the Adios Boost 3, but I think both need to be tried on and experienced. If you’re looking for a tried and true marathon race shoe, this model has a decade of excellence behind it.
$160 - The Takumi-Sen is a racing flat that was originally designed for the Japanese market and only made it over the United States in the last several years. One notable difference about the Takumi-Sen, and its rarely available cousin, the Takumi-Ren, is that they are designed on an Asian last which features a wider forefoot. The Takumi-Sen is Adidas’ lightest racing flat at 6 ounces and it features a lower 6mm heel drop. Additionally, Teijin Japanese mesh covers the upper which is extremely durable and lightweight. The cushioning is comprised of full length AdiLITE foam with a nice bit of Boost midsole foam in the forefoot making the Takumi-Sen ideal for forefoot strikers. The outsole of the Takumi-Sen is very grippy on the roads with the aim of providing ideal traction for fast efficient running. This really is a state of the art racing flat designed for serious runners looking for that extra edge in performance.
Adidas Running Shoes Technology
Adidas first released its Boost technology in 2013 and its impact on running shoe technology was immediate. This TPU based technology made up of thousands of small foam pellets was first developed by a German chemical corporation. This technology led to a sea change in the way that running shoe companies conceptualized the capabilities of foam EVA, and directly led to the massive advances in EVA cushioning we see today.
Boost midsole cushioning is both soft and responsive, protective yet resilient, and highly durable. It works great in small amounts for firmer, faster feeling shoes, and the cushioning stays largely uncompressed throughout the life of the shoe.
In my own experience, I’ve been able to wear a single pair of Adizero Tempos for eight hundred miles and a Supernova Sequence for over one thousand miles due the properties of Boost foam. If you’re a regular runner and you haven’t tried out Boost cushioning I high recommend you do so. While the price may seem steeper than competing brands, the durability and resilience of this technology is worth every penny.
This is Adidas’ version of Nike’s Flyknit technology (sorry Adidas, Nike got there first) and there truly are very few differences in the fit, feel, and function of this upper technology.
Adidas’ promo materials state that “Primeknit is carefully engineered to naturally expand with your foot while you run to give you a more comfortable fit and help reduce irritation”.
While this technology is great in theory, there have been some issues with overall volume in the toe box of Adidas’ shoes using Primeknit, primarily the Ultra Boost. Think of Primeknit as a one piece upper of tightly knit synthetic material which flexes and comforms to the foot. The advantage here is that the fit feels customized to the wearers’ foot and it decreases the risk of blisters and hotspots.
Many runners find that Adidas’ excellent mesh used throughout their Adizero series shoes offer more than enough fit accommodations, breathability, and durability to justify the exorbitant prices of Primeknit shoes.
Adidas Torsion System
Since 1988 Adidas has employed their proprietary Torsion system on most of their performance running shoes.
The Torsion System involves “a thermoplastic arch support designed to allow the forefoot and rear of the foot to move independently and adapt to running surfaces without straining the foot through excess motion”.
This system works very well and I believe that it increases the durability of Adidas running shoes. Conversely, many of Adidas running shoes aimed at neutral wearers work very well for runners who experience a bit of pronation and need some structural support.
Continental Rubber Outsole
All of the Adidas running shoes featured here have rubber outsoles designed in cooperation with Continental Tires and actually feature Continental rubber compounds.
Adidas claims that their outsole rubber increases traction by 15-30% over competing models in both wet and dry conditions. These Continental rubber outsoles do wear very slowly and their durability over the life of the shoe is remarkable. They also seem to handle conditions well on easy to moderate trails despite being designed for the roads.
Adidas Running Shoes “Families”
Adizero is Adidas’ designation for shoes that are more minimally designed for faster paced running. Often times Adidas pairs the Boost midsole foam with a firmer adiPRENE midsole material to give runners a snappier feel. The feel of these shoes is often a bit more firm and can take some getting used to for the uninitiated.
Many times the forefoot cushioning of Adizero shoes is a bit more firm which aids in a faster cadence and quicker toe-off during the running stride.
If you are a a runner that tends to enjoy faster paces or firmer cushioning, the Adizero line is definitely for you. Of special note is the fact that the Adidas Adizero Adios racing flat holds the world record and next three fastest times in the marathon.
The Supernova line has been around since the late 1990s and it represents Adidas’ more protective everyday training shoes. As the aforementioned Adizero line is focused around racing and faster paced training, the Supernova line is built to handle high mileage and they tend to feature a bit softer and more extensive cushioning than the Adizero shoes.
Lifestyle vs Performance
One of the problems that Adidas has encountered over the last decade among serious runners is legitimacy.
For many years they attempted to combine performance running with fashionable lifestyle designs with shoes such as the “Yeezy” co-designed by Kanye West.
While these shoes were laughable at best, they also undermined the performance aspects of the Boost technology and scared many lifelong runners away. This also impacts the resale of many Adidas shoes with Boost technology.
Unfortunately, resale sites like Ebay over value serious running shoes with “designer sneakers” which causes significant price increases. It is always your best bet to buy Adidas running shoes from your local running speciality store.
While it seems that Adidas has realized the error of their ways, the running shoe offerings of the last two years seem to be on par with the true heritage of this great company.
I will start by explaining that there are a whole lot of models in the Adidas line that won’t be profiled in this guide.
Why? Because the aim here is to only profile Adidas’ true performance running shoe offerings.
Many big box sporting goods stores have all kinds of low quality models aimed at enticing the bargain shopper, or high-price models aimed at the fashion conscious – but these are not shoes you should be running decent mileage in.