adidas’s marketing pitch: Say hello to incredible energy return.
Upper: Elastic Primeknit mesh, plastic midfoot and heel clip.
Midsole: High-volume Boost foam with plastic LEP shank. 10 mm heel-to-toe offset.
Outsole: Two-piece Continental Carbon rubber.
Weight: 333 gms/ 11.7 Oz for a half pair of Men's US 9/UK 8.5/EUR 42.5/CM 27.
Widths available: D - regular (reviewed).
Previous model: The adidas Ultraboost 21.
If you haven’t read our review of the Ultraboost 21 yet, here’s a recap to bring you up to speed.
Last year, we prefaced the review with a question – what kind of shoe does adidas want the Ultraboost to be?
adidas’s popular athleisure sneaker went through a design overhaul last year. Before the UB ’21 showed up, the Ultraboost’s plush ride targeted a consumer demographic that valued everyday comfort over serious running shoe performance.
To the Ultraboost’s credit, it was indeed such a shoe.
The Boost foam midsole was comfortable enough for all-day wear, and user-friendly features like the slip-on upper had mainstream appeal.
And it wasn’t a terrible running shoe either. The snug upper, cushy midsole, and Continental rubber outsole made easy runs possible.
Many things changed with the Ultraboost 21. A top-to-bottom update resulted in a firm ride that felt alien on an Ultraboost. The plastic midfoot cage re-appeared in a ‘floating’ design that felt better than the original design, but still had areas worth improving.
The Continental rubber outsole and Torsion (now called LEP) worked together with the very supportive heel to make the transitions more efficient. Despite the 1-ounce heavier build, the Ultraboost 21 was a better running shoe than the 19 and 20.
In short, the Ultraboost 21 traded cushioning softness for a higher level of stability and running shoe performance. It was still a comfortable athleisure sneaker – just a different one than it used to be.
The Ultraboost 22 shares the same midsole and outsole with the 21, and even the upper shares similar aesthetics. So what has changed?
As it turns out, sometimes even subtle updates can translate into noteworthy improvements.
The Boost midsole has a slightly softer ride, and tweaks to the upper make the fit better. In particular, we love what adidas has accomplished with the redesigned plastic midfoot cage.
Intrigued? Read on, then.
THE ADIDAS ULTRABOOST 22 COMPARED WITH ULTRABOOST 21
The UB 22 and 21 share an identical midsole and outsole, but the ride quality is not the same.
The 22’s Boost foam is easier to compress than the 21, thus resulting in a marginally softer ride. This is despite the fact that the 22 no longer has the ‘latticed’ lasting under the insole. Thus, the 7-gram (0.2 oz) weight reduction on the account of softer foam makes sense.
What we like most about this update is the tweaked plastic cage design. Readers who have read Solereview’s earliest reviews of the Ultraboost know how much we hated this annoying component. It was never perfect, and even the UB 21’s ‘floating’ design applied pressure over the foot.
In a fortunate turn of events, the midfoot cage on the Ultraboost 22 receives clever updates (more details in our fit breakout) that end up making a significant difference in how the shoe feels. This molded clip no longer irritates the foot, and for that alone, we’d pick the UB 22 over the 21.
Other aspects of the upper fit haven’t changed. The shallow and stretchy Primeknit upper locks the foot down in secure comfort, and there’re still no widths.
From a visual viewpoint, we like the new dual-tone mesh that shows the underlying color when stretched. On the flip side, adidas has removed the only piece of reflectivity that existed on the UB 21’s tongue.
Like most other running shoes released in 2022, the new model costs $10 more than the outgoing model.
THE RIDE EXPERIENCE
One of the things we loved about the Ultraboost 21 was its newfound stability.
By making the heel sidewalls much taller than the insole line, the midsole formed a ‘cup’ around the foot. The rigid heel clip was integrated with the exaggerated midsole and made the rearfoot extremely supportive.
The stable ride wasn’t just because of the wide midsole base. A deep transition groove on the outsole was reinforced by an extra-large shank to center the weight and make the loading process efficient.
It’s interesting to note that the groove doesn’t begin underneath the heel – as many shoes do – but it’s closer to the midfoot.
Therefore, it only has a minimal effect on the rearfoot cushioning.
Far too often, running shoes with thick midsoles made of a soft foam have lazy transitions. That’s usually due to a lack of a stiff structure that impedes the heel-to-toe transitions.
That’s not the case with the Ultraboost. The large plastic shank is lined with the thick rubber outsole to add a transition-friendly rigidity from the mid to forefoot. By the way, the plastic part is no longer called ‘Torsion’, but LEP – short for ‘Linear Energy Push.’
The Torsion – aka the LEP – shank evolved to become a larger component on the Ultraboost 21 as compared to the previous models. The 22 uses an identical sole, so the performance benefits also carry over.
Compared to the older Torsion shank, LEP is much wider under the forefoot, and it’s curved under the midfoot for a higher level of stiffness. Earlier versions of the Torsion shank had a relatively flat design.
And similar to how corrugation works, the molded bridge-like design of LEP makes it harder to bend under the midfoot, but relatively more flexible under the forefoot.
The LEP under the forefoot has a flat profile, thus making the midsole flexible yet snappy at the same time.
The outsole layout is also running-friendly.
Unlike the older-generation Ultraboosts (20 and earlier), the UB 21 and 22 no longer use the perforated ’Stretchweb’ outsole. In its place is a thick Continental rubber outsole (still called the Stretchweb, don’t ask us why) that creates an enclosed loop around the transition groove.
The traction is excellent – even on wet roads.
A separate piece is mounted over the Boost foam under the forefoot and works independently from the rest of the outsole.
While this design succeeds at making the forefoot cushioning soft, it also creates a slightly lumpy feeling during runs.
This sensation isn’t noticeable at walking speeds, but go any faster, and there’s a distinct sense of lumpiness under the forefoot. It’s almost as if the outsole is pushing against the forefoot when activated.
We’d like to be clear – the forefoot isn’t uncomfortable at all, but most runners will encounter the lumpiness sooner or later. The best approach is to ignore it, and limit the Ultraboost to casual everyday use instead of hard-core running.
The outsole plays a role in the ride quality. Besides making the transitions efficient, it makes the cushioning firmer by not flexing. Though there’s plenty of Boost inside the high-volume midsole, the rear outsole is solid and lacks a grooved landing zone.
This design made the Ultraboost 21 much firmer than the 20. The 22 behaves similarly. Even though the Boost midsole is a tad softer this time, the sensation of sink-in plushness is (still) absent.
In lieu, one gets rock-solid stability. The foot is securely planted over the midsole, and the ride feels very neutral.
Though the heel has a high bevel angle, it doesn’t favor sides – thus producing an unbiased cushioning quality.
The heel bevel also means that the outsole doesn’t catch the ground during runs, so forefoot-striking is perfectly doable in this 10 mm heel-to-toe offset shoe.
Fun fact – we even took the Ultraboost 22 to the gym for a few sets of weighted squats, and at no point did it feel unstable. Sure, it was a lightweight weight-training session, but the level of support was impressive for a highly-cushioned shoe.
What we said about the Ultraboost 21 also applies to the 22. For a shoe that’s nudging nearly 12-ounces (333 grams) for a US 9, it’s a decent running shoe.
The outsole and LEP shank act as a counterbalance to the high-volume Boost core. The resilient Boost midsole provides distance-worthy cushioning, whereas the firmer components help with quick turnovers.
Of course, we use the term ‘quick’ in a relative sense. The Ultraboost 22 is best used at easy speeds (6 min/km, 10 min/mile range) rather than high-speed sessions. There’s just too much bulk on this shoe.
On the other hand, the Ultraboost 22 is versatile enough to be an everyday casual-wear sneaker as well as a gym shoe. It’s also a half-decent treadmill running shoe.
Given the stack heights of 31 mm (rear) and 21 mm (front), the disparity between the front and rear cushioning is noticed during runs.
As pointed out earlier in this review, the ‘floating’ piece of Continental rubber makes the forefoot soft, yet a bit lumpy.
When we first started reviewing the Ultraboost many years ago, we would heap praise on the responsiveness of the Boost midsole.
But the times have changed, so the sensory aspect of ‘Energy return’ from Boost feels muted in comparison with adidas Lightstrike Pro, Nike ZoomX, or Saucony Pwrrun PB. It’s still more responsive than EVA foam, but you know what we mean.
There’s one thing that Boost foam does very well, and that’s its ability to deliver consistent cushioning regardless of how warm or cold it is.
In our recent review of the Nike Pegasus Trail 3, we called out the Nike React foam’s sensitivity to below-freezing temperatures. Unlike Nike React, adidas Boost feels the same whether it’s a warm sunny day or a freezing winter morning.
One last thing. Though the removable insole is the same as the Ultraboost 21, the lasting design isn’t.
Until now, the Ultraboost has always used a generously perforated lasting under the insole. The UB 22 uses a different kind of Strobel layer with two large openings – one under the heel, and another in the front.
This is new for the Ultraboost, but not for adidas. We remember seeing this lasting design on the Energy Boost 3.0 over six years ago.
WHICH SHOES TO ROTATE WITH THE ADIDAS ULTRABOOST 22?
Recommending the Solarglide 4 as a versatile daily trainer option doesn’t add value due to its functional closeness to the Ultraboost.
The adidas Supernova makes more sense. Its half Boost, half EVA (adidas Bounce) provides the blend of cushioning and support for everyday training. It’s much lighter than the Ultraboost 22 and costs nearly half as much. Among other options, the Reebok Floatride Energy 3 also uses an E-TPU midsole, and is superior to the Supernova.
The Brooks Ghost 14 or Asics Nimbus Lite 3 are softer alternatives as a daily neutral trainer.
For speed runs, we recommend the reasonably-priced adidas adios 6. We said in our review that the new adios is like the old Boston – a cushioned speed trainer. The Reebok Fun Fast 3 is also worth a try – its lightweight PEBA midsole delivers a comfortable yet speed-friendly cushioning.
For a ride experience that’s close to a traditional racing flat, we recommend the Saucony Type A9 – a $100 shoe that loves to go fast.
IS THE ADIDAS ULTRABOOST 22 DURABLE?
There’s a reason why the adidas Ultraboost has been phenomenally successful. Not only does it bridge the gap between leisure and performance very well, but the shoe also lasts a very long time. An ownership period of 500 miles is easily achieved, if not more.
The Boost foam is highly resistant to fatigue – meaning that the midsole retains its cushioning instead of compacting like EVA foam midsoles.
Also, the Continental rubber outsole is a tried-and-tested compound that will deliver several hundred miles of incident-free performance.
Even with a shallow upper fit, the stretchy Primeknit upper resists tearing – thanks to its thickness and ability to distribute fit pressure.
THE UPPER DESIGN AND FIT
Some things never change. On the Ultraboost, that would be its shallow and snug forefoot fit. It never gets uncomfortable, though. The Primeknit mesh is elastic, so it molds around the foot without causing discomfort.
The vented structure on the top of the forefoot and tongue is more stretchable than other areas that happen to have a tighter fit.
But that’s putting it relatively, because the upper is very conforming – more than most running shoes. So if you’re not used to the super-snug fit, a brief period of sensory adjustment is required. There are no optional widths, so the standard fit is all that we get.
adidas Primeknit uppers also tend to run warm. They are not as breathable as running shoes that use regular mesh, and this can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on where you live.
On the bright side, the thick mesh upper proves to be useful during freezing winter runs.
A lot of the forefoot snugness also stems from the uber-shallow fit. The Ultraboost has always been like that – the fit makes it feel half a size smaller. Nonetheless, the Ultraboost fits true to size from a US sizing perspective.
In other words, a size US 11 in adidas is comparable with other running shoes in US size 11.
On a side note, if you’re from a country that uses UK sizing, then you need to buy a half size larger when compared to US shoe brands.
For example, a UK 10 in Nike will translate into UK 10.5 in adidas. Similarly, if you live in Japan, then you need to go up a CM in adidas over Nike.
This difference is due to how both brands convert their sizes. Yes, it’s confusing, we know. That’s why we put together a size chart for adidas and Nike on Solereview to help understand the conversion process.
The ultra-narrow forefoot has its benefits. It secures the foot over the midsole to enhance the cushioning feel as well as increase the stability and quality of transitions.
Having the foot closer to the midsole (and ground) allows the power transfer to happen efficiently.
The sock-like fit also includes the midfoot and heel. The elastic Primeknit upper fits like a compression sock, and does an excellent job at locking the foot over the Boost midsole.
A lot of people don’t realize it, but a conforming upper plays a significant role in making the ride stable. Having the foot closer to the midsole also enhances the cushioning feel – a behavior that we also called out in our review of the Asics Nimbus Lite.
The adidas Ultraboost was the shoe that started the ‘flared’ Achilles lip trend in the running shoe industry. But it’s also the shoe that does it the best – the heel collar is soft and has an excellent grip. The plush foam-filled ‘pods’ also perform as they are supposed to.
A stiff internal counter is absent, so the insides of the heel do not chafe the Achilles.
We’ve saved the best for the last, so let’s get to it – the redesigned floating cage.
There are three areas of improvement on the floating cage – all of which make the Ultraboost 22’s fit more comfortable than the 21.
The first change is the most obvious one. There’s a set of soft lacing loops in the front that remove the bite from the UB 21’s cage.
The second change is located in the rear – the edges around the fourth eyelet aren’t as pointy as before.
However, it’s the third update that has the most impact, and it’s not even visible from the outside. The Ultraboost 22’s plastic cage has a variable thickness. The plastic base under the first and last eyelet is thinner than the center.
All this while, only the first and last eyelets were an issue with the older Ultraboosts that had a plastic cage. Since adidas has made it half as thick when compared to the Ultraboost 21, the edges no longer apply the top-down pressure.
In short, all the concerns we previously had with the Ultraboost’s cage have been resolved with this update. The floating design also helps, as the stiff plastic no longer applies pressure on the sides of the foot.
The insides of the Ultraboost 21 were smooth to begin with, so the updates made here make the fit very consistent.
Not everything is a net positive, though. The reflective trim that the 21 had on its tongue flap has been removed. There’s still a foam-backed overlay on the tongue, but it’s not a high-visibility kind.
PROS AND CONS
By making subtle yet clever design updates to the Ultraboost 22, adidas has struck a fine balance between running-friendly performance and athleisure comfort.
The large Torsion – sorry, LEP shank, and the Continental rubber outsole blend efficient transitions and dependable traction. The redesigned upper is snug as usual, and the softer Boost core results in a higher degree of ride comfort. The wide midsole is supportive and cushioned enough for all-day wear.
The Ultraboost is nearly 12-ounce heavy, so it’s not a versatile running shoe. Also, there are no widths if the standard fit happens to be too narrow for some.
We also wish adidas did not edit whatever little reflectivity the UB 21 had.
SHOES SIMILAR TO THE ADIDAS ULTRABOOST 22
Expanded Polyurethane midsoles aren’t as common today as they were just a couple of years ago.
Saucony still uses the Pwrrun+ foam on the Triumph 19, so that’s an alternative that leans towards the performance running side of things. Even the Saucony Hurricane 23 is similar, albeit with added support features.
Other than those two, adidas still sells the original version of the Ultraboost – it’s aptly named the ‘DNA’ version. It’s got a softer (and less supportive) ride than the Ultraboost 22 – if that is of interest.
Lastly, the adidas Solarboost 4 is the performance version of the Ultraboost, if you will. It’s an ounce (nearly 30 gms) lighter and uses a traditional lacing design instead of a plastic midfoot and heel clip.
Though the adidas Solarboost 4 has a full-length Boost in its midsole, it’s supported by a firmer EVA rim on top. This difference makes the Solarglide a better running shoe than the Ultra.