Believe it or not, life can be sometimes hard for a shoe reviewer.
Most of the time, writing a review or product guide is an enjoyable experience. It’s easy to fill screen space when there are a lot of new intros. For example, there’s a lot to talk about Asics, Saucony, and Nike. Even New Balance strikes a middle ground between the old and new.
We don’t know what’s in store for adidas for the rest of 2020. But based on how things stand today, its running shoe line could do with some freshness.
adidas’s present-day assortment is very similar to where we left off in 2019. Familiar – and inspired – models from the Ultraboost family continue to dominate the line.
On the performance side of things, the Solar pack (Glide, Drive et. al) continues its run, and so do the adios and Boston. Even the Trail running assortment is seemingly unchanged, more or less.
The ‘Solar’ line has gone through its changes, though. The latest iteration of the Solarglide isn’t called the Solarglide 20 but the Solarglide 3.
That makes a lot of sense. For a multi-billion dollar brand, there are a few things worse than selling a shoe in 2020 that has the number ’19 in its name. We expect the rest of the Solar assortment to undergo this naming reset.
The Supernova name is also back. There’s a $100 model for 2020 that relies on a part-Boost, part-EVA foam midsole along with brand new aesthetics. Think of this shoe as an upgraded version of what used to be the Response.
Historically, adidas has been generous with its sub-$100 budget offerings. That hasn’t changed for this year either, so this guide has models like the Duramo 9 and Galaxy 5.
So what’s really new for this year? Coming to think of it, not a lot.
The only ‘new’ shoes would be the 3D-printed pack. Last year, adidas debuted its running shoe line that uses midsoles manufactured by Carbon, a company uses light-cured 3D-printing tech to make shoe parts.
Regardless of the astronomical $200 price, adidas was the only shoe-maker brave enough to take 3D-printed running shoes mainstream. In doing so, it also became the only brand to prove solereview’s 2016 article on 3D printing wrong.
adidas took artistic liberty to suffix the shoes with a ‘4D’ label. Not sure where the fourth dimension came from, but hey, what’s in a name?
Are shoes from the adidas 4D line-up the ‘best’ products, as the title of this guide suggests? No, but they’re novel and industry-leading. For that alone, the Alphaedge 4D deserves a mention.
There are other new shoes like the AlphaBoost – a Boost version of the Alphabounce. By the way, there’s an updated Alphabounce as well. But since both the models belong in the casual-wear realm, we haven’t featured them here. But if you want a sports-casual shoe, then the $110 Alphaboost is excellent value for money. Its full-length Boost midsole also questions why the UltraBoost is still $180.
That’s all we have to say about adidas running for now. The following models are our top adidas picks sorted by their sub-categories.
1) Soft neutral cushioning: adidas Alphaedge 4D
The Alphaedge is the first general-release running shoe with 3D-printed parts.
Of course, it costs a stratospheric $200. But coming to think of it, that’s just $20 over the UltraBoost. We say that’s not bad at all. After all, 3D-printed parts are expensive to make and low to scale.
That’s the cool tech part. What about the Alphaedge as a running shoe?
The upper fit is fairly standard, so there’s not a lot to talk about there. The design is a mix of the UltraBoost and Alphabounce, so you get molded (and supportive) details along with a knit collar band.
The bootie construction creates a narrow yet comfortable fit. There are a few pieces of metallic plastic on the midfoot and the heel – party for structural support, partly for show. No widths are available, so try before buying.
The 3D-printed midsole of the Alphaedge uses cured Resin instead of foam. And there’s a reason why foam is called ‘foam’ – the cushioning of any traditional midsole (including e-TPU, PU, and EVA) is the result of microscopic air pockets compressing and rebounding.
In contrast, the solid resin on the Alphaedge isn’t technically a true ‘foam’. To compensate for the inherent lack of fluffiness, the midsole is constructed in a lattice structure that delivers mechanical cushioning.
The empty spaces between the resin strands compress and then snap back. This gives the Alphaedge a unique ride signature that is consistent through the midsole. Even the forefoot has the characteristic bounce, though of a lesser magnitude than the higher volume rearfoot.
The downside is that the Alphaedge is a heavy shoe – both due to the use of solid resin and a protective Continental rubber outsole.
Also see: The adidas 4D Run 1.0. There also exists a couple of lifestyle models with a lower profile midsole, namely the ZX 4000 and ZX 2K.
2) Soft neutral cushioning: adidas UltraBoost 20
Despite its high retail price, the UltraBoost is one of adidas’s best-selling models.
Even with the first iteration, the shoe pretty much nailed it. A soft and responsive Boost midsole made easy runs very comfortable. The snug elastic knit upper had its flaws in the form of the plastic cage but the plush heel and tongue were uber-comfortable.
adidas listened to the feedback, and the Ultraboost franchise became progressively better with time. The V-20 is the culmination of all those tweaks, so we have the best-mannered UltraBoost to date.
The Ultraboost 20 is fairly similar to the 19 except for a couple of favorable tweaks. It retains the signature ride quality of the plump Boost midsole while making improvements to the upper fit. The noteworthy update would be the soft rubber-like midfoot panels that upgrade the fit experience.
Despite the list of positives, the Ultraboost has never been a serious runner’s shoe due to its weight, easy upper fit, and the soft ride. Because of its easygoing nature, this model has found more homes in the casual-wear consumer closet.
If you have to use the Ultraboost as a running shoe, it works best as a daily trainer for slow runs. Distance isn’t a limitation here; the voluminous midsole keeps high-mileage workouts comfortable.
Also see: The Ultra Boost S&L
3) Soft neutral cushioning: adidas SolarBoost 19
We didn’t include the SolarBoost in the previous edition of the same guide. So why add it now?
That’s because the SolarBoost 19 leaves the super-narrow upper fit behind, and the updated model has a more comfortable interior. The sole design of the original SolarBoost was competent to begin with, so it’s reassuring to note that the ride character hasn’t changed.
The full-length Boost cushioning is a better fit for easy runs than anything else; the softness means that the SolarBoost isn’t a swift transition machine.
4) Soft neutral cushioning: adidas SolarGlide 3
The Solarglide 3 is a neutral trainer that bridges the price and functional gap between the more expensive Ultraboost and the new $100 Supernova.
In other words, you get the cushy Boost experience but with added features like the EVA rims and a higher number of lacing rows for a superior lock-down.
This difference results in a more performance-oriented ride with greater versatility. The Boost midsole provides distance-friendly comfort while providing higher levels of support than the softer Ultraboost. The EVA sidewalls under the forefoot and midfoot add (some) firmness for efficient transitions.
The midfoot shank design also contributes to the ride experience. The center Torsion shank extends into the forefoot as well, so this gives the front a nice snap during push-offs. The one-piece Continental rubber has exposed windows that allow it to flex better while being protective and traction-friendly.
That said, the SolarGlide 3 has more in common with the Solarglide 19 than the Supernova Glide. If you’re looking for original Glide experience, the cheaper Supernova and the SolarDrive (also on this guide) are worth trying.
The Solarglide is the first in the Solar line-up to switch to the new naming convention, thus evolving from the Solarglide 19 to the Solarglide 3.
5) Soft, mild-support cushioning: adidas SolarGlide ST 3
What’s the difference between the last year’s SolarGlide ST 19 and the latest – and similar sounding – Solarglide ST 3?
Not a lot, really. Both these models are classified as ‘light stability’ – mostly neutral with a slightly supportive inner midsole. In footwear terms, that means that there’s no medial post making the medial side firmer. The Solarglide 3 uses what adidas calls the ‘Stableframe’ – a set of raised EVA rims on either side.
A lot of brands are doing this of late. It all began with the 2014 Brooks Transcend and its ‘Guiderails’, and now everyone has their unique spin on this design.
In the Solarglide ST 3’s case, it does provide a nice cupping effect at the top without resulting in a ‘motion control’ feel. Leaving most of the softer Boost foam exposed through the midfoot and heel allows the cushioning to do its thing. Which is, producing the soft and responsive feel that most of us are familiar with.
Though things are firmer in the front due to the EVA midsole casing, the Boost is available in a full-length form. This gives the ride its characteristic comfort and springiness, and design elements like the Torsion shank and full-coverage outsole prevent the shoe from turning into mush.
Continental rubber is a part of the standard equipment, so functional needs like traction are taken care of.
The upper is an improvement. It’s a lot cleaner on the outside, courtesy of adidas’s switch to a tried-and-tested engineered mesh (versus the 2019 model’s slit mesh). The insides are smoother, and areas like the padded heel and tongue were comfortable and well-fitting to begin with.
The Solarglide ST 3 is well worth the upgrade from the Solarglide ST 19.
6) Neutral Cushioning: adidas Solar Drive 19
The EVA covered Boost midsole is the best thing about the Solar Drive 19. This separate sheet of EVA over the Boost foam makes the ride more efficient than the softer Solar Glide – but without the cushioning trade-off. It’s got a bit of the Supernova Glide in it, if you know what we mean.
If you were wondering where the Response Boost went, you’re looking at a version of it. The Solar Drive is old wine in a new bottle – it is based on the same midsole and non-Continental outsole seen on the Response. The upper is newly designed to match the Solar visual story. The new Supernova (below) is also worth considering.
Nonetheless, it is a good choice for a) runners looking for a firmer ride than the Solar Glide 3, or b) those who want a Response Boost replacement.
2019 was the second year for the Solar Drive; the refreshed model features a cleaner looking upper over the same midsole/outsole as the 2018 model.
7) $100 neutral trainer: adidas Supernova
With the Supernova, adidas goes back to $100 basics and a tried-and-tested formula. And what is this formula we speak of? A simple yet functional upper, and a midsole that balances cushioning softness with supportive firmness.
The new Supernova underpinnings are part Boost and part ‘Bounce’ – an EVA foam variant that was originally used on the identically-priced Alphabounce. While the outsole is not Continental-branded, it offers decent traction and durability.
Using Boost and EVA foam results in a ride quality that feels balanced. The Boost portion delivers ride comfort whereas the Bounce sidewalls make the transitions more efficient. In many ways, the Supernova reminds us of the earlier models like the Sonic Boost and the Response Boost.
Adidas plays it safe with the upper design. The upper fits true to size and breathes well. The use of fused layers makes the interiors smooth-fitting and secure. The heel has the familiar Achilles ‘lip’, so there’s comfort and non-slip hold in equal measures.
8) Affordable neutral trainer: adidas Duramo 9
Though adidas has a sizeable sub-$100 assortment, very few of them are ‘regulars’. Except for the Duramo 9, that is.
This model is adidas’s top-selling budget trainer that gets the job done. A basic mesh upper wraps the foot with a smooth and secure fit, and creature comforts like a padded collar and tongue make for easy wearing. The plastic eyestay has variable lacing for two levels of lacing cinch.
You can’t expect much of a shoe that retails at $60, but the ride quality isn’t bad for the price. While there’s nothing exciting about the ride, the comfort level of the single-density EVA foam midsole suffices for daily runs. The full-length adiwear outsole results in acceptable durability for a budget shoe.
Also see: The $65 Duramo SL.
9) Entry-level neutral trainer: adidas Galaxy 5
The Galaxy 5 is the running shoe distilled to its basic form, stripped of all niceties. After all, this is a $50 adidas shoe.
There’s no Boost foam, Torsion shank, Continental rubber outsole, or high-tech upper. What you get for $50 is a fully-functional running shoe that derives its ride comfort from a single-density EVA foam midsole.
It’s also surprising – and pleasantly so – that the Galaxy has a proper outsole, with rubber covering most of the underside. This helps build grip over the road while adding durability.
The upper looks and is very basic, but there’s little to worry about. The simple mesh and synthetic shell provide a satisfactory fit and comfort level.
10) Low-profile speed trainer/racer: adidas adizero Boston 9
The adizero Boston 9 is perhaps adidas’s best performance running shoe at the moment. Though the Boston is perceived as a shoe for fast training runs (which it is), it is equally suitable for a wide range of workouts. You can use it as a responsive daily trainer and as well as a racing shoe for up to half marathons.
Its ride is cushioned but firm enough for fast runs. The outsole is made of the durable Continental rubber that grips well and lasts long.
There’s not much difference between the Boston 9 and 8. Both share an identical midsole and outsole, so the ride stays the same. The only cosmetic difference is that adidas calls the firmer EVA section ‘Lightstrike’.
Even the upper fits similarly, except for the reworked – and slimmer – tongue flap on the newest version. So whether it’s a Boston 8 or 9 – not much has changed, functionally speaking.
11) Low-profile road racer: adidas adizero adios 5
The adizero adios features in many of our guides and rotation recommendations, and it’s easy to see why.
The adios is a road racing shoe – minus the punishing ride of true flats. There’s a lot of cushioning underfoot for an 8-ounce shoe; the responsive Boost foam is available from the heel to toe. At the same time, firmer EVA parts add stability and a sense of speed to the low-profile midsole.
There’s not a lot going on the upper. The shell is a single-piece spacer mesh, and cotton laces thread through 7+1 eyelets for a race-worthy lock-down. The fit is very narrow and a half size short – and this has been true for the earlier adios as well.
There’s an inner sleeve now, so that’s good news for (most) runners who did not appreciate the scratchy tongue edge of the older adios.
A lot of rubber covers the outsole; there’s the hard-wearing adiwear in the back and the tried-and-tested Continental in the front. A plastic shank adds rigidity to the midfoot.
The forefoot feels less efficient and ‘faster’ than the previous adizero adios. That’s because a section of the forefoot outsole is split into an ‘island’ over the exposed Boost foam. This increases the softness, and we all know that soft is the enemy of speed.
The traction is decent, though it doesn’t compare to the DSP design of the adios 2.
Nonetheless, the adios 5 is still an excellent – and comfortable – racer for speed training and road sprints.
12) All-purpose trail running shoe: adidas Terrex Agravic XT Trail
At the time of writing this guide, the Terrex Agravic XT – which is also available in a waterproof Gore-Tex version – is the best all-purpose adidas Trail running shoe.
Don’t let the full-length Boost and the absence of a rock plate scare you away. The Continental rubber outsole provides complete under-body protection and adds firmness without sacrificing cushioning.
adidas has put its Continental rubber compound to very good use here. The Agravic XT’s outsole is the footwear equivalent of a motorcycle knobby tire – the rubber has plenty of useful grip for varied terrain. The protruding knobs create a wide tread that keeps the mud from clogging.
The upper is thoughtfully put together. The entry is a closed bootie with a padded Achilles dip. The forefoot and toe-box are solidly built – a thick urethane bumper protects the foot and a fused laminate reinforces the side.
Thanks to the flat speed loops, the lacing is tactile and very responsive to cinch pressure. Unlike some adidas trail shoes, the Agravic uses proper laces and not cords.
And surprise – this adidas upper fits half a size longer instead of the other way around. So getting a half size smaller should give you the conforming fit of a trail shoe.
If you’re looking for a budget option, the Terrex Two Trail (see next) is Solereview’s pick.
13) Entry-level trail running shoe: adidas Terrex Two Trail
The Terrex Two Trail’s $100 price-tag shouldn’t come as a surprise; adidas has a long history of selling value-laden running shoes. What’s different about the Terrex Trail is its 6 mm heel-to-toe offset.
Historically, most adidas trail running shoes have been designed around the 10 mm + form factor. So it’s refreshing to see a budget option that caters to runners who prefer trail footwear with a lower heel to toe drop.
Else, the Terrex Two is what you expect of adidas outdoor products. It’s a solidly constructed trail running shoe that packs sufficient versatility.
The undersides are made of the tried-and-tested Continental rubber that grips well over multiple surfaces. Large lugs are widely spaced to reduce clogging while delivering adequate bite.
There’s no Boost in the midsole, but you do have the Lightstrike EVA – yes, of the SL20 fame. With rear and front stack heights of 30 mm and 24 mm, the ride has enough comfort for longer distances while being supportive enough for non-technical trails.
The Terrex Two’s 10.5-ounce isn’t bad at all, considering the full-length rubber outsole and well-kitted upper.
The upper is basic but thoughtfully put together. The exterior is nearly all spacer mesh – that makes it breathable and lightweight but with no water-resistance. Fused overlays add protection and structure, while the padded tongue and heel makes the grip secure and comfortable.
Buy this shoe if your trail running route doesn’t involve sharp roots, extreme grades, and very uneven surfaces. The Terrex Two is best used for mild trails where its cushioned ride and roomy fit makes runs comfortable.