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Under Armour trying to make high quality running shoes is a very good thing for us, the running public. We’re sure this big brand will get it right eventually, but the Phantom is worryingly unstable and just too soft to be considered as a contender in the industry.
The Phantom is one of 2 shoes developed to launch Under Armour’s UA HOVR category, the brands’ latest innovation in footwear cushioning technology. The Phantom has been designed to be a daily mileage trainer, the other shoe, the Sonic, is a faster speedier shoe.
This shoe is all about the midsole material – although you wouldn’t say that by looking at it!
The Phantom is a demi boot shoe that is strikingly fresh out of the box. I think they look pretty cool but my initial thought was that they would look good better with a pair of jeans and running shorts! Probably not a good start but a realistic indication of where UA think they will sell volume at retail.
They have an 8mm drop and are a mid-weight shoe so built for eating up longer / steadier paced runs rather than anything quick. They are made of high quality materials and have some very nice details but this shoe is all about its midsole.
UA HOVR is an energy return system made of a proprietary foam compound, developed in partnership with the innovators at Dow Chemical. Apparently, the midsole is less foam and more of a wax! Sounds interesting… A key component of the UA HOVR cushioning system is the ‘Energy Web,’ which is a mesh fabric that wraps around the cushioning core. You can see this in the shoe through the side windows cut out of the surrounding compressed EVA. It’s also visible at the heel and through the outsole. They certainly want to show it off and why not, it’s been years in the making allegedly! UA state that the Phantom is designed to be soft and offer incredible cushioning and shock absorption, delivering responsiveness and energy return. So here goes after 40 miles of wear testing…
Slip the shoes on and the knitted bootie wraps around your foot. The collar is snug around your ankle but digs in slightly where they have added the webbing tabs. The knitted forefoot is excellent quality, and supportive, and the Speedform 2.0 internals are excellent (see below for explanation)
The major thing I noticed was that they feel unstable at the heel. The midsole cut outs make the shoe compress just standing around in them. I thought it might be just me but we trialled two pairs of these shoes independently and we both felt the same. The eva cut outs in the sidewall of the midsole means it decouples (compresses on impact) way too much for someone of average weight, and you under pronate way too much.
The Phantom is all about launching the UA HOVR midsole technology. This new material is Under Armour’s version of an energy return material. They market it as a “perfect combination of cushioning, energy return and longevity”. Think tech like Adidas Boost, Nike Epic and Saucony EverRun competition.
On first impressions, the shoes are very soft. The shoe is designed to be super-soft, but these are probably the softest shoes I’ve ever worn!
I also like another line straight out of the marketing handbook, or should that be NASA’s?
“UA HOVR maintains its ‘zero gravity’, impact-repelling feel longer than regular cushioning, with no compromise”. And what does zero gravity feel like? None of us know. What did they do, consult Buzz Aldrin? Maybe Buzz Lightyear!?
The cut outs are there for no reason other than to let you see the HOVR material. Shoes are hard enough to market these days so we can see why they did it but, with the shoe being so soft, this rear window just exaggerated the softness and as we said, made us feel downright unstable. Why not just have the HOVR material push through this hole to meet the sidewall flush, or better still hide it in a decent midsole and keep the heel exposed?
We really didn’t like the ride of the Phantom to be honest. We couldn’t get past the instability of the shoe and way it collapse when you strike the ground. If you are not unbelievably neutral and light on your feet, this shoe could be a problem – unless you’re in jeans of course!
The shoes feel good on-foot. The upper is made up of a number of different materials in different areas but all look to be very high quality. The aerated welded neoprene in the quarters isn’t that flexible unlike some of the 3D meshes that are designed to move with your foot, but that’s ok, it’s there to support your foot in this area. It houses a 3D moulded chamois material – chamois, just like the seat of your cycling shorts. You can clearly see it in the patterned shapes around the midfoot area but this padded chamois material wraps back around the heel and it’s very comfortable on foot.
While we are talking heels, the heel counter is very soft. You can push it flat with your finger which is never a good sign. I do like to feel like the shoe is locking you in and making you feel secure in this area. This heel counter is feels rubbery and totally flexible. It offers the minimum of stability so be warned!
There is no tongue, it has a bootie fit. The upper knit extends to the forefoot and there’s plenty of wiggle room in the front of the shoe. Although attractive, it’s not an open weave mesh so breathability could be an issue although we tested it over a few cold days so didn’t notice it. The guillie lacing system locks the non stretch quarters in place really well and you get a solid midfoot lock down when tied, but the heel is sloppy and you can easily over tighten the laces if not careful.
There is a rough flatlock seam that joins the midfoot cradle to the knitted upper. That seam appears on the inside of the shoe, so not a seamless upper. That said, I couldn’t feel it with socks on so not an issue for most of us.
The insole feels lovely underfoot - really soft and silky. It features anatomically place padded areas of PU foam and an Ortholite mix and it is super comfy. You cannot remove it though, as it forms part of the Speedform 2.0 fit which is a moulded internal construction first developed in conjunction with a bra factory that UA uses on many shoes. If you use your own insoles – stay away from this shoe!
The outsole is a road-friendly high-grade durable rubber outsole with a pimple grip. It has worn well, and performs well on wet roads, so no complaints.
Flex-groves in the forefoot look deep but this shoe is not that flexible, as the midsole is pretty thick. It’s a stiff ride at toe off which at pace did feel a little restrictive.
We really wanted a great shoe from Under Armour. It is about time that the brand made footwear to the same outstanding levels as their clothing, but the Phantom is not it. It’s inflexible and super unstable. The rear window cut out contributes to the shoes instability and you just don’t feel secure in it at all. There are fit issues; I couldn’t stop my foot slipping in the shoe and the heel fees way too supple. The other shoe in the range featuring the UA HOVR material, the Sonic, looks better but it is this shoe, the Phantom that is aimed at the mass market and will, therefore, attract more people to it. Sadly, Under Armour are well wide of the mark with this product for the technical market – a rapper may like it though.
UA HOVR® technology provides ‘zero gravity feel’ to maintain energy return that helps eliminate impact step after step
Compression mesh Energy Web contains & molds UA HOVR® foam to give back the energy you put in
Microthread upper dries fast & provides a breathable, compression-like fit that delivers lightweight directional strength & unmatched comfort
3D molded midfoot panel with laser perforations for increased ventilation
Knit ankle collar provides a snug, bootie-like fit
External heel counter creates the ultimate in stable support
Ultra-breathable, SpeedForm® 2.0 sockliner is built into the shoe with gender specific contours for extra protection & softer underfoot support
Full rubber outsole features unique knobbed texture for elevated traction & durability
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|Weight||250g / 8.8oz.|