Under Armour is planning to deliver early next year a pair of new innovative running sneakers it has high expectations for, beginning its push to take over the category.
The brand’s Hovr range, slated to arrive Feb. 1 for men and women, will launch with two silhouettes: the Hovr Sonic and the Hovr Phantom. The shoes will come in versions that can be paired with its Connected Fitness digital platform as well as iterations without connectivity.
The sneakers feature the company’s latest UA Hovr cushioning system, said to provide a plush feel underfoot as well as energy return and responsiveness. The two models also have an external heel counter and a durable rubber outsole in common.
The two styles do have some differences, however. The Sonic is executed with a 3-D molded insole, a stretchable tongue and a flat knit upper. The Phantom has an atypical 5/8-inch collar height, a circular knit upper and a 3-D molded and perforated chamois for a secure fit.
“We’re delivering one of the most state-of-the-art running platforms that exist in footwear today,” Topher Gaylord, group GM of Under Armour’s run division, told Footwear News while visiting its Portland, Ore., facility on Thursday. “It’s the perfect combination of comfort, underfoot cushioning and energy return for the consumer. That balance is what makes the product for so special.”
While company executives are excited about the new Hovr platform, this isn’t the first time Under Armour has placed an emphasis on updating its running market offerings.
In December 2008 as his company geared up for an aggressive launch in the category, Under Armour founder Kevin Plank told FN, “Running is the largest athletic footwear category, and we believe it is a huge opportunity.” This was two years after Under Armour had delivered its first batch of footwear, which consisted of cleated football looks. “We are going to create the right product for our consumer, come with a strong point of view on the category and tell our story to the consumer,” Plank added.
Despite the company’s debut running push, Under Armour’s biggest footwear strides have come in other categories, mainly in basketball shoes with its signature line for NBA superstar Stephen Curry.
Yet Dave Dombrow, Under Armour’s chief design officer, believes his brand hasn’t failed to connect with runners.
“Under Armour was growing as a footwear company, and run is based in footwear first,” he told FN on Thursday. “It’s a footwear-centric category. Like anything, it took time to get that motion right and get going in the right direction,” he explained.
“Now, we feel like we have the pieces in place,” Dombrow continued. “It has just taken time like it would for any business to get on that right trajectory.”
Since the company’s initial launch of its running shoes almost a decade ago, it has refined its product, and several Under Armour shoes, most notably its Bandit franchise, have gained traction with runners.
Alison Désir, founder of the New York City-based crew Harlem Run, said she’s seen the quality improve in the brand’s run footwear. “I’ve seen huge leaps and bounds from the first shoe that I ran in, the Apollo. I did not like the Apollo at all,” Désir said. “I’ve seen Bandit 1 through 3 now, and there’s been vast improvements in that. Over the past two years, with the amount of growth that they’ve had — I’m really eager to see what’s to come.”
Désir said she hasn’t moved on from her beloved Bandits, but she is also logging miles in the Hovr range of shoes.
The Hovr sneakers “felt as though the shoe molded to my feet, which has made a huge difference,” Désir said. “I still like the Bandit, but I find that the Hovr is bouncier and more responsive when I run.”
If sales are any indication of acceptance by runners, Under Armour is making the inroads in the category.
According to data provided by The NPD Group Inc./Retail Tracking Service, Under Armour ranks this year as as top-five brand in the performance run category, trailing Nike, Asics, New Balance and Adidas. Each year since 2015 Under Armour’s market share in the category has grown by single digits.
The Hovr Sonic will retail for $110 in the Connected iteration or $100 for a version that’s not digitally enhanced. The Connected version of the Hovr Phantom will be sold for $140 and the regular iteration for $130.