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Every brand has its franchise running shoe; the one shoe that’s so good it’s cultivated a cult-like following. Asics has the Gel-Kayano, Nike has the Pegasus, and for adidas, it’s the Ultraboost. adidas is about to drop a brand new version of its top-selling running shoe, the adidas Ultraboost Light. We received an advance sample of the sneaker to review before it’s available for purchase this Friday, March 3rd.
First launched in 2015, the adidas Ultraboost quickly developed a loyal following as one of the best running and most comfortable lifestyle shoes. Two highlights that drew people in were a cozy sock-like upper and loads of ultra-plush adidas Boost underfoot. At the time, Boost was a ground-breaking foaming process that yielded a midsole foam with unprecedented quality. It used a foam called TPU, which was both highly cushioned and ultra-responsive.
However, Boost has one sizable downside — weight. Although much more responsive than the more commonly used EVA foams, TPU is much heavier, and weight matters for running shoes. This 2020 study suggested that adding 100g (3.5 oz) per shoe impairs running economy and performance.
At 11.7 oz for men and 10 oz for women, the adidas Ultraboost 22 is nearly 3 ounces heavier than similarly cushioned running shoes from competitors. As brands have experimented with new foaming processes, midsoles have gotten lighter, giving back more energy, yet adidas Boost has remained the same — until now.
adidas’s notorious midsole, Boost, gets significantly updated with the new adidas Ultraboost Light. adidas claims the latest version is 30 percent lighter with 4 percent more energy return than the previous Ultraboost. We’ve been testing the Ultraboost Light for the past two months — here’s our honest review.
How We Tested the adidas Ultraboost Light Running Shoe
- Product Tested: adidas Ultraboost Light (men’s 8.5)
- Testing Period: January and February 2023
- Testing Methods: Running paces between 5 minute and 8 minutes per mile on road and beach paths around Santa Barbara, CA
- Pros: Lighter, without sacrificing the original Ultraboost feel
- Cons: Still relatively heavy compared to other cushioned running shoes
- Best for: Everyday miles, recovery runs, and long runs
- Testing Verdict: A welcome improvement to an already great shoe.
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At first glance, the Ultraboost Light is nearly indistinguishable from the Ultraboost 22. They both share the Primeknit upper with the classic three-strip external TPU overlay with a high-pointed Achilles tab. However, when I looked a little closer at the midsole, I noticed that the textured bubbles on the sidewalls were much fainter and smoother.
A Snug But Comfortable Fit
Getting the Ultraboost Light on my foot took a little effort. I really needed to stretch out the opening to fit my foot inside, but thanks to the high Achilles tab and the stretchy nature of the Primeknit upper, it wasn’t too bad. Once inside, the upper fit snugly against my foot, so much so that I didn’t need to tie the laces to get a good fit. I found the toe box to be exceptionally low-volume. If you’re used to having any toe space, these will fit too tight for your liking. There was consistent pressure against my foot from the upper. Despite the snug fit, I will say the Primeknit material throughout the upper is top-notch and very comfortable.
Bouncing From One Foot To the Other
Once moving, I noticed subtle differences between this lighter version and the original. It certainly did feel lighter, although I would not classify it as a lightweight running shoe. For example, the similar but more highly cushioned Hoka Clifton 9 only weighs 8.7 oz for men and 7.3 oz for women, and that’s almost two ounces lighter than the Ultraboost Light.
The new Boost Light midsole felt much like the original Boost, maybe a tad firmer, but it’s hard to say since the outsole design is different and may have contributed to the firmer feeling. The advertised stack height is 22 millimeter heel / 12 millimeter forefoot, which only measures the midsole. Most competitors will list total stack heights that include not only the midsole but insole and outsole, so you can’t compare the listed stack height of the Ultraboost Light to other shoes.
Without knowing the actual stack height, I found the Ultraboost Light to be moderately cushioned running shoes. With a 10 millimeter heel drop, most cushioning comes under the heel and then tapers off to a more sensitive feel under the forefoot. Between the large amount of cushioning under the heel and a steep heel drop, the Ultraboost Light caters to more of a mid-to-heel foot striker.
I tested the shoe at various paces and felt it was most comfortable at my natural, easy-going everyday pace. This is not a shoe for speed sessions, tempo runs, or race day for most people. It’s not that the Ultraboost won’t work for faster running, it’s just that in today’s world of plated super shoes, there are better shoes for faster running.
Final Thoughts — Who Should Buy the Ultraboost Light
As almost every running shoe on the market has been getting lighter, this move toward a lighter Ultraboost was an absolute must for adidas. At 10.5 oz for men and 9.2 oz for women, the Ultraboost Light is still one of the heavier running shoes on the market. This makes it best suited for everyday training, easy runs, and long runs. I’d want a shoe closer to 8 or 7 ounces for anything fast.
What’s most important, though, in my opinion, is that adidas has stayed true to the original feeling of Ultraboost with this lighter version. It’s essentially the same shoe but slightly better, thanks to the lighter weight. For runners, if you’re a long-time fan of Ultraboost, this new version is certainly worth a look. However, for those after the lifestyle allure of Ultraboost, I’d stick with the Ultraboost 22, mainly because it comes in more color options.
Meet the Expert and Author
Cory Smith has been a runner and running coach for over 25 years. He is the founder of Run Your Personal Best, an online running coaching business that has helped hundreds of runners train for distances from 800 meters to 100 miles and hit personal records. Smith holds a USA Track & Field Level 1 and 2 Endurance Certification, three former Maryland State records, and is a two-time NCAA Division National championships qualifier — plus he holds a personal best of a 4:03 mile and 8:05 3k. Additionally, Smith is a running and fitness writer whose work has also appeared in publications including Runner’s World, Men’s Journal, Muscle & Fitness, Outside, and Trail Runner.