Bouncy socks: evolution of the running shoe

More than any other shoe release this year, Adidas’ new Pure Boost ZG runners most clearly reflects the evolution of the running shoe: ridiculously light, with uppers that adapt to your feet like socks and soles that work to provide you with additional energy.

The Pureboost ZG is a relation of the Pure Boost shoes that Adidas launched two years ago, featuring that thick sole material that looks like Styrofoam and which does two things: one, provide a surprising amount of cushioning and two, returns some of the compression energy to make each step feel a little bit lighter.

The Ultra Boosts were a tremendous hit with runners, so Adidas has expanded the concept into multiple lines of shoes. The Pureboost ZG (for Zero Gravity) is an example of that.

It has similar energy return to the Pure Bosts but is even lighter. At size nine male, it’s 246 grams (8.7 ounces) compared to 303 grams (10.7 ounces) for the current Ultra Boost.

Adidas Pure Boost ZG

The big changes are to the upper. Called Primeknit, it’s a lighter mesh-like fabric that’s engineered to expand more easily with your foot when you’re running (kind of like a sock), creating a comfortable fit but which is still strong enough to maintain its shape, with a lock down midfoot band and heel counter.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Pure Boost ZGs are made for neutral feet. If you have any biomechanical issues which require stronger support the Pure Boost ZGs are not for you because they may feel too soft and unsupportive. For instance, one of our testers whose feet tend to overpronate (roll inwards excessively) found the Pure Boost ZG didn’t provide enough support.

But another tester with a neutral foot (one without any biomechanical issues) found them comfortable and surprisingly light for the cushioning they give.

The only other question was one of aesthetics. Adidas says: “The colour pop outsole highlights the Boost midsole to keep them staring at your every step.” Hmmmm, not sure about that. The tricolour contrast created by the white midsole packed between the upper charcoal grey mesh and the bright red outsole makes the shoes candidates for something you wear at a kid’s party. The shoes’ midsole and outsole also tend to flatten out and stretch out the back past the heel when you’re running, contributing to the slightly comical look.

But that’s aesthetics. If your foot doesn’t have any special needs, then the $180 Pure Boost ZG is close as you can get to the ultimate running shoe: super light, sock-like in the way it adapts to the shape of your foot, and with the best energy return technology in the business.