Under Armour’s New HOVR Machina Doesn’t Compromise on Speed or Stamina

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Picking a running shoe often involves making a difficult choice: Are you looking for a shoe to race in, or a shoe to train in? There’s usually a trade-off. With a racing shoe, you get something light and lean that helps you go fast, usually without the cushioning found in a training shoe. But with new advances in foam and other weight-saving tech, the gap between racing and training has started to close in recent years. Under Armour‘s newest shoe, the HOVR Machina, is a good example of how brands are creating a shoe you can train in and also lace up for your next race. Light, cushioned, and bouncy, the Machina is designed to strike a balance between speed and comfort.

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What It Is

According to Under Armour, the HOVR Machina is the company’s highest performance running shoe to date. It’s built to be responsive and lightweight, but thanks to a new midsole design, it also includes 20 percent more HOVR cushioning foam than its stablemate, the HOVR Infinite (it’s about the same weight as the Infinite, too). It’s part of Under Armour’s lineup of connected running shoes, so it comes with a sensor embedded in the midsole that links with UA’s MapMyRun app.

HOVR foam is one of Under Armour’s biggest running innovations of the past few years. It’s a proprietary formula made from olefin wax, and it delivers good cushion and responsiveness with low weight. It’s surrounded by an “Energy Web” mesh to help the foam hold its shape—you can see it on the exterior of the Machina’s midsole.

In addition, the Machina has a carbon/thermoplastic plate embedded in the midsole (you might recognize similar tech in Nike’s Next% and Zoom Fly 3 shoes) for extra bounce and energy return. In the Machina, the plate has a unique two-pronged design, which helps the shoe feel cushioned under the forefoot and also snappy and responsive at toe-off. Finally, solid rubber covers key impact zones under the midfoot, and high-abrasion carbon rubber pods cover areas under the heel for extra traction and durability.

Of course, the other big sell with the Machina is its connectivity. When paired with MapMyRun, it offers real-time Form Coaching, a new feature that UA launched in February. That means you can use the app to get personalized guidance on your running form as you run. In addition, the Machina will feed data on foot strike angle and ground contact time to the app—as well as the usual stats like pace and distance—for you to analyze once you finish your run.

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Why We Like It

On my test runs, I found that the Machina, as promised, struck a nice balance between cushion and speed. It has a soft step-in feel, but still provides a firm platform at toe-off. While it’s not exactly bouncy, the firm response and low weight meant it didn’t lag when I wanted to pick up the pace. Overall, the shoe felt comfy and absorbed impacts well. If you like a firm shoe but need more protection for longer efforts, the Machina makes a good pick.

There were other aspects I liked, too. The sole is relatively wide at the forefoot, which adds some stability for negotiating cracked or uneven pavement. I also appreciated the roomy toe box—a definite plus for longer runs, when your feet start to expand—and the soft cushioning around the ankle. It’s comfort without clunkiness, and that’s always a good quality to have in a running shoe.

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As for the connected aspect of the Machina, overall I was impressed with the wealth of information I gleaned from MapMyRun. The app’s “workout analysis” section was a definite highlight: It offers thorough explanations for each metric and the stats are presented in intuitive charts, so it’s easy to digest. The data on foot strike angle and ground contact time was particularly interesting, and I came away with a deeper knowledge about how I run.

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Even so, I did notice a few things about the Machina that I would improve. First, it’s not super flexible. There’s some flex in the forefoot, but overall I wish the shoe was just a little less stiff. Second, these run small (I had to go up by half a size), so take that into account if you plan to purchase.

Finally, although MapMyRun worked well overall, the new real-time coaching features left me a little disappointed. The audio prompts on pace and elapsed time were nice, but the app also kept pestering me about my cadence, which it said was too low. In order to get my cadence up to the correct level, I had to essentially stutter step my way down the block. I’m not a running coach, but that doesn’t seem like good form. The app also provides a visual meter to show your cadence, but don’t try to watch it while running—I almost hit a tree. I think it’s fair to say these features could use a little more refinement.

[$150; underarmour.com]

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