Under Armour HOVR Machina review
I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed using the Machina just for the technology element. If I could get a pair of minimal Under Armour shoes with Connect technology built into them, I would never wear another pair of running shoes ever again!
A little background information
I'm a tall, medium build, midfoot striker (more info on this in a bit!) and I train mostly in barefoot/minimal shoes. But I'll try anything once!
This review is another 'try anything once' shoe review. I wouldn't usually go for a, what I would call 'standard' type of running shoe but having previously tested and reviewed the HOVR Phantom I couldn't resist the opportunity to try out another Under Armour shoe. If nothing else, for the tech!
The Machina has some further additions to it compared to the Phantom (although it's not a direct relative to the Phantom), so I was interested in finding out what those 'enhancements' might be like.
Let's find out.
Interestingly, one thing they don't mention in their tech specs bullet points on their website is the UA Connect chip that's built into the shoes.
It's said in a round-about way in the blurb, but I'd have thought that would be one of the main selling points of the shoe for them to shout about at every conceivable chance.
What's in the box
Nothing but the brightest pair of luminous orange running shoes you have ever seen!
The HOVR Machina is a very maximal standard type of running shoe. As you can see quite clearly, it has a very thick sole although the heel to toe drop is not huge the midsole is still quite extensive. The upper is a multilayer synthetic fabric, and it is not overly flexible.
It has some overlays, but they are quite minimal, which I like. I also enjoy the pattern on the midsole, and the Under Armour logo pops out too.
From a fashion point of view, I think these trainers are probably quite trendy although I'm not really the best judge of what is trendy. And certainly, in the colour that they are, I would not be wearing them day-to-day.
Obviously, these trainers are not the lightest, but they do bring a little something special with the technology, but I will talk more about that later on.
As I mentioned above, the upper is synthetic. It does not have a lot of give, unfortunately, and although I quite like the style, I would much rather have something softer and more flexible.
I think it's unfortunate when the upper on the HOVR Phantom was so good, and I thought this shoe was going to be so much better.
The fabric breathes reasonably well, but again it's just not as good as a knit fabric upper.
I suppose I can't mark the shoe down for keeping stuff out though. Maybe that's what UA we're going for with the Machina, but it feels like a bit of a long shot.
Anyone that has read any of my other reviews will know that the one thing I really pick up on with a pair of running trainers is laces. I think that laces are one of the more critical parts of a running shoe, and so many companies treat it as an afterthought, which I don't think is the right way to do things.
Under Armour seem to have found a reasonable lace for the Machina. It isn't too skinny, and it isn't too slippy. So, you can get them nice and tight without causing any pain, and they don't come undone. Great!
I can't be sure if they put as much thought into the laces as I'm assuming they might have, but I cannot complain about the ones that it comes with.
Once again, I have to compare these to the Phantom. And, once again, the Phantom is the better shoe because it does things a bit differently and has the heel counter on the outside. Thus, the heel itself feels very soft and very comfortable.
Unfortunately, the heel counter in these shoes is on the inside of the heel, and although they are quite comfortable to wear, they are just nowhere near as good as the Phantom are in this area.
The collar is very padded, and although I am not really a fan of padded collars, it is comfortable, and it does secure my foot nicely. I do think that this shoe could get away with a more minimal collar, but then I pretty much say that about every shoe I test.
What's to say really, it's soft not overly padded, and with the extra internal webs, it keeps crap out, so it pretty much does what it's supposed to do, and I like it.
I think, in the future, I might remove the safety segment from my reviews because I'm convinced that shoes can't really offer you much for safety and the best thing for it really is good running form and obviously to make sure that you watch where you're going.
If your running shoes don't have flashy lights or reflective strips or armour plating, then you pretty much know that you need to get other equipment to protect you from whatever it is that you're going to be running into.
Just a little mini-rant to keep you amused and stop you from getting bored reading this review.
The Machina sole
The sole on the Machina is pretty thick, as I've mentioned previously, which is something that would usually put me off. Unfortunately, I still remain unconvinced that a thicker sole is a good thing.
Yes, you get lots of cushioning and support, but I just can't see how so much is ever going to be necessary. Maybe it's needed for the UA Connect tech that's built into the shoe? I'm guessing not though.
Now, in terms of performance, I don't actually mind the sole on the Machina too much despite my above comments. It felt responsive and quite rugged beneath my feet which I have to say is quite a reassuring feeling, and despite the weight of these orange beasts, I didn't notice it so much whilst running.
I think that could be something to do with the propulsion plate running through the sole of the shoe that might not be necessary though it's definitely different and I'm sure that's why these felt reasonably snappy despite their weight and bulkiness. I think Under Armour really got that right.
I'm not really sure if I would want to run much further than maybe 10 miles in the shoes. I felt that they were quite uncomfortable after a little while, and they made the underside of my feet ache quite a bit.
I am aware that because I am more used to wearing minimal running shoes and minimal shoes in general, my feet don't really like to be contained so much anymore.
So, somebody that is more used to wearing standard style running shoes may find that these are perfectly comfortable. But obviously, I can only go based on my own opinion and experience.
These shoes have a lot of support, but I'm not convinced it is necessarily a good thing as I mentioned above.
I may sound a bit like a broken record especially that anyone that's ever read any of my other reviews, but I really do think that less is more when it comes to support.
They really are very few running shoes that I have tested that aren't minimal that I think work well in the way of support and unfortunately, the Machina is not one of those shoes.
Again, this is another area where the shoe fails as you can see from the photo, it really is not flexible, and in the one area that it could have made up for it in (the upper) it fails again.
I actually tried to put quite a lot of force on to the shoe to see how far I could bend it, and it really did not give me much at all.
Now, this isn't to say that you have to have a flexible shoe for it to be a good one. When I tested the Asics Nimbus 21, I was surprised at how good that was despite how thick and inflexible it is. So, it is possible.
I know that these shoes were going to be less flexible because of the propulsion plate. But I think they really need to give more.
The tread on me Machina is nothing special, but I like it. It is super grippy and feels secure on the road. It might not look it, but it's actually rugged enough for a bit of off-road running, and that is probably helped by the thick sole to be honest.
As I mentioned above, these road shoes gripped well we haven't had too much rain, so it's been reasonably difficult to test how well it would grip in different conditions. But on the odd damp day that we've had, they performed admirably.
Fit & comfort of the UA Machina
Something that I'm starting to realise the further I get into this review is that I actually thought I quite liked these shoes. However, as I'm breaking it down into each section, I'm realising that I was fairly disappointed by them overall, and I'm sure you can already tell this section is no different.
The Machina do fit true to size. In general, I suppose they are comfortable shoes. But as I have mentioned already, during runs, my feet begin to hurt, which is something that obviously is not desirable.
The toe box is far too small for my feet here. To be honest, I think the toe box will be too small for most people's feet.
I actually got a friend of mine to try the shoes on. He's not a runner and is more used to standard trainers that he wears day today. But lengthwise, his feet are the same size as mine.
He found these shoes to be really uncomfortable because the toe box was too small for him, which I was genuinely quite surprised about.
I will just never understand why any company that is producing running shoes would make a pair of running shoes with an inadequate toe box. At least give the upper the ability to stretch more so the people's toes can splay.
It is literally impossible for that to happen in the Machina, so it loses a lot of brownie points from me here.
I suppose out of everything, and although there is a heel counter that I really do not like, the heel is the most comfortable part of the shoe. It looks my foot in well, and I feel very secure during runs.
I just don't have anything bad to say about the heel on this shoe.
How the UA HOVR Machina performs
I think these shoes are designed for longer runs rather than speed runs, and that's even though they have the propulsion plate in the sole. They are simply not light enough for me to take them seriously as a speed shoe.
They did perform quite well on longer runs. Because of the propulsion plate, they felt snappier than a lot of other distance running shoes I've tested in the past.
They have a decent amount of bounce, a reasonable amount of cushioning, but they feel firm enough and responsive enough to perform well on mid to long-distance runs.
Clearly, these are meant for the road as they perform well on it. I say that as though all running shoes that I meant for the road perform well on it, which obviously isn't true, I feel as though I should give these some credit.
If the Machina had a bigger toe box and a slightly more forgiving midsole, I think I could have run all day long in them.
As I mentioned earlier on, these do actually perform reasonably well off-road having said that it was dry, and I was on fairly well-groomed trails. I certainly wouldn't recommend this shoe for anything too adventurous.
Just don't even try. If you're looking for a shoe that's fast and has a propulsion plate in the sole, buy some running spikes.
If you have really pointy feet and like a narrow toe box and if you're used to running in heavily padded shoes, then these shoes will be perfect for you and you can probably run almost any distance in them.
I'm trying to be kind.
Under Armour technology
I've added this special section in for these shoes because I felt as though it was necessary. I didn't like a lot of what the Machina had to offer, but the technology is amazing!
Now, as I previously mentioned, I have tested the HOVR Phantom, and those also came with UA Connect technology. But the software was new then and the technology was in its infancy, I suppose you could say.
Under Armour have really moved things on and despite the flaws, I love what this gives in the way of feedback—to the point where I would even consider buying another pair of them. Yes, it's really that good!
Before running in these shoes, I used to think that I was a forefoot runner, but I was surprised to see that I actually land midfoot consistently. So, straight away, these shoes told me something about my running form that I was unaware of.
On top of that, I stumbled upon something else that I think is fantastic. I left my phone at home one day on a run, and about halfway around I realised and kicked myself because I thought the shoes would only track my run if I had my phone with me.
But, when I got home, I turned my phone on and went to the Mapmyrun app. I was amazed to see that the shoes had collected all of the run data, stored it, and then uploaded it when I connected to my phone.
What was even more impressive was that the data almost perfectly matched the data from my TomTom running watch. The only thing that was missing was the GPS route.
You get everything in terms of run data with these shoes. They tell you how far you've run, what your cadence was, what your stride length was, what your footstrike angle was, and then a bunch of tips based on all of that data.
The data is even broken down so you can see when your stride length shortened when your speed increased and when your footstrike angle changed. So, you can analyse in detail where things went wrong, where and why you slowed down or sped up, and you can try and use that to your advantage on the next run.
And, if you do want to take your phone with you, you can use the MapMyRun app to give you constant feedback about your running. Although this generally is just a little nudge when your cadence drops too low.
I didn't look into the app too much, so I'm not sure if you can tailor the experience more to yourself and to suit your needs. But to be honest, I was so pleased with the amount of information I got at the end of each run I wasn't bothered about what information I could get during it.
Dear Under Armour
I really admire what you've tried to do with these shoes, but I think that you've missed the mark in a few areas. I genuinely believe that with a softer midsole that's probably a bit thinner and a much wider toe box these shoes would have been unstoppable.