By Brian Metzler
It’s holiday time and most runners are thinking about 2023 running goals while also managing running amid big meals and tasty desserts. With that forward-thinking mindset, it’s a perfect time to think about one of the best running shoes coming out next spring. I’m talking about Under Armour’s new UA Flow Velociti Elite, which arguably had the most auspicious debut of any shoe since the advent of Nike’s original Zoom Vaporfly Elite in 2017.
At the New York City Marathon last fall, Sharon Lokedi laced up a pair of World Athletics-approved prototypes of the new Under Armour shoes — built with an advanced foam package, a semi-flexible carbon-fiber plate a super-light upper reminiscent of elite-level track spikes — and won the race in her debut at racing 26.2 miles. The Arizona-based Kenyan athlete had been wear-testing prototypes of the shoe for the past year, and her stunning performance says as much about how the shoe performed on race day as it did about her training buildup and recovery in the months before the race.
OK, truth be told, UA was late to the game with advanced racing shoes — five years later than Nike and two or three years later than most other brands — but some of that tardiness was at least partly because of the manufacturing slow-downs tied to the pandemic and ensuing supply chain shortages. In 2021, in advance of the U.S. Olympic Trials track championships in Eugene, Oregon, the brand gracefully allowed the athletes it sponsored to break or suspend their contracts in order to run in high-performance super shoes from other brands. UA was already fast at work on the Flow Velociti Elite long-distance racing shoes and its Shakedown Elite track spikes ($150), but they just weren’t ready at that point.
Fast forward to the fall 2022 and, well, better late than never! Based on initial results and wear-testing, Under Armour knocked it out of the park with each of those shoes and, from a racing performance point of view, that should become even more evident in 2023 as both become available on a global basis. (As per World Athletics regulations, each of the shoes were sold in small quantities for a brief period last June.)
What’s New: The Flow Velociti Elite is a long-distance racing shoe built with speed and efficiency in mind from advanced, lightweight materials. Like many other marathon racing super shoes, it has a full-length carbon fiber plate sandwiched between two vastly different foams that allows the midsole to compress and spring back for added lift and energy return and also create a smooth, seamless ride. A dynamic upper made from a lightweight mesh and thin sewn-on overlays that UA calls WARP 2.0 technology enhances breathability and foot security. The Flow Velociti Elite also features a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) sockliner for enhanced resilience, comfort and bounce in every stride.
Why It’s Great: The biggest difference-maker in the Flow Velociti Elite is that the plate embedded in the midsole is semi-flexible — in other words, it doesn’t have the hard, rigid feeling that so many of the other marathon racing shoes have — as well as the shallower stack height of the midsole, a moderate forefoot rocker shape and a foam (and not rubber) outsole. That all combines to help this shoe feel light, fast, snappy and smooth, but decidedly less like a sharp racing blade and much more accommodating for a wider range of foot shapes, stride patterns and paces.
Fit-Feel-Ride: The Flow Velociti Elite has a low-volume interior in the heel and midfoot area, but it feels a lot roomier (and a little long) in the forefoot. In fact, it has one of the roomier toe boxes of any high-performance racing shoe on the market; it widens dramatically at the ball of the foot, especially on the lateral side. It has a wispy-light, spartan-like step-in feel with a soft but not at all plush interior that’s punctuated by the thin, wrapping sensation of the performance-oriented upper and thin, non-gusseted tongue. The ride is very notably semi-firm, semi-bouncy and energetic at all paces, but it feels increasingly more smooth the faster you run.
Why You’ll Love It: The shape of the Flow Velociti Elite and dual-density midsole is what makes this shoe great. The top layer of foam is a soft, moderately bouncy layer of Pebax foam, while the bottom is a layer of Under Armour’s proprietary Flow foam, a hyper-light nitrogen-infused supercritical material that provides both a springy and stable sensation under foot. While it’s not quite a maximally cushioned shoe (compared to other super shoes) and doesn’t serve up a huge bouncy sensation, the combination of those two foams provide sufficient softness and extraordinary rebound to make it optimal for high-cadence running without sacrificing stability or smoothness. Because of that, it might be better for racing distances from 5K to the half-marathon (or long training runs and long intervals) than actually running a full marathon, but, as noted earlier, Lokedi found it as an exceptional race-day tool on the streets of New York City. Then again, it’s usually not wise to compare yourself to a 2:23:23 marathoner. The bottom line is that the UA Flow Velociti Elite is definitely worth a look.
Under Armour Flow Velociti Elite
Weights: 6.4 oz. women’s 8; 7.5 oz. men’s 9
Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm (36mm in the heel, 28mm in the forefoot)
Pro: Entirely devoid of rubber, the outsole is actually an extension of a lower segment of the Flow foam midsole that provides traction where the rubber would normally meet the road. Although that might reduce its long-term durability, it helps keep the shoe extremely light without sacrificing traction.
Con: The forefoot fit of the shoe — at least with the first-round production sample I wear-tested — is definitely longer and more spacious than most high-performance super shoes. You might be inclined to consider trying a shoe a half size shorter than what you normally wear, although I ultimately appreciated the spacious toe box the more I ran in it.