Under Armour HOVR Machina Performance Review

The Hoop team received pairs of the Under Armour HOVR Machina in advance of Under Armour’s Human Performance Summit. The shoes were sent so we could preview them and use them during the summit’s running workouts.

Of course, being WearTesters, Jodi and I jumped right into intensely testing them and put a bunch of miles on them before we even made it to the summit. Chris wore his, but didn’t test them. That’s ok, we’ll always have this gem of him testing the adidas Energy Boost in 2013. His thoughts are in the first look video. Keep reading for Jodi and I’s unfiltered performance review of the Under Armour HOVR Machina.

Cushion

Drew: The Under Armour HOVR Machina uses (surprise!) HOVR as the foam cushion. The shoe features an ample amount of HOVR. It actually has a 2mm stack height advantage on the Under Armour HOVR Infinite, UA’s most cushioned running shoe of 2019. Despite the stack height difference, the amount of HOVR used seems similar.

The 2mm difference may come from the inclusion of a Pebax propulsion plate sandwiched between two layers of HOVR in the midsole. The propulsion plate was inspired by similar plates in track spikes and adds bounce. I felt a nice spring while running in them. It wasn’t a carbon fiber plate level spring, but it was noticeable, and helped make it easy for me to wear them enough to put in 75+ miles.

And, adding to a very well-cushioned shoe, Under Armour included a thick ortholite insole to secure step-in and all day comfort. The combo of HOVR, propulsion plate, and cushy insole make the HOVR Machina Under Armour’s most cushioned running shoe to-date.

Jodi: The HOVR Machina had a disadvantage when it came to my testing. I keep a rotation going during testing because there’s so many shoes and I only have two feet. So this poor shoe was pitted up against the Nike Infinity React AND the adidas UltraBoost 20. Both shoes feature instant, plush step-in comfort. So when someone asks about great cushioning in a running shoe, my mind immediately turns to those shoes. But I will say, if you’re looking for a neutral ride, the HOVR Machina holds its own. It’s a more firm set up then the other two shoes I mentioned, which made it a better shoe to take out on the road multiple days in a row. The cushion doesn’t seem to need a recovery day. So in that respect, kudos to Under Armour. Not every brand can say that about it’s cushion set up.

Materials

Drew: Complementing the midsole’s HOVR, the upper is 100% engineered mesh in a cool new pattern that’s reminiscent of a cheetah’s fur. The HOVR Machina looks fast. The tongue is also mesh and topped with soft, padded laces that don’t loosen as you run (a pet peeve of mine with some thinner laces). Most of the laces loops feature fuse reinforcement while the top two have metal eyelets. The materials don’t leave any room for durability issues.

One other thing I should mention is the inclusion of a Bluetooth performance pod in the right shoe. A lot of Under Armour shoes, even lifestyle shoes, have a performance pod now. It automatically measures distance, time, stride length, cadence (steps per minute), foot strike angle, ground contact time, pace, and calories. If you’ve paired the shoes with MapMyRun, Under Armour’s running app, it will upload all your run stats every time you log into the app. It uses AI to analyze your stats and give you tips on how to improve. If you run with your phone on and MapMyRun connected to your shoes, you can get personalized coaching tips as you run. While I wouldn’t recommend paying more for shoes with a Bluetooth setup like this, it’s fun to play with and see where your running form could improve (without having to hire a professional coach).

Jodi: I would like to second how awesome the laces are. It might be a small thing, but not all laces are created equal. These are soft to the point they’re almost silky, and with enough stretch that you can tie them up without double knotting and know they are now locked into place. The engineered mesh that encases the upper is tough. I almost ate it along the streets of Baltimore where my ankle unfortunately rolled due to some horrible cobblestone. I was sure this graceful move left me with a hole in the upper and my pinky toe sticking out. Nope. There’s not even a frayed thread sticking out to remind me of my klutzy move.

Fit

Drew: The engineered mesh upper on the HOVR Machina fits true to size (though wide footers will have to break them in a little) and provides the comfort you’d expect from a mesh shoe. The tongue is also mesh and thick enough to distribute any lace pressure. The tongue is secured to the strobel board and midsole by elastic mesh straps that hug both sides of the midfoot. Because of those straps, I doubted I’d get any tongue slippage. Even then, Under Armour included the fail safe of dual loops on the tongue (one for each side of the lace) that you loop through before the final eyelets. With this setup, there’s no way the tongue moves at all. It’s super secure.

I really enjoyed the quilted mesh on the back of the tongue and around the collar. It’s still an engineered mesh, but the pattern used makes it super comfortable on the sensitive top of foot and ankle areas. I wish more brands would adopt a similar pattern when using mesh on the inside of a shoe as it was plush. The ankle area also features heavy padding underneath the quilted mesh that both helps lockdown and feels good.

Jodi: The fit was difficult for me at first for multiple reasons. The first one being the tongue booty system. My wide feet had to get the straps locking the tongue into place stretched out. And even now, after 50+ miles, sometimes my socks will roll the strap on my right foot when I’m pulling the shoe onto my foot. I have to do some wiggling and maneuvering for everything to feel just right.

That dang propulsion plate Drew mentioned earlier was a bit of a hassle as well. We were fortunate enough to be invited out to UA’s Human Performance Summit and were taken into the lab where we saw the shoe fully deconstructed. You literally got to put the shoe together like a sandwich. Seeing that propulsion plate, I was like, this little guy is what’s giving me problems? I love the idea of it. Who doesn’t want help being propelled forward on a run? But the way it was caged inside of the tooling made the shoe extremely stiff to the point I could feel my heel slipping out of the shoe on those first runs. If you watch our initial look video, I talked about how I was having a serious love/hate relationship with the HOVR Machina because of this. When it came down to it, I just needed to break everything in. The sole hello base of the shoe is now much more pliable and I am locked into place. Which brings us to support…

Under Armour HOVR Machina Support

Support

Drew: The HOVR Machina’s support is pretty normal for a neutral running shoe. There’s a normal sized internal heel counter, you sit slightly inside the midsole at the heel, and the lateral forefoot midsole flares out slightly into a very small but natural outrigger. These aren’t meant for any type of offroading but they’ll do great on city streets or roads.

Jodi: Once the stiffness of the shoe was worked out, I was able to appreciate other aspects of the shoe. The heel is super padded around the collar, and balanced out nicely along the top of the tongue. And the engineered mesh along the whole upper is great because it doesn’t stretch on turns or uneven pavement. All of that left my feet feeling really secure.

Under Armour HOVR Machina Traction

Traction

Drew: The outsole is a mix of blown rubber and high abrasion rubber. It’s an improvement from the UA HOVR Infinite but there’s still too much of the soft blown rubber. The high abrasion rubber sits at the top of the toes and the heel. While the high abrasion rubber is holding firm and showing little signs of wear, I’ve managed to really ground down the blown rubber. The HOVR Machina’s outsole will still last 300+ miles but by the time you get there your forefoot strike zone will be bald as your Uncle Donny with no comb over to save(?) the day.

Jodi: I understand the purpose of blown rubber, it makes the shoe lighter and helps give you a more cushioned ride. But I too wish there was less of it. I’m a supinator, which leads me to destroy the outside edge of my traction in most running shoes. So I wish the high abrasion rubber they use on the heel and toe also wrapped up along the edge where I land. I’m pretty confident this shoe will last the typical 300+ miles, but I’m right there with you Drew. That last mile you run in them better end at your local running store for a new pick up.

Under Armour HOVR Machina Overall

Overall

Drew: The Under Armour HOVR Machina is a nicely built running shoe. If not for the beloved original Under Armour HOVR Sonic, the HOVR Machina would be the new high water mark for Under Armour running shoes. At $150, the price is about $10-20 too high but not entirely out of the right general range. The great news is that the HOVR Machina is a running shoe that competes well with everyday trainers from all the other major brands. With running being such a big category, it’s nice to have other brands producing shoes that are just as good as their larger, richer competitors. That just gives us consumers more choices to find the perfect shoe for our feet.

Jodi: I personally found the HOVR Machina to be a great improvement over my last experience with Under Armour, the HOVR Infinite. It’s sturdy and comfortable, and if you happen to grab this colorway, everyone is going to see you on the running trails and they will let you know about it. I received lots of compliments on them. If you’re not a social butterfly and want to fly more under the radar there’s a lot of great neutral colorways coming too.
Hopefully you found our thoughts on Under Armour’s latest runner helpful. Make sure you join our hoop jordan Discord Community so you can chat with us about your experience with running shoes from Under Armour.

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