Proving Big-Brand Isn't Bad

Tested: Under Armour Speedform Apollo


As athletes get deeper into their sport they inevitably become more focused on their gear, taking an interest in niche brands making highly specialized products. Cyclists might ditch their Trek for a Pinarello. Triathletes drop their regular running shoes for a pair of Zoots. Soccer players might get into some calf leather Pantofolas. It’s a matter of pride more than quality. Are you a big brand guy or do you know about this shit here? The reality is that this attitude prevails in everything, not just shoe but cars, watches, olive oil, music — you name it. So when we got a pair of the Under Armour Speedform Apollo ($100) shoes, we were curious: could we be seen in public with these things?

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And so we were. The first run out, a friend whose main sporting interests are football and basketball — a guy who wouldn’t know a Hoka from an Altra, that rube! — pointed out the Apollos and said he was considering buying a pair. He had seen Under Armour’s newest Peter Berg-directed commercial, and he too wanted to be a speed demon.

Under Armour is firmly in the mainstream, in other words, a clothing company rooted in moisture-wicking compression fabrics designed initially for football players but that proved useful in a variety of sports. Their apparel line now includes both casual and performance clothing for many sports, plus miscellany from hunting camo to volleyballs, and, since 2006, footwear.

The company’s first serious running-specific shoe was the UA Spine RPM in 2013, which was comfortable and breathable, but still a bit heavy and stiff enough that it got in the way at speeds faster than a victory lap. A year later, Under Armour has nailed what we want in a running shoe with the Speedform Apollo: it’s feather light at 6.5 ounces; the heel cup is seamless and form-fitting, so there’s no slipping and chafing; the midsole has plenty of cushion; there’s a stability bar that provides some support but doesn’t get in the way of flexibility; and the upper is perforated, almost jersey-like, which is comfortable and breathable. The Apollo is light and nimble enough to lay down six-minute miles and sturdy enough to run a marathon.

There aren’t many drawbacks with this shoe. Some have suggested that the seamless interior is good for going sockless; they’re comfortable, but unless you’re already running sans socks you can expect a few blisters. The sole is burlier than some of our favorite racing flats. But there’s nothing that gets in the way of the Apollo’s lesson: big is not bad. Big can mean well-funded R&D, consistently good products and commercials by high-profile directors. But take note: if you wear a Fossil, cook with Bertoli and listen to Justin Bieber, we’re not going to be seen in public with you.