This article first appeared on shoegeeks.in
Introduction of shoes with embedded carbon plates have been a major inflexion point in the history of running shoes. Along with the advent of midsole compounds which boasts very high energy returns has revolutionized the entire running shoe industry. Nike was first of the block with its extremely popular VaporFly 4% (VF 4%). Featuring a new PEBA midsole and embedded carbon plate the VF 4% set new standards of performance. The standards was set so high that most of the other shoe brands have only tried to match, let alone surpass the VF series- the de facto benchmark of running shoes.
Adidas, the biggest competitor of Nike was not to be left behind. They arrived at the block with their Adizero Adios Pro line-up of performance running shoes. Featuring a new midsole material (Lightstrike Pro) and a unique propulsion system in the form of energy rods (one single structure in Pro 3), The Adizero Adios Pro 3 (AdiPro3) is the latest offering from Adidas competing directly against the Vaprofly/AlphaFly series of shoes from Nike.
So does the AdiPro3 stand out in the crowded market of carbon-plated racers? Should you take this up as your race day shoe? How does it feel to run in the Pro 3?
The first version of Adios Pro was a blink and miss it affair. The stocks were abysmally low, and it didn’t garner much attention. The second version of AdiPro had the entire marketing strength of Adidas behind it. And it got the deserved attention. The shoe was on the podium of every major race. Records were broken by athletes wearing the Pro2 and with enough inventory, one could see the shoe on many runners’ feet. The just released Pro3 carries a lot of form factor from its predecessor. Every aspect of the shoe screams speed and has been designed with racing in mind. Sharp angles and sculpts at the right areas give it a “from the future” look. It is a beautifully crafted shoe. There is support and firmness where it is required, breathability is top notch, the outsole grip is fabulous, and the bounce is exceptional.
At about 225 grams (for UK 9), it is in the same league as other racers. The Pro3 has a 39.5mm/ 33 mm forefoot stack height with a 6.5mm drop. The drop is probably the lowest amongst all racers. Runners who haven’t had prior experience running in low drop shoes, might take some time getting used to the ride. While lower drop tends to promote a forefoot to midfoot strike, Adios Pro3 should work equally well for heel strikers too.
The midsole consists of two levels of the LightStrike Pro foam, and Adidas won’t say what the foam is made up of. All we know for sure is that it isn’t PEBA (poly ether block amide) which forms the base of other racers including that of Nike Vaporfly. Having said that, the LightStrike Pro midsole has a distinct character of its own. It is soft, bouncy, and durable in equal measure. And it will provide the cushioning and energy return for the entire distance of your race. The midsole is sculpted in certain areas, which I believe is for shaving off any excess weight with no adverse bearing on the performance of the midsole.
Lightstrike Pro softness measures around 27 HA (quite soft) on Shore Durometer, almost the same as the ZoomX on the Nike Vaporflys. Here is a comparison of how it compares in softness with a few other race day shoes.
AdiPro3 features a new lightweight upper. It is breathable and has inlays to support the feet at places where it is required. However, the meshy upper does not feel premium nor does it have the plushness of an Atomknit on the Nike Alphafly. Like other racers, the tongue on AdiPro3 is minimal and does its job. The lacing department is where things haven’t gone as per my liking. The meshed upper gets crinkly when you tighten your laces. The eyelets begin very close to the toe box as compared to my other racers (read Metaspeed Edge+, Endorphin Pro, Vaporfly- all versions, Alphafly) and the reinforcement beneath the first eyelet tends to dig into my metatarsal joint during the run. At first, I thought this might be just a one-off affair and will smoothen out after couple of runs. But with every run and longer distance, the discomfort is getting only worse to the extent that running gets painful. The length of the laces is short too. You are left with very little to tie a secured knot if one uses the last eyelet to lock in the heel.
The heel fit is good. There isn’t any stiffness offered in the heel counter but there is enough structure to it to keep the heel in place. Peculiar to Pro3 heel is a flap/ sort of a pull tab, whose purpose am not very sure off. One can choose to keep it lifted or down and it doesn’t interfere in any way during the run. There is cushioning on the inside, which is just enough to prevent any kind of heel slippage. The stability in the heel is better compared to the Nike Vaporfly due to a slightly wider base.
The bottom sole is made up of Continental rubber. The thin layer of smooth rubber with a brushed finish grip, and provides secure footing. The rubber layer covers almost the entire length of the shoe. The traction is exceptional on all surfaces and in all conditions. Even at a stack height of 39.5MM, cornering is a breeze- all courtesy of the Continental rubber underneath. This may well be one of the best outsoles out there.
I have been wanting to try out the carbon racers from Adidas for some time now. Most of the racers I own have the traditional carbon plate geometry embedded in a PEBA based midsole. Adidas had a different take on that combination. I was interested in trying it out to see how it fared against the other racers.
I have run close to 75kms in this shoe. The first thing you feel in the shoe is how springy it is. The carbon rod structure in the midsole propels you forward even when you walk. The shoe feels light, and the cushioning softness feels just right. Though the durometer puts it as a softer shoe, it is not in the same league of softness as the ZoomX on the Nike Vaporfly.
My first run in the shoe was a moderate 10k with the final kilometer at 3:30 min/km pace. The shoe feels stable under the foot and one can speed up easily. The energy return of the foam and the rod structure is very much noticeable. In my opinion, the midsole requires a little bit of breaking in, it gets softer and livelier once you have some distance on it. Due to its geometry, the shoe feels more stable as compared to its nearest rival, the Nike Vaporfly Next%2. Overall I would say, the ride is very well tuned- like a Formula One racer.
Fit and Comfort
I am UK9 in the Nikes, however, with Adidas, a UK9.5 fits me best. Since half sizes are not sold in India, I went with a UK9. At a declared heel to toe length of 27.5cm for UK9, the shoe runs a little longer than that. I had no issues as far as the length of the shoe was concerned. The shoe embraces your feet in a very secure way. There is ample space upfront for the toes to wiggle around. Unlike the Puma Deviate Nitro Elite or the Nike Vapor Fly Next%2 which can be used on a race day straight out of the box, this shoe needs some break-in for the Lightstrike Pro foam to perform at its best.
This is a race day shoe, and it behaves like one. The ride is stable compared to a Nike Vapor Fly Next%2 because of a wider heel area. In spite of being an overpronator, I didn’t have any stability issues during my runs. To that extent, kudos to the design team at Adidas to make a good stable racer.
The outsole resembles the texture of an F1 car tire, and it performs like one. The continental rubber on the outsole grips exceptionally well across all surfaces and in all conditions.
Aesthetics & Ergonomics
As I mentioned earlier in the article, this shoe is a looker. It will surely grab eyeballs at the start line of a race. Currently, the shoe is being sold in only one color scheme of Core Black / Beam Yellow / Solar Green. The build quality of the shoe is good too.
PS: The experience I have had with the upper could be due to some manufacturing defect in the shoe and a one-off affair. Or could be a defect in my feet. Either way, I’d recommend trying out the shoe in a store before buying. I would have raced in this shoe in my upcoming races if not for the toe box issues. I would place it on par with the Nike Vaporfly Next%2.
Sharath is a three time Boston Finisher. He has a personal best marathon timing of 2:46:06 (Chicago 2019).