Under Armour has had a hard time making strides in the competitive running shoe market. But the Baltimore-based company has a history of not giving up, so it is raising the ante next week with its latest innovation.
On Feb. 1, the company will introduce the UA Hovr, two models of shoes that feature a cushioning technology developed in partnership with Dow Chemical. The olefin wax-based foam on the midsole is intended to provide cushioning, support and shock absorption as well as energy return, according to Justin Howe, creative director of footwear design for the company.
The shoes also offer what Under Armour is calling an “energy web,” a mesh web that contains and directs the force, or energy return, back to the runner.
The Hovr technology will be offered in two styles: the Phantom, which Howe described as the “luxury” model, as well as the Sonic, which is designed for more serious mileage. The inspiration for the Phantom’s cushioning was the chamois of a bike short, he said, which makes the shoe breathable, plush and comfortable.
Both models will be available with connectivity to the company’s Map My Run fitness app, which has been updated for this shoe and tracks distance, cadence, pace, shoe lifespan, and now stride length as well, according to Jim Mollica, senior vice president of global consumer engagement for Under Armour.
The Sonic will retail for $100 nonconnected and $110 connected, while the Phantom will sell for $130 nonconnected and $140 connected.
Howe said this launch features “anchor technology for us” that will be used to create more categories for the brand. “It’s a really big game-changer for us,” he said.
In November, Peter Ruppe, its senior vice president of footwear, left the brand, three years after joining the company from Nike Inc., where he had been for some 26 years. Ryan Drew was named to succeed him.
Footwear, one of Under Armour’s biggest areas of focus for expansion and marketing led by a multimillion-dollar and multiyear deal with basketball star Stephen Curry, has been called out repeatedly for lackluster performance. Footwear sales during the third quarter rose 2.2 percent to $285 million.
When discussing the results at the end of October, Patrik Frisk, Under Armour’s president, acknowledged the category “is falling short of our expectations,” citing lack of demand in North America. He added that Under Armour is “working diligently to proactively fine-tune our footwear playbook and ensure we deliver the right innovation, style and price-to-value equation at the right place and at the right time.”
Frisk alluded to a stronger focus going forward on running footwear, which he sees as Under Armour’s “biggest long-term growth category.”
Under Armour has stumbled badly over the last year as Nike has continued to steam ahead and Adidas has regained the number-two spot in the U.S. market with more innovative styles and fashion tie-ups with musicians, designers and other influencers.